Former Anheuser-Busch Exec Felipe Szpigel Launches High End Canned Cocktail Company Five Drinks Co.

“Less isn’t more. It’s right.”

That’s the motto of Five Drinks Co., the new high-end, ready-to-drink canned cocktail venture co-founded by former Anheuser-Busch InBev executive Felipe Szpigel.

The tagline is apt given that Five Drinks’ offerings are made with five ingredients — or less — and packaged in 6.8 oz. cans (the average size of a cocktail pour), compared to competing brands in 12 oz. cans.

“We make ready-to-drink craft cocktails that don’t suck,” Szpigel told Brewbound, reciting another brand tagline.

Szpigel, who led the world’s largest beer manufacturer’s craft and high end division for four years, is one of five co-founders in the Miami-headquartered canned cocktail company. Three other founders have ties to A-B, including Jeremy and Chris Cox, co-founders of Bend, Oregon-based craft brewery 10 Barrel Brewing Co., which A-B acquired in 2014 under Szpigel’s leadership, and Roberto Schuback, the former finance director for ZX Ventures, A-B’s growth and innovation division. A fifth founder, Gustavo Sousa, is the former global executive creative director for marketing agency Mother.

From left: Jeremy Cox, Chris Cox, Felipe Szpigel, Gustavo Sousa and Roberto Schuback

Szpigel, who is serving as Five Drinks’ CEO, said the five co-founders “have control of the company,” and he declined to disclose additional information about the company’s ownership structure or name other investors.

A ZX Ventures spokesperson confirmed to Brewbound that it holds a minority interest in Five Drinks.

For Szpigel, who announced his decision to step away from A-B last October to start a “beyond beer” venture, the move was both personal and professional. He explained that he wanted to live closer to his daughter, who lives in Brazil, and start his own business.

“I always dreamed of having my own business or product, and this felt like the right time and opportunity,” he said.

Nevertheless, Szpigel noted that since launching Five Drinks, he’s noticed that consumers have preconceived notions of the quality of canned cocktails.

“When you say, ‘Do you want to try a ready-to-drink cocktail that doesn’t suck?’’ he told Brewbound, “People are like, ‘I bet it sucks.’ Then they try it and say, ‘It’s actually pretty good.’”

Five Drinks’ products are not made with malt, artificial flavors or sweeteners. Each offering lists its ingredients on the front of the can:

  • Moscow Mule contains vodka, lime juice, ginger beer, tamarind, and coconut water;
  • Margarita contains tequila, triple sec, lime juice, hibiscus and habanero agave nectar;
  • Gin & Tonic contains gin, lime juice and tonic water.

“We’re going in a very different route in terms of product development and offering,” Szpigel said.

“For us, the need to drink a great craft cocktail exists beyond the bar setting,” he continued. “And we believe we are just the first one to see this opportunity and putting it into a convenient and environmentally friendly package.”

Five Drinks officially launched in Miami through the Breakthru Beverage Group on July 5. The company’s products are currently sold in 4-packs at a $9.99 price point in about two dozen accounts in the city, Szpigel said.

“Our rate of sale is really high, which is encouraging,” he said of the company’s first month of sales.

“I’d say there’s a big runway for us both locally and as a door into other markets,” Szpigel added.

Five Drinks expects to expand its distribution statewide in Florida, through Breakthru, by early 2020, Szpigel added.

The company also plans to build a distillery and tasting room in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, with a projected opening in summer 2020. Wynwood is a familiar location for Szpigel and Chris Cox, who also helped co-found A-B’s Veza Sur Brewing, a Latin American-inspired craft beer brand that opened in the Wynwood Arts District in 2017.

Szpigel sees Five Drinks’ taproom as a key part of the company’s future success, with the location serving as both a source of innovation and a testing ground for new products with immediate consumer feedback.

In the meantime, Five Drinks’ offerings are being contract produced at 10 Barrel’s facility in Bend.

Five Drinks’ entry into the fast-growing canned cocktail market comes as off-premise retail sales of prepared cocktails in cans increased 70.3 percent, to $55.3 million, during the 52-week period ending July 13, according to market research firm Nielsen.

Canned RTD cocktails account for about 20 percent of all prepared cocktails, and the segment is growing nearly seven times faster than the broader category, the firm reported.

Several beer companies have turned to canned cocktails as growth has become more scarce in a competitive field of about 7,500 breweries. Earlier this year, A-B acquired San Diego-based Cutwater Spirits — the craft distilling venture founded in mid-2016 by former executives of Ballast Point Brewing.

Craft breweries such as Rogue Ales & Spirits, Boulevard Brewing Company (Fling) and Maui Brewing Company (Kupu Spirits) have also launched their own brands.

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