Brandon Schwartz and Lawrence Cisneros believe they’ve solved a problem that’s vexed the spirits industry for years: creating a cocktail with more-or-less fresh ingredients in ready-to-drink (RTD) form. No heat pasteurization, no preservatives.
“Let’s say you’re trying to make your own cocktail and be all fancy about it but here you have all these disparate ingredients that are hard to source or you end up buying more than you need. Or you go to the store and nothing comes close to what you can get behind the bar,” says Cisneros.
Previously, problems ranged from a widespread lack of refrigeration at various stages of the production and delivery process to the fact that alcohol tends to break down and change the flavor, color and texture of a drink within about week.
“No one’s wanted to navigate all of those different obstacles,” Schwartz says.
After spending years toying around with non-workable bottle designs and ways to preserve the fruit, the two 31-year-old friends – one a serial entrepreneur, one a lawyer — who met in college finally figured it out. They could invent a (patent-pending) bottle that keeps cold-pressurized solids in a compartment separate from the pre-mixed liquid whose unique seals and valves could withstand the pressure. Cold pressurization technology reduces the bacteria and microorganism count for extended shelf life by placing 85,000 PSI in high-tech, cold water machines for about three minutes. According to the men, that equals the pressure at the bottom of the ocean — times five. They say the technology keeps the fruit stabilized for up to three months.
Using spirits they buy from outside distilleries, the pair says they now operate the first FDA and TTB-approved facility to handle fruit and bulk spirits, located in Long Beach, California. Once a customer gets ready to drink from the 200 mL bottle (MSRP $10), she simply twists the bottom and releases the non-alcoholic ingredients into the alcoholic liquid.
Drnxmyth (pronounced “drinks myth”) hits hotels and liquor stores in the Southern California market in May, with hopes to sell more broadly by spring of 2020. Schwartz and Cisneros are starting to partner with Los Angeles-area alcohol-delivery services to score one-hour home delivery by this summer.
I tried all five flavors (Bourbon Sour, Rum Punch, Perfect Margarita, Gin Fresh, Ginger Drop) and found them to taste pretty much like authentic bar versions, with my favorite being the Bourbon Smash because of its relatively mellow flavor. The margarita came off as too concentrated in that it was both too tart and slightly too sweet at the same time. I then understood why the team strongly recommends pouring the products over ice, though they say they’re planning to tweak some of the recipes to cut back on this intensity.
To, me, adding ice defeats some of the purpose of a ready-to-drink, which usually finds its groove in portable situations. Otherwise, that’s a lot of plastic waste generated when a pre-batched homemade cocktail might serve just as well, though the founders call the bottle around 90% recyclable and hope to replace it soon with pre-recycled materials.
The bottles tout that they’re designated for two drinkers, though one bottle perfectly filled an ice-filled tumbler. Ten dollars for one bottled cocktail sounds steep. It’s a problem Cisneros acknowledges and explains.
“They are very expensive to make,” he says. “Not just from a component standpoint. We have a specialized bottling process, too.”
They’re managing to cut back on their advertising costs by relying heavily on social media influencers. They’ve partnered with high-profile Southern California bartenders (read: those with juicy Instagram followings) to write the recipes , and they actively promote some of their spirits suppliers; not least among them SelvaRay rum, co-founded by music star Bruno Mars.
They got off the ground with some private investment two years ago and already won a gold and five silver medals from the uber-prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2018. The gold medal-winning Tip of the Hat recipe will publicly debut at a later date, along with increasingly sophisticated recipes going forward.
“We want to take people from a Jack and Coke to an East Side to a Division Bell, something that will totally blow them away,” says Schwartz. “Recreate the live experience as much as possible.”