The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2013

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Page 73 of 148

Lovoka was called the most successful launch in South Africa spirits industry. People loved it, and not only as an alternative for the shot-happy crowd. Fans found that Lovoka could dress up a cocktail, and it could make a dessert that much more interesting, too. But Lovoka really found its legs in the clubs, where the irm had done a lot of tastings and promotions. Lovoka got so popular the product was sold out for a time. With a runaway hit, it was time to think about getting Lovoka to a wider audience, and that meant coming to the U.S. That���s where Steven Caldeira comes into the picture. He was fairly well connected to Alternative Beverages: It was his cousin who came up with the magic formula for Lovoka. On this side of the oceans, Caldeira had formed Next Level Spirits, with the idea of bringing unique spirit products to the American scene. ���We really believe that if we were going to bring a product out and give ourselves the greatest chance of success, we need to be truly innovative. This is what is at the core of Next Level.��� And Lovoka it their bill quite nicely. Flash forward a bit, and so here were are in California, with Lovoka on the verge of a very big push into clubs and nightspots up and down the state. ���Lovoka does away with all the negative experiences about a high-alcohol product,��� Caldeira says. ���Even someone who���s never had a drink before will be able to sip this.��� When drinking Lovoka straight, Caldeira points out, there is not the strong alcohol burn that you would normally get from products with high alcohol content, like vodka or tequila. It goes down verrrrry smoothly. The bottle is also a very smooth customer. Caldeira said the original aluminum bottle was chosen for a couple of reasons; one, it���s deinitely a looker and stands out under bar lights, and two, it���s practical���Lovoka is supposed to be served cold, and an aluminum bottle will chill about onethird faster in the metal jacket. There���s also a little history involved, too. The representation of an African mask that covers one of the letters on the bottle is a replica of a mask that was found at a South African archeological dig. It hearkens back to the country���s roots. But it���s in a new country now, and big plans are happening. Caldeira said the South African Lovoka people had sponsored the African leg of the Swedish House Maia���s concert tour, and now he and his marketing team are looking to raise brand awareness with high-end, high-proile events, too. They were at the red-carpet gifting suite for the Golden Globes with a sponsored bar, and they put on a private event with the Real Housewives of Atlanta, who were cool enough to tweet about it. Clearly, Lovoka isn���t going to remain a secret for long.�� Launching Lovoka at Barone���s Joe and Maricela Barone own the very popular Barone���s, a rustic-style Italian restaurant in Pleasanton, CA. ���We really felt strongly that we wanted to help launch Lovoka here,��� Maricela says. ���They���re our best friends, and we love the idea of helping launch it here and watching it take off.��� W Joe Barone, creating the Lovoka Lemon Drop, an updated twist on the classic. A favorite with Barone���s upscale crowd, the drink substitutes Lovoka for vodka, adds a splash of triple sec for depth, and is topped with fresh lemonade and cranberry juice. A rim of raw sugar and lemon adds extra spark. hen it came time to introduce Lovoka to the U.S., Steven Caldeira, President of Next Level Spirits, didn���t have to look much further than his own backyard. Caldeira is close family friends with Joe and Maricela Barone, who jointly own Barone���s Restaurant in Pleasanton, CA���a perfect place to introduce the South Africa���originated Lovoka to the U.S. market. ���We���re a Northern California company, Calderia ��� says (his company is based in Livermore), ���so it made sense to start here. Plus the Barone���s have always been supportive of what we���ve tried to do. ��� march 2013 / the tasting panel / 69

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