When Ben Reilley launched his small-batch vodka-distilling business near Cazenovia last year, he knew the focus of the enterprise would always be on fun.
That’s why he called his company Life of Reilley, combining his name and an old expression meaning a laid-back, care-free lifestyle. He emphasized that outlook by turning his company logo, LOR, upside down on his bottle labels.
A year later, Reilley is taking that to a whole new level.
This month, Life of Reilley is introducing a pre-mixed cocktail, made from his Life of Reilley Raspberry Vodka, fresh-squeezed lemonade and an infusion of mint leaves.
It’s called Disco Lemonade. And it comes in a can.
“It definitely fits that comfortable, easy way of living,” Reilley said. “It is fun.”
Disco Lemonade will be produced in limited batches for now — for sampling only — and has its official launch at the Endless Summer party at Sylvan Beach from 6 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 14. The full roll-out should be by mid-October, when it will be available for sale at bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
Though Life of Reilley is a small company, Disco Lemonade is joining a market sector that big drinks companies have been charging into for a while: Think Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Bud Light Lime A Ritas, for example.
But most of those drinks — even the Smirnoff products — are made from a base of malted barley, similar to the base for beer. They’re often called “alcopops” or “malternatives.”
Reilley’s Disco Lemonade is made with a vodka base, which is made entirely from New York state-grown corn. In the end, after the lemonade and other ingredients are added, it comes down to a beer-like strength of 6.5 percent alcohol.
But the vodka base made clearing state and federal regulatory hurdles a challenge. It also means that Disco Lemonade can be sold in liquor stores, but not grocery stores.
Reilley didn’t invent Disco Lemonade as a concept or a cocktail, though his formula is his own. Internet searches show the most common recipes for a cocktail of that name combine vodka, blue Curacao and lemonade.
And, if you’re a fan of late 1990s alternative music, you may recall a song called “Sex and Candy,” by Marcy Playground. (See video below).
“And then there she was / in platform double-suede / Yeah, there she was / like Disco Lemonade”
Reilley swears he didn’t know Disco Lemonade was in the song.
He said the inspiration came as he and his wife, Siobhan, were at a summer bonfire party last year and noticed how many people — especially women — came in carrying 6-pack of Bud Light Lime A Rita (made by Anheuser-Busch).
“Especially the women — lots of them were drinking that,” Reilley said. “And I thought, we have to come up with something like that.”
The Life of Reilley crew is experienced at coming up with cocktails that make use of their vodka.
“We get that a lot,” he said. “People say, ‘I like your vodka but what do I do with it?”
So they began playing around with various concoctions, offering the recipes to people at the Saturday Cazenovia Farmers Market, where they’ve been selling the vodka and offering samples while they await the completion of their own tasting room.
Until the full roll-out in the fall, you can try samples of Disco Lemonade at the market. It won’t be available for sale until all the licensing and labelling issues are cleared, which is why Reilley is aiming for mid-October.