These days, as you look over the many, many selections that have made their way to the shelves, you may be a tad overwhelmed in the canned beverage aisle. Not so long ago, cans were just for beer—but now every kind of sugary cocktail you can imagine is competing to get into your cooler.
Big Country is a little different. They are all about the art and effort that goes into making their organic ingredients, organic hard seltzer, and organic canned cocktails. From the farmers in the fields to the artisan mixologists in Texas creating their flavors, they strive to make elevated products that customers will love.
Their newest releases are sparkling cocktails that will make you want to savor every sip. Crafted by their mixologist, Ricky Cobia, who has been an acclaimed bartender right here in Austin for years, these western-style cocktails taste like something original and familiar all at once. We caught up with Cobia to ask him about the process of bringing the cocktails to life.
What’s your professional background?
Ricky Cobia: For a number of years after college, I bounced around from job to job as many of us do. I found myself playing music and working as a freelance graphic designer until I found my love for cocktails. For the next six years, I led programs all over Texas, and eventually landed on the list of the top 100 bartenders in the world in 2019.
How did you get hooked up with Big Country?
RC: After I was featured on that list, Big Country reached out and asked if I would help in the innovation process of their upcoming Organic Hard Seltzer. This being a world I was incredibly unfamiliar with I was hesitant at first, but ultimately my love to learn more pushed me to join the team at the end of 2020 and I have loved every minute of it.
What do you love most about the Austin bar scene?
RC: I love the selection—there is something for everyone. For me, I am kind of over the fancy spots with gold, and granite all over the place. I would much rather walk into Nickel City, have a boilermaker, and good conversation.
What was your assignment from Big Country?
RC: I see the product through all stages of its life—from concept to taste and design and marketing. Through it all, we are looking for what will set it apart from the rest. So a lot of my early work is done in the lab working with flavor houses, as well as our production crew to dial everything in on that front. Once flavors are locked in, I begin the design process with my team, and we build from there.
What was your goal with these cocktails in a can?
RC: We really wanted to bring something to the table that had not been done before in the world of hard seltzer. We were tired of the cherry, mango, lime—and dear god another ranch water—so we set out to change the game I suppose. The idea was to build a brand around the “Old West” and tell a story that engages people. Within the Cowpoke and the Jenny Lane we are trying to invoke a sense of nostalgia to the days of the over-dramatized westerns our grandparents loved. The John Wayne heroes, and the Cowgirl badasses we would see in old films.
Do you drink them right out of the can or dress them up?
RC: I typically just go straight from the can, but you can dress it up in any way you please. My wife is a big fan of throwing fresh lime and chili lime salt into the Jenny Lane.
What sets these apart from other canned cocktails on the market?
RC: The biggest thing is we are fully organic, fair-trade, and Texas-made. As I set off making these cocktails, the mindset was to bring in flavors that stand out and speak to my history in the beverage industry (hibiscus, ginger, lime, botanicals) to help us stand out in this saturated market. However, my favorite thing about our product is that we play a big role in the fair-trade world, meaning we make sure our workers and farmers are not exploited.
How are the ingredients selected and sourced?
RC: For our base seltzer, we are single-sourced from our farms in Paraguay, which is shipped directly to our production facility in Austin. On the other end of that, in terms of our flavors and juices, I go through various flavor houses throughout the U.S. to make sure we’re getting the highest quality organic ingredients for our cocktails.
If you could only bring three cocktail ingredients to a desert island, what would they be?
RC: Easy! Dark rum (Plantation), limes, and Demerara syrup—daiquiris for life!