Just two miles off the coast of Connecticut, right at the edge of the Long Island Sound, is a small sliver of land called Fishers Island. Home to just 125 people, the island is said to host up to 2,000 people throughout the summer. Which feels fitting for a place that has a canned spiked lemonade named after it.
Bronya Shillo, founder of that canned spiked lemonade company, Fishers Island Lemonade, grew up on the island and began bartending at her parents bar, The Pequot Inn, at just 18 years old. Soon after that, she saw the opportunity to turn her parents’ recipe into a canned cocktail people could enjoy anywhere—even outside of Fishers Island. As the weather begins to heat up in New York, the brand has launched its first variety pack—an eight-pack with the original spiked lemonade (a combination of vodka, whiskey, lemon and honey), along with the spiked tea (vodka, whiskey, lemon and black tea) and pink flamingo (vodka, whiskey, lemon and cranberry juice) varieties. Ahead of this launch, Edible Manhattan sat down with Shillo to discuss all things Fishers Island Lemonade, including the surprising recipe she makes with it.
What sparked the idea for Fishers Island Lemonade?
I grew up in a funky little place called Fishers Island. My parents owned the only bar out there, which is called The Pequot Inn, and Fishers Island Lemonade was actually the house recipe of that really fun place that I had the opportunity to grow up at and get my bartending skills from. Pretty much as soon as I could start legally working, I was making pizzas in the back kitchen or helping out my parents with inventory. I have an older sister and cousins, so I just tagged along. By the time I was legally able to step behind the bar, I had seen quite a bit at a young age and so I felt like I was able to start pretty quickly. And I started listening to consumers and understanding what they wanted. I was also brewing beer and making a lot of different cocktails outside of bar hours and decided to can our cocktail because I felt like that was something that hadn’t been done yet.
Tell me a little bit about the packaging for Fishers Island Lemonade. It’s so cute!
We took a lot of pride in creating a really fun package that spoke to the roots of Fishers Island. So, the yellow and white striping has a lot to do with the 1950s-style bathhouses.
What do you hope consumers feel when drinking Fishers Island Lemonade?
I love the discovery mode, where they’re just like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that all of this is in the can. It tastes so good; it tastes just like the bartender made it.” We really do take a lot of pride in everything from the exterior of the cans to the interior of the cans to how we promote our story and our messaging. So, our team has a very high standard for that quality throughout. And I think that that’s something that consumers continue to come back for with our brand.
How do you do that? How do you ensure that it tastes like the bartender just made it?
This was sort of the “aha moment” for me too, as I was building a business. As a bartender, I was like, we’re going to use vodka, we’re going to use whiskey, we’re going to use freshly squeezed lemons and real honey. And when it came down to creating that business not only from all the costs of the components, but also from the manufacturing side, there were a lot of areas that I just was uncovering, and I didn’t want to cut corners. I was really proud of what we were creating, and I didn’t want to slip something in there just because it costs us less. You can see it right on our cans, we’re talking about a canned cocktail—it’s truly a cocktail made with real spirits. We use a whiskey that’s been barrel-aged, and that’s something that you could pour out of a bottle off the shelf that you’d want to drink neat. It’s not something that has a masked flavor in it. So I think when it comes down to why consumers continue to come back to Fishers and become lifelong customers is because they know that we’re putting the real deal on the can, and it’s not just about the marketing.
I know lemonade is not a drink you traditionally pair with food, but what would you want to eat with Fishers Island Lemonade?
Growing up on Fishers Island, I’ve always been a pretty avid fisherwoman, so I love fish tacos. My husband and I met spearfishing, so we love to kind of go get our groceries, so to speak. I’m also a really big fan of our Fishers Island oysters. And our lemonade makes a really fun mignonette sauce. So if you were to take a champagne vinegar, a little black peppercorn, some Fishers Island Lemonade, you get that nice salty brightness, but a little touch of the Fishers Island flare with both Fisher Island oysters and Fishers Island Lemonade.
Fishers Island Lemonade Mignonette Sauce
1 can Fishers Island Lemonade
2/3 cup champagne vinegar
2 medium shallots minced, about 1/2 cup
2 Tablespoons coarse black pepper, butcher crack will do
Stir all ingredients together with a fork and chill.
Feature photo courtesy of Maaike Bernstrom.