Rambling House is expanding from soda to spirits with the recent release of a new bottled cocktail.
The bottled beverage is a Moscow Mule crafted with Rambling House’s ginger beer, vodka sourced from Watershed Distillery and organic cane sugar syrup, pasteurized to avoid artificial preservatives.
“I think we’ve made something that really holds up and competes with what you can get at a bar,” said Rambling House owner John Lynch.
Lynch launched Rambling House soda about four years ago and noticed immediately that ginger beer was their best seller, with bartenders and home mixologists frequently using the soda in cocktail recipes. He tapped his previous local brewery sales experience to began developing a new product.
“I saw how competitive the beer aisle got over the past 10 years, and the wine aisle was already competitive, but then there’s this little section in stores where there’s hardly anything like this,” said Lynch. “At first I wondered why, if there was a technical reason why you couldn’t bottle a cocktail, but once we did some research and figured out yes, it could be done, we found out that a lot of the reasons it’s not done is tax issues and the hoops you have to jump through.”
While the tax rate for craft breweries and wineries has been lowered substantially over the past several years thanks to successful lobbying on the state and federal level, liquor taxes remain high. Rambling House’s 8% ABV bottled cocktail is taxed at the same rate as an 80-proof bottle of spirits.
To the best of Lynch’s knowledge, Rambling House’s Moscow Mule is the first product in its category to be produced by an Ohio company. Due to its low alcohol content it isn’t restricted to being sold in state liquor stores (like Watershed’s own Old Fashioned), and products like Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice, which may appear to be bottled cocktails, are actually malt beverages, in the same category as beer.
“We think people would prefer if [those products] were actually made with distilled spirits because they would taste better, they wouldn’t taste like a sweet malt beverage,” said. “But because of the tax issue, because beer is taxed at a fifth the level of a spirit, the bigger companies have decided that the customer doesn’t really care about taste that much so [the manufacturers] are going to go with what’s less expensive for their bottom line.”
Rambling House’s Moscow Mule is packaged in Missouri at Crown Valley Distilling Company, one of only four distilleries Lynch was able to find nationwide capable of bottling a carbonated cocktail. Lynch hopes to open his own production facility in Columbus next year, with the release of a second bottled cocktail, Bourbon Ginger, likely to follow.
Their Moscow Mule’s lustrous label is a nod to the Mule’s traditional copper mug, and the bottom of the four-packs features lyrics and chords to a song (Midnight Special) for campfire gatherings. Lynch hopes in the future to feature music from some of the local artists who play at the Rambling House bar.
Four-packs of 375 ml bottles retail for $12.99 and are currently available at more than 70 shops and bars around Columbus.
“We think it’s a really neat option for restaurants that do beer and wine but don’t have a cocktail bar,” said Lynch. “But we don’t expect it to be a big product in bars, because we hope bars continue to buy Rambling House soda on draft to mix with Watershed vodka.”