By Gregory Daurer | May 05, 2017
Sangria, wine, and cocktail mixers
Hasler didn't set out to make products that bartenders and at-home mixologists would welcome.
Rather, his two original formulations had a couple of simple, as well as singular, clear-cut purposes in mind: making a uniquely flavored mulled wine and making a sangria. For instance, add one part hot water to one equal part of his spiced, red wine- and mocha-based Rocky Mountain Rescue (its former name), and you've got a gluhwein -- a mulled wine. Or mix one gallon of water or seltzer with one bottle of Red Sangria and you've got a ready-to-serve punch bowl of sangria for a party.
But now, in a unique rebranding, each product within Hasler's line comes in a dual-labeled bottle. Rocky Mountain Rescue is now called Spiced Mocha on one side of the bottle ("Mix with Cream"), and on the other it's an "Ultimate Mixer" ("Mix with Spirits, Cream, Selzer or Serve Hot"). If Hasler gets his wish, liquor stores will be featuring it in both their mixer sections and spiced wine sections, as well as next to the Kahlua, Tia Maria, and Bailey's Irish Cream -- just depending on which label is being displayed frontward.
Hasler has also created red and white, fruit-filled, concentrated sangrias -- and they've been featured as such in stores. But, now, as "Ultimate Mixers," they'll also be easily identified as such in the mixer section, too, as raspberry- and passionfruit-enhanced drinks. Add tequila to either and you've got a version of a margarita. Or use the red to prepare a Hurricane. And why not stock the Raspberry Ultimate Mixer next to the Chambord, as well?
Hasler calls his product line "a revolution in the bar industry." He says, "The bar industry now has the closest thing to freshly muddled fruit in a bottle."
He's talking about products, which use fresh raspberry, passionfruit, or blackcurrants. Since the liquids are also fortified with a wine-based neutral spirit, and pack around 20 percent alcohol by volume, they don't need traditional preservation. They also maintain a six month shelf-life after being opened.
"These are unpasteurized, unfiltered, real fruit products, so it's the closest thing you can get to real fruit captured in a bottle -- which has never been done before on the market here," says Hasler. "If you normally get fruit in a bottle, it's pasteurized and/or it's filtered. So, you lose the fruit quality, the fruit flavor."
Each of the labels features a Saint Bernard dog, hence the "Saint" in Decadent Saint. The brand's motto seems a natural for what has become a popular, flavor-filled, relatively inexpensive (around $20 a bottle), multipurpose line of products: "Holy Sit!"
Hasler's unbridled passion for his products is translating into consumer enthusiasm: "We quadrupled our sales in '14 to '15, doubled our sales in '15 to '16, and doubled our sales again this last year." He expects to sell 12,000 to 15,000 cases in 2017. And with a production move from Boulder (where the company still maintains a tasting room) to Louisville, more than tripling its space, it will be capable of producing 10 times that. "I think we can go up to 120,000 cases a year," says Hasler.
When his initial mulled wine product was introduced in Iowa (an early market), Hasler and the distributor were both stunned to unload 52 cases in one day to various retail outlets. Decadent Saint's "Ultimate Mixers" can also be found in Nebraska, North Dakota, Nevada, Illinois, and Minnesota.
The mixers were also a hit at the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade, at which the company sold 163 cases in six and a half hours in 2016. Decadent Saint won a Double Gold for its white sangria at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. The mocha mulled wine earned a Double Gold (98) rating at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition; "For us achieving that was a very significant award," says Hasler. Holy Sit, indeed!
Hasler's exclamatory career path has led him from Down Under to Decadent Saint. "I've been making wine my whole life," he says. Hasler earned his degree in wine science at age 22, in 1983, in his native Australia. He's worked in Bordeaux in France and in Sonoma in California. He's also consulted for three different wineries in New Zealand.
In New Zealand, he also designed and built a high-end ski lodge. After a personal tragedy, Hasler took an Alaskan cruise where he met his future wife and business partner, Carolee Corey of Boulder. He subsequently sold his business in New Zealand and relocated to Colorado.
In 2013, Decadent Saint pressed 45 tons of grapes, creating a line of wines. It's released five reds and a white. Hasler also commercially concocted his first "Ultimate Mixer" -- the spiced dark chocolate, decaf coffee, and berry juice mulled red wine concentrate, which he had originally prepared for guests at his ski lodge in New Zealand.
The grapes that go into his products come mostly from California, although some has been sourced here in Colorado. Some 23,000 pounds of raspberries from Washington state have gone into the red sangria mix.
"We're proudly Colorado, but we buy our ingredients from out of state," says Hasler. "We're as Colorado as any Colorado brewery that buys their hops or malt from out of state."
A line of Colorado-made wines. Four different "Ultimate Mixers." And more innovations, he says, on the horizon.
"I love creating stuff, says Hasler. "My greatest satisfaction is actually hitting a sweet spot of creativity where what I'm creating is something which is needed in the market, which people love, which people haven't seen before."
Challenges: "Education," says Hasler. "Because, once people try our product, they love it. They understand the value, they understand they're getting the best value they can on the market out of a bottle. Until they understand that, people are frightened to risk $19 to $20 on a bottle. And so our challenge there is how do we get the education piece across, how do we mobilize ourselves to do the tastings required to do that face-to-face where people do get the experience?"
Opportunities: "We feel we've got an incredible opportunity to capture the whole market in America, once people understand this," Hasler says. "To capture every bar market, every bar across America which wants to use a mixer to create cocktails, because the price point is approachable. The taste is obviously approachable. And the utility is absolutely approachable and necessary in so many bars because of speed: Time is money, they've got to [quickly make] the drinks."
Needs: "Cash," says Hasler. "We are growing quickly, so we need cash flow to support production, just for ingredients. We've expanded, we're in this [Boulder tasting] location, we're in another bigger location [in Louisville] so we've got more rent needs. We just need money to pay for inventory, really. And that's coming. We just got funding and we're probably getting more funding soon."