Ricardo Sucre is not a fan of beer. He’s a guy who loves cocktails — and more specifically a Rum type of type cocktail. During times of pandemic lockdown, like many of us, he began turning to the ready-to-drink format as an escape as many of his favorite local bars in Miami remained closed. The only problem was that most of these RTDs were made with vodka, tequila, or even flavored malts. He couldn’t find his favorite spirit of choice, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
In partnership with friends Gustavo Darquea and Gabriel Gonzalez, the trio launched Casalú, a canned rum seltzer with a distinctly South American vibe, reflecting Sucre’s Venezuelan heritage. The drink debuted in Miami in April with a flagship offering combining dark rum with soda water and lemon juice. Cans of the 5.9% ABV liquid are already ubiquitous in their home market, and they’re quickly finding fans among a national audience as they roll out across the United States.
To get a better taste of seltzer rum and why the wider RTD craze continues to soar, I sat down with the founders of Casalú. Read their perspective in the interview below.
What makes Casalú different from other RTDs?
Gustavo Darquea: RTD is a broad category, but we like to focus on the world of hard seltzer. We believe that a combination of elements is different. Casalú is made like a drink we would make ourselves at home. We don’t see it as a craft cocktail in a can. On the contrary, it is the simplicity of Casalú that makes it so accessible. Our rum is actually a 2 year aged dark rum, reminding us of the good rums we have at home. Even though our drink is something new, it feels like something we’ve had forever. This feeling cannot be duplicated, our drink is simply authentic and does not replace the craft cocktail you would want to get at the bar. What many RTDs aim to be.
Why start in Miami first?
Ricardo Sweet: Culturally, the Latin capital of the world. If Florida were to be a country, it would be the 6th largest consumer of rum in the world. The easiest way to explain it is this: I walk into any store and talk to the person in charge of a new product, and tell him that I am making a seltzer water for the consumer. latin. In Miami, they have to listen. In NYC, or LA, they can afford to say “so what?” There are therefore a few fewer explanations to be made on our first market.
RS: It seems odd from the outside, especially in the hard seltzer space, that there are hardly any dark alcohol brands. For us, this was the most obvious option. There are several types of rum, but for us, ron añejo is simply what we drink. The story is we all went to NC State for school, we all grew up in different places in Latin America but ended up in Raleigh for college. Our NC State crew was a bunch of Latinos from all over – Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, etc. And even though we all had different traditions, we all bonded over the way we shared and the drink of our choice: Rum. The drink idea behind Casalú was born in the summer of 2020. Yet the mainstay of our brand started brewing a long time ago, when we were all at university sharing our culture and realized that this drink was a common feature.
How was the process of developing the liquid brand concept? Funny stories you can share?
GD: The liquid started after Ricardo decided to make his own seltzer and bought a sodastream from Target and watched Youtube videos about making seltzer. Because the liquid was so simple and only required 4 ingredients, the process was more about balancing flavors like a chef would, rather than trying something crazy. Over time, feedback from friends has perfected this balance. There was an artistic and scientific component. Since it was made by Ricardo, in his kitchen, we knew exactly what we wanted. However, we needed an industrial formula that would standardize Casalú’s flavor profiles when entering large-scale production. This added some complexity to our beverage creation process.
Where do you see it going in the next 5-10 years?
RS: We believe that Latino culture is the next big driver of pop culture in the United States and around the world. Our vision is to be a catalyst for Latino culture around the world. We say Casalú is more than a drink, and we mean it. We will invest heavily in the Latino creative community to create moments, content and experiences that elevate Latino culture. We use Casalú as the ideal channel to support everything we love and consider pillars of cultural creation: music, food, sport, fashion and art.
GD: When was the last time you followed an alcohol brand on social media? The truth is that there are amazing brands out there, but they only focus on their product. A year from now, we want to push back these limits. We want to create value for our audience by sharing the values and stories of Latino culture through our kick *ss rum seltzer. Our goal is to be in two new markets next year. In three years, be the new kid on the block that will have a significant cultural impact in the United States and Latin America. Ten years? Well, we should have Casalú FC, Casalú Records and maybe even the Casalú Formula One team. It’s all about culture!