Local Wine Co's Blog

A New Coffee Liqueur – Think Savory by cdbakunas
June 5, 2012, 9:00 am
Filed under: Libations, Word on the Street | Tags: , , ,

The Story of Firelit Coffee Liqueur

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Firelit started in 2007 when founder Jeff Kessinger, a wine and spirits salesman in San Francisco, noticed a need for a coffee-centric, lower sugar liqueur in the market. After making a few small batches at home he consulted with Lance Winters of St George Spirits, Huber German Robin and James Freeman of Blue Bottle coffee to find ways to refine the recipe he had created. Launching a passion project has its difficulties and Jeff encountered several obstacles.

With persistence, vision and support from two high school friends (now business partners) Marcus Urani and Label designer Tyler Warrender, Firelit Coffee Liqueur became a reality. 40 different trial versions of Firelit were made all with varying base spirits, proofs and coffee beans. The final recipe was refined and perfected with the help of some of San Francisco’s finest mixologists. Firelit approached St George spirits with renewed enthusiasm, and a complete vision. St George agreed to make the first batch of 1800 bottles in 2010.

Jeff along with Dave Smith, (Firelits’ distiller) put together batch one with Cold Brewed Yemen Coffee beans roasted by Blue Bottle in Oakland CA. The brandy base spirit was made from chardonnay and the coffee was distilled and finished with a modest amount of cane sugar.

Due to the quality of the ingredients Firelit was significantly pricier than any other coffee liqueur on the market at the time. The first batch, although intended to last about a year, sold out in four weeks.

When batch two was slated for production the Yemen beans were no longer available from Blue Bottle. Realizing this would be a common occurrence using high quality, local producers, the team at Firelit decided to make each batch unique sourcing different single origin beans.

About two months prior to each release coffee samples are gathered from a few different roasters, made into trial sized batches, blind tasted by a panel and then the coffee is selected. Each label is hand stamped with information on the roaster and single origin bean used in that particular batch. Although the nuances of the coffee bean in each batch are certainly discernible tasted side by side, they are much less apparent in cocktails due to the consistency of the recipe.

Firelit has been very well received by the critics including being listed in The Top Fifty Spirits of 2011 with 94 points by the Wine Enthusiast. Firelit was sold exclusively in CA until March 2012 when a few select out of state markets were launched. These markets were chosen based on where the Firelit guys liked to visit rather than any marketing strategy.

Firelit is producing three to four batches a year of approximately 350 six packs per batch.

Let’s hope they start making more!


Bar Stars by cdbakunas
September 22, 2010, 10:52 am
Filed under: Libations, Travel | Tags: , , , , , ,

Great article from Kansas City Star. Thanks to ANNE BROCKHOFF, McClatchy Newspapers.  And my rants on why craft spirits are superior to big brands.

Two excerpts:  “Spirits are also flowing from the country’s more than 200 craft distillers, which make small batches of everything from vodka and gin to whiskey, absinthe and eau de vie. Some bars are sporting bottles from Ransom Spirits of Oregon, producer of Ransom Old Tom and Small’s gins and WhipperSnapper whiskey.”

“The range of new bitters, too, is startling, especially since even the Peychaud’s required for a New Orleans-style Sazerac weren’t distributed in some areas until a couple of years ago. The list now includes everything from lemon, orange and grapefruit to celery, rhubarb and Xocolatl Mole Bitters, which delivers a hit of cacao, cinnamon and spice.

Bars don’t stop at what they can buy, though. Grunauer garnishes drinks with cherries macerated in bourbon, Demerara sugar, pomegranate juice and Fee Brothers Old Fashion bitters. North, in Leawood, roasts fennel seeds with orange and lemon zest and then steeps the results in hot water to make fennel syrup for its Succo di Bacca, a long drink with rum, strawberries, lemon juice and Moscato d’Asti.”

To read the full article: Kansas City Star Bar Stars

From our distillery and copper pot still in Oregon

I’m seeing excitement for cocktails spring up all over the country and in places that you would think are behind the curve. The internet and all the social media that we have access to is spreading trends and information across the country like wildfire, I’ve never seen anything like it in my nearly 20 years in the beverage industry. It is so fucking exciting to watch craft cocktails and spirits bloom and feel the enthusiasm from the street level percolate up. Consumers are in for an intense and mind-blowing decade as more and more high quality spirits spread across the corners of our beautiful country. The most amazing thing here is that the quality of product you can find from spirits, to liqueurs, to bitters is increasing so rapidly that the big companies are going to have to start looking over their shoulders. A movement is a foot by many savvy bartenders to eschew the large, mass-produced brands for the craft and local spirits because they frankly are better and cost the same.  When you can give your customer a superior product for the same price and also know that you support a real family (or families that you might even know personally) it does something inside of you that simply makes you feel good.

One of the major reasons why craft spirits are often superior is because artisan distillers don’t operate on the same business model as the Megalodon companies do. We take lower profit margins, work with the sweat of our brow to make something we are extremely proud of and travel coach and economy to get around the country.  We don’t have marketing budgets for TV, sexy show girls, full-page color adds in Sports Illustrated and radio plugs, thus we spend our money on raw ingredients and get the word out one person at a time.  That might be old school to some, but I know that the personal relationship and handshake means a helluva lot more than razzle dazzle glitz that costs millions.

Eat and drink large

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