Darling Mimosa is a product that should have been invented years ago. After three to four months of trial mixology for the perfect blend, the final blend is made with Ontario wine and real juice (both orange and grapefruit).
The response from both retailers and consumers has been incredible. Entrepreneurs Kim Tarlo, Cait Patrick and Mitch Stern found a hole in the market and took it by storm. To date there has never been a mixture like this done in a ready-to-drink format and Darling Mimosa is a killer brunch sidekick.
WE had the chance to learn more from Kim Tarlo about the creation of Darling Mimosa in this Q&A.
Kim Tarlo is co-founder of Darling Mimosa—a friend’s first beverage brand out of Toronto, ON. She is at the helm of the Darling Mimosa brand, along with her design partner Anna Cumyn, both with a deep background in brand and marketing work. After studying at Queen’s University, Kim spent the last 15 years working at and in leadership roles at award-winning creative agencies in Canada, the US and UK. With global and local experience working on many of the world’s top beverage brands, Kim is also the ECD and partner at creative agency Mint. A passion for food, travel and wine, her curiosity led her to gain her WSET certification at George Brown in 2020.
What inspired you to create the Darling Beverage Company?
You’ve heard the riddle “what came first, the chicken or the egg”? Well, for us the cause and effect wasn’t as unclear. We first had the idea for the mimosa in a can, then worked from there to build the company. The inspiration for the name “Darling” however, is maybe more random. It’s this: J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. More specifically, Wendy Moira Angela Darling and her family. I grew up reading a lot of Peter Pan (and later watching a lot of Hook), so to me the name Darling always conjured comfort, imagination and happiness. So there you go.
How did you come up with the idea to create Darling Mimosa?
We like to say Darling is a friends-first brand because we’ve been friends for years and beyond working together, we’re all really close friends too. So a group of us were up north at my place for some weekend fun. Mitch was attempting to make his girlfriend a mimosa. I say attempting because at the time, he wasn’t a mimosa expert by any means and was trying to figure out what the right balance of orange and sparkling to put in. When he or she or both wondered out loud: why hasn’t anyone made this in a can before? All around us at the cottage were RTDs, but none of us had ever had a mimosa RTD before. We’ve probably wondered this about a million things before as friends. But for some reason, this one we decided to pursue. That was spring and by summer of the same year, we were pitching the concept and formulation to the LCBO.
How many trial runs of mixes – OJ to bubbly to make the perfect taste?
Officially? Or unofficially? Officially with a food scientist taking us through the process toget to our final recipe, maybe a half or so dozen times. Unofficially, at home with grocery store OJ, store-bought wine and a SodaStream maaany.
What type of bubbly is in the mix and how did you pick it?
We use a Niagara-grown vidal blanc base for our mimosa. Vidal grows very well in Ontario and it was important to us that we stayed local. It’s also a hearty wine that has notes that really complement our juice. This includes tropical and citrus notes—perfect for a mimosa.
Were there any good stories that came from creating this drink?
We developed Sparkling Orange and Sparkling Grapefruit formulas in the depths of Covid. So we had less than ideal conditions when we were doing our formulations. I have a WSET background so although we all taste, a lot of the nitty gritty of profile development falls on me. I remember in the early days of developing Sparkling Grapefuit driving to Niagara to taste our new batch. It was nearly 40 degrees outside with the humidity, and my samples were left outside for me in little plastic ramekins because I couldn’t go in. So there I was tasting hot fizz-less mimosas from a plastic mini cup on the toastiest day of the summer in a concrete parking lot. I was trying not to see mirages, let alone discerning with any confidence if the batch was good or not. Not exactly the most glamorous mimosa moment I have ever had. But fortunately, despite the weird tasting conditions, we were really happy with where we ended up.
From idea to final creation, how long did the entire process take?
From conception of our first mimosa to completion of our first formulation the process took 3-4 months.
What was the retail response to your product?
When we were pitching the LCBO for the first time we were doubtful that we’d be taken seriously. We had heard that even seasoned beverage owners and operators and even multi-nationals had struggled to get into the LCBO. That often it took years before you got the nod. We were a group of friends who had never pitched the LCBO before, what business did we have? But, against the odds, we were wrong. They took us seriously from the jump and have been so fantastic all along. Year one they took on Sparkling Orange when we were a baby business. Year two, they doubled our portfolio taking on Sparkling Grapefruit. We have been so grateful at the support and success we have seen at the LCBO.
What is your favourite way to drink Darling Mimosa?
My favourite way to drink Darling Mimosa is in the sun with friends. I’ve had it in the summer on the dock at the cottage, and on the patio in the snow after snowboarding. And as long as the sun is shining and friends or loved ones are near, it’s the best. Our brand mantra is Live Life on the Bright Side and it’s truly the mindset and occasion that pairs best with Darling Mimosa.
Where were you when you had your most memorable mimosa memory?
I mean, that parking lot is pretty unforgettable.
Anything else we should know about Darling Mimosa, recipes, etc?
Everyone thinks ‘brunch’ when they think ‘mimosa’. And it is a killer brunch sidekick. So great to have in the fridge when hosting weekend getaways or having daytime fun. But people have also been surprised with how versatile it is. The rule of thumb I give people is if you could imagine squeezing citrus on it (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, yuzu), it will pair well with Darling Mimosa. So whether that’s seafood, zesty summer salads, tacos or sweet heat lime chicken wings, there are countless recipes you can be creative about. We have also designed the product to be light, refreshing and not-too-sweet so it has that versatility to it.
Tell us how you created the brand identity and where the inspiration came from?
The brand came from our Live Life on the Bright Side ethos. We wanted to embody optimism, brightness, celebration and fun. To do this, we wanted to embrace bright colours, chunky type and characters that bring joy (our smiley face for instance). We wanted to feel everyday and not up tight. Sometimes sparkling gets a bad rap as faaaaancy. We wanted to feel like something you could take anywhere and feel great about it.
Darling Mimosa is made with real juice, and real wine. Gluten-free, locally crafted and better for you than a DIY mimosa, this cocktail is designed to celebrate everyday life. Embodying and encouraging optimism, Darling promotes living a life on the bright side.