A partnership has been forged between a Grand Island liquor store and two alumni of Grand Island High School who are working together to introduce a canned cocktail to the Western New York area.
In 2021, expats Paul Scappechio of Grand Island and Vincent Jacobbi of Clarence launched Togronis – a canned cocktail brand focused on high-quality, full-proof Negronis. The San Diego-based duo co-founded the project and brought on fellow Grand Island alumni and Buffalo-based designer Rob Hopkins of Stronghold Studio to handle the branding and packaging.
Both Scappechio and Hopkins graduated with the GIHS Class of 2003, so it was only fitting for them to find a retailer on Grand Island.
The recently opened Grand Island Wine & Spirits (formerly Aceti's next to Tops) was quick to bring in the product to support the local GIHS alumni.
Both men are excited to come back to the Buffalo several times this summer to offer tastings for customers. The exact dates are still to be determined, but it's an opportunity for locals to sample this new premium beverage and meet the founders. Follow them at @togronis on Instagram for tasting updates.
Since launching, Togronis has received multiple awards for taste, and the packaging won a Gold ADDY award in 2022
“The launch of Togronis is a testament to the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of our Grand Island High School alumni,” Scappechio said.
With their unique blend of premium ingredients and sleek packaging, this San Diego-based company is excited to stake a claim back home on Grand Island and in Buffalo.
Scappechio said the Togronis has a to-go format and a target market.
“We are trying to find those that want to bring a classic cocktail place where you can’t get classic cocktails,” he said. “Ideally, we’re trying to target folks that want to take these on boats, to the beach, picnics – golf courses, parks, theater – just places where you’re not going to have the convenience of having three separate bottles of gin, Campari and vermouth … anywhere where you can bring a cooler.”
Scappechio’s career path was set early in his employment history.
“My first full-time job was at the Grand Island Holiday Inn, and I started off as a bus boy and then worked my way up to eventually one of the food and beverage directors,” he said. “So, fast forward to now, that was really what kind of inspired or got the creative part of me to be in the food and beverage industry.”
He rediscovered an interesting connection in his trip back to his roots.
“Class of ’03 — I actually went to the reunion recently and there were a lot of other people that worked at the Grand Island Holiday Inn,” he said. “I actually still have a lot of friends that I’ve met – all from that Grand Island Holiday Inn.”
A Negroni is considered a classic Italian cocktail made with equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari. Togronis has a premium blend of a London dry gin, imported Italian sweet vermouth, and a red-bitter made exclusively by Scrappy’s Bitters out of Seattle.
Hopkins said the main inspiration behind the logo was that “the Negroni is an Italian cocktail, so we were trying to find some kind of symbol that tied into Italy, and the sparrow is the bird of Italy.”
Hopkins added a branch to the design to represent the botanicals that are in gin and the other components of the cocktail.
He graduated from SUNY Fredonia with a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design, moved to San Diego to pursue his design career, then moved back to Western New York in 2011, eventually establishing his own agency in 2017.
According to the founders, their cocktail is designed to be enjoyed over ice with an orange peel. However, it can also be served cold straight out of the cooler or fridge. The co-founders said the taste is described as the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, with bright citrus notes perfect for the hot summer days ahead.
Senior Contributing Writer Karen Carr Keefe contributed to this report.