When the pandemic put a pall over the world in March, Matthew Kaplan and Ethan Lazar had to do something about it.
The founders of Costa Brava Cocktails did their best to brighten people’s days by delivering drinks and items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer to folks around town.
They also donated to the USGB Bartenders’ Emergency Assistance Program to help aid restaurant workers who serve cocktails.
Costa Brava Cocktails hit shelves in January, and so far its lifetime has been bleak.
“Our whole timeline has been very negative,” Lazar said. “People are losing their jobs, and people are just generally sad. We wanted to brighten people’s days through direct contact and make a video about it.”
The video and project are dubbed Costa Cares Project, and it has 6,000 views on Instagram and 15,000 on Facebook. The team handed cases of Costa Brava Cocktails to high school friends and others who have been stuck in quarantine. Kaplan and Lazar—who graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019 and Hamilton in West Los Angeles previously—started the business as seniors in college.
“We got back from studying abroad and realized we put on 15 pounds in Barcelo- na,” Lazar said. “Before the summer, we went on the keto diet and shunned all sugar and carbs. There weren’t any drinks on the market that fit our lifestyle.”
They tried White Claw, but it was overcarbonated and made of malt liquor, which, Lazar added, has an inferior alcohol base.
Kaplan added that the two familiarized themselves with government regulations on how to craft a beverage and form a company. They raised nearly $500,000 during the summer of 2019.
“We’re trying to have people realize the main difference is White Claw is flavored malt beverage,” Lazar said. “We’re a premium take on that. We’re made with premium vodka. We have zero sugar and zero carbs. We upped the alcohol to 6.7%, so it’s a little stronger.”
In three months, Costa Brava Cocktails landed in 20 locations like independent liquor stores, bars and nightclubs. The pandemic slowed down the company.
“The most fun part was coming up with the recipes,” Lazar said. “It started in Matt’s kitchen at school. We were messing around with different flavors and we had the measuring cups out. We made little tweaks. It took us a couple months.
“We would throw parties at his partner’s house and fill up Gatorade jugs and ask those who tried it to fill out Google surveys. We won a $2,000 pitch competition, so a public university helped fund an alcohol company.”