DARTMOUTH — During the pandemic, some people took advantage of the quarantine to pursue their entrepreneurial spirit and start small businesses. For Sy and Martha Yules, they launched a bartender quality craft cocktail "ready to drink" (RTDs) line, that is now sold at 28 locations throughout the SouthCoast. "We are vodka-based with real organic ingredient cocktails," said Martha Yules, owner of Grow Cocktails. "When you look at some of these other drinks that are out there that everyone thinks are true RTDs, they're just all fake flavors and cheap vodka or malt beverages." The inspiration for their four canned cocktails comes straight from their home garden. "We grow a lot of things that inspire what we end up using," said Sy Yules, the chemist and creative mind behind the South Dartmouth cocktail brand.
The four main canned drinks are Red Wanderer, a blend of hibiscus and vanilla bean vodka, lime juice; Hot Shot, jalapeno and habanero vodka with ruby red grapefruit juice; Hoppy Place, cascade hops and roasted cardamom vodka and lemon juice; and French Twist, a blend of lavender and vanilla vodka. All the concoctions also have blue agave as the sweetener, sparkling water and vodka from Dirty Water Distillery in Plymouth. Each 12-ounce can contains 8% alcohol. "It lends itself to capturing that special moment with a really good friend where you just really want to have a good conversation," said Martha Yules, adding that each can is equivalent to two drinks.
Grow Cocktails came to market in July 2021. The canned cocktail is available in stores such as Lee's Wines and Spirits in Westport, Friend's Marketplace in Rochester, Portugalia Marketplace in Fall River and Freitas Package Store in New Bedford. "They come very highly recommended," said Jason Diaz, an employee at Acme Liquors in South Dartmouth. "When people come in and buy it, they first think it's overpriced ($19.99 per four pack), but it's really not. People are really happy with the quality, and they get good reviews." Diaz doesn't think there are many locally made canned cocktails in the store. "We are restocking these a lot in the fridge," he added. "Everyone who gets them always comes back for more of them almost right away." Last month, Grow Cocktails joined forces with Alden Johnson of Coastal Craft Distributors to be one of the company's first RTDs. They have already extended their reach to 10 other locations from Duxbury to Medfield, as well as in Martha's Vineyard. People can also enjoy a Grow Cocktails with their meal at restaurants such as Black Bass Grille, Back Eddy, Walrus & Captain and Joe's Original.
"When you drink like a gin and tonic, it's like the last third you're kind of chasing the drink because it waters out," added Yules. "Ours hold up, they are good at the beginning as good as they are at the end."
In March 2006, Yules and Martha Yules moved to South Dartmouth from North Attleboro. Yules served as a manager at Joe's Original for a number of years. During the pandemic, he was tasked with coming up with a good "on-the-go" cocktail.
"We were doing 100% takeout then," he said. "And I just thought we need a really good cocktail that would make us stand out."
Also an expert cook, Yules said he was driving home from work when he suddenly had the idea of incorporating ingredients from their garden to create a fresh cocktail. He made a sangria, fittingly named Sidney's Lavender Sangria, which included vodka, lavender, vanilla, agave and lemon juice. "It's South Coast garden to glass," he said.
Yules said there are three categories for RTDs: hard seltzer containing 4% alcohol; 8% alcoholic cocktails; and 12% drinks like the traditional cosmos, margaritas, and bourbons that open the container and pour over ice. "But they're not new. They're kind of the old standards," said Martha Yules. "What we offer is an innovative, interesting blend of organic and fresh flavors. And great vodka.
"It's a real cocktail."
Most of the ingredients are locally sourced such as the lavender from Stone Pony Gardens in Westport. Anything they can't get from a nearby farm or grow themselves, they make sure it's still organic. Sy Yules said they organized a "Christmas Club" of 20 families to be their test market; they were also the ones who helped them come up with the different names. They also organize tastings around the SouthCoast. "Everyone that's tried it loves it. And we've been able to keep up with the demand. But we think we're gonna blow off the doors really soon," said Martha Yules. However, the challenge has been to scale and find a distillery or organization that can help scale and produce in New England. "The integrity of the quality is really our No. 1 concern. This is our baby," Yules added.
She said they are very specific about where we go because the product is so unique. "It needs to be understood to be sold by our stores, and we want to make sure we've got good distribution," she said.
Sy and Martha Yules, parents of four kids and four grandkids, said the experience of working on a business together has been fun.
Yules calls himself the technical math person, the chemist, while he said his wife is the expert at sales and marketing. "We're a great team, we balance each other out in many, many good ways," he said, adding that if anyone has an idea they shouldn't be afraid to just go for it.
"Just make sure you have stamina and make sure you have patience," Martha added. "We're working in a heavily regulated industry, and stuff pops up all the time that we never would've thought of." "But we're having fun. We like the creative process," Sy Yules quickly chimed in. Martha Yules said what makes it all worthwhile is seeing people taste the drink and seeing their reaction, especially hearing what they taste first and last. "If we can get in front of people, they will buy it because it's good, it's really clean, fresh and local."
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.
Inspiration for our drinks comes from our garden
It takes time, trial and error to find the right balance
New York, NY, (August 31, 2022) – The Fifty Best has once again shined its spotlight on RTD Cocktails by hosting a tasting where 69 contenders were evaluated for the distinguished “Best Ready-to-Drink Cocktail” awards for 2022.
The Fifty Best is very pleased to announce that Grow Cocktails French Twist and Grow Cocktails Hot Shot were awarded Gold medals and Grow Cocktails Hoppy Place was awarded a Double Gold medal.
Using professional criteria, the pre-qualified panel of judges blind-tasted the RTD Cocktails and rated them individually on a 1-5 point scoring system with 5 being the highest. After tallying the scores, medals were awarded based on the judges' impressions.
The complete results, along with tasting notes, can be viewed here:
TheFiftyBest.com is a digital guide to wines & spirits, featuring rated listings resulting from proprietary blind tastings as judged by wine/spirits journalists, spirits professionals, wine/spirit retailers, mixologists, spirits consultants and connoisseurs. The Fifty Best achieves the highest standards of spirits evaluations by adhering to strict tasting rules and rigorous methodology.
French Twist and Hot Shot
With the world mostly limited to take-out last year, South Dartmouth residents Sy and Martha Yules wanted to find a way to help restaurants and bars bring their quality and experience to people at home. To fill that drink gap, the couple started Grow Cocktails and “put the bartender in a can.”
“Going to a bar and getting a real cocktail is different from just buying a canned seltzer,” Martha said. “We want you to have that bartender quality craft cocktail experience.” Many businesses have started off in garages or basements, but for the Yules’, their venture came about on their front porch in Padanaram.
Last summer, Sy had used some lavender Martha had been growing in their front garden to create a syrup for Joe’s Original on State Road to use in the restaurant’s take-home sangrias. After seeing its popularity at the Dartmouth eatery, the Yules’ began to share the lavender syrup with friends during socially distanced gatherings on the porch. Again, people liked the mixture. “People kept telling me, ‘You should put this in a can,’” Sy said. So they did.
Last September, the South Dartmouth couple got to work to establish their brand of ready-to-drink cocktails, meeting with bartenders to come up with formulas and partnering up with the Plymouth-based Dirty Water Distillery. To differentiate themselves from malt-based seltzers and canned margaritas, the South Dartmouth residents instead try to use uncommon mixes with their vodka-based cocktails. “These are creations that you most likely haven’t had before,” Sy said.
The couple launched their brand with four flavors: Hot Shot, which features jalapeño, habanero and grapefruit; French Twist, which has lavender, vanilla and lemon; Red Wanderer, which has hibiscus, vanilla and lime; and Hoppy Place, which contains cardamom, hops and lemon.
This month also saw the launch of a fifth cocktail “Twice the Spice,” which contains orange and winter spices. Many of the ingredients used in the cocktails are sourced from farms around the region such as lavender and jalapeños used in their Hot Shot cocktail. “If we can find local products, we’ll buy it from local farms,” Sy said. “Getting the balance with the flavors, it’s a delicate dance.” The names of the drinks, Martha noted, were chosen and voted by the consumers.
“The reason we decided we needed to come up with names is because someone told us you can’t have a bar full of people and say ‘I want a jalaeño-habanero-grapefruit Grow Cocktail,’” she said with a laugh. Grow Cocktails officially hit shelves in July. When the brand launched just two months ago, they started in three stores. Now, their drinks are in 14 stores and venues across the South Coast. “From Somerset to Wareham,” Martha noted. “This was our goal — to be a South Coast business.”
Much like at their initial porch gatherings, the drinks have proven popular at promotional tastings the couple holds at area liquor stores. The canned cocktails are currently available in town at Joe’s Original, CV Liquors at 550 Russells Mills Rd., and Acme Liquors at 722 Dartmouth St. For a list of other locations, visit growcocktails.com
Flavors Offered in 2021
“YOU REALLY OUGHTA CAN THIS!”
Sitting outside on a Padanaram porch, sipping cocktails in 2020 while social distancing with their neighbors, the Yuleses heard this a lot. Featuring freshly harvested lavender, rosemary, rhubarb and even peppers from their backyard, the drinks were a huge hit.
They got busy figuring out the ins and outs of bringing a new brand to life. A former manager at Joe’s Original, Sy Yules had experience at the restaurant creating drinks people loved. But they needed to figure out arcane licensing issues and the logistics of getting the drink in cans without sacrificing any quality. Each flavor profile begins in their garden and Sy’s desk is crowded with bottles representing different flavors mixed in with vodka. Friends help out with taste tests.
The newest Grow Cocktail will be a celery drink, accompanied by some elderflower and habanero flavors. “The world doesn’t need another Martini, another Mule, another Margharita or anything else that begins with the letter M,” says Sy. For them, it’s all about creating something inventive and niche, something you won’t find in any other can.
As Grow Cocktails fly off local shelves, the Yuleses are working on ways to increase production so more people can enjoy whimsical flavors like the Red Wanderer (vodka with hibiscus, vanilla and lime) or the French Twist (vodka with lavender, vanilla and lemon) on their own porches. Learn more at growcocktails.com