Mike's Hard Lemonade Senior Brand Manager Reveals Its Summer Drink Lineup - Exclusive Interview

Summer is coming up, which means warmer weather and even colder drinks. If you are the type of person to reach for lemonade on a hot day, then you probably know all about Mike's Hard Lemonade, one of those drinks that always seems to show up on the beach or at a friend's barbecue. Whether it's the original flavor or the newest addition to the drink lineup, like Mike's Hard Seltzer, the brand never fails to be a go-to refresher.

Now, Senior Brand Manager Liz Abello wants to spill all of the tea (or lemonade) about its latest product. Mike's Hard Freeze is the newest installment of the brand's drink that will transport your taste buds back to the '90s. The company launched four new flavors inspired by the treat you knew and loved as a kid: slushies. Blue Freeze, Red Freeze, White Freeze, and Pink Freeze are intended to "deliver all the flavor without the brain freeze," according to a press release sent to Mashed. In this exclusive interview, Liz shared all of the details on Mike's Hard Freeze, along with a guided tasting and hints about upcoming projects.

Mike's Hard Freeze is all about consumer nostalgia

Can you tell us about the launch of the brand's new drink, Mike's Hard Freeze?

To kick things off with Mike's Hard Freeze, the latest innovation in our Mike's portfolio, where this innovation came from is that we saw consumers really being drawn and were passionate about throwback flavors. In fact, 71% of consumers actually crave nostalgic flavors because it reminds them of simpler times. It was with that insight in mind that we decided to launch Mike's Hard Freeze that tastes just like your favorite slushie flavors from back in the day. It comes in four refreshing throwback flavors: Blue Freeze, Red Freeze, White Freeze, and Pink Freeze. All four flavors are available in our 12-count variety pack. And then we're also selling blue freeze and red freeze as 23 and a half ounce single serves.

You might be asking why it is called Mike's Hard Freeze, right? The product is clearly not frozen, and that's because the flavors are inspired by those slushie flavors that are typically consumed frozen. With Mike's Hard Freeze, we've given consumers a convenient way to enjoy those classic flavors, but straight out of the can and straight out of the fridge. What we say about Mike's Hard Freeze is that it delivers all of the flavor without the brain freeze.

Could you tell me a little bit more about the inspiration for the line? I know you've mentioned that consumers, specifically 71%, crave nostalgia, but I wanted to hear more about the background of that.

One of the things that we pride ourselves in is creating great flavorful beverages for our consumers and really keeping our pulse on consumer trends. With all the challenges that we saw in the pandemic, we saw consumers really gravitating towards nostalgia and that joy of simpler times. [Keeping] that insight in mind is why we created Freeze. You'll also see that theme carried through when it comes to our marketing. 

Freeze is inherently a nostalgic product. We wanted to have a nostalgic marketing campaign to support the launch, so we're leaning hard into the power of the '90s, because we see [that decade] trending all across culture. Whether it's fashion, TV shows coming back, [or] music, we think the '90s is a great power to engage our core consumer, who've been fans with us since the product was launched in 1999 and were 21 at that time, [along with] the next generation of consumers who are just turning 21 now.

Mike's Hard wants to celebrate its longtime fanbase

I know that Mike's Hard Lemonade is normally categorized as a summer drink for a younger audience. Do you see that changing ... [and] do you see this product having an impact on that at all?

Yeah, for sure. It'll definitely have that dual target. Hopefully, these will appeal to our core consumers, who've been fans of ours since we launched in 1999, and then this next generation of consumers. What's especially exciting for us in research, we actually found that Freeze is predicted to be 65% incremental to the portfolio. [It will help] us attract more consumers into the brand, and [when] we talk about the appeal of slushies — if you go to a convenience store or a movie theater, they're selling slushies all year round. This has great, strong year-round appeal for the brand.

Where can fans find Mike's Hard Freeze, will it be sold at local grocery stores? Is this a limited time product?

These products are nationally available and it is a full-time permanent SKU in the portfolio. [We're] really excited to have Freeze as a part of the Mike's portfolio. These can be found in retailers nationwide, whether it's grocery stores, convenience stores or liquor stores, and also available online for delivery.

Why Mike's Hard Freeze is so unique

You said it's a little bit different from your current portfolio, because it's a throwback line. Is there anything in particular that you find is different about this product versus Mike's Hard Lemonade, Mike's Harder, and Mike's Hard Lemonade Seltzer?

Yeah, absolutely. There's definitely a new and different offering that we're excited to bring our fans. One of the things that we hear from consumers, whether it's through our social listening [or] people who are writing into us, they're always asking more flavors. [We're] excited to bring this collection of nostalgic flavors to our fans. We actually use the exact same lemonade base as in our core lemonade products, which does a really nice job of balancing the sweetness and tartness of each of the flavors, which you will taste in a little bit. Actually, one of the big differences is the naming conventions of the products. You were talking about the original Hard Lemonade — we have Strawberry Lemonade, Black Cherry Lemonade. We typically call out the flavors directly on pack.

One of the differences here is you'll see the naming convention is color plus freeze, so Blue Freeze, Red Freeze, right? Why don't we call it the flavor that it tastes like (which you'll be able to guess when we taste in a bit)? That's because when we did research with consumers, what we actually found is that the color plus phrase naming convention had a stronger association for consumers with a nostalgic flavor offering and slushies. For them, it was a closer connection to, "Oh, I used to drink a blue slushie," versus a specific flavor.

That's really interesting because I was looking at this tasting kit and I saw that they were not lining up with the color. That makes a lot of sense now.

Consumers love to have fun, and [there's] the mystery of it, too. As we talk about tapping into that joy and that fun of simpler times, the naming convention is one way that we can do that. When we get into the tasting, we'll show you another way that we want consumers to have fun with the product.

Liz says this is the best way to drink Mike's Hard

How do you recommend fans enjoy this drink? Are there any winning combinations you have found so far?

Yes, totally. We're actually going to taste one of my favorite winning combinations in a little bit. The coolest part about Mike's Hard Freeze is that it tastes just like a slushie, but it does not need to be put in the freezer. In fact, consumers should not put it in the freezer — it's made for drinking, not for freezing, so best enjoyed straight out of the can or, you'll see when we go through the tasting, the liquid's a beautiful vibrant color so you can also enjoy it out of a glass.

Are there any food pairings that you think would work best for this drink? Or, just Mike's Hard Lemonade in general.

Mike's Hard Freeze and Mike's Hard Lemonade is great for any occasion. As we talk about Mike's Hard Lemonade specifically — you mentioned the strong association with summer — we see a ton of consumer UGC [user generated content] with Mike's Hard Lemonade with barbecue foods. [We're] excited to see what consumers decide to pair Freeze with.

Do you think, because it says, 'freeze' it might confuse consumers a little bit, or do you think that'll read?

Great question. We're doing a couple things to address that. Our tagline is, "All the flavor without the brain freeze." At retail, and then all of our consumer touch points are going to hit home with consumers that it tastes like a slushie, but can be enjoyed straight out of can. We also have call-outs throughout the packaging that says, "Made for drinking, not freezing, do not freeze," so that consumers don't put it in the freezer.

Abello revealed what Mike's Hard products fans love the most

I scrolled through Mike's Instagram, and I saw that you recently came out with a blood orange flavor and other specialty flavors for a limited time or maybe permanently. Do you find that fans are more enticed by specialty options or do they tend to stick to the original lemonade?

Great question. Our consumers are very flavor-forward, in terms of what they're looking for in alcohol beverages and what we actually offer including Freeze, 14 full-time flavors for Mike's Hard Lemonade.

We offer a variety of flavors for consumers to choose from. We definitely have some tried and true fans who love our original lemonade and that's their go-to, but what's actually interesting is our number one-selling SKU is the Mike's 12-pack Variety. Consumers love that variety. They love the different flavors that we offer, and we try and bring them new flavors as much as we can. You specifically mentioned blood orange, that's actually our Spring Seasonal Pick SKU. We offer three Seasonal Pick flavors a year. Blood oorange is our current Spring Seasonal pick, and we're launching two new seasonal flavors, one in the summer and one in the fall.

You mentioned that this is a spring seasonal. Do you, because it's more of a summer drink, come out with newer products in the winter as well, or do you find that the brand is more popular throughout the spring and summer months?

If you think about lemons, [they're] inherently associated with summer, but we do see consumers enjoying Mike's throughout the year. We want to introduce flavors that are relevant to different times that year.

You may be seeing more hard seltzer flavors soon

Speaking of some of the new products, Mike's Hard Lemonade Seltzers came out last year, amid the crazy hard seltzer phase. Is there a chance that fans will see more flavors of those in the future? How are the seltzers doing in general?

We've seen really fantastic responses from consumers on Mike's Hard Lemonade seltzer. It's been incredibly incremental to the portfolio attracting new 21 to 34-year-old consumers to the brand. Actually, at our peak, we're the number eight hard seltzer brand out of over 300 brands with just one SKU, so really incredible results in year one. To build on that success, we just started shipping so I'm glad we're chatting. Two 23-and-a-half-ounce single serves in our lead flavors: lemon and strawberry. Consumers can enjoy those flavors and single serve cans. That's our big innovation news for Mike's Harder Lemonade Seltzer this year. Then, we will continue to listen to fans and figure out what future innovation on that brand could look like.

You mentioned the single serve, do those cans tend to be more successful? Just out of my own curiosity.

Yeah, for sure. What we typically do when we launch innovations or brands, we typically launch both, because they're for different consumption occasions. If you're going to more of a social occasion, people want a variety pack and have flavors that they can share with friends, versus those 23-and-a-half-ounce single serves are often for more of those personal consumption occasions, or if you're bringing something for yourself at a party. We want to make sure that what we're doing is offering our top flavors and skews in a vessel size. It's perfect for every consumption occasion.

Liz Abello guides a virtual tasting

You ready for a sample?

Yes, definitely. I'm excited.

Let's do it. You should have received five cups. Pour a flavor into each of the cups and then we're going to save the fifth cup on the side. So, we're going to kick things off the Blue Freeze. We take great pride in how we craft our liquids. We're actually going to walk through this like you would a wine tasting. We're going to look at the appearance, talk about the aroma, the taste, the mouth feel and the finishing. Do you have Blue Freeze ready?


You'll notice the beautiful vibrant blue color. Go ahead and take a nose of it, [t] smells exactly like a melted blue raspberry slushy. You actually have some slight bubble gum notes to it. It's that perfect nostalgic mix.

Yes, I can smell that.

Cool, go ahead and take a taste.

Oh, that's very good.

You get that really authentic blue raspberry taste profile, but again, with our lemonade base, that nice balance of sweetness and tartness. It's incredibly refreshing. It makes you hopefully want another sip.

It reminds me of Sour Patch kids; the blue raspberry flavor or something similar. Very good.

Perfect. Let's do Red Freeze next. [It has] great cherry coloring to it. Go ahead and take a nose. You get those really authentic red cherry notes with actually some hands of ripe strawberry too, to cut the sweetness. Go ahead and take a taste.

Oh, that one's really good. Tastes exactly like a slushie. Very crazy.

Wasn't it? One of my go-to slushy flavors is red cherry. When we tasted these, we're developing the liquids. This is exactly the slushie I remembered and love. Let's go on to White. You'll see it's this cool frosty white color. Go ahead take a nose. You'll notice it has these citrus and orange notes with a hint of vanilla. Then go ahead and sip.

Oh wow. That's really delicious.

Yes, and it has this really nice creaminess to it. You have the orange notes coming through, so it really tastes like melted cream. The nice thing is it's still that light and refreshing flavor profile. It makes you want to have another sip.

I really like how the colors are associated with this. I think it's really fun.

We definitely want consumers to have it straight out of the can. Very convenient, the way that most consumer products are, but at the same there, is also something to be said about seeing the bright vibrant colors. 

This is the best combination when it comes to Mike's Hard Freeze

Last but not least is Pink Freeze. Again, a beautiful rose color. Go ahead and take a smell of it. You get those authentic lemon notes?

I think this one's my favorite.

Absolutely. So, it really delivers on that frosty pink lemonade slushy taste, right? Since you're a fan of our original Mike's, you can tell that this flavor is a little bit more of an intense lemonade flavor profile, that consumers expect with a pink lemonade, but still again, incredibly refreshing. 

You have this fifth cup and I don't know about you, but I would often get up to a slushy machine and while I'm a fan of red, I would often be super tempted to mix all the flavors together, because honestly, there was nothing better than getting to the end of the slushy when you put red and blue together and having that final purple scent. Yyou want to create that same fun, interactive experience with cameras with Freeze. I'm going to ask you to pour a little bit of the red and blue into this cup. See that beautiful purple color that comes through, right? Then, if you want to add a little bit of a creamsicle topper, you can.

Oh, I like that a lot. That's interesting.

When you were asking, "What's my favorite combination?" This is the one I've tried so far. A little bit of red, a little bit of blue, and a topper of white freeze. I think what we're so excited for is consumers to have fun with the product and create their own combinations that they can share with friends.

I think any of them or all of them mixed together is going to be delicious.

We're working with influencer partners to spread awareness about the product, but then also to help encourage their fans to create their favorite mixology recipes with the product. [We're] so excited to see what people come up with.

Visit the Mike's Hard website to find the nearest location where you can enjoy Hard Freeze and the rest of the Mike's Hard summer lineup.