Matt and I started Iconic Cocktail Co. at the tail end of 2015, selling cocktail mixers like girl scout cookies to friends and family during the holiday season. We made mixers in our home kitchen and asked ourselves, could this be something? We applied to vend at the Phoenix Flea with little idea what we were doing. After we got in, that’s when we realized we needed a permit, a commercial kitchen to make mixers, a sign, a table, and anything else you could think of to make this thing “real.”
We mark the anniversary of our business on the first weekend of March because the Phoenix Flea was the first time we sold mixers to people we didn’t know. Once our booth was all set up, Matt and I looked at each other with a questioning grin, do you think people are going to like these?
The Phoenix Flea is near and dear to our hearts because that’s also where we first met Brian who heedlessly asked us, “if you guys ever want help with anything, let me know.” And we definitely let him know…almost immediately. Brian has been part of our business since the beginning.
Since that advantageous first weekend of selling mixers, our business has grown and out grown various spaces and systems. We have perfected our product line, connected with accounts both in Arizona and out of state lines. We’ve shipped record breaking orders to new wholesale partners and taught ourselves the skills we needed to know with the help of mentors in our industry (shout out to Lela Barker of Lucky Break and Sam of Standard Wax.) And we finally have enough people on our team to throw a proper company party.
To celebrate three years, we did sort of a “round robin” questionnaire between the three owners of Iconic Cocktail. If you wanna know what it’s like to grow a business from three different perspectives, read through the three questions we asked one another!
KAYLEE ASKED BRIAN THREE QUESTIONS:
1. You've learned a lot about cocktails the past three years, what does the Brian today understand better than the Brian we met three years ago at the Phoenix Flea?
Ha! Answering this question completely could take for.ev.er. I think the biggest change in my thinking is that I've fallen in love with the creativity that being a part of this world fosters. I always enjoyed having a nice craft cocktail, as Matt can attest from all those hours I spent sitting at the bar at The Windsor, but, spending the time and energy to do those same things at home always felt daunting. Now, it's an extremely rare occasion when I'm attending a social event with friends or family where I haven't rolled in with my vintage travel bar kit and a bag of mixers, spirits, and all the other ingredients to make a fantastic cocktail because it's fun and I enjoy it. I love putting a drink together and having people go "wow" or having them try something completely outside their wheelhouse. And, I think it's because I've gone from being completely outside my own wheelhouse three years ago to now feeling a little more comfortable and confident in what we do. Key things I would say I understand now is: don't be intimidated, try everything, and, most importantly, have fun - because if you enjoy what you're doing you'll never be dissatisfied.
2. Rank your top three favorite events we've been part of? From bar takeovers, markets, catering, workshops, etc
1) Any of the bartending competitions we've sponsored have been the most fun to me. Devour obviously stands out here. It's always great seeing people who are excellent at their craft showcase it.
2) From a selfish perspective, I loved working the Chilis and Chocolate Festival at the Desert Botanical Gardens. It's tough to find a more beautiful venue for a three day event than what they offer there, and, we got to showcase our product to a whole new set of clientele which I love.
3) You can call me a homer and that's okay, but I really do enjoy working the Uptown Farmer's Market every Saturday (or almost every). It's really enjoyable to see the sense of community that exists in all of these local vendors getting together every weekend to offer their goods and services to a community that wants to support local. I love seeing my regulars and I love meeting new people every weekend who've never been to the market before. In almost three years of working markets, I can legitimately say I can't think of one time it's ever felt like "work".
3. If you had to guess, how many bottles of Spiced Honey have you used? What is hands down, the best thing you've made with it? Care to share the recipe?
This is a loaded question that's going to make me look like a Spiced Honey addict. I would say I average 2 large bottles a month just adding it to my coffee, so that alone would equal approximately 72 bottles of Spiced Honey the last three years. The best thing I've made with it... can't go wrong with a Spiced Honey Old Fashioned. I love the riff it provides on this classic cocktail. I will say though, last summer for a big birthday party I did a punch bowl cocktail featuring Spiced Honey, Ginga Syrup and our summer seasonal Pichuberry Peach Sour. Hands down the best Spiced Honey collaboration cocktail I've ever made.
BRIAN ASKED MATT THREE QUESTIONS:
1. As somebody who spent much of his professional career "behind-the-bar", what do you enjoy the most about being out from behind the bar? What do you miss?
I'd have to say the ONLY things I don't miss from being behind a bar is the physical toll it takes on your body and the loooooong nights. Bartenders are warriors, don't let anyone tell you differently.
What do I miss? The people. The connections. Both the guests but the staff as well. Tending bar is a team sport and when you retire, you miss your team. I miss making a classic cocktail and having that guest thank me for taking the time to show it some love. I miss that breakthrough moment when you get someone to like gin. I miss making 300 cocktails in 5 hours during a brunch shift (believe it or not). Don't miss the long nights tho ;)
2. What mixer flavor have you come up with where you really thought "hot damn this is good", or did you think was the most creative? What mixer do you personally use the most at home?
I don't know if I've ever had a "hot damn" moment, but I think the most creative, and only because of the circumstances, mixer would be Meyer Lemon Balm. I was searching for ideas for the Devour Bartending Competition final round mixer when by chance we were gifted a case of Meyer Lemons and one pound of Lemon Balm. I figured it was a sign and did my best to highlight what I could from both ingredients. It turned out better than I could have hoped for and now, it's probably my favorite seasonal mixer.
The mixer I personally use the most is our Lime Leaf Tonic...or our current seasonal, whatever that might be. We drink mostly gin and tequila so any of those flavors are a winner.
3. For other small business starters out there, what is the one key piece of advice you would share with them that has been the most critical to your journey in starting and growing Iconic into what it is thus far?
One key piece?? Narrowing it down to one is very, very difficult. To say only one it would have to be, stay authentic. You're starting a business for a reason, and if it's just for money don't bother because you won't make it. The passion you have for whatever your idea is is the fire. Follow that fire, your passion, your authenticity and everything else will take care of itself. Stay authentic...and work your ass off because it's yours and you deserve it!
MATT ASKED KAYLEE THREE QUESTIONS
1. What would you tell Kaylee of three years ago about the journey she was about to embark on?
Hey, Kaylee. It's Kaylee. Hang in there. I love you. Bye.
2. What are your top three "milestone moments" of the last three years working on Iconic Cocktail Co
The first milestone that comes to mind (not in order) would probably be the day that we decided that we would no longer store mixers at our home office. It was mostly because there was too many and we had enough space in a place that wasn't our home office. I think this milestone is significant because it created that separation between work and home. It gave us our home back but also created yet another system that we didn't know we needed until we did it.
Second, getting the website up and when we started shipping out orders for the first time. I put the website together myself and I would work on it in the kitchen while Matt made mixers. I remember celebrating our 100th order and I'm really hoping to ship our out 1000th order by the end of the quarter on our brand new website that we had a really great team build for us! (I just looked back at orders. Matt's sister was the first order on the site....his mom was the second)
And the third would be when we had our first annual "Christmas in July" company party for our team. The fact that we have a team to celebrate is just amazing and I'm really looking forward to keeping the tradition going.
3. When was a time that you thought "this is too much"?
It had to be one of the countless times we had the Honda Fit loaded to the brim with either mixers for events or produce for production. More of a literal, "is this too much?" How about the time when I thought "this is too much FUN!!" Probably the moments when we finish a big weekend like Tempe Arts Fest and the three of us (and a Jenna) sit to share a meal at Caffe Boa and reflect on everything we've accomplished and share favorite moments of the day.
There you have it. Three years of business summed up in a few questions (kinda but not really.) We want to thank everyone that has supported us throughout the years. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunities Iconic has brought to us and we’re looking forward to many years to come!
Find us this weekend at the Phoenix Flea! Happening Saturday, March 2nd at Heritage Square Park from 10-5pm!
Kaylee, Matt, and Brian
Iconic Cocktail Co.