“I saw a long time ago that there was a huge gap in the market,” says Alexandra Dorda. “There are the pirate rums. The captain rums, the sailor rums. It’s a category that’s very focused on these nautical tropes. None of these brands related to me, and none of them were speaking to me.”
Dorda decided to launch her own rum brand, Kasama, for a new generation of rum drinkers — specifically, Millennials such as herself. “We really care about why brands exist: is there a good story behind it? I think we like to learn about our food and drinks and where it comes from,” she says.
Kasama is produced at her family’s distillery in Poland. Her father, Tad Dorda, cofounded and launched the premium vodka brands Belvedere and Chopin in the U.S. in the ’90s, and her family still owns and makes Chopin. (LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired the U.S. trademark for Belvedere in 2005.) “I really feel like [Kasama] has been in the making my whole life,” says Dorda, who’s 29.
She went Stateside to Stanford for college, and after graduation worked at Chobani in New York for several years, which taught her about building a food and beverage business. She returned to Poland to work at a private equity fund, and it was there that the idea for Kasama solidified.
“I learned a few years ago that the Philippines is actually one of the biggest rum producers in the world,” says Dorda, whose mother is from the Philippines. “I suddenly had this ‘a-ha’ moment of realizing that I could create the rum that I thought was missing from the market, while also celebrating my Filipino heritage that I’m so proud of.”
Dorda comes from a long line of entrepreneurs on both sides of her family; her maternal grandmother ran bars and clubs in Manila in the ’40s and ’50s, and her mother was heavily involved in launching Belvedere and Chopin in the U.S.
“I’m proud to continue this tradition that we have in the spirits business,” says Dorda. “The rum is sourced from the Philippines, we bring it to my family’s distiller in Poland for the bottles, and then it’s shipped here to the United States to be enjoyed by consumers. I think it’s so fun to be able to connect the three countries that I’m from in this very unique way.”
Kasama is aged for seven years in old bourbon American oak barrels, which lends a mellow vanilla flavor and peppery finish. The bottles are clear glass with brightly colored decals evocative of a vacation postcard — the sort of cheery packaging that begs to be Instagrammed. The retail price is $30, making it a midmarket option.
Dorda, who’s based in Los Angeles but travels back and forth between the U.S. and Poland, is taking Kasama wider this spring after launching in the fall. Available in about 250 stores in the U.S., the brand is launching in BevMo in California and in Midwest grocery chain Meijer in April. And in mid-February, the brand launched its direct-to-consumer market through its website. Dorda notes that her main issue at the moment is inventory due to pandemic-related supply chain delays.
For the time being, many customers are enjoying cocktails at home. (For Dorda, it’s rum and coconut water, or rum and pineapple juice or blended watermelon.) Kasama means together, or companion, in Filipino. “The whole brand is really rooted in celebration, and it’s about having a good time with good company,” she says. “I wanted to bring that attitude of optimism and carefree island lifestyle straight to your glass.”
At least you can be there, and together, in spirit.
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