Costa Brava Cocktails: Interview with Entrepreneurs Matthew Kaplan and Ethan Lazar

Costa Brava Cocktails
Costa Brava Cocktails is a startup division of LazKap Beverages Inc. that is known for the creation of an innovative line of zero sugar, zero carbs vodka canned cocktails.

Costa Brava Cocktails is a startup division of LazKap Beverages Inc. that is known for the creation of an innovative line of zero sugar, zero carbs vodka canned cocktails that launched in Southern California in January of 2020. Two flavors will initially be launched: Lemon Drop and Vodka Cranberry.

CBC (shorthand for Costa Brava Cocktails) will be offered in a vibrantly colored 12-fluid-ounce can that aims to capture the sun, surf, and sand spirit of the Los Angeles lifestyle. Containing 6.7% alcohol, only 130 calories, and gluten-free, CBC is scheduled to be self-distributed via a soft launch in the Los Angeles area in early 2020. The cocktails are available in select West Los Angeles liquor stores and on-premise locations and they are sold in both four-packs and individual cans. Within the coming year, LazKap is planning a larger Southern California rollout followed by national expansion.

CBC was envisioned by co-founders Matthew Kaplan and Ethan Lazar who have been good friends since elementary school. They were inspired to start the brand while studying together in Barcelona, Spain, and traveling to the beautiful beach region of Costa Brava. Having been involved in spirts growing up, both men are health conscious and decided to make their drink wellness centered as well as delicious.

Now recent graduates of the University of Massachusetts Amherst with business degrees, Matthew Kaplan and Ethan Lazar recently discussed their company and their hopes for the future via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your sense for business and why did you decide to start an alcoholic beverage company?

Matthew Kaplan (MK): We have been best friends since we were nine years old, and (besides becoming Major League Baseball players) our dream had always been to start a business together…we just never knew what. The idea came up when we became super passionate about fitness right after we returned home from a semester studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. During that semester we had each put on 15 pounds, and when we returned to LA before our senior year, we knew we had to make a change. We both started working out very seriously, and strictly following the keto diet. However, this being the first summer being 21 in Los Angeles we still wanted to go out and have a good time, and besides straight alcohol there were no zero sugar zero carb drinks out there. The closest thing on the market were these newly emerging alcoholic seltzers (like White Claw) which are actually malt based and not vodka based. It became our journey to make something significantly better, and we feel we have done that. Also, at the end of the summer we were both in the best shapes of our lives.

MM: What were the challenges of creating this drink which is unlike anything on the market?

MK: For us having no prior knowledge of the alcohol industry was for sure challenging at the beginning. Learning the ins and outs of an industry that’s considered a minefield of do’s and do nots took some time but with the help of our advisors we quickly learned. We strive to keep up with market trends and feel we have entered at the exact right time to make an impact with our unique product.

MM: How did you balance health and taste?

MK: There is nothing even close on the market right now with our combination of health and taste. Costa Brava Cocktails are 0 sugar and 0 carbs made with premium gluten free vodka and contain 6.7% alcohol. The only area health wise that a company can claim to have the advantage is calories, and that is because of our high alcohol content. All of our calories come from the vodka, so our calories per alcohol content is second to none as well. In terms of taste we feel the alcoholic seltzers (White Claw and Truly) are overly carbonated and lack a distinct taste. Also, our theory is that to mask the fact that since they are malt-based they up the carbonation level really high to hide the bad flavor. This leads to an overly carbonated drink that makes you feel bloated and burp if drank too quickly.  What we did was drop the carbonation level, up the flavor through natural flavor extracts, and add a natural super sweetener called stevia.  The result is a super smooth and refreshing flavor that is definitely sweet but does not overpower you like many of the other flavored malt beverages or canned cocktails on the market. Ethan says they go down smoother than water.

MM: Was it tough to find a manufacturer and distributor?

Costa Brava Cocktails
Costa Brava Cocktails was started by friends and entrepreneurs Matthew Kaplan and Ethan Lazar.

MK: It took a bit of time to find the right one, but we are incredibly happy with the co-packer we are using. They work with us knowing we are a startup company and really show us the behind the scenes of their operations. Right now, we are self-distributing so we can create relationships with store owners and be in accounts we anticipate doing well in. We plan on signing with a major distributor before the summertime for a massive summer Southern California rollout.

MM: What is it like to work together, considering that you’ve been best friends for years?

MK: It’s really been a dream to be able to work on something together that we’re both so passionate about. We always knew we wanted to start a business together and when the opportunity to do so we didn’t flinch. Also, the way our brains work is completely different, so we complement each other extremely well. Being best friends for so long makes it easy for us to divide tasks most efficiently based on whose skill set most matches the task description.

MM: How many flavors do you hope to launch overall and which is your favorite?

MK: We believe we’ll have anywhere from 4-7 flavors, but with anyone we launch we want them to be authentic to our brand and the lifestyle we live. I personally like the Vodka Cranberry the best and Ethan prefers the Lemon Drop.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future of the company and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

MK: Our ultimate goal for the future of the company is for anyone anywhere to have the opportunity to try Costa Brava. We created this drink for us but built it for everyone else. Our goal is to create a family and a lifestyle built along with our brand that everyone wants to join. Whenever someone hears the words Costa Brava or sees our packaging to associate that with good times and great energy.

MM: What advice would you give to someone who is hoping to launch a startup?

MK: First, if you have an idea you really need to understand the market and all your competitors in it like the back of your hand. Second, reach out to anyone that you think would be any bit helpful and ask them for advice. Once you feel like you have a strong enough grasp to turn your concept into a reality go make it happen, because if you don’t someone else will!

* * * * *

To learn more about Costa Brava Cocktails, visit their official website and LinkedIn and follow on them Instagram @costabravacocktails