The RTD drinks catagory has come a long way since the days of Jack & Coke in a can.
And one of the innovative companies that is making huge head-way in the space is DRNXMYTH.
Based out of Califormia, the company is shaking up the RTD sector (quite literally).
We talk to Lawrence Cisneros, the CEO of DRNXMYTH, about balance, bartenders and the future of RTD.
The RTD category has come a long way since the days of Jack & Coke in a can. And one of the innovative companies that is making huge headway in this space is Drnxmyth. Based out of California, the company is shaking up the RTD sector quite literally. We talked to Lawrence Cisneros, the CEO of Drnxmyth about balance, bartenders, and the future of RTD.
Thanks for joining us, Lawrence.
Thanks for having me.
Now, how and when did Drnxmyth actually get started?
Oh, well, we have been working on this for a number of years now. I would say about almost four to five years, lose track at a certain point here, but it's been a good amount of time. Because I mean, one of the things that people don't realise from the front of the product is that because we have unpasteurised citrus, there's actually no product in the United States. I mean, probably the world, an alcoholic product that has fresh unpasteurised ingredients. And so, we had to figure out supply chain, regulations, all that stuff from soup to nuts because the idea for the product is one thing, it's setting up the infrastructure to do it at scale is another.
Of course, yes. Now, where did the name come from?
The name came from because we were essentially trying to think of a different way to have people make their own drinks. And so, as we just got going, and I can go back a little bit to in terms of how it started, and the process, and all of that. But the name, it's like a more English type name, you're smithing or crafting something. And so, it's someone who, with all the bartenders we started to recruit, because my partner of Brandon Shwartz and I, we weren't from the alcohol industry, we weren't bartenders. And so, to even take a step back, we were mostly, I was the lawyer for a day, basically, Brandon had been working in the cosmetic and beauty space for a number of years.
And we were just lay people, we wanted drinks, we would go to all the cool bars in downtown LA that started to spring up, and we got to learn the scene, and really tried to start to meet these really cool craft bartenders, and learn what they could make with fresh ingredients. And the name came about because what do you call a bartender who's making a drink, not at a bar?
So, say we work with our bartenders who are making the drinks with us. We're commercialising their recipes. They're not attending a bar when they're making the drink. And obviously, the word mixologist has a lot of mixed feelings about it. So, we didn't want to go down that path. And so, we thought, "Well, what's a way to craft a drink? What's another synonym for that?" And so, that's how Drnxmyth came about.
You state that you create collaborative cocktails. Can you explain exactly what you mean by that?
Yeah. So, Brandon and I, from the very beginning, set up the infrastructure. We had to go and figure out how to get fresh citrus in a bottle into a factory. And so, once we laid the infrastructure over a few year period, we've set out to recruit the best bartenders in the world. And it just so happened that there's this whole community online of bartenders on Instagram that not only know how to make great drinks, but they created great content, and they created these huge followings.
And there is this natural synergy of videography talent here in LA that started videotaping these bartenders make drinks, and it started to catch on. And so, obviously, when we're going out and trying to find these different people to make drinks with, we thought, how cool would it be that you could actually put a face and make the drink more personalised instead of getting Lawrence’s Margarita, you're getting a professional bartender.
And you can see all of their idiosyncratic ways of making a drink or what they like or don't like, what bars they've worked at. And really, bringing the bartender beyond the bar for the first time, and scaling what they're doing in the bar to many more people than before.
And so, we basically just approached them and said, "Hey, you guys make great drinks. What if we put your drink in a bottle, and it tasted like it was made in your bar? Would you be interested in creating some recipes with us and sharing it with your audience?" And they were all here in LA pretty much, and so it just worked out where we can go meet in person, and really developed a relationship.
We'll get on to the bartender's in a second, but I think we should probably talk about the bottle itself, and why it has been such a huge point of difference
Yeah. So, initially, the thought was to basically put fresh drinks into a bottle, and then basically start to serve that. Bottle those and then sell those, but then we realised that when you have fresh citrus with a spirit for a long period of time, it starts to change the characteristics of the citrus, starts to get a little more viscous, it dulls the flavour. It's not as bright is if you were to press something fresh
And so, it was really came about as a way to take the product to the next level where we wanted to make it literally as if you were mixing the citrus and the spirit fresh in the bar. So, the way the bottle works is that on the top chamber, we have all of the booze. So, liqueurs, bitters, spirits and on the bottom, you got your citrus mix. So, you got citrus sugar, water.
And so, it's all pre bottled and unmixed when a consumer buys it at the store. And so, all they have to do is rotate the bottom part 180 degrees, it opens a valve on the inside, and you can shake yourself, everything is prepared inside the bottle, you're shaking, you're mixing all the ingredients fresh as if you were that bartender without having to prep everything, without having to have all the different ingredients that are required to make a number of different drinks.
And so, one of the key things that people have come to learn a little bit, a lot of bartender people or industry people ask, "Well, how do you keep the citrus fresh?" Because even if you have your fancy bottle, the citrus if it's unpasteurised, it's going to oxidise, and so they go bad. So, the way we do it, there was a technology that started in the juice industry about five to 10 years ago here in the United States called cold pressurisation.
And basically, what it does is it puts 85,000 psi of pressure underwater in these specialised water baths, and with that much pressure over two minutes, it essentially eliminates all the harmful bacteria, and also prevents it from oxidising for essentially about three to six months depending on your citrus. We're getting about five months right now.
So, the chamber is airtight on the bottom. And so, that's the secret sauce as to why we can actually distribute, and bottle, and distribute these cocktails.
That must have been quite an amazing journey to actually discover that ...
Yeah. In the alcohol industry, this technology had never been used. A number of really big companies in the juice space had been actually using it. So, here in LA there are a number of brands called like Evolution or Suja, companies that were really small, but then eventually ended up getting acquired by Starbucks, and I believe it was Coca Cola.
So, basically, Coca Cola and Starbucks had been investing essentially or purchasing companies in the juice space with this technology and were like, "Wow, if those guys have done all their research and they're using it to essentially stabilise fresh citrus, let's bring that to the alcohol industry." And it was an easy thought or it was like an immediate thought, "Hey, we definitely have to use that."
But the hard part is in the supply chain for alcohol in the United States, there's essentially no refrigeration, especially from the distilling point. So, here in the United States, where you make alcohol, is you have to sell it through a distributor of spirits, that distributor resells it to a retailer of spirits, and then a consumer can buy from a retailer only. And there's a very distinct supply chain, and we called, and try to work with every distiller in the State of California where we're based, and nobody had refrigeration, nobody could bring in the citrus.
There was really no way to get all of that, all of this, the product that we could possibly make there over to maybe another factory that would have the high-pressure machines. And so, we basically had to reinvent the supply chain in a highly regulated industry with a product that no one had ever heard of before, or thought was possible, or was even fully invented at the time we got working on it.
So, we had prototypes for a long time, but we basically were able to take the prototypes, and partner with an existing juice facility, and we basically got our own alcohol licenses at the juice facility to create the country's first and only FDA and TTB certified facility to handle fresh citrus, and put alcohol all in the same facility.
Talk to me a little bit more about the inspiration for the bottle. I'm assuming that the design might possibly have come through Brandon's connections with cosmetics. It has that cosmetic chamber element to it that you don't normally get within the drinks industry, at least anyway.
Most definitely. And so, he had a huge part and it's funny too, because we always saw John Paul DeJoria as a big innovator in this space, and he had his haircare line, and then eventually went into spirits. And so, we saw there was a lot of transferability of skills in that. And so, Brandon had been working in this space, he actually had been developing some of his own brands in the space. And so, he had someone who worked in beauty and cosmetic packaging engineering, and we worked with them over a number of years. And the idea was apart from the utility of separating the booze from the citrus, we started thinking because we had to invent it from scratch, we tried to license some stuff from other some other people, and doing some stuff from other people, and put it together, and it didn't work for what we needed.
And so, we had to develop it just from the very, very beginning. So, we thought, "Well, how do we bring the bar feeling to the packaging, the product as much as possible?" And so, the bottom part of the bottle is like a diamond cut whiskey glass, you get that same texture you get in a nice rocks glass maybe in the bottle, and then obviously, the gold cap, and you've seen a lot of bars around the world, it's a lot of like gold lined bar stools, and bar decorative this and that.
And so, we wanted to bring a lot of those elements from the bar into the product. So, at every touchpoint with the product, whether it's twisting it and mixing it fresh, whether it's having the bartender and the bartenders face right on there, whether it's having all these different elements, we wanted to bring all of that together. Because as I say, design at scale is free. So, we just invest a little bit at the beginning, they it doesn't cost any more to recreate that elegant look.
And so, we figured if we're making this super premium product, a product that has never been created before, there's really no fresh alcoholic product in the United States, if not the world. And so, we figured if we don't make it look beautiful, and we don't make it look attractive and elegant, people aren't likely going to trust that we have the wherewithal, and the ability to bring this product to market.
So, the exterior brings this level of, I think immediate credibility to a consumer who's just getting to know the brand and say, "Wow, if these guys are so detail oriented around the packaging, perhaps they could pull off what they're claiming to on social media." And on top of that, the goal cap and everything... part of the idea is say you put it on a grocery store shelf, it's immediately screaming at you like, "Hey, come over here, and check me out a little bit, and maybe learn a little more about it."
And would look equally as elegant on a bar cache in someone's home.
Most definitely, or maybe you're just out at a party, or in the park, or you may be dressed up a little bit, and you don't want maybe a cheaper looking can, or bottle, or this and that that didn't maybe fit what you're looking like. So, this is something that can probably elevate whatever your ensemble is.
Now, you spoke about the fact that you turn the bottom of the bottle 180 degrees and then shake it. Is that designed to be drunk from the bottle at that point, or is it do you solely pour it into a glass?
Well, we designed it so you can do either. We know that a lot of people are just going to be home, they're going to want to pour it over ice. But we realise that not everyone, not every occasion enables you to have ice. Say. You're going to the beach, or going to the park, we wanted to have it so that you could drink it just out of the bottle, and it can really free you up so that you don't have to think, "Oh, I have ice or it's not even going to be drinkable."
And so, that was part of the fine tuning of the formulation so that it's not too strong, where you have to put it over ice, but it's just that right fine balance that if you have a cold enough, you can drink it right out of the bottle.
Now, I imagine having that chamber and having that ability to separate the juice has really opened up what cocktails you can do.
Yeah. I mean, it's something like a drink platform, where people now from all over the world, whether it's a brand, whether it's a bartender, whether it's a venue, they're coming to us and saying, "Hey, I have this great formula, or I have this bar, can we make it here? I want to do something with this, or watermelon, or mezcal, or peach, or this and that?"
We're trying to build the ship as we're going here, and it's just been really exciting, all the different recipes that people are wanting to make with us. And so, we have a number of drinks in the pipeline right now that, or anything basically with a little bit of citrus in it, any kind of sour mix, we can essentially make it. And especially because there's so much local in California-grown produce that there's really not a lot of limitation to what we can make.
And we pretty much make everything from scratch. So, whether we're having a little bit of cucumber in the product, we're blending up, and double straining cucumber, whether it's a mint-infused water, we get old bags of mint, and we infuse it in the water. And so, there's no additives, we literally just get what you would get behind the bar, and we just take it to the factory, and we put it in the bottle.
At present, you have five drinks available. Do you want to talk to us a little bit about each of them, but also explain who some of these bartenders are, and how the connection came about?
Yeah. So, we have five different drinks right now. I'll just go through them briefly. One is that, it's called Bourbon Sour, basically has bourbon, fresh lemon, fresh orange, simple syrup, some bitters and water. Each of the drinks have about maybe a third of the drink is water because we had to add the dilution in there so you could drink it right out of the bottle.
Second drink is Classic Margarita. So, basically, 100% agave blanco tequila, an orange liqueur that we make in-house, fresh lime, organic agave, water and then we basically use the saline solutions that we create, just add some salt and water, and add just the right amount so you get just certain amount of salt every time you drink it.
We have an Eastside. So, gin, simple syrup, fresh lime, cucumber. So, basic blend up double strained cucumber, add just a hair to it with the peel of the cucumber. And then we infuse mint into the water, and then strain out all the mint so you get this mouthfeel of mint with the Eastside. And then we have a Ginger Drop, Rum Punch. The vodka, ginger, simple lemon bitters.
And the Rum Punch, probably the most complex one we have, which we do a banana-infused rum. So, infuse fresh bananas into rum with a coconut syrup, fresh lime, fresh pineapple. And again, some infused water and some bitters.
So, the drinks, I mean, it was a little challenging at the beginning to figure out what we wanted to make. We didn't want to make it too-too simple. We wanted to elevate maybe a classic whiskey sour, but for example, we're not adding the egg white, so how do you get that softness? So, we have some different advisors in the industry working with us, and obviously the bartenders, and it's this collaborative approach where we brought down some of the lemon in the normal whiskey sour spec. Added a little orange, and that really rounded out, you get to see the nice orange whiskey sour.
We basically wanted to make it, especially these first five, something where it would be a little more interesting than your whiskey sour than you would get at your normal bar. But not so complex where you aren't familiar with what you're going to drink. Because we're finding that a lot of people that purchase these are people that have been to a craft cocktail bar, do know what a better cocktail is. They might not be there all the time and so, they do want something a little different, but they don't want it perhaps so different that they're not able to discern what they're drinking, or not have a bartender in front of them explain it to them. And so, everything that we had to do was a lot of trial and error, tons and tons of different iterations. Because it's one thing to make a spec at a bar. It's another thing to do it in a bottle.
Because one of the biggest things I would say is the dilution and getting that right amount of dilution so you're able to make it so you can drink it out of the bottle, but you can pour it over rocks, it still holds up.
Right. Yeah. I imagine finding drinks that were approachable, but weren't too commonplace, must been quite a fine balance...
Yeah. No. I mean, most definitely. Jason Yu, he's here in LA, it's huge following. He really loves whiskey. And so, we thought, hey, obviously we're going to go with him on the whiskey. Charity, she is running the bar program here at Toca Madera, and in West Hollywood. And so, I believe they move more tequila than anywhere in LA. So, well, obviously, we're going to give her the tequila, so it fit her vibe and what she has really knowledgeable about. And we just kept doing that. If you look at Bad Birdy, she is the most followed bartender in the whole world. And she has 200,000 followers or something like that. And her family is from Cuba. And so, we thought, "Oh, how cool would it be to do a rum cocktail?" And then, "Okay, what do you want to do with that rum cocktail? We're already thinking about using these flavours and these other cocktails. We're not using pineapple yet. Okay, cool. Let's throw something in there with pineapple." And if this back and forth, and how approachable or complex is this going to be and how does it play with the other cocktails as well?"
From conception to the point of actually getting a bottled version of the drink out there, how long has the process been with each bartender to get these drinks up?
It takes a few months, that's for sure. I would say maybe four to six months because in the United States, at least, we have to get every formula that we create has to get approved by the federal government. And then each label that we create thereafter also has to get approved by the federal government. And so, there's a little bit of a lag there and then obviously, setting up the supply chain, and getting barrels of bourbon shipped from Indiana, getting totes of rum shipped from Panama.
Setting that whole supply chain up because we have the license to handle these kinds of alcoholic shipments. We're doing all of that while we're also doing the taste testing, and fine tuning of the formulation. And obviously, want to build up a certain amount of content, and push it out to Instagram - for example, our spiced sangria, we've been putting it out on Instagram for a few months now. We haven't launched it yet, but people are keep hitting us up. "Hey, when are you going to have that spiced sangria? So, we want to build up a little bit of demand as well, get some familiarity, rather than just making it and pushing out immediately. But right now, we're entertaining calls from bartenders around the world to do unique collaboration. So, people come to our website and reach out.
They can essentially develop their own formulation of whether you're a brand that wants to make your own cocktail with a certain bartender, or you're a bartender who wants to make your own cocktail with a certain brand of alcohol. We're this platform that could help facilitate and commercialise all of that.
Now, with the cocktails you have at the moment, which is the most popular?
Let me ask you this, what do you think is the most popular, and then I'll tell you after?
I would say either the margarita or the sour.
Margarita is the most popular. It’s a really good margarita. And so, definitely a good gateway drink for all the rest of them.
Who are you appealing to?
I would say it's been a really interesting journey to figure out who that is. And it seems to me that we're finding a lot of people who know what a good drink is, and I mentioned that before, and that they've been to a bar, or hotel, or restaurant, and they've had a really good drink. And they have been able to distinguish that between a canned rum of coke, or a rum and coke at the bar.
This is something where my dad, it was a journey for him where he was a Coors Light drinker for 20 years. And then this cool craft cocktail bar revolution started coming back to California, and he went to go try some of these drinks. And now, he loves to have craft cocktails. And so, he understands why fresh juice matters. He understands why people pay more for that, and why it takes so much extra care.
So, I think fundamentally, that's probably the number one thing that we're finding that someone who's usually a working professional, maybe they can't go to the bar all the time, or they're at home. They're a homemaker, a mom who's busy running around with the kids, or a dad working from home, and they're not going out to the bar, maybe it's not so accessible, and they don't want to go take a lift to the bar.
So, it's like, I just want to come home, I want to have a good drink. We have such a really cool following where people want to respond to us, and tell us where they had it, what they thought about it.
It's a really weird situation in this exact moment with the COVID-19 virus and quarantining going on where people are really wanting that same cocktail experience or taste they would have at the bars they used to go to. And now that they're closed, they're looking for something that at least meets that level of quality. And so, we're really exploding on our website. And we're able to see on the website, where is this being shipped to? Where is this being delivered?
I was about to say, with everything that's been going on, your uptake at the moment would be huge, I imagine.
Yeah. I mean, it's been a real crazy period because we were working on a number of high-profile bottle cocktails for big hotel groups and stadiums around the United States. And we had been getting interest from BevMo!, and Whole Foods, and Bristol Farms. And right now, they've shut back down, but we had in place a way to deliver cocktails within an hour to people in Los Angeles, and then ship it cold overnight to anyone in the State of California.
And so, everything closed down on the stores, and hotels, and then just the demand was still there for drinks. And so, everyone just shifted over to our shipments, and we're doing a lot of shipments online.
It's been a really interesting journey and path to have a consumer go to an alcohol brands website and actually order alcohol, like you probably don't have a lot of consumers going to smirnoff.com, and ordering bottles of vodka to their house. And so, to have that relationship with the consumer has been really interesting, especially during this time, and getting everyone's feedback. It's been a great sampling period, that at least people, maybe they wouldn't have bought it before are now highly incentivised to try it. And hopefully, after they try it, they're reordering. And right now, on the website, we're finding about a 20% to 25% reorder rate.
Yeah. I was about to say, it must have really opened up people's acceptance and exploration of the RTD space.
Yeah. No, I mean, and I understand. I mean, even for myself and Brandon at the beginning, we weren't RTD drinkers. We'd either get beer at the store, maybe you get a bottle of spirit or something, but you get cocktails at the bar, maybe you try to mess around with something at home that you're going to mess up on, and it's going to be just a, whatever drink. And so, we always had a lowbrow view of it ourselves.
And so, part of the whole experiment of Drnxmyth was to reconceptualise what people thought or viewed bottled cocktails as or what they could be. And so, to change the consumers mindset about that is not an easy task. But we thought with maintaining that freshness, the beautifulness of the bottle, and bringing in the credibility of the bartenders, all could work together to elevate the category, and really let consumers trust us. And this time period has been a really unique period to get that trial.
Now, when all of this stuff finishes, if it does finish, and we're allowed to go out and play again, how is what you've learned from this be translated to the future?
Well, I think from a business standpoint, having different channels of business open, we've seen is very important because some people, or some brands, perhaps are just totally focused on one channel, whether it's a bar, or the stores or whatever. And if something drops off, that could be your whole business of being somewhat diversified, I think on who you're selling to has been pretty helpful.
And I think that hopefully after all this, we can continue to have a strong online presence, and business, and shipped to consumers in an affordable and quick way. And hopefully, that translates to the store where people maybe have tried it online, and they see it at the store and they go, "Oh, yeah, I can get at the store immediately. I don't have to wait for delivery. I don't have to wait for a shipment. I'm going to tell my friends about it."
And they're going to be able to pick it up because they've already tried it. And we think that after all said and done, we're happy that we can get drinks to people in a quick, and affordable, and high quality way during all this stuff to give them a little bit of reprieve for all this craziness.
You talked about the cocktails being available in California. And so, where else in the US are they available at the moment?
We're just available in California at the moment right now. So, we're working on New York, Florida to do overnight shipments in those states as well. Florida could be as in the next few weeks here. New York, probably about two to three months. And so, we're rushing as fast as possible because all the stores are closed so we're just looking to basically do overnight shipments that people throughout the state so you don't have to set up the same infrastructure, and distribution network, and try to be in 1,000 stores in Florida. We'll just set up a very tight supply chain, and then just shipping from one spot in Florida, and one spot in New York to the people on those states.
And at the same time trying to expand globally?
We got approached by... we were actually on a podcast about eight months ago, and funny enough, someone reached out to us after the podcast and just like, "Wow, that's amazing what you guys were doing. We have the same high-pressure juice facility here in Portugal. And let's work on bringing this to the European market." And we've been approached by some different people in London, and the UK market seem like a great place to get going.
So, we just had a call this morning about moving that forward. So, we want to test the market there. We get a lot of interest online from people in pretty much every European country.
Will you be looking to make it area centric? So, the only things that you sell in Europe are connected with European bartenders, and the same for maybe Australasia, and the same for the US, or are you going to mix it up a little bit?
That's a good question. I mean, we're again building the ship as we're going, but we're talking about making cocktails that are similar to what we have, but a bit tailored for that specific market. And then, also bringing in the bartenders from that particular market to develop the recipes with them. And how cool we thought to bring for example, for a limited time, the recipe in the drink that we had from Los Angeles, the East Side or the Bourbon Sour whatever, and offer for a limited time in another part of the world.
So, someone who lives in Australia could be drinking a drink that's super popular in the United States. And we could be doing this back and forth ‘study abroad’ with a product situation. We thought that could be a really cool way where you get to enjoy the drinks that people are drinking in other parts of the world. And I think that that's really exciting to us.
Also with a lot of these bartenders having such an international appeal via the social media, it isn't quite so area specific anymore I suppose.
That is true. I mean, there’s literally people from every country in the world that said, "Hey, when are you coming to, you name the country?" And it's been really cool to see that. And they definitely do have huge presence that really span the world. A funny story, I was in Hong Kong, I want to say six months to eight months ago. And I was in this hotel, and they just opened up, and I went to the top floor, and it was like the beginning of the bar opening.
And I was sitting there having a drink. It was, like 20 stories up. I forgot the name of the hotel. It's like a real fancy hotel. And the bartender starts asking me, "Hey, what company do you work with, or what line of business are you in?? And I'm like, "Oh, I have a drinks company and it's called Drnxmyth." He's like, "Oh, it's interesting." And I showed him the Instagram with the icon, and he flip the phone around and he's like, "I follow you guys." And he's like, "Oh, yeah, Jason, and Bad Birdy, and da-da-da." So, he's rattling off the names of all the people we work with.
That's cool. Yeah.
I was like, "Wow, that's amazing."
Now, you were talking about some of the drinks you're about to release. Can you give us a little bit of a sneak peek?
One of the cool things that we can do here is working on sangrias because wine is taxed and regulated differently than just a pure spirit here in the United States. And so, we're working on a line of fresh bottled sangrias because we thought the wine, the aspect can still work really well with fresh citrus. And we actually add a little bit of brandy to it, which we're actually not able to say on the label, but you're actually allowed to include into it, so it's almost like a fortified wine.
So, it's like a beefed-up sangria, and then we're working on a mezcal cocktail, it may or may not have watermelon in it. And we're working on let's see, we have an amazing Cosmo, it’s for a hotel in Las Vegas, may or may not be named after that. And it's a really great vodka cocktail. We have another cocktail with a coffee company, and may or may not be based out of Australia to do a fun-
Yeah. Really fun drink with some coffee, and perhaps some tequila in there. As you can see, I mean, we're moving a little more past that straight margarita, and to really a little more into that mixology, and showing people, and bring to them really unique flavours that you would find in a typical craft cocktail bar that you would definitely probably have not tried if you have not been to a place like that. So, we really wanted to really excite people. And so, I think the next few ones are going to be really cool.
That sounds very exciting. Well, thank you very much for your time. And if people want more information, they can obviously go to your website, which is drnxmyth.com, and I'll spell that D-R-N-X-M-Y-T-H.com, and also find you on Instagram as well.
Yeah. Thank you so much.
Thank you very much for your time Lawrence, cheers.
All right. I appreciated, cheers.