Carl Brown is the next on our list of Lockdown Launches chat as we look at Crossip Drinks.
Opening a bar is tough. I know all about the sleepless nights, the constant second guessing yourself and emotional energy it takes (and cash of course). To open your first venue two months before a global pandemic and to have to watch helplessly as it never has the chance to reach its potential is unimaginable to me.
Carl, who you may know from his time as Dishoom’s Bar Development Manager or even his appearances on Sunday Brunch and This Morning, lived through this. To bounce back from this and launch a product in the rapidly expanding non-alcoholic market during a lockdown is quite something.
How the hell did he manage it?
BarLifeUK: How did the coronavirus pandemic/lockdown effect you job wise?
Carl Brown: Not well…haha… Luckily, I’m not one to dwell on failures, it’s far easier to just move on and keep on trucking. I opened Tincture cocktail bar, Brick Lane in January which I promptly lost due to lockdown. It was painful obviously loosing what I invested, income and ultimately my bar that I loved. I was also unfortunate to be one of those loophole people that our glorious leader didn’t support.
But in the two months Tincture was open I was lucky enough to have met my business partners and introduced them to the Crossip liquid at the bar. Silver linings.
BLUK: Tell us about Crossip Drinks?
CB: Unapologetically bold.
I believe that hospitality is an inclusive place, but non-drinkers are often left feeling excluded. Options to drink ‘Mocktails’, a word I despise & basically a mix of juice, or excess high calorie pints of cola. It didn’t feel inclusive to me.
I decide to approach the challenge by creating a liquid that would ensure the ‘finished’ drink would offer a sober guest a mature drink, flavoursome, complex but also with texture and the ability to make the consumer to drink more slowly like you would with an alcoholic beverage. So, I locked myself in a dark room and began drinking a lot of booze, haha. I worked through tasting liquor to understand how it affected my palette and responses. I then used spice, botanicals etc to build the liquid.
In the end I decided on three flavours. I created the liquid to be mixed, whether that be highball or cocktail. The liquid is designed for the finished drink served, not on its own. So the three flavours were what I felt could create the largest variety of finished drinks.
DANDY luxurious, meaty & smoky. A bold opener of sweet smoky lapsang and top notes of pine, the body comes through with a deep fruit, cinnamon and clove. Finishing with spice notes of ginger, chilli and nutmeg. This is so you can create smoky cocktails or a robust highball.
PURE has a huge, developed and deep flavour. Opening with floral notes of hibiscus, cubeb and rhubarb, the body develops adding herbal bitterness to the fruit and florals. This complex, bitter liquid finishes with wormwood and cayenne for a long after taste. Created with Spirtz and negroni style drinks in mind.
FRESH is a complex big, bright fusion of citrus, herb and spice. It opens with top notes of mandarin and eucalyptus. The body evolves into a multiplex of citrus, orange, lemon and grapefruit. The finishing notes are of fiery ginger and a subtle bitterness. This is great for the G&T drinker or if you love a Cosmo, it even makes an amazing White lady.
BLUK: Was this an idea you had before Covid started or did it come to you during lockdown?
CB: I have been working on the liquid for 5 years. I first created a similar liquid for Dishoom to bolster their non-alcoholic list. Since then, I have pushed the creativity and quality of the liquid until I came up with Crossip.
Covid gave me the time and drive needed to take it from a concept to a business, with the support of my partners.
BLUK: What challenges did the lockdown present when launching Crossip Drinks and how did you overcome them?
CB: I think the most obvious challenge for me was on the selling front. Having worked in the hospitality industry my whole life my go to plan would have been to approach bars and restaurants and work with them to start to grow my business. But with Lockdown that wasn’t possible. Even as we begin to open up again, I feel uncomfortable approaching the industry, friends & colleagues knowing the hardship everyone has been through. The last thing they want is me in their face shouting buy, buy, buy.
We had to tailor our approach direct to the consumer and navigate the world of Google, Facebook and Amazon. All with their own rules and hoops to jump through, and apparently just a money vacuum that is 50:50 whether they promote you or help you at all.
One big part of what we are doing/wanting to do with Crossip is education on the no and low sector and on cocktails whether alcoholic or not. We haven’t got it all covered yet, but we are working hard to help people to create great flavoursome drinks and understand a new category.
BLUK: Did you have a ‘yes, this is going to work’ moment? If so, describe it, and what led up to it.
CB: Can I answer this in a year or so when hopefully everyone is drinking Crossip? But yes, I guess my moment was when Tim and Brad came on board, said they loved it and wanted to help me get off the ground.
BLUK: Describe the most important lesson you learned – the one thing someone launching their own business / project needs to know before they get started…
- It’s not easy. (unless your minted).
- Nothing is A to B.
- It’s also surprisingly harder and more expensive to do non-alcoholic than alcoholic.
BLUK: Did you discover any must-have resources / tools / mentors along the way?
CB: When starting anything like this there are so many moving parts. The first thing to get your head around is to listen, learn and adapt. We have talked to everyone from process engineers to Amazon specialists. It’s important to gather as much information as possible to make the best choices.
BLUK: What are your plans with Crossip Drinks for 2021 and beyond?
CB: Consolidate our own position in the market and continue to grow and develop products. We have some great opportunities home and abroad and I have a big bag of ideas. So keep your eyes peeled!
BLUK: What changes would you like to see the bar industry make as it rebuilds in the coming months?
CB: I don’t think it’s what changes the bar industry makes but how it handles the changes forced upon them. This is going to be tough, there is no doubt, but if it continues to innovate and adapt the way it always has there will be a positive upturn on the other side. Of course, embracing a no alcohol drinks offering will be good for any business!
If you want to know more about Crossip or want to stock Crossip when you reopen then check out the website
We’ll be back with another Lockdown Launches story in a few days, if you have launched a hospitality industry company or brand in lockdown and would like to be featured on BarLifeUK drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org