Casamara Club's Labels Are As Casual Chic As Their Non-Alcoholic Amaro Sodas
by Rudy Sanchez on 03/03/2020 | 4 Minute Read
Casamara Club is one of the latest in a line of sober-curious drinks that serve as a more flavorful and upscale non-alcoholic drink. Sure, there’s been loads of flavored seltzers out there, but they're often not as intricate as a traditional alcoholic cocktail.
Sodas tend to be sweet, but Casamara Club takes inspiration from classic amaro-based cocktails, mixed drinks comprised of bitters, and sweetened herbal liqueurs matched with other ingredients and botanicals. Casamara Club set out to create sparkling sodas that are as complex, refreshing, and sophisticated as traditional amaro classics such as the Negroni, Campari soda, and Aperol spritz, minus the booze.
The packaging, featuring labels by artist and designer Mike Van Hall, is as sophisticated as the elixir within, and each drink transports the consumer to a scenic, Italian retreat. The design doesn't embody a specific villa or beach, instead, it gives you the feeling of being magically whisked away, where you're sipping on a cocktail, perhaps bemused by an “influencer” a few yards who tries in vain to capture the spirit of the beverage with a smartphone.
“The initial flavors Jason LaValla [founder of Casamara Club] created found inspiration in the Amari of Italy, and I wanted to make sure the labels transported you there, but in a non-specific way, like a small vacation when you drink a bottle," says Van Hall. "The abstract, minimal shapes are designed to suggest that sense of place, hinting at a location, but not dictating any specific one."
“Even if you've only seen pictures of Italy, you will still recognize the forms, and then your mind can run where it pleases based on those cues,” he adds.
Bitters, by their nature, are plied with different kinds of flavors, blending various botanicals with sweeteners and condensing it to intensify the assorted components. The result is a taste that isn’t exactly like any one thing, and most certainly not the same flavor experience for everyone. How to convey an expectation when it comes to an amaro soda is not a straightforward affair.
“I spend inordinate amounts of time trying to match the color on a label to the actual flavor of the product, so the visual cues stick with people," he says. "Casamara Club may be the most difficult I have dealt with in that regard because of all the subtleties in the recipes and the range of flavor people discover in each."
Trying to categorize Casamara Club also presents a challenge. How does a store choose where to stock these sodas? This isn’t an artisan root beer or cream soda, it’s also not a mixer, nor is Casamara Club a premixed alcoholic cocktail. Van Hall hoped that his bottle choice would help shopkeepers with this dilemma while catching the eye of craft beer drinkers, the same folks who love complex and bitter suds.
“Thinking through store placement was a bit of a challenge because there really wasn't a category for Casamara Club, at least not one we were comfortable with," he explains. "I was pretty adamant about doing brown glass bottles because I hoped craft beer shops would pick us up and sneak us into random sections based on staff tastes. The dark bottle helps the colors pop, so I was confident we wouldn't get lost in the mix."
“I learned so much working with Mike on this project,” LaValla says. “He recognized almost immediately that there was no way to explain what this drink was or who it was for on the label. He wanted to lean into that, but it took me a while to get there. How would people know what this strange drink is if we don't explain it to them?”
Van Hall knew that they needed to be more subtle and introduce a concept relying more on abstract ideas.
“Mike got me thinking about visual design in terms that weren't strictly visual, concepts like exformation and storytelling," LaValla adds. "He made the case that we could have a bigger impact on emotion and memory by not trying to spoon-feed every last detail to our audience, that we were better off prioritizing depth of connection over the breadth of the audience.”
Ultimately LaValla was won over by Mike’s vision and very satisfied with the finished product.
“I'm happy to say, it looks like he was right,” Jason says.