Months before the infamous White Claw shortage of 2019, the aha moment for Kevin Wong and Sean Ro hit late one night when the friends were eating Korean fried chicken in Midtown Manhattan.
“Why don’t Asian restaurants have something authentic for their food pairings? Something that represented our community,” Wong recalls discussing with Ro, as they ordered Bud Lights. “How do we take the flavors near and dear to our hearts and make them shine?”
Fast forward nearly a year—and a global health crisis later—the duo launched Lunar this week selling cans of craft hard seltzer using ingredients sourced from Asia. They’ve started with a yuzu-flavored beverage and have already sold out since debuting on Wednesday.
The longtime friends, who have both worked for various startups, had no experience developing a hard seltzer, one of the fastest growing sectors in the canned cocktail world. They watched YouTube videos, researched recipes, tasted any hard seltzer they could find and jerry-rigged CO2 tanks and fermenters in their studio apartments in the initial stages.
“We like to joke that we’re still alive after the initial trial-and-error stage,” says Wong. “A lot of the brews in the beginning were subpar.”
Lunar, which can be purchased through TapRm ($12.99 for a four-pack), plans to roll out other flavors like lychee and wintermelon. They’re exploring more creative recipes, too, possibly one inspired by Yakult, a popular Japanese yogurt drink.
As much as it’s a business for the entrepreneurs, they say it’s also about recognizing their Asian American culture.
“It helps tell a cultural story through a drink,” says Ro, who notes that Lunar is targeting the Millennials and Gen-Z Asian Americans that want to be more connected to the food they consume.
“It’s time to be unapologetically proud of where we come from,” Wong says.
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