The hard seltzer market is about to become more interesting. Whether consumers are seeking out options that fit gluten-free, portable, and refreshing drinks or searching for an alternative taste profile on the fizzy, low-calorie alcoholic beverage, the hard seltzer is gaining another maker as the category is rapidly evolving. One impetus of this development is the growing number of small and regional brewers entering this promising space.
Kevin Wong and Sean Ro both grew up in the DC area. In a tiny kitchen apartment fitted with an oak tree cabinet and Formica countertops, Wong and Ro started their lessons in brewing hard seltzer.
The two young men met in college at the University of Virginia and instantly related to their immigrant parent’s experiences. Both families come to America from Asia (Taiwan and South Korea) and Kevin and Sean created tight bonds in college. After graduation, Sean continued his studies with a master’s degree at Carnegie Melon University, and then took a job in tech in New York City, while Kevin went straight to the big apple.
On a casual night at a Korean fried chicken joint in New York City, the two ordered a beer and noticed that there was nothing but American beer available. With a bit of research, they discovered that 90% of brewery owners are white male Americans. They also discovered that fueled by immigration, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing major racial and ethnic population in this country, growing 72% in the past 15 years.
Talking to friends and family, they started noticing a certain shared desire for a drink more representative of their culture. It was just when the movie Crazy Rich Asians were coming out, giving an extra push to Asian culture. “After a lot of googling and YouTubing, we landed in hard seltzer, and thought, maybe we can try making this, said Wong and Ro.
None of them had any experience in brewing, but it didn’t stop them from trying. “We started the first batches of brew in our kitchens, with a lot of skepticism, a lot of questions, and not a lot of space”, the two said.
A Drink Is Born
The opportunity to launch a drink business was born and the mission refined: to create a hard seltzer flavored in Asian roots like Yuzy, Lychee, and Winter Melon—to start. The alchemy began. The touch of Asian fruits turned out to be a revelation and the dream of turning this business into a reality began to take shape.
Between figuring out the recipe, the logo, and the logistics, it took them about two years to launch, both of them still holding day jobs in New York.
“Our background in tech taught us to be resourceful and make use of these transferable skills.”
Lunar Drinks launched in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. It’s important to tell this story because the enthusiasm of these two young men is contagious. The first and only Asian American craft hard seltzer, Lunar Drinks was born in New York City, made from premium, authentic Asian ingredients sourced from the motherland.
Asian American In a Can
“We’ve taken the most emblematic fruits of our childhood; trips back to Asia, our parents cutting fruit for us while we do homework, and even our “lunchbox moments”, and crafted unique recipes to unapologetically celebrate those experiences of Asian-Americana. Each can is filtered multiple times for each flavor—all real, natural ingredients—to shine its brightest”, said Wong and Ro. One sip will transport you straight to the beach, whether or not you can get there.
Much like the bright moon that provided a sense of time for our ancestors, Lunar also has a set of guiding lights and purpose to drive us and ground us.
“Our mission is to define, promote, and inspire what it means to be simultaneously both “Asian” and “American.” Along the way, we strive to be an American and global beverage mainstay, and ultimately to become and provide a platform for Asian-American voice.”
Their vision is to inspire Asian-Americans—and more broadly, the world—to love and embrace their identity, their culture, heritage, and ultimately themselves.
Wong and Ro are still raising money, collaborating with restaurants, chefs, and trying to create new partnerships.
Why Lunar? I asked them. “It was important that our name be broadly relatable and not specific to any one country or region. One day, it hit us that the moon is a core component of many Asian cultures. Not only is Lunar New Year a public holiday in China, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines, but many Asian cultures incorporate the moon in mythology and folk tales.
This also inspired our lunar rabbit mascot, a symbol of moon worship across various cultures and stories.”
If you’d like to try Lunar drinks, and to have more info about where to buy the product, visit DrinkLunar.