North Haven resident Jimmy Buffett may have been “wasted away again in Margaritaville,” but he certainly wasn’t there alone.
According to Nielsen CGA, a joint venture between New York-based Nielsen and CGA Strategy, United Kingdom, a 2016 survey indicated that the margarita is the most popular cocktail in the United States.
That’s great news for Shelter Island’s Art Williams who recently became chief operating officer of “Keith’s Nervous Breakdown,” a new ultra-premium margarita mix that’s just hitting market shelves.
The product has an East End connection and is the brainchild of Hampton Bays resident Keith Davis, founder of the Golden Pear chain of cafés located throughout the South Fork. Mr. Davis is a former client of A&A Williams CPA firm, and he and Mr. Williams have known each other for close to two decades.
But not long ago, Mr. Davis contacted Mr. Williams with a business proposition.
“He asked if I wanted to be on an advisory board for this new product, ‘Keith’s Nervous Breakdown,’” said Mr. Williams during a recent interview at the Reporter’s offices. “I knew this was something potentially exciting. As time went on, he then asked to be CFO and I said yes.
“It’s really consumed all my time. I also now have the chief operating officer position, and I was director of sales until this week,” he said. “It’s incredible. We’ve just hired a new director of sales — a fellow with lots of experience.”
It sounds like a sales director with credentials will come in handy since Mr. Williams notes the cocktail mixer market is a highly competitive one.
“King Kullen is starting to sell our product, they have maybe 12 by 12 feet of space dedicated just to cocktail mixers,” he said. “It’s a competitive market. What we’re seeing is others trying to introduce a higher quality product — but we think we’re leading on that.”
The secret to “Keith’s Nervous Breakdown,” Mr. Williams notes, is in the ingredients. He explains that while most margarita mixes contain 10 percent fruit juice and lots of sugar, their product has a juice content of 90 percent and uses agave as the sweetener instead of sugar.
“It’s not fructose, it’s all natural ingredients,” he said. “Its a subtle thing, but it’s also kosher and is quite unique.”
In addition, he said that while most margarita mixes are a combination of lime juice and sugar, Keith’s mix uses cranberry and pomegranate as its base.
“We also use orange juice and some other natural flavors,” explained Mr. Williams, adding that the company also makes a rum punch mix — one of the few on the market.
“The rum punch mix uses tangerine and pineapple as the primary ingredients, with citrus and agave,” he said. “This is an extraordinary mix because you can make a rum punch with your favorite white rum and we suggest topping with dark rum. We have coconut flavoring in there, that’s an expensive ingredient and it gets rid of the need for coconut liqueur. We also have spices in it.”
Sold in heavy 750 ml glass bottles sourced from Indiana, the product is bottled in Irvington, New Jersey. The mixes are retailing from between $12.99 at King Kullen up to $15.99 at other retail outlets.
“It’s an expensive product, but the highest quality on the market,” Mr. Williams said.
Though “Keith’s Nervous Breakdown” has East End origins, this is not a Hamptons-specific brand and Mr. Williams views the product as something that will be sold nationally and internationally as well. Already the team is working to expand the product’s presence in markets throughout the Northeast. In case you’re wondering, there is a story behind the product’s name — and it has to do with golf.
“Keith was leading on a charity golf event, but on the last hole he missed a 3-foot putt,” Mr. Williams explained. “Disappointed, he went into the club bar and asked for a margarita. One of his team members came in and said ‘Keith had a nervous breakdown on the 18th hole.’”
Mr. Davis decided it was the perfect name for his line of cocktail mixes. He also made the decision that the company will donate 10 percent of net profits to cancer research through The Carol Baldwin Fund, The Lustgarten Foundation, and Have A Heart Children’s Cancer Society.
In the meantime, he and Mr. Williams are looking for the brand to grow — there’s a small sales force of three people on the streets in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties and in New York City offering tastings and preselling the product.
“These products are so good, we’ve had children come up at tastings and say, ‘Mommy, get this,’” said Mr. Williams who admits that he isn’t much of a drinker and notes that the alcohol-free mixes work well as virgin cocktails with seltzer.
“Down the road, I’m backing out of the CPA business,” said Mr. Williams, adding that “Keith’s Nervous Breakdown” is close to releasing a Bloody Mary mix.
“I’m also thinking of a cosmopolitan,” he said.
Aren’t we all?
If you want to try “Keith’s Nervous Breakdown” for yourself, product tastings will be offered at the Sag Harbor 7-Eleven on Thursday, May 25, and at the Greenport IGA on Saturday, May 27. Mr. Williams said both tastings will be held midday.