Alex Lawrence and Pietro Collina unveil Whitebox RTDs

Industry experts Alex Lawrence and Pietro Collina have introduced a range of eight canned cocktails through their new brand Whitebox, The Spirits Business can exclusively reveal.

The ready-to-drink (RTD) sector is thriving, with spirits giants and independent companies alike looking to tap into the thirst for convenience cocktails. Now two internationally renowned bartenders are putting their own stamp on the category. Lawrence, the global director of bars for Mr Lyan Group, has teamed up with Collina, the bar director for the NoMad Hotel in London, to launch a range of RTDs, called Whitebox. The first eight serves in the collection include classics, signature recipes and drinks produced in collaboration with acclaimed bars. The eclectic nature of the range and its design – each can features a unique, bold label – is an important element of the Whitebox brand. "We are sick of the rinse-and-repeat, cookie-cuttered, sterile and buzzworthy approach that seems to have washed over the RTD category," said Lawrence, who is also the co-founder of Langstane Liquor Company, maker of Porter's Gin and Glasshouse Whisky. "By keeping only the Whitebox stamp as a mandatory on the can, we have creative freedom to develop each idea to be the best it can be without limitation or compromise." The brand's full launch has seen delays due to Brexit and the pandemic – "it's going to be an ongoing problem", Lawrence said – but the team has taken steps to control as much of the process as possible by bringing design, production and development in-house. "We have the benefit of having our own canning line, which allows us to test recipes on the spot," Collina explained. "Creating interesting and balanced drinks is all about tweaking and experimenting with different products and this piece of equipment allows us to do that."
Building the range
Lawrence and the Whitebox team, which also includes Jack Wareing and Roman Shabodalov, unveiled their first cans in 2020 and 2021. Among these initial releases was the Pocket Negroni, a stout 100ml version of the classic drink that has sold more than 25,000 cans since its launch, and the Hippy Fizz, made with Porter's Gin and a pineapple shrub. Whitebox's new additions include the Freezer Martini, Chipper's Cherrywood Old Fashioned, a Tropical G&T and a Whisky Soda, which features a label created in collaboration with photographer Liam Wong. Meanwhile, two drinks in the new range were made in partnership with bars. Golden Throat Charmer, a mix of Porter's Gin, fino Sherry and lemonade, was produced with Melbourne bar Fancy Free; and Disco Baby, with vodka, watermelon, lemon thyme and soda, is a recipe from Three Sheets in London. "It's great to see bartenders take their knowledge of creating drinks and put them through a new medium," Collina commented. "It’s also important that they know that can cocktails are not bar cocktails. It needs to be consistent, shelf stable and approachable." Ultimately, Lawrence and Collina hope that the flexible approach they have built into Whitebox will allow the brand to "grow the range and grow the reach". "We are just really excited to see all the cans in the market and understand what the general public will gravitate towards," said Collina. "We currently have just under 100 retailers carrying Whitebox at the moment and will be concentrating on doubling or tripling that by the end of the year."