This Montecito-Born Canned Sake Spritz Is the Perfect Poolside Beverage
Swap out the hard seltzer for Ysidro’s “true California” canned cocktail
The canned booze world is evolving at a rapid clip. A couple years ago, we might have opened a small-batch canned wine like Nomadica because it was a novelty. Now, these new ways to take the edge off are a way of life. The ready-to-drink canned cocktail category grew by 50% from 2019 to 2020, and that surge has continued in the intervening years. Pre-mixed cocktails were the fastest growing spirits category in 2021, increasing another 42.3% from the year before. That’s a whopping $1.6 billion that may have otherwise gone to beer, wine and hard liquor.
We’re ready to bet that Montecito’s newest canned cocktail label, Ysidro, is going to have a similar impact on sake figures. That’s how good it is. Created during the pandemic by Monica Epstein and her husband Seth — and inspired by a virtual wine tasting hosted by wine importer (and friend) Alex Dessouky — Ysidro’s slow-but-steady growth reflects the thoughtfulness evident in every single element. Their beverage is a gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan product. It’s also sulfite-free, and high-but-not-too-high ABV (6.9%), with all-natural ingredients. (And it doesn’t hurt that the can is highly Instagrammable.)
In other words, it’s a welcome change from the various chemicals and artificial flavors common to many hard seltzers. But first of all, why base a new canned cocktail on sake?
“In the beginning stages of Ysidro, we played around with different spirits, but they all left us with that artificial taste that we were trying so hard to avoid,” Epstein tells InsideHook. “When we tried sake, it was the perfect balance of smoothness and complexity. It complemented the other tasting notes, instead of overpowering them. Sake was the missing ingredient to make the elegant drink that we — and most importantly our friends — were craving.”
Ysidro takes its name from San Ysidro Road in Montecito, a few blocks from where all three founders live. It was born out of Monica’s desire to create connection during the isolation of those early pandemic months, and to create a product emblematic of their values. “It was important to me that Ysidro reflected the care and intention that my friends and I use to consider anything we consume,” Epstein says. “We ultimately wanted to create a more mindful way to relax, one that invited the conscious consumer to take part in the social ritual of a casual drink.”
The foundation of the spritz is Junmai Ginjo sake, “a premium sake blend from one of the oldest and most respected sake producers in the U.S.,” Epstein says. In keeping with the brand’s intentionality, they sought out a producer with a rich history and tradition, and “a master brewer who really understood the craft.” Dessouky, their wine expert, worked closely with the brewer to achieve a blend just for Ysidro, with grapefruit and sea salt added to round out the spritz with some very West Coast notes. The light, bright flavor, plus the perfect amount of bubbles, makes this a great addition to poolside socializing — or while lazing on your own.
“We wanted to stick to our roots of the ocean and what is grown in abundance in California,” Epstein says. “The sea salt and grapefruit are both certified organic and are sourced from the West Coast. We believe the two uniquely complement each other. Added to the sake, the result is a sophisticated, smooth taste that does not overpower the palate. A true California spritz!” That investment in product obviously extends to their choice of sake.
“‘Junmai’ is a classification of sake that is made with just four ingredients: rice, water, koji and yeast. ‘Ginjo’ means that each kernel of rice used in the sake was milled down to 60% of its original size, leaving the most flavorful part of each kernel. Ginjo is super labor-intensive and known for its pure, complex and delicate flavors.”
In a final nod to Montecito, the can’s specific shade is an homage to the way the sunset tends to dissipate into a beautiful pink hue in this idyllic seaside town. “The pink packaging is actually inspired by the ‘pink moment’ that happens around dusk in Ojai and Santa Barbara,” Epstein says. “Right before sunset, the sky turns various shades of pastels, and the mountains become alive with this gorgeous pink hue for just about an hour. The picture in the middle of the can is an emblem of San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, gardeners and workers — our inspiration, as he was the early adopter of work/life balance and living life slowly.”
Since the inspiration for the Ysidro spritz is so deeply rooted in Santa Barbara in particular and Southern California in general, that’s where the founders have focused on rolling out their product initially. They wanted to establish themselves within the community that inspired it first and foremost, though most people in the country can purchase the drink online if they so desire. In SoCal, Ysidro is now available at specialty markets like Gjusta Grocer and Wine + Eggs, Lucky’s Steakhouse, and the Santa Monica Proper and Colony Palms Hotels.
“It’s important to us for Ysidro to become widely available within the Santa Barbara and Southern California region first before expanding to retail locations nationwide,” Epstein said. “We think of Ysidro as ‘the drink of Montecito’ because we created it as a celebration of the community and lifestyle we love so much. We’re a local, friend-and-family-run business and we want other local businesses to be a part of our founding story.”
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