Kick like a mule: Fermentation scientist makes popular summer cocktail

August 2018 Posted in Business, Community, Food & Drink

urlBy Melissa Wagoner

When 503 Distilling began producing their first canned cocktail – the Wicked Mule – they didn’t know what to expect.

“The response has been really, really good,” 41-year-old Silvertonian Andy Diacetis said. “We’re selling 150 cases a month. We’re selling everything we can make.”

The 503 Distilling trio – which includes Diacetis as well as Oregon City friends Dave Schleef and Rusty Caldwell – started their company in the fall of 2017 almost by accident. Diacetis – who owns a wine filtration business – had been looking into expanding into alcohol removal.

“In California these large wineries will ship wine to these companies to remove – say 0.2 percent of alcohol,” Diacetis said. “You get to keep the byproduct which is neutral spirits and a lot of them will sell it to brandy makers – for instance.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 11.34.43 AMDiacetis and his friends were contemplating utilizing the neutral spirits Diacetis’ company would be producing to make their own line of spirits.

“Originally it started out as vodka and gin and then we went to the liquor store and we saw all the businesses that are out there and we thought, ‘How are we going to compete with that?’”

Around that time Diacetis’ potential alcohol removal system fell through and the team made a leap in an entirely new direction.

“We thought, ‘What if we started canning cocktails,” Diacetis said. “It all just fell into place.”

The group decided to take their initial plunge by releasing their version of the well-known cocktail, the Moscow Mule because of both its popularity and its familiarity.

“One of the biggest challenges is we’re having to educated everybody about what this really is,” Diacetis sad. “Some people think it’s a beer. Some think it’s a ginger beer.”

Diacetis also noted the majority of first-time customers expect to be disappointed but are pleasantly surprised.

“One of my favorite things is seeing people’s responses,” Diacetis laughed. “They’re eyes light up and they say, ‘This is really good.’”

Word of mouth has been spreading fast and the Wicked Mule is flying off the shelves in liquor stores around the state and in California.

“If what was in the can wasn’t very good it wouldn’t be successful,” Diacetis said. “We’re having a hard time keeping up with production. We’re in 70 liquor stores around the state.”

Aside from the taste, Diacetis thinks the extreme popularity of the Wicked Mule is based on two important factors – the portability of the can and the fact that Oregon is already a hotspot of craft brewing for beer, as well as wine.

“Craft beer in a can has had huge growth – and canned wine. It makes sense that this would be the next logical progression,” he pointed out. “Plus people in Oregon love to get out and do things outdoors.”

The trio now have a blood orange Gray Hound – the Blood Hound – and have their sights set on the Old Fashioned as their next cocktail to conquer.

“We’re not well-known enough to do something off the board,” Diacetis mused. “We also want to do some limited releases, like maybe a
barrel-aged cocktail.”

In the meantime, Diacetis is enjoying his new-found success and watching those around him enjoy what he has made.
“It’s been really fun,” he said. “We were at the [Oregon Garden Brew Camp] and seeing people carrying them around – that was cool.”

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