Life-long friends Kevin Clang, of Uncasville, and Carl Brown, of Oakdale, have taken experimenting with alcohol to an uncommonly high level and have given the distinction of "drinking buddies" a respectable finish.
Clang and Brown cooked up a new alcoholic beverage named [Kra-Ze], which is based on an old Polish family recipe of split and squeezed lemons boiled with sugar and mixed with vodka.
"The lemon-lime has been described to us as a melted Italian ice, like a liquid version of Italian ice," said Clang, whose learned the original formulation from his Polish father-in-law.
[Kra-Ze] comes in two flavors; a lemon-lime and berry, which is a mix of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and tart blueberries. The berry flavored version won a silver medal in April at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America spirits tasting competition – before the product had hit the shelves.
"To come out of the gate before we even sold a bottle with a silver medal really said that this is something special," said Brown.
[Kra-Ze] hit the shelves in Rhode Island package stores in the first week of June, it was for sale in Connecticut in the second week of June, and according to Clang and Brown, the product is doing well.
Clang said the product is in at least 50 stores in Connecticut, some of which had sold out of the product within a couple days.
Edward Haugabook, of Oakdale, said he used to drink raspberry Ciroc until his first taste of Kra-Ze.
"I haven't bought it (Ciroc) since it (Kra-Ze) has been out," he said of his recent conversion. "It's the same size, half the price and to me, it's better. You can't beat it, if some people don't think it's better, they think it's just as good."
The product is flavored to compete with vodka-based liqueurs like Hypnotic, flavored vodkas make by SKYY and Ciroc or malt beverages like Smirnoff Ice and Mike's Hard Lemonade.
Liqueurs are around 16 to 17 percent alcohol, while flavored vodkas are 35 to 40 percent alcohol. Kra-Ze is 25 percent alcohol, Brown said [Kra-Ze] is neither a liqueur nor a flavored vodka.
"It's totally different, it doesn't taste like vodka, it tastes like flavor, but it tastes like sophisticated flavor, it's refined, it's different, it's hard to put it, it's crazy," said Brown.
[Kra-Ze] uses all natural ingredients and pure cane sugar.
Clang and Brown are in the process of registering and permitting [Kra-Ze] across the country. The product is sold in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Missouri and they have agreements with four other states after the permitting process is complete.
"Connecticut was the worst," said Clang. "Connecticut took us eight months to get approved. Rhode Island took us about 20 minutes online and we printed our own certificate."
"The industry is not an easy industry to break into. It was almost like performing an act of Congress," said Brown of the licensing process. "You can't have a criminal background so you're talking to good, upstanding citizens."