Firelit started in 2007 when founder Jeff Kessinger, a wine and spirits salesman in San Francisco, noticed a need for a coffee-centric, lower sugar liqueur in the market. After making a few small batches at home he consulted with Lance Winters of St George Spirits, Huber German Robin and James Freeman of Blue Bottle coffee to find ways to refine the recipe he had created. Launching a passion project has its difficulties and Jeff encountered several obstacles. With persistence, vision and support from two high school friends (now business partners) Marcus Urani and Label designer Tyler Warrender, Firelit Coffee Liqueur became a reality.
40 different trial versions of Firelit were made all with varying base spirits, proofs and coffee beans. The final recipe was refined and perfected with the help of some of San Francisco's finest mixologists. Firelit approached St. George Spirits with renewed enthusiasm, and a complete vision. St George agreed to make the first batch of 1800 bottles in 2010.
Jeff along with Dave Smith (Firelits' distiller) put together batch one with Cold Brewed Yemen Coffee beans roasted by Blue Bottle in Oakland CA. The brandy base spirit was made from chardonnay and the coffee was distilled and finished with a modest amount of cane sugar. Due to the quality of the ingredients Firelit was significantly pricier than any other coffee liqueur on the market at the time. The first batch, although intended to last about a year, sold out in four weeks.
When batch two was slated for production the Yemen beans were no longer available from Blue Bottle. Realizing this would be a common occurrence using high quality, local producers, the team at Firelit decided to make each batch unique sourcing different single origin beans.
About two months prior to each release coffee samples are gathered from a few different roasters, made into trial sized batches, blind tasted by a panel and then the coffee is selected. Each label is hand stamped with information on the roaster and single origin bean used in that particular batch. Although the nuances of the coffee bean in each batch are certainly discernible tasted side by side, they are much less apparent in cocktails due to the consistency of the recipe.
Firelit was sold exclusively in CA until March 2012 when a few select out of state markets were launched. These markets were chosen based on where the Firelit guys liked to visit rather than any marketing strategy. Firelit is producing three to four batches a year of approximately 350 six packs per batch.
We have Batch 5 on hand. Batch 5 is made with hand-roasted peaberry coffee beans by Blue Bottle Coffee, giving the liqueur an amplified and thickened aftertaste. They mostly used a light roasted with a bit of dark roast thrown in. The brandies consisted entirely of California Chardonnay and Rose. As always, Madagascar vanilla beans were used to make the vanilla.