Growing up as part of the family who owned The Pequot Inn on Fishers Island, New York, Bronya Shillo listened to her dad’s golden rule: No drinks on the dance floor.
But that didn’t stop patrons at The Pequot Inn’s bar from indulging in a local drink: Fishers Island Lemonade, which has been a favorite of thirsty sailors, locals, and vacationers for decades. After all, few things say summer like a glass of cold lemonade. But when you add vodka and whiskey to the mix, things get even more fun.
“They’d start off with one or two, and by the third one, they were out on the dance floor,” Shillo says.
Working behind the bar, Shillo struggled to keep up with demand for the cocktail, mixing huge, 15-liter tubs of it in the kitchen and serving it out of beverage bubblers.
“We were making so much of the stuff, and I was making it like crazy,” she says.
Sometimes the line at the bar would be two or three people deep.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we packaged the stuff?” she wondered. But that was just a dream. On to the next customer.
After college and a few years working in the corporate world, Shillo made that dream a reality, launching Fishers Island Lemonade, a packaged version of The Pequot Inn’s favorite cocktail. And because having glass on boats is a big no-no, Shillo knew that the lemonade would have to be in a can, not a glass bottle.
The result is a vintage-inspired yellow- and white-striped can that hints at the lemonade’s bright, sunshiny flavor. One sip recalls lazy beach days and warm summer nights on the nine-mile long strip of sand in Long Island Sound that gives the lemonade its name.“Once you pop the can, and put it over ice and taste it, it kind of transports you there,” Shillo says.
At nine percent alcohol by volume, Fishers Island Lemonade has a higher alcohol content than many craft beers. Its mix of lemon juice, high-end vodka and whiskey, and honey means that the drink packs a refreshing punch.“It’s so well balanced and blended,” Shillo says, “and doesn’t feel heavy or cloying.”
The drink is also versatile. It’s great straight out of the can—just throw it in a koozie, Shillo says, and enjoy beachside, deckside, or poolside—but it’s also nice with a few accompaniments. Try serving it over ice with a sprig of mint, or heat it with a cinnamon stick, for a hot-toddy-style warmer.
Fishers Island Lemonade is not carbonated, in an effort to stay true to the original, decades-old recipe. “I knew when I was going to start making this in cans, I didn’t want to lose who we were or where we came from,” she says.
Shillo didn’t lose where she came from in another way, too. Fishers Island Lemonade partners with ONE percent For the Planet, which helps companies donate a portion of their proceeds to environmental organizations. Fishers Island Lemonade helps to support the island’s Henry L. Ferguson Museum, which preserves, protects, and educates people about the local and natural history of the island. The museum also has a land trust.
“Fishers Island is a special place to a lot of us,” Shillo says. And Fishers Island Lemonade gives its own taste of that special place.”
Where to find Fishers Island Lemonade:
450 Haverhill Street, Lawrence
12 Main Street, North Reading
Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits
175 Andover Street, Peabody
Greenwood Wine & Spirits
969 Main Street, Wakefield
175 Main Street, Stoneham