This RTD Solution that Leverages Shot and Shooter Growth

LIQS Cocktail Shots Kamikaze
Images: LIQS Cocktail Shots

They’re a rite of passage for anyone celebrating their twenty-first birthday and the round that keeps the good times going a little bit longer at last call. LMFAO and Lil Jon rap about throwing them back in the club. Back in the day, George Thorogood ordered one along with a bourbon and a beer. Of course, I’m talking about shots, those tiny beverages which pack a big punch in a small package.

But where exactly do they fit into today’s beverage programs? Two entrepreneurs have figured it out.

Four years ago, Michael Glickman and Harley Bauer realized the only option for RTD (ready-to-drink) shots were low-quality beverages made with artificial ingredients and loaded with sugar and calories. The duo—a former strategic marketing expert and a nightlife marketer—decided to mix up the category.

They tasked mixologist and food scientist Alex Ott to create more than 25 cocktails, and after the course of around 50 focused tastings with men and women aged 21 to 70, narrowed it down to four initial flavors with went through dozens of iterations based on consumer feedback.

The end result was LIQS, a RTD shot made in the U.S. from premium spirits sourced from a number of small batch distillers, fruit juice from farms around the country, and real sugar—no artificial sweeteners. Launched just four years ago, the brand recently sold its millionth shot.

LIQS Cocktail Shots Lemondrop

LIQS are sold in major casinos and hotels, including the Wynn, Venetian and Caesars, as well as arenas like the Barclay Center, live music venues, golf courses, gentlemen’s clubs and retailers including Total Wine. Currently they are distributed in 15 states with more being added this summer; international expansion will kick off with an upcoming launch in Japan.

“LIQS can be stored at either room temperature or refrigerated, but are best served and consumed chilled,” says Bauer. Each one wholesales for $1.50, and he has seen on-premise pricing range from $5 all the way up to $12 at music festivals. “We never dictate pricing, but do suggest $7 a shot based on sales at venues that price it at that number.”

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Venues appreciate the concept of a tamper-proof shot that can easily serve crowds without the need for bartenders to be constantly grabbing bottles. Their mixology-inspired flavors make them more interesting than, say, a simple shot of whiskey or flavored vodka. And if you don’t want to shoot them, you can easily pour them over ice in a Martini glass for an instant cocktail.

LIQS Cocktail Shots Lemondrop

There is currently no incentive to return the shot glasses. Bauer doesn’t have exact data on how many recycle, but he does believe many venues include LIQS as part of their recycling program.

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Currently the company offers five flavors, with the most popular being Whiskey Fireshot, Vodka Kamikaze and Vodka Lemon Drop, but sales do vary a bit from market to market. “For example, Vodka Lychee Grapefruit does fantastic in the New York market but not in Kansas,” Bauer points out. These four are joined by Tequila Orange Cinnamon, and LIQS will be launching two new flavors in 2019. Shots range from 102 to 164 calories, 20% to 27.5% ABV, and four to thirteen grams of sugar.

LIQS Wine Cocktail Shot Kamikaze

A soon-to-be-released product is aimed at venues that have only a beer and wine license—venues and retailers the company has had to turn away before. “We decided it was time to create a line extension that could be sold to them,” he says. “Using an industry-only wine product, we were able to create two cocktail shots that taste incredible: Margarita and Kamikaze.”

Each is 15% abv, 100% all natural, and comes packaged in their custom 50ml shot glasses. The citrus-based wine takes the place of a base spirit, and as with the boozy shots, they are also mixed with real fruit juice and natural flavors. The new product will be offered in 12 sleeves per case (3 shots per sleeve) with a suggested retail price of $6.99 per sleeve. Bottom’s up!

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.