We're sure by now you’ve heard about our Cocktail Social with Hartford Flavor Company and Wild Moon Liqueurs happening next Thursday, September 21 on the Kitchen ZINC patio from 5:30-7pm. But what do you know about the company who produces some of the most flavorful liqueurs we’ve ever tasted? Of course, you can head over to their website and check out the ‘About Us’ tab, but we went right to the source. We spoke last week with Lelaneia, founder of Hartford Flavor Co. to get a little insider info on her and her fabulous company.
**this was a phone interview and some answers may be paraphrased**
First off, can you please tell us how you pronounce your beautiful name?
How did you Hartford Flavor Company come to fruition?
Eight years ago I was making this Cranberry Liqueur to give as gifts for the holidays. People loved it! It was about five and half years ago that I realized I had a gluten allergy and was chemically intolerant of alcohol and I just thought, ‘well this is unacceptable!’ I wanted to be able to have a cocktail, it's social, it’s a lot of what we do. I remembered the recipes of the Cranberry Liqueur that I had made and I thought I would make more, something that I could drink. We gathered lavender from my garden and soon we had two flavors. We happened to be at a holiday party with a bunch of industry people and when they tasted what we had made they told me that it was “magic in a bottle” and that I needed to get this to market. I laughed it off and didn’t think much of it. I was a bit overwhelmed by the idea. At the time I was a landscape designer and wasn’t really looking to change my life or career. My husband, on the other hand, was looking for a change from the corporate world. It wasn’t until I went out with friends, ordered a cocktail, and instantly got a headache, that I thought…’I need to do this, I need a cocktail.'
So, we hit the ground running. We made 50 flavors. 16 of those flavors, after being tested by a panel of 300 people, were market viable. Everyone around us was telling us to do this and now that 16 flavors (more than I thought would be liked) were market viable, there were no more excuses. April of 2014 the paperwork started and April of 2015 the company was launched.
How do you feel about that decision now?
I’m glad we’ve done it. We’re two and a half years old and we are very well received, we’re doing gang busters. It’s been worth all the work.
What do you find most challenging about being in this industry?
The drinking. (laughs on the other end of the line) I think the most challenging part of this is to re-educate people on how to drink. People aren't aware of all the chemicals in alcohol because labels on alcohol bottles aren’t required. I try and think that I’m not just making another product, but I’m trying to get people to drink more naturally. A huge part of our job here is to educate people on how natural our product is. If you want to eat clean, why wouldn’t you want to drink clean too?
Can you explain a little more about your allergies?
There are chemical additives for flavor and coloring in alcohol. When I would have a cocktail, I would suddenly feel sick. At the time I was drinking martinis and soon they just stopped tasting good. Now, I only drink Wild Moon with clean mixers, but I usually pay for it, meaning the more top shelf liquor the better for me. Some high-end tequilas, Titos is always a good choice, you get what you pay for. I feel better and I can actually have a cocktail.
What is the best thing that has happened to you since you started the Hartford Flavor Company?
The ‘thank yous'. People coming up to me and telling me that they couldn't drink either and now they can. It's so touching. A lot of people have similar allergies to me. I had no idea what an impact I would have on other peoples drinking lives.
Why did you name it Hartford Flavor Company and Wild Moon Liqueurs?
Originally we started in Glastonbury but moved to Hartford and we love it here. We were part of the Rennaissance that Hartford experienced and we are huge cheerleaders of this city. We chose flavor instead of the distillery for two reasons, 1. it's more of an infusion of flavors in these liqueurs and 2. it sounds a little better than Hartford Distillery Company.
Wild Moon is named after the Goddess Diana. Hartford means deer crossing and Diana's companion was a deer. She's a strong, goddess of the hunt/moon/ wild. Since I was a landscape designer for 20 years, she stood out to me and it just seemed fitting.
What do you wish other people knew about Hartford Flavor Company?
That we really are an all natural product, truly made locally, with real herbs/berries/etc, soaking in sugar cane spirits. We make organic simple syrup in house. There's no hiding anything here. We are making this as organically as we can. 100% natural, gluten free and GMO-free.
Wild Moon seems to be everywhere. What are your plans for future expansion?
World Domination (again, we laugh at this, but know it could be quite possible)
Right now, Wild Moon is in CT, we just took Boston by storm, you can find it in Rhode Island, Florida and we will be in New York and California by October 1.
What sort of trends are you seeing in the future?
Low ABV cocktails. People want to drink, but they don't want to drink to get drunk. So liqueur based cocktails are perfect with a simple juice or natural soda.
What are your favorite low ABV cocktails?
Wild Moon Cucumber with club soda and lime during the summer is my go to or the Wild Moon Rose with orange and club soda is another great one.
How would someone describe you?
Driven, I work really hard. I’m a creator and a visionary. I see what I want from the future and I make it happen now.
What do you do in your down time?
Down time? haha, there isn’t any. I do try and practice yoga often or take a walk…just be in nature.
Want to talk more with Lalaneia? She and her husband will be at our Cocktail Social on Thursday, September 21. They are bringing their entire line of liqueurs for you to sample and will be there to hang out, chat, and answer any other questions that we might have missed. You can buy tickets at cocktailsocial.brownpapertickets.com