Behind the Brand

A Pioneer in the Ready-To-Drink Category: Fishers Island Lemonade’s Bronya Shillo

Fishers Island Lemonade Bronya Shillo header

Jul. 15, 2021

Ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages certainly had a moment in 2020 — and that’s spilling over into 2021 — but the concept isn’t a new one. Bronya Shillo, founder of Fishers Island Lemonade, launched an incredibly unique product in 2014: a dual spirits-based craft cocktail — in a can.

At the time, high-quality canned cocktails weren’t really a thing, so she made it a thing.

“When we first launched, we were one of the only ready-to-drink craft canned cocktails on the market,” Shillo said. “We had to work very hard to educate retailers, bar owners, and consumers on the quality of Fishers Island Lemonade as a true spirits-based cocktail. At that time, most ready-to-drink offerings available were malt-based.”

Now, the RTD category is booming, Fishers Island has not only set the standard of excellence among its peers, but they’re a top seller throughout the Northeast and New England, and we are thrilled to deliver this pioneering brand to consumers in Delaware and Maryland.

Bringing Home the Gold

In 2020, the team at Fishers Island Lemonade submitted their product in its first competition: the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the largest international spirits competition in the U.S. After receiving a silver medal, Shillo said in a press release, “It’s one thing to know that we are well-respected among our customers and distributors, but to medal in such a tough arena really means so much to everyone here at Fishers. It’s definitely a push for us to submit FIL in other competitions this year.”

And they did just that. In addition to the SFWSC medal, they earned double gold medals for the entire lineup at the 2021 SIP Awards, gold medal at the 2020 Denver International Spirits Competition, and was named Impact’s Hot Prospect Spirits Brands.

Giving Back to Fishers Island

Philanthropy is at the foundation of FIL and is so important to Shillo. Since the brand’s inception, they’ve been a member of 1% for the Planet, an organization that connects companies wishing to donate funds to environmental organizations in need of funding. In addition to that, FIL gives back to every nonprofit on Fishers Island. All proceeds from their merchandise goes back to the local community.

Watch the video to learn more about FIL’s giving initiatives:


The Time is Right for Expansion

Earlier this year, Shillo told Forbes that she wanted to take time establishing the brand and educating consumers before considering adding additional products to the lineup. Shillo added, “More and more consumers continue to come into the category, and with the strong trends pointing to spirits-based canned cocktails, more flavor and high-quality ingredients, we believe now is the perfect time for us grow our Fishers Island Lemonade family.”

We spoke to Shillo about her aha moment that led her to create the brand, expand into Delaware and Maryland, and how FIL cuts through the noise in the busy RTD category.

Tell us the story of how the Fishers Island Lemonade brand got its start. What inspired its creation?

Bronya Shillo: I grew up in West Hartford, CT, and spent many summers on Fishers Island, NY, where my family owned and operated The Pequot Inn, the only bar on the island. I joined the rest of the family working at the Inn and eventually began bartending. I was drawn to the craft of mixing and experimenting with flavors and cocktails, and each Friday I took charge of batching and creating the bar’s signature house cocktail, Fishers Island Lemonade, locally referred to as “Fishers.” The cocktail was made with premium vodka, barrel-aged whiskey, lemon, and honey and was the most popular drink served at the bar all summer long.

I had my aha moment one busy evening when a customer had ordered a beer and a Fishers. While I was reaching into the cooler to grab a can of beer, I thought to myself, “What if I canned our spiked lemonade cocktail?” This ultimately set me on my journey to develop Fishers Island Lemonade canned cocktail, inspired by our house recipe.

It was during Memorial Day weekend 2014 that I officially launched Fishers Island Lemonade, one of the first canned cocktails to launch in the U.S.

Fishers Island Lemonade founder Bronya Shillo skateboarding along the coast

What makes FIL a unique and standout product in the growing RTD space?

We pride ourselves on creating the best tasting, highest-quality canned craft cocktails in the U.S. The entire family of Fishers Island Lemonade offerings are made with our award-winning dual spirits-base recipe of vodka and whiskey, lemon, and honey for a full-flavor experience.

Despite all the new competition in the marketplace, we are confident that our premium ingredients and consistent full flavor experience is what makes us unique and will keep people coming back to Fishers Island Lemonade all year long.

Since we are based on the original spiked lemonade house cocktail recipe from The Pequot Inn, we also have a true authentic history that sets us apart from other canned cocktails. And as a pioneer in the craft canned cocktail space, we have been able to create strong brand loyalty with our fans for years.
- Bronya Shillo

What does it mean to you to expand FIL and reach new consumers into Delaware and Maryland with Breakthru Beverage?

After we launched in both states, the response from both the trade and consumers has been nothing short of incredible! Despite the continued competition, we are confident Fishers Island Lemonade will shine and create new fans. We have a lot of work to do and are thrilled to be partnering with the Breakthru team for this very important expansion.

What about Fishers Island Lemonade would you like to pass along to consumers?

We like to say that Fishers Island Lemonade is best enjoyed in your happy place. In fact, our brand campaign, “Find your Island,” is a call to action to inspire consumers to enjoy Fishers Island Lemonade in their happy place, whether that’s at the beach, by the pool, on a boat, playing golf, at your favorite bar or just relaxing at a backyard barbecue with friends and family. No matter where it is or what it looks like, we want consumers to take Fishers Island Lemonade with them and put a smile on their face.

Find your Island:

The Fishers Island Lemonade Lineup

Fishers Island Lemonade product lineup at the beach

Original Fishers Island Lemonade
9% ABV
The original expression is the foundation for each entry in the FIL range, combining premium vodka, barrel-aged whiskey, lemon, and honey.

Fishers Island Spiked Tea
7% ABV
A twist on a classic, featuring a perfectly balanced blend of the original Fishers recipe with fresh black tea.

Fishers Island Pink Flamingo
7% ABV
Pink Flamingo was born out of strong consumer demand from a cocktail Shillo and team have been mixing for years at events. It’s a delicious blend of the original Fishers recipe with real cranberry, making for a well-balanced cocktail with sweetness and tart.

Fishers Island Fizz
5% ABV
A lighter, effervescent version of the original Fishers recipe.

Fishers Island Lemonade Frozen Spirit Popsicles
7% ABV
A very fun and innovative way to enjoy the great taste and flavor of Fishers Island in a refreshing frozen treat. The spirit pops are also made with vodka, barrel-aged whiskey, lemon, and honey for a premium experience.