The popular canned cocktail that started as vacation creation is now a million-dollar business.
INDIANAPOLIS — Jill Morrison never could have imagined her vacation creation would become a million-dollar company.
“I still think back, thinking, ‘Maybe people will like it. Hopefully people like it,'” Jill said. “I had no idea. It’s become kind of a cult following, which we didn’t anticipate.”
Jill is talking about “Mom Water,” a vodka drink she — for all intents and purposes — invented four years ago.
“We were vacationing in the Dominican, and I was trying to find something other than the fruity, sugary sweet drinks,” Jill said. “I found some fruit-infused water sitting on the bar, asked the bartender to just put some vodka in my cup, and I found that I loved fruit-infused vodka water.”
The only problem was, Jill couldn’t find her new favorite drink when she returned home to Indiana.
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“I come back to the States, tried to find something similar, and I couldn’t find it in the can ready to go,” she said. “I start ordering it at bars, and I tended to get a drink that was heavy on the vodka and light on the water. I didn’t love that. So I started making my own and putting it in water bottles at home around the pool.
Jill labeled her drink “Mom Water” to let her kids know it wasn’t for them.
“One of our kids accidentally grabbed one, and I was like, ‘Oh no! That’s MY water!’ Jill said. “So I took a black magic marker and started labeling all my bottles ‘Mom Water.’ So that became the running joke around the pool. ‘Are you drinking water, or is that Mom Water?’ After a few months, it was born.”
It became so popular at their family get-togethers in southern Indiana that Jill approached her husband Bryce with a big idea.
“I said, ‘Let’s make this because I like it and couldn’t find it anywhere,'” Jill said.
“I think I said, ‘You’re nuts,'” Bryce joked.
Jill and Bryce had no experience mass producing alcoholic drinks three years ago. At the time, they were both working in health care.
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“I didn’t even know what the ‘three-tier system’ was, and I didn’t even know what a distributor was in terms of the alcohol industry,” Bryce said. “We didn’t know anything. Mostly it was our family and friends and parents that were like, ‘You’re crazy. What are you doing? You’re getting into alcohol and you don’t know anything about it.'”
Luckily for the Morrison family, Bryce and Jill learned quickly. Once they got Mom Water in cans, it took off.
“Every week we say, ‘That was the craziest week ever. There’s no way the next week can be crazier!’ And it is!” Bryce said. “When we started last year, I mean, it did explode. The demand keeps just going sky high, which is surreal. The amount of demand has been off the charts and even from consumers, but also now all of the big chains like your Targets and Walmarts and Krogers and Meijers — it just keeps going!”
Sports teams are latching on to Mom Water, trying to appeal to a female fan base. The company is now an official partner of both the Indiana Pacers and the Dallas Mavericks.
“We’ve talked to every major sporting league, from the PGA to NHL to MLS to the NFL,” Bryce said.
And keeping with the “Mom” theme, Jill and Bryce named their four flavors: Linda, Karen, Sandy and Julie, which was Jill’s idea.
“We’re trying to stay innovative in an industry that’s hard to innovate,” Bryce said. “Our goal just in the short-term is we want to be sold in all 50 states. We don’t think international is out of the equation.”
Mom Water is currently sold in 10 states, and that number could double in the next year — not bad for a vacation creation that’s less than four years old.