Welcome to the Hops & Spirits Q&A, where we ask five (or so) questions to interesting people in the alcohol world.
This week’s spotlight is on Paige and Ryne Iseminger, founders/creators of Freshie Tequila Seltzer. Freshie is the first (and only) organic, non-GMO, gluten free, sparkling tequila seltzer, sustainably farmed and distilled. The drink originated as a “hair of the dog” cocktail after a little too much fun on a trip to Mexico.
Did the drink really originate as a hangover cure/”hair of the dog” cocktail?
Paige: To give you a little background information, my family has been going to Mexico since I was baby, literally one years old. I’ve been going one, two times, sometimes, three times a year.
It is our home away from home and usually we go and we’re there for a little over a week or more. We have friends and family that visit us. We also have friends and family down there too. We’re on about day eight, day nine of a family trip, and yeah, I had one too many heavy beers and sugary Margaritas and probably could not get out of bed, the way I normally do. So Ryne, kind of went upstairs and made this concoction, which is now what is called a Freshie. He pretty much was using everything that we already had in our kitchen, it was all organic. It was organic sparkling water organic limes, organic tequila and organic agave nectar and he made this when he was calling it actually that was tequila water. He gave it to me and it was the most refreshing delicious drink, and before we knew it, everyone was drinking it and then fast forward four years later and Ryne very much never came out of the kitchen stop making Freshies.
Ryne: Ever since that trip, we came home and it kind of really stuck with our friends and family. I always had to squeeze the limes by hand and it became a sticky situation. My fingers are cramping up, and if we forget the line squeezer, it’s a rough day for me, that’s for sure.
Paige: With our friends, we don’t just drink a little bit of tequila. Once we get going, we get going. So I pretty much lost him for like four years because he was in the kitchen because no one can make a Freshie like how Ryne can.
When and why did you all decide to take this from a cocktail creation to a canned seltzer?
Ryne: There’s a lot of different things that kind of came into it. Paige and I are entrepreneurs by trade and we come from a branding and marketing background. Also, Paige’s dad is a designer, an architect and entrepreneur as well. So we kind of had the synergies and all these different things that encouraged us. But basically, entrepreneurism and building a business is in our blood. We can’t help ourselves, but that wasn’t really what started Freshie evolving. It was truly an organic thing where it became such a staple with our friends and family. Everyone started calling me or text me and they’d be like, ‘Hey, I’m doing a taco Tuesday or hey I’m having a party, can you send me your fresh the recipe.’ And I’ll tell everybody to get a big bag of limes, get some good Blanco tequila, and sparkling water and all that stuff, but everyone would then send me pictures like mine’s not as good as yours saying what did I do wrong.
But it really just kept growing and then our wedding was coming up and that was one of the big motivators were like we see all this stuff happening in the seltzer category just in regular seltzers, before hard seltzers took off. Then what we do best is we come up with a crazy dream and said let’s try to figure out how we could can this up and serve it at our wedding. And obviously that’s just it was a small goal to kind of put a little pep in our step to try to do something crazy. But really that got the ball rolling to get the brand and get it to where it is today. We learned so much on the way and we are graced and blessed to have partnered with a fourth generation distillery out of Mexico that could take my handmade recipe and turn it into something that can be produced for the masses but in a great way.
And so were you able to Paige to have that at your wedding?
Paige: Unfortunately, we did not know exactly how long this would take to actually bring to reality and have a physical can in front of us. We just thought if we partnered with a distillery, and they believe in everything that we believed in, it would actually bring this creation to life that it would happen like that. We were so, so wrong. It took almost four years for it to actually come to life and to be a product and to see it in person. So no we didn’t have the actual can at our wedding, but we did go through an unbelievable amount of tequila, for only 80 person wedding.
People only drank Freshies the entire night. That was like the moment when everyone’s like, ‘I don’t really like tequila or I don’t really like seltzers,’ hearing everyone say that yet no one ordered anything else besides a Freshie. I was like, okay, so we might be on to something. When we literally left our wedding that week we were just so inspired. We were like we have to make this happen no matter what happens, we have to go forward with this and make it a reality.
How difficult was it to get the formula right? And what was that process like?
Ryne: It was hard and we’ve had lots of different little dreams crushed. At first, we thought it’d be cool for Freshie to come in a bottle like Red Stripe or something like that. Then we learned about with light going through glass and tequila and trying to be organic, it just would be impossible to come in a glass bottle. That’s when we realized it had to be a can and then also, that’s when White Claw, Truly and all these other hard seltzers started coming out. It’s like oh, everyone’s going in cans and slim cans specifically. That’s one thing that we felt was cool for Freshie is that since we are trying to be a lower calorie and wellness driven drink, the slim can kind of insinuates that if you will and makes you think that it’s lighter, as a cocktail.
Paige: But that was a whole other issue itself. So not only was it just so hard to figure out this drink like how Ryne was saying like but what people weren’t doing was using real ingredients. They weren’t using organic ingredients. They were using a lot of artificial ingredients and added sweeteners and all those things to get it down to that 99 calories or less. Here we’re thinking it can’t be that hard and well it was very, very, very hard. There were times we thought this isn’t actually going to come to life and isn’t going to come to the market because there were so many obstacles that we had to get across. But, we did it and we powered through. We did the impossible and then we finally launched about January 2021 of this year. It was definitely hard, but the one thing Ryne and I are were not willing to sacrifice was it being fully organic, non-GMO, gluten free and then be fully sustainable and distilled. That was just so, so important to us that we were not going to cut any corners to get there. And if we could not make the drink exactly how we wanted it to be, which was fully organic, then we were never going to come out with it. And so, by the grace of God, we got it all figured out.
You all focused on having a non-GMO, gluten free product that’s also sustainably farmed and distilled. Why were those so important to you all?
Ryne: That’s something that is so passionate to us. It really comes down to the basics of caring about what you put in your body and caring about the earth. I know that’s becoming a trend, but it’s something that Paige and I’ve been passionate about since college and since. But it’s really been evolving over time. Paige and I like to workout, we like to drink, and we’re not trying to hide that this is our lifestyle that we might work hard in the gym, work hard in the office, but we also want to go out and have some fun too. And if that’s part of your lifestyle, why stop having organic chicken and broccoli for dinner and then going on and just doing whatever you want with your alcohol of choice. If you could tie in and married these type of thoughts or lifestyles, it only can benefit us. I mean I get that with alcohol you can’t say it’s healthy or anything like that, which we are not trying to say, but we’re trying to use more premium ingredients that are not only organic, but produced in a sustainable way so it’s like guilt free inside your body guilt free for the earth as much as possible at least. We always like to say that on the front end, we are a bright fun packaging and we want to make organic cool. We don’t want to seem like we have our nose up in the air or are too good for anybody. It’s accessible for everybody to drink a Freshie and have premium ingredients that are organic as well.
What’s so amazing is on the back end is that we’re doing so many things to try to make this product in a good way. Our distillery we work with is fully solar powered and they like to say we’re 103% solar power, since they give energy back to Mexico. the distillery, it’s zero waste. So they don’t waste a single part of the agave plants. When they’re going through the production process, they save all of it and all that goes to the compost site. It gets turned into the organic soil that is then used in the agave fields which is full circle, sustainability.
Paige: If we can make any kind of impact, in this industry, then we’re doing something right. If we can get some kind of eyes on us for people to realize that, this is what people should be following. They should be eating organic and non-GMO. It shouldn’t be something that’s so expensive or you need to go to Whole Foods to get it. It needs to be more of the norm. If we can get anyone to start buying Freshies or either start buying a little bit more organic and just kind of make it more cool, then I think we’re doing something right.
Ryne: And at the other day, the world has plenty of tequila, plenty of seltzer, sparkling water, beers, whatever it may be. We weren’t here just to come out with another product just for convenience, or taste. We’re here to come out with something that can satisfy all the basic needs of being delicious and refreshing, but also have a more thoughtful back end. That really is part of Freshie. When you’re buying into us, you’re buying into quality and organic, but you’re also buying in to being family owned and actually caring about how stuff is produced beyond the norm.
What was it like bringing this to life and launching all during the pandemic?
Paige: It’s been a rollercoaster ride. We’ve gone through every emotion in the book from being ecstatic and so proud of ourselves and so excited, and being scared and worried, and just not knowing where this is going to lead. It was good and bad launching during a pandemic. Obviously, we’re from Chicago, our town, our state was 100% shut down; no bars, no restaurants. Here we are coming out with a product that people need to try, actually liquid to lips and see if they actually like this drink and then they’re going to go support it. So that was really hard getting people to trust us as this new brand and no one knowing what a Freshie really tastes like. Luckily, we targeted all the smaller mom and pop type stores at the very beginning of our launch. They really kind of brought us in as family and they’re like, ‘listen, you know, we know that you guys are kind of going after the impossible, going after the big guys. But, we want to support you and see what happens.’ What did happen was people throughout the pandemic became more health conscious than ever before. They wanted to know what am I putting in my body.
Not only that, but bars and restaurants didn’t used to carry many seltzers and canned cocktails because it’s way cheaper for them to just make a drink and give it to you. But because we were in a pandemic and people were more weary about ordering drinks, a lot of bars and restaurants brought us in that we never ever thought that they would. By bringing us in, that really helped us with off premise sales and getting into grocery stores and bigger chains. We are in a very crowded marketplace, but Freshie is the world’s first organic Tequila seltzer. So by us just being that way and people started to notice it’s a new seltzer, but it’s organic, it’s tequila, it’s spirit based. So more eyes kind of got opened and people really wanted to try it.
We really gained a lot of momentum here during a time that was scary as hell, but we powered through. Now, we have two new flavors coming out in February of next year plus our own tequila called Authentico by Freshie. So, we’re very grateful for where we are and we’re just going to keep plowing forward.
Find out more about Freshie at their website or find them on social media.