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Zero Proof with Lily Geiger

“These conversations, especially ones that revolve around alcohol consumption and addiction, have been so powerful and really healing for me personally. I'm more so here for them, but doing that has been just awesome for me. It makes me feel less alone.” - Lily Geiger

Lily Geiger lost her father to alcoholism when she was 20 years old. She spent her childhood watching her father struggle with the disease, so she’s been attuned to the challenges of sobriety for as long as she can remember. “I was always very aware of the limited options that were available to those who didn't drink, as well as the pressure that the non-drinker felt in a social setting.” she explains.

It wasn’t until the pandemic hit, however, that Lily considered channeling this personal history into a meaningful business. She noticed the lockdown-fueled trend away from boozy drinks and towards zero-proof beverages—and realized that she was especially suited to contribute to the conversation.

“A lot of people developed different drinking habits during COVID because we were stuck at home and looking for a ritual to close off our workday,” she explains. “I found myself not wanting to drink as much and couldn't really find anything [non-alcoholic] on the market that I wanted to have every day, that I liked enough to have it be a part of my routine. And starting this company, Figlia, felt really true to what I believed in and my own experience.”

Figlia’s hero product is Fiore, a non-alcoholic aperitif with notes of rose, bitter orange, and clove that Lily designed for anyone who isn’t drinking, for whatever reason. It’s crafted with all-natural ingredients and without any added sugar or preservatives. And it’s something Lily can—and does—drink every single day. Here, she shares her journey to creating a beverage brand and the unexpected community that’s formed around it.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mast Journal: How did you develop the Figlia recipe?

Lily Geige: Figlia is an aperitif, so it's a concentrate similar to Campari. I was experimenting in my own kitchen with family members during COVID because a lot of us were into the whole mocktail thing and wanted to just cut back on drinking alcohol, but in a way that felt really fun and didn't take the ritual away from that. So that was a huge driver. But I didn't want it to mimic the taste of alcohol, which a lot of our competitors have done—and I have no qualms with that—but I just don't think that's helpful for someone who can't drink because they're actually battling addiction. It could be really triggering. I wanted it to taste sophisticated, but I didn't want it to actually feel like you were drinking alcohol.

MJ: Why did you choose the name Figlia?

LG: Figlia means “daughter” in Italian, so I’m honoring aperitivo culture, as well as my own story. It’s a fusion of the two.

MJ: How have people reacted to the product? How has Figlia grown since its inception?

LG: Majorly, in ways that I would've never anticipated. On launch day, we expected our parents and friends to order some, but we had a pretty big launch for a small brand, which was really awesome to see. And now we're in 400 stores around the U.S. and that number is growing every single day. It's been awesome to see so many people gravitate towards our products. There are people that are actively subscribing to our emails or engaging with us on social media and people that even have subscriptions to our products because they want to get them every month. That's crazy to me because I just could have never foreseen that. 

MJ: And where can consumers find Figlia products?

LG: When I say 400 stores, that also includes restaurants, cheese shops, and coffee shops. You could have it in a boutique. There's no alcohol, there are no limits. You can really have it anywhere, which is really crazy to think about. We've been able to do a lot of self-distribution and we're in a ton of stores like Mast Market, where it's super curated and all about entertaining or lifestyle. That’s our sweet spot. And we're in bigger grocers like Foxtrot and non-alcoholic bottle shops like Boisson and Spirited Away. Some of those shops we do really well in because people are walking in for this type of product. And with these bigger grocers, people are already getting their weekly grocery run and they'll see us and pick it up and then they'll get acclimated with this type of product and continue to purchase it. 

MJ: What products do you offer in addition to the bottled aperitif?

LG: We recently came out with a canned version of Fiore, so it's a spritz. We got a lot of requests for it, honestly. People really just want cans. It's popular right now. And this is a new category, and the bottle price point is $43, and people don’t always know how to use it. With a can, you can just crack it open and drink it. It's not as daunting to make a whole mocktail or cocktail with it. You can try the can and then come to the bigger bottle, which has been really great for sales, as well.

MJ: So, how do you drink the bottled aperitif?

LG: It's a concentrate, so you wouldn't want to have a huge glass of it on its own, but people do drink it neat. Riley, who works with me, drinks it neat over ice, but I typically like to spritz it with sparkling water. Any type of citrus is really great, but you can do what you want with it. It really is versatile. A lot of people have come up with things I would've never imagined and they taste incredible. The way everyone's used their imagination with this product has amazed me.

MJ: What creative concoctions have you seen?

LG: Someone mixed it with ice coffee! I don't know if I would've mixed it with coffee, but it tasted pretty good. It was an espresso and sparkling water and Figlia. I definitely wouldn't have thought that up. 

MJ: What does your day-to-day look like? What is it like to be the founder of a non-alcoholic beverage company?

LG: It's honestly not so glamorous, but it's fun and it's scary. I work from home—I live in a studio in the East Village. I am at every tasting and every event, as long as it's on the East Coast. The Figlia bottle is heavy, so lugging bottles around to tastings and to events is pretty hilarious, especially when you live in New York City and you're on the train with everything. Or I'll be flying to Utah and Ubering to the middle of nowhere to do a bottle production with a bunch of old dudes. It really varies.

MJ: Is there a part of your job that you like the best? An aspect that sparks the most joy for you? 

LG: I love talking to people who have been through what I've been through, or who are sober and have been battling with addiction, and who find this product to be one that's really helped them. These conversations, especially ones that revolve around alcohol consumption and addiction, have been so powerful and really healing for me personally. I'm more so here for them, but doing that has been just awesome for me. It makes me feel less alone.

MJ: We've touched on this already throughout this conversation, but how do you feel like you're making change in the food and beverage industry?

LG: This zero-proof category overall is really growing on the shelves, on menus, at social events, at concerts. I don't see it ever stopping. I only see it growing. It's really cool to be a part of that. Because this category didn't really exist before. Figlia specifically is one of the only brands giving back to organizations like Partnership to End Addiction and 1% For the Planet. We are comfortable having honest conversations around alcohol consumption and providing resources for people to seek help. We want to help people detect that maybe something isn't completely right with the way that they're drinking or the way someone around them is drinking. We pepper that information into our social media and the way that we speak. And we are finding ways for people in our community to actually talk amongst themselves about this, which will be really monumental in the space, I believe.

MJ: That's super exciting. Do you mind telling us a little bit about more organizations that you work with?

LG: We give a portion of every sale to Partnership to End Addiction, and we also are members of 1% For the Planet. So through that, we directly give to Harlem Grown. I'm going to go up there for Earth Day. It is really awesome to get to work with them, especially when we can in person along with giving to them. 

MJ: What do you envision for the future of Figlia? Are you working on other flavors currently? Or are you just trying to make this one product bigger?

LG: Right now, because we are such a small brand that doesn't have any outside funding at the moment, getting people to know our brand and our products is really important. We're trying to really grow and foster our community in ways that are a little bit more fun than just posting on social media. We’re trying to do more in-person events and trying to find ways where our customers can actually communicate with us and also each other. That's something that's coming up, which is really exciting. Eventually, we would like to have more SKUs out. That's definitely down the pipeline. It's just something that we will most likely need to fundraise to do, which will be great. 


Recipe by Figilia

1 drop Rose Water

.75 oz Lime Juice

.5 oz Cherry Syrup

1 oz Pineapple Juice

2.5 oz Figlia

1. Create maraschino cherry syrup by mixing 1 part Luxardo Maraschino Cherry juice from the jar with 1 part warm water, stir to combine.

2. Add syrup, lime juice, rose water, pineapple juice and Figlia to a cocktail shaker. 

3. Shake with ice and then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice.

4. Garnish with a lime and a Luxardo Cherry. Maraschino cherry syrup can be refrigerated for up to one week.

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