Charlottesville’s Waterbird Takes Flight

Canned cocktails make a splash.

This bird is about to leave the nest. A few short years ago, canned cocktails weren’t a viable offering in Virginia. But in 2019, Waterbird founder Wilson Craig testified before the Virginia House and Senate in support of legislation that puts ready-to-drink cocktails in the same category as wine coolers. Now, companies are allowed to create, can, and sell RTDs (as they’re known in the beverage industry), as long as their alcohol content remains below 7.5 percent.

Waterbird seized the opportunity, expanding distribution of their canned cocktails from their hometown of Charlottesville to 15 states around the country, with a target number of 43. Soon, folks around the country will be able to “wet their beaks” with Waterbird’s vodka cocktails, including cucumber mint, watermelon basil, and citrus squeeze flavors, alongside their Tequila Margarita and Ranch Water. And they’ll find them wherever they might buy beer and wine.

The timing is ideal for Waterbird. “We are at an inflection point in history where we are going to a post-beer world,” Craig notes. “Folks are excited to have alternative choices.” While brands like White Claw, Truly, High Noon, and Cutwater have made an impact, Craig insists, “we have better ingredients and authenticity which the big guys don’t.”

For their Ranch Water and Tequila Margarita, Waterbird sources some of the finest blanco tequila distilled in Jalisco, Mexico; while other makers rely on agave concentrate. Quality and taste led them to “a perfect vodka,” distilled in Idaho, for their vodka-based cocktails, which include flavors like cucumber mint, watermelon & basil, and citrus squeeze as well as a Moscow Mule and Vodka Soda Lime.

The cocktails are light and refreshing, with an alcohol content ranging from 5 to 7.5. Other local canned cocktail success stories include Richmond’s Belle Isle Moonshine, and Nellysford’s Bold Rock Cidery. WaterbirdSpirits.com


This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue.

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