Cutwater Spirits Pushes Hometown Baseball With Padres Mule

    • As part of AB InBev’s Beyond Beer portfolio, Cutwater is looking to play in sports.
    • The ready-to-drink cocktail segment grew 83% last year and is proving popular with stadium concessionaires.
Cutwater Padres
Photo Credit: Cutwater Spirits

The San Diego Padres haven’t taken the field yet this year, but a partner has rolled out a new product to support the team. 

San Diego-based Cutwater Spirits, a long-time team partner of the team, has released its co-branded Padres Mule – essentially a Moscow Mule of vodka, ginger beer, and lime – in a can.

“I love baseball, beyond belief, and it takes a long time to get a project like this going, the team to approve it,” Earl Kight, Cutwater chief sales and marketing officer, said. “Then once you have it, and the packaging squared away, it’s an ordeal. We were so far down the line, and the world comes to a screeching halt. We’re making it anyway.”

The new product is a celebration of the Padres brown retro uniforms that were brought back last year. The distillery sent 12-packs to San Diego-area Costco stores and larger cases for single sales at on-premise retailers.

Cutwater started as a Padres partner when it was still part of Ballast Point Brewing, before being spun off during the brewery’s first sale – an infamous $1 billion deal to Constellation Brands in 2015. Now, the distillery is owned by AB InBev – part of the Beyond Beer division – and is growing its baseball partnerships. Along with a full slate of spirits like tequila, rum, vodka, and gin, Cutwater offers 18 styles of canned cocktails and mixers such as Bloody Mary mix and ginger beer.

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With several marketing programs starting with MLB teams and through concessionaires, the brand will now be found at ballparks across the country, including Atlanta’s Truist Park, Cleveland’s Progressive Field, Colorado’s Coors Field, Miami’s Marlins Park, Arizona’s Chase Field, St. Louis’s Busch Stadium, and spring training facilities. Cutwater has also expanded to Denver’s Pepsi Center and in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“It comes down to what fans are doing while they’re there, but we gravitate toward baseball,” Kight said. “People wander at baseball games, and when you have a stadium as beautiful as Petco with all sorts of local foods, people don’t just sit down for nine innings.”

Kight said ready-to-drink, or RTD, cocktails are generally an easy sell to concessionaires because of the ease of execution for a bartender and the controlled alcohol content and inventory.

According to the trade publication BevNet, the RTD prepared cocktails category grew 83% last year in off-premise sales to $105.37 million. The February article by BevNet also credits hard seltzer’s rise in popularity for helping increase the adoption of the RTD category. Before AB InBev acquired Cutwater in February 2019, the San Diego company saw its spirits sales grow 203% in the year prior, and the RTD cocktails grew 356% in the same 52-week period before January 26, 2019, according to Brewbound.

The brand’s relationship with the hometown Padres is special, Kight said. Along with serving the official canned cocktail of the Padres, Cutwater is also the team’s official rum, gin, vodka, and tequila provider. It is also heavily involved with the San Diego State University alumni association. It helps that Cutwater has a 50,000-square-foot production facility with a tasting bar and kitchen in San Diego.

“We’ve had a solid relationship with the Padres, we used to be Ballast Point Spirits, and we sold the brewery, and we had a great relationship with the Padres when we were a brewery, so when we decided to do Cutwater, there was no better way to introduce ourselves to San Diego than to be in the baseball stadium,” Kight said.