Plain Spoke Cocktail Co. shakes up Madison’s liquor scene with canned cocktails

Company features Moscow mules as first product

Moscow mules stand apart from the cocktail crowd, outshining highball glasses with their copper mugs and mint leaf garnishes. Now, a Madison-based company has found a different way to feature the trendy drink.

Plain Spoke Cocktail Co.’s Moscow mule shakes things up in Madison as one of the few canned cocktails available on liquor store shelves.

The man behind the mixer Tom Dufek says “they help people drink better” by using natural ingredients in its canned cocktails. By mixing 100 percent lime juice — rather than artificial flavorings many expect from canned beverages — in Plain Spoke’s Moscow mule, the cocktails have a fresh-off-the-bar taste.

“We realized there is not a lot of great options out there if you want to buy something off the shelf,” Dufek says. “You can get amazing beer, any number of fancy wines, but if you want a cocktail that’s ready to go and you can drink on the boat or at the beach your options are limited, not just limited in quantity but also quality. We saw there was this opportunity to up the game when it comes to cocktails.”

Dufek knows what he’s talking about. He’s bartended for more than a decade and oversaw beverage programs at Lucille and Merchant in Madison, restaurants he still helps manage through his position as Rule No. One Hospitality Group’s managing director. Plain Spoke Cocktail Co. shakes up Madison’s liquor scene with canned cocktails

Though he’s spent ample time behind the bar, he says he doesn’t always want to hit the town to enjoy a cocktail. That idea, along with his mixology expertise and the financial guidance of his silent business partner, led to Plain Spoke’s launch this past August.

Dufek says when people see canned liquor, they think beer and when they think of cocktails, they picture someone across the bar making it in front of them. So when people spot canned cocktails, Dufek says they often assume it’s low quality.

“[Cans are] better in a lot of ways: lighter, environmentally-friendly, it protects the cocktail by keeping light out of there which keeps the product fresher for longer,” Dufek says. “Educating people is changing perceptions that you don’t necessarily have to go to the bar and watch someone make a cocktail for you to drink something high quality and off the shelf.”

Dufek has worked with Sun Prairie-based Two Tall Distilling to manufacture Plain Spoke. They follow the process he developed to craft and package every cocktail into $15 four packs.

Plain Spoke and Two Tall Distilling is in the process of rolling out a second drink — Bourbon Smash — which will be available following government approval, which is currently on hold during the shutdown. Dufek also alluded to a spring cocktail and hopes to eventually distributing more seasonal cocktails as Plain Spoke grows.

“The goal is to establish the brand,” Dufek says. “We’re small and flexible and nimble, we can really play and do fun stuff. There’s a lot of room to explore the things you can fit in cans.”

Sammy Gibbons was an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.