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Q&A with Elenita’s Founder Mikel Noriega

Elenita Sparkling Mezcal launched in Georgia just before Cinco de Mayo in four delicious flavors – Pineapple Jalapeño, Cucumber Lime Basil, Strawberry Mule and Passionfruit Paloma. Made in Mexico, these ready-to-drink seltzers have already gotten buzz from influencers and critics, even winning Bevnet’s best new spirit product of 2020. 

Their slim cans are perfect for taking with you on your end-of-summer trips and are sure to be a hit for tailgating season. They even have a variety pack with two cans of each flavor, so you can try them all at once and then settle on your favorite(s).

Empire Distributors’ Marketing Manager Courtney May interviewed Elenita co-founder Mikel Noriega to find out how the company was started, why sparkling Mezcal and how Elenita got its name and mission as a sparkling Mezcal made for curiosities. Check out an excerpt of the interview with Mikel below and for more information – watch the original Instagram Live, where he does a breakdown on tasting notes from the different flavors, plans for future flavor types and what it’s been like to launch a brand during COVID-19 in different markets.

View the full interview here.

Why Mezcal?

“I’m from Mexico City, born and raised for most of my life. I used to be a banker in my past life, wasn’t very passionate about that. Since I grew up in Mexico City, I grew up with a lot of Mezcal in my life. I saw it go from what it was 20 years ago, which was, as a lot of people know, that beverage with a worm in it. But now the new era of Mezcal is actually very high-quality sipping mezcal from many different types of agaves and from many different processes of distillation and production.

When I got to the US – I started seeing how the Mezcal market was growing in the US and some peculiarities about things that were not making the market grow as fast as it should. [I thought] probably a good opportunity to go into that market.”

How did you and Jordan meet?

“We met in business school. [I go to business school] and meet this very funny Canadian who also likes mezcal a lot. We became really good friends. We drank mezcal a lot.”

How did you come up with the idea for Elenita? Why sparkling mezcal?

“We half-kiddingly started talking about starting our own mezcal brand. The half-kidding turned into a research project and that’s where we found [that] it’s the fastest growing spirit in the US. We saw three things. We saw that there was a very high entrance point into [the market]. Number two we saw that there was zero to no brand identity. Almost nobody could tell us a single mezcal brand. Finally and most importantly we saw that 90-95% of mezcal consumption in the US happens through cocktails in bars and restaurants. That means all of these mezcal brands are only selling a cocktail ingredient and not the finished product, so we thought what if we actually combine mezcal with the flavors that people already love and actually give people what they want in the form of a sparkling mezcal with a very good entry price point?

[We started traveling] to Mexico City to Oaxaca to Guadalajara and this is a huge part on how we grew as a team and Jordan and I realized that this could be a real brand and a real product.”

How did you decide on which flavors to explore?

“We were lucky because we were in school it was obviously a very famous project. We were inviting between 10-20 people every week to either Jordan’s house or my house to try different types of cocktails, or sparkling cocktails or what were going to be the flavors we were going to choose for Elenita. We went through about 20-30 different types of flavors from blood orange to hibiscus and pineapple jalapeño and cucumber lime basil started to over perform consistently and then the strawberry mule and the passionfruit paloma were also very strong performers in these tastings.”

How did you get the name of Elenita?

“One of the members of our team [as we were traveling] was named Elena – she was helping us with the marketing and branding and as we were traveling more and more to Mexico City to Oaxaca, her personality started to evolve. When we started working together her personality would be a little bit on the shy end – not as outgoing. She was also nervous to travel – we convinced her [to] actually see past that stereotypical danger in Mexico and her eyes were opened. 

There was this one night at a very nice club in Mexico City. We were drinking Mezcal and Elena started being more outgoing, dancing, being funny and we started calling her that night, Elenita. Elena was inspired to see things differently and she inspired us to do the same.”

Where can you find Elenita?

Elenita is available through Empire Distributors, Inc. in Georgia & Tennessee!

View the full interview with Mikel.

 

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