Interview: Volley Ready-to-Drink Cocktail Founders Christopher Wirth + Camila Soriano

Details behind the all-natural, 100% blue agave tequila-based seltzer line

Volley occupies a unique position in the canned alcoholic beverages boom. Built upon three ingredients—organic juice, sparkling water and 100% blue Weber agave tequila from the highlands of Jalisco—it can be considered both a spiked seltzer and a ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail. This distinction is quite important and the brand’s founders, husband-and-wife team Christopher Wirth and Camila Soriano, are aware. Volley’s four iterations, all made with premium components, are light and refreshing. They taste natural, too. With the brand’s Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics partnership, consumers understand that Volley isn’t like any other.

We spoke with Wirth and Soriano about securing premium ingredients, developing flavors and building this new brand, to learn more about their overall mission.

Let’s talk about the category you’re in. Do you consider Volley to be an RTD cocktail or a spiked seltzer?

Christopher Wirth: This is a murky area where there’s not a very clear definition between the two yet. With Volley, there’s crossover between spiked seltzer and RTD. We are spirit-based, with tequila, so we are technically an RTD—but at the same time, we see ourselves as a spiked seltzer because we feel this is something you have in a beer moment. Volley is more of a relaxing, enjoyable drink that isn’t too boozy. We feel that an RTD seems more like something you’d drink in a cocktail consumption moment.

How’d you get to the idea of a tequila-based spiked seltzer?

Camila Soriano: We were wondering, “What is a spiked seltzer? What’s in this? Is it vodka?” At first, we couldn’t get an answer—then, even when we got what we think is the answer, there were so many question marks. We didn’t want any more question marks. We wanted something transparent. Something real.

Your branding is playful and refreshing. How did your design take shape?

CS: We worked with Red Antler. They’re a branding agency based in Brooklyn. We came to them with an idea, with basic iterations of what the product would be, and what we felt the brand needed to convey. They came up with the name, the packaging and everything around that. The product is simple and honest. We wanted the packaging to be simple. They did an amazing job with that.

The brand is really predicated on premium ingredients. How did you source those? How are your guaranteeing their quality?

CW: We’re a pretty adventurous couple. We’ve been in the beverage business for eight years now. We have a mixer brand called the American Cocktail Co. It was created out of our home kitchen and was a labor of love. When it started, we did not have any experience making products or building brands. The idea was to make it easy for people to make a high-quality drink at home. That same ethos is what brought Volley to life. We learned over the past eight years where to source from different vendors, how to evaluate quality, how to manage this quality and shelf-stability, cost and even color. We learned it the hard way by going through the trials and tribulations.

For the tequila, we went to Mexico and met with a lot of people. Ultimately, we tasted about 15 different blanco tequilas. We narrowed it down to two: one was Don Julio Blanco and one was what became our private label exclusive tequila. At its core, this tequila is super-smooth and can sit on the shelf with any brand.

Your product is noticeably free of the catch-all term other “natural flavors.” Can you explain what those are?

CW: They are a big part of how and why we started Volley. Those mysteries. “Natural flavors” are something people do not know much about. It seems like an innocent term. In reality, that term can have over 100 different ingredients in it. The gap between what you think can be in there versus what is in there, it’s a lot—like the goo excreted from the butt of a beaver, in the natural flavor of vanilla.

Can you talk about iterations you produced to get to the final recipe—and also your different styles?

CS: Chris is certified HACCP [the FDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point], the safety measure in place to develop a product. We didn’t need or want to contact large companies that can make a product for you—that create flavors for you. We had a kitchen in New York where we did all the iterations ourself. We weighed everything. We had a pH tester and a hand-canning machine. We had the knowledge necessary to do it ourselves.

For the flavors we chose, our mixer brand has a lot of data so we were able to see what people were drinking. We wanted to have products that people were familiar with—like lime and grapefruit, which is associated with the Paloma—but for the ginger and the mango, we saw the data behind it.

CW: You cannot find a better version of the juices we use. When we started, we said, “Let’s use the best juice component available.” That is organic Peruvian ginger juice. It’s second to none. It is spicy, bright and vibrant. The mango is tart and sweet. After tastings, it was our favorite. The organic limes are from Mexico. Then there’s Texas Ruby Red, the crème de la crème of grapefruit. I’s the state fruit of Texas. We are happy with what’s inside the product. And we are transparent about it.

Volley can be purchased online, nationwide, with an eight-can multi-pack starting at $30. Their in-store presence continues to grow, as well.

Images courtesy of Volley