Hard seltzers have been all the rage the past few years, and one company that has been at the forefront of the trend is JUJU Spirits, the creator of Drunk Fruit, a Northern Virginia company that produces Asian-fruit inspired alcoholic beverages.
These unique drinks come in three flavors — Lychee, Melon and Yuzu — and are available at more than 200 businesses in the DMV including Total Wine stores, local Whole Foods Markets, Walmart and others. It also can be found in select BevMos, Total Wine and 99 Ranch stores in California.
The company launched in October 2020 when a group of college friends noticed a gap in the alcohol market.
“The alcohol market didn’t really speak to us as Asian-Americans,” says Kenn Miller, one of Drunk Fruit’s co-founders. “We wanted to make nostalgic flavors reminiscent of the things you could find in Asian grocery stores and share these flavors with Asians and non-Asians alike.”
The idea for a hard seltzer first came to Miller when he was in Japan on his honeymoon.
“I was reminded of the unique flavors that are in alcohol in Japan,” he says. “There’s a drink called chūhai, which is very similar to hard seltzer here in the U.S., but it’s made with a Japanese shōchū and different flavors.”
Wishing that drinks like this were available in the U.S., Miller called up his friend Steven Tang with the idea of importing these. But after seeing the hard seltzer market blow up in 2019, the two friends joined forces with friends Will Zeng and John Zhan and decided to just start their own company with some unique flavors of their own.
“We embarked on a journey of formulating and doing a lot of home batches at my house and after lots of mixing and testing, landed on these three flavors,” Miller says. “We are looking at other flavors as well, and there’s going to be some limited releases as well as some mainstream Asian flavors.”
Drunk Fruit also recently launched a more full-flavor canned drink called Yoju, an Asian yogurt and Korean soju canned cocktail—the first of its kind in the U.S. These drinks are available in Whole Foods, Total Wines, and various independent beer and wine shops in D.C. and Virginia.
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Beginning January 22, Drunk Fruit will celebrate Lunar New Year by partnering with local Asian-American organizations, bars, restaurants and some influencers in the District.
“We do all sorts of events,” says Victoria Nguyen, director of business development for the company. “Whether it’s sampling in the grocery stores to a little promo at a bar or restaurant, or even at a festival.”
Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures. Tied to the lunar calendar, the 15-day holiday began as a time for feasting and honoring household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors. The year 2023 is slated to be the year of the rabbit.
“This is the first year we put a big amount of focus on Lunar New Year,” Nguyen says. “I’m loving that more and more people are becoming exposed to it. We are doing a big Lunar New Year festival with Maketto, and excited to be promoted at the restaurant with the Ascend Greater Washington chapter.”
There will also be a Lunar New Year sampling in Tysons and tastings at local grocery stores.
“There’s a lot of fun stuff all around,” Nguyen says.
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