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A Brief Tour Through the (Good) Looking Glass Bottles of Tea, Kombucha, and Natural Wine

There’s something alluring about a clear glass bottle. It says: Nothing to hide here! I am not subject to the deteriorating effects of sunlight! I am more elegant than your plastic, more worthy of being savored and displayed! I am bright and full of life, and if you drink me, you, too, can share in my vitality. Or something like that. Glass allows saturated beverages to speak, confidently, for themselves. Here are three of our current favorites.

1
Felicity Jones: Yesfolk Sencha Kombucha Vinegar

Kombucha vinegar may not be a familiar product, but it is a versatile one. “We thought a lot about where these bottles would live,” says designer Felicity Jones, who worked with Yiyi Mendoza, co-founder of Yesfolk, a family run brewery in Troy, NY, on the bottle design for the brand’s Sencha Kombucha Vinegar. The kombucha, fermented and then aged in oak barrels, is made with whole leaves grown in Shizuoka, a central tea growing region in Japan. The result is a crisp, over-fermented tonic with hints of vanilla and grass that can be drunk (for pre- or post-prandial sipping, or as a cocktail ingredient) or drizzled (as a finishing vinegar atop, say, a green salad). “Simple, single-color design has always caught my eye when staring at the many bottles behind a bar and that was a big influence on my direction,” says Jones, who wanted the design to stand out “but also feel at home in people’s homes.” Jones and Mendoza found that bar shelf/kitchen counter balance this by paring back their original, illustration-heavy concept, and swapping in a “funky hand drawn product logotype” along with “a healthy dose of monochrome metallic ink.” Those details — the shine on the text, the glass stopper and hand dipped beeswax seal — evoke the friendly and accessible, but also, you know, “the good stuff,” vibe that the brewery is known for.

2
Cassidy Miller: Buddy Buddy Cider and Wine

Over the past few years, like many people, Cassidy Miller got really into natural wine. But unlike most amateur somms, Miller followed that itch, gained some experience and turned it into a career. Last year, Miller quit her full-time job in video and film production to become a harvest intern at Vinca Minor, a natural winery in Berkeley, California. She’d met the winery’s co-owner Jason Charles in 2019 while harvesting for the day, and kept in touch. Once she was working onsite, she knew she wanted to try making her own wine and cider, and was encouraged by Charles to use the space to experiment. This past fall, Buddy Buddy released its first bottles. When it came time to design the labels for her early 2021 releases, all of which are made with varying degrees of biodynamic single orchard heirloom apples, Miller, who has a background in graphic design, wanted to try something unexpected, to create a feeling of “excitement and curiosity for the consumer.” For the illustrated labels on the Pinot Gris + Apple Wine and the Filigreen Cider, Miller reached out to New York artist Laura Burke, whose work she’d seen on Instagram. “I love the idea of working with different artists for new wines and combining them with my own designs,” she says. The Zapple Juice (10% Zinfandel, 90% cider) is branded with a psychedelic gradient of Miller’s own design and affixing. (Buddy Buddy is a small operation, each bottle is hand labeled.)

3
&Talmor: Ruby Hibiscus

The simple, self-contained bottle design of Ruby Hibiscus Water seems like a deliberate counter to the wackiness of the Ruby brand (or the “Rubyverse”), which includes a newsletter packed with cultural minutiae, features illustrations by Sharmila Banerjee, and counts “Fraggle Rock” as a reference point. Morey Talmor, whose agency worked with founder Noah Wunsch to create the look and feel of Ruby, says that of the first insights his team had around the project was the idea of reviving the lost “delight of the everyday drink.” Ruby is more playful than, say seltzer, but healthier than soda. When it came to the bottle design, the objective was to balance clarity and fun (not so hard when your product is jewel-toned). With legible, minimal design, Talmor wanted to “avoid the obligatory label spin prompt and the search for hidden ingredients,” that’s become a norm of modern food shopping. The small, easy-to-grasp, glass bottle is a nod to the “soft drink nostalgia of yore,” but the look also has hints of Snapple, another cheeky, ingredient-forward brand. (Though that resemblance may soon recede into design history as the brand has recently announced a redesign replacing its iconic glass bottles with recycled plastic ones.) When it comes to packaging design, one brand’s moodboard is another brand’s before shot.

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