After living in several countries growing up, Stu Boissonnault was used to being on the move for much of his life before moving to Nantucket at the age of 18. The island has been his home ever since. His first job on Nantucket was as a window washer making $12 per hour. Eventually he found himself working at Cisco Brewery several years later.
The brewery became his home for 14 years. He had a wide array of responsibilities from bartending to blending in the distillery to overseeing the Cisco-to-Go bar catering service for non-profits on the island – something he will still occasionally do to this day.
“The 88820's were like our first foray into canned cocktails,” Boissonnault said. “That kind of led into that new line they have – the Nantucket Craft Cocktails – with the cran, the blue, the lime, all of that stuff. I sort of began transitioning (after bartending) to learn how to do that. I formulated all of those for them.”
But Boissonnault knew one day he wanted to transition away from bartending altogether and find a way to make a career where he could create beverages. He finds it fascinating being able to try different bench trials and mess around with different concentrates, flavorings, sugars, and find the right balance of all the ingredients needed to make a satisfying drink.
Towards the end of his tenure at the brewery, around 2018, Boissonnault was in more of a consulting gig. He still helps them with certain things when asked, but in 2020 Boissonnault left the brewery to pursue other opportunities. That is when Cisco Brewers owner Jay Harman approached Boissonault to see if he was interested in helping him with a new cannabis project to be developed on the island.
“I needed a change you know,” Boissonnault said. “And one of the opportunities that came up was this cannabis project. Jay is a partner in this along with a couple other people. And he approached me and just said ‘listen we want to do this group project. Do you want to be part of it?’ And I said yeah if I can get some ownership in it I'll definitely do it. I'm really psyched because I am taking everything I learned at the distillery and using it to do this.”
The company is called the Nantucket Cannabis Company. They already have one of their drinks out, Pocomo Breeze, and it is available on the ACK Natural shelves for $7 a piece.
The drinks will be made in the back of ACK Natural’s facility. The Pocomo Breeze has about 30 calories per can, and 5 mg of THC. The next batch of drinks will have about 25 calories. It takes a team effort from the workers upstairs in the lab grinding cannabis to create the oil to Boissonnault contently working solo in the back of the facility where the magic happens, and the drink is being created.
It begins with sanitizing the filters extensively. The cannabis oil is made upstairs in the ACK Natural facility. That oil eventually gets mixed with a solubility mix. He said getting oil to solubilize with water has been, of course, very challenging for many companies – but the Nantucket Cannabis Company has found a way.
The oil is put into a mixing tank with water and all of the flavorings. Everything is thoroughly measured and filtered throughout the process prior to being mixed. Once it is complete, samples are tested at the ACK Natural facility as they cannot be sent to the mainland because Nantucket Sound is in Federal waters.
Once the samples are tested, the results get sent up to Boston. Once that process is complete, the product can begin being sold. Boissonnault estimated the process takes about six months.
“There is just so much compliance you have to deal with from the labeling to the marketing so yeah, I would say you are basically looking at six months between getting the formula and getting something in the can,” Boissonnault said. “But man once you get it done – it feels pretty damn good.”
He said they believe there is no better place to begin this endeavor than on Nantucket, but eventually they hope to expand and find co-packers off island. Their first attempt will be on the mainland across the state of Massachusetts.
“We have gotten some interest from other people in other states through the Nantucket connection,” he said. “There is a guy in Vegas who is saying lets set up shop and do it. Whatever we do elsewhere will mimic what we do on island."
Boissonnault hopes to have a variety of different flavors available as early as next summer.
“We will have the tangerine one and we have been working on a blackberry flavor with some lemon in it,” he said. “We want to do a coffee one and we have a fun name for that one. Stay tuned for that because I don’t quite want to say it yet. Then maybe we will have a standard lemon lime, a grapefruit one, and we have a melon one too.”
These drinks are not available on shelves of any store on island. They can only be bought at ACK Natural. There are still cases available for anyone interested in an alcohol-alternative ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
“It is a great social thing,” Boissonnault said. “So if you aren’t drinking but still want to go out - this is a nice way to bridge that gap I feel like. They aren’t going to put you down on that first one but if you buy a four pack and say ‘hey we are going to hang out and play some Mario Kart with the guys’ I think it is perfect.”