Stilly canned cocktail’s MN founders thrilled with fast success

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Just over a year ago, Nick and Amanda Barthelemy were enjoying a backyard bonfire with friends at their home in Lake Elmo when talk turned to the dearth of good, ready-to-drink, flavored alcoholic beverages on the market.

Amanda Barthelemy turned to her husband and said: “I think we can do better.”

“I said, ‘Yep. I think we can, too,’” he said. “It sort of became a joke to us. We were like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to start a beverage brand.’”

Talk soon turned to action. In June, the couple launched Stilly vodka-based cocktails in a can.

“We went from inception to production in just a year,” said Nick Barthelemy, 44, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “We did it in record time. Generally, it takes even the large players 12 to 18 months to get this done.”

Stilly, a new brand of ready-to-drink cocktails in a can based in Stillwater. (Courtesy of Stilly Spirits)

Stilly beverages currently come in three flavors: grapefruit, cranberry lime and peach. More than 600 liquor stores, bars and restaurants across Minnesota now carry Stilly. The company soon will launch in Wisconsin and 17 other states, Nick Barthelemy said.

Stilly markets itself as “a light and refreshing cocktail made with premium vodka, fine bubbles, a squeeze of natural juices and natural flavors.”

“It is not a seltzer,” Nick Barthelemy said. “What really sets it apart is that it tastes extremely natural. There’s no after-taste. It has a lower carbonation than most of the other drinks out there. Its natural fruit juices come through, but they’re not too sweet. We knew a product like this would resonate with people like us — people who wanted something new and who valued taste.”

Sports partnerships

The company, based in Stillwater, recently announced partnerships with the Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx and is in talks with the Minnesota Vikings.

Stilly beverages are carried at the Xcel Energy Center during all Minnesota Wild games, as well as Target Center during all Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx games for the 2022-2023 seasons. In addition, Stilly drinks are sold at those venues during all concerts and events.

Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said he couldn’t believe the lines for Stilly products last month at the Carrie Underwood concert at Target Center. “It was everywhere,” he said. “There were huge lines of people waiting for them everywhere around the concourse. You could walk up anywhere and get a Budweiser, but the line for Stilly was 30 to 40 people deep. These guys are crushing it. It’s fun to see a local company up on the big stage.”

The drinks sell themselves, according to Kozlowski, who is partial to Vibe Machine, Stilly’s grapefruit-flavored vodka drink. “It really tastes like grapefruit and not like a grapefruit Jolly Rancher got stuck in the bottom of your glass,” he said.

Entrepreneurial experience

Nick and Amanda Barthelemy know what it takes to launch a successful business. Amanda Barthelemy, 39, is the CEO of Colored Organics, which produces organic cotton clothing for babies and children.

Amanda Barthelemy started the business in 2007 when she was home on maternity leave after the birth of the couple’s first child, Sienna. The Minneapolis-based company now sells millions of garments a year in 74 countries.

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