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May Updates & More

Hello, Wild Birds!
In our recent ginger-juiced adventures, we've neglected to update you on our progress. But never again.  You're gonna wanna sign up for our newsletter if you haven't already. In addition to product updates it'll feature: 

  • news of where we are (we know you get worried and we'll never play with your heart again)
  • flash sales (to cruise you through this summer)
  • list of places to find our mixers 
  • links to our playlists (so you can shake your bottom while you shake your bottle)
  • updates for the blog!

Speaking of the blog: if you're curious about how Swig + Swallow mixers are made, check back here for our blog series on the process currently titled, "In The Limelight" (because how punny, right?). 

One last thing! 
Swig + Swallow will be at the ACE Hotel in NY this Saturday on May 12th from 3 - 4 PM for the Food Book Fair handing out samples so swing by! 

Thanks for reading and remember to keep it classy! 
Your pals at Swig + Swallow

Puppy, meet Lime. Lime, meet Puppy. 

Puppy, meet Lime. Lime, meet Puppy. 

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The Flip Side of the Restaurant Bubble: A Catalyst for Innovation in F&B

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The Flip Side of the Restaurant Bubble: A Catalyst for Innovation in F&B

I wrote this unsolicited letter to the editor of a well-known startup/entrepreneurship magazine about a week ago, as a story I find to be both timely and interesting, and one that I hoped to see discussed in the pages of the publication. I decided if it didn't go anywhere with the magazine, I would still put it out there into the Universe, so here it is, my short and sweet prediction on the immediate future of the world of food & beverage.*

 "At the end of December, a writer at Thrillist published this article (part 3 of a 3 part series) about the restaurant industry bubble being poised to burst. While it's possible that that will happen, I wanted to present another aspect of the story. My belief is that that we are on the cusp of innovation like we’ve never seen before in this space, and people in this industry (including immigrants, and the under educated) have more resources and opportunity than ever before.

I’ve been in food and beverage for 20 years, and the momentous moments experienced in my version of this world were Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality spreading globally, Kitchen Confidential and other food media (Iron Chef, etc) creating the celebrity chef figure, Dale Degroff reviving the notion of classic cocktails at the Rainbow Room in the late 80’s, Sasha Petraske starting the endlessly sticky speakeasy phenomenon in 2000, and so on. After working my way up through many menial and occasionally degrading hospitality jobs, I found myself in the mixology world, became a cocktail instructor teaching at 5 schools, a brand ambassador, then a sprits consultant, and now a beverage entrepreneur.

In officially launching my business, Swig + Swallow in 2016, (we produce fresh cocktail mixers for iconic cocktails, half filling the bottles so you can add spirits directly to the mixer bottle) I’ve had to navigate the world of commercial kitchens, co-packers, the FDA, Department of Ag and Markets, web development, design, SEO, Incubators, Accelerators, and more. We work and produce out of a food incubator in Brooklyn that offers space, mentorship, media support, optional inclusion in an online marketplace, etc. I can tell you that of everything I’ve learned in the past year, there have never been better resources to help small food and beverage businesses launch, sustain, and learn from one another.

This is particularly relevant to the cocktail/beverage world as we have a crop of thousands and thousands of new mixologists and beverage consultants looking for their next move. There’s stronger community than ever before (the cocktail conference Tales of the Cocktail had over 20,000 attendees last year), educational resources are more widely available than before, and the interconnectedness of social media ensures that dialogue about pertinent and valuable issues like gender equality, sexual assault, and sustainability spreads like wildfire.

The author of the widely shared Thrillist article painted a picture of the restaurant/hospitality industry on the verge of collapse, but as it happens in slow moving industries, change comes infrequently and in tidal waves. While the celebrity chef/farm to table phenomenon might be poised for downsizing, I believe we’re at an inflection point in F&B- people are looking at their futures and know they have to innovate to stay alive. However, for what I believe to be the first time ever, the resources and technology exist to enable small food and beverage entrepreneurs to dream bigger than becoming a manager or of opening a restaurant. Instead, some of these people are dreaming of becoming the next Starbucks or Blue Apron, and actually have a decent chance of getting there."

*The editor in question kindly responded saying they rarely do industry-specific features, but he would forward it on to another publication for which it might be better suited.

 

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Swig + Swallow Startup Update: Adaptability is the Name of the Game

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Swig + Swallow Startup Update: Adaptability is the Name of the Game

For anyone who clicked on this post and has no idea of who we are or what we’re doing, Swig + Swallow is a beverage startup, launched in 2016 and based in Brooklyn, NY. We produce fresh cocktail mixers for iconic cocktails. We half fill the bottle, so you can add spirits directly to the mixer bottle. When full, each bottle yields ten 3 oz cocktails, and mixers are good for 3 months if refrigerated and unopened. I’ve been posting updates on the evolution of the idea from my previous business model, which I launched and ran in 2015. My last update, "Slow and Steady Wins the Race” provides a longer version of the story.

For those who have been following our progress, apologies as always for the infrequent posting- these past 6 months have been chock-full of learnings, and adaptability has been the name of the game. Swig + Swallow has grown leaps and bounds in every area from route to market strategy, to production, to marketing, media, and more.

Starting with strategic direction, you may remember that since moving to a DTC (direct to consumer) model we’ve been tongue-in-cheek describing ourselves as “The Blue Apron of Cocktails for Lazy People.” I presented Swig + Swallow at a pitch event back in July using this tagline, and afterward one of the mentors said “you actually have something a lot more interesting- you don’t have a service, which is difficult to scale, you have a product, that could live in a handful of different contexts….and could be very successful.”

In terms of strategic direction, this was the most valuable insight we’ve received from an “outside” person to date, and as we’re in the business of making things that work- if we hear good advice, we’re all over it.

Days later we dropped the whole Blue Apron reference, reframed, and now we’re testing out 7 different routes to market simultaneously. We are still shipping nationally, and are determining how to get our costs down to pass those savings to our customers, but we’re also doing great sales in the NYC area for events and parties, and are having conversations with decision makers a range of other channels as well, from hotels to stadiums to airports and more.

Switching gears for a moment (I’ll come back to route to market strategy in a second), I had been holding off of actively “selling” our product because our production was both intensive and inefficient. If you’ve been reading my past posts, you might remember my comment about there being no co-packers who are equipped to make products like ours. We went through 5 potential co packers in the lead up to our Kickstarter fulfillment and last minute ended up deciding to make it ourselves for quality control. In a great stroke of luck, we recently received a personal intro to a co-packer who can’t do all of the production, (we will still keep half of it in house) but can execute certain elements of the production at commercial/industrial scale. I’m projecting this will allow us to fulfill and scale on the order of 50 x more quickly than we would have been able to alone. Besides the production itself, the labeling process has been the single greatest time suck of any part of our operations- each bottle requiring a whopping 1-2 minutes for label application. I know in a few years we might reminisce about the good ol’ days, but this is one thing I will not miss even for a second! 

Thankfully, after an insane month of sales in December, I finally had the time to make some necessary label revisions with our designer, and to adapt the application process to one we can mechanize and outsource. In two weeks we will have a faster, better looking, and exponentially more efficient process, which consequently will save us thousands of dollars on freight annually due to a more streamlined supply chain.

In conclusion, here’s what to look out for if you’re interested in following our trajectory: I know it’s cliché, but we’re definitely going big or going home. My sales targets for the next month or two are stadiums, airports, and hotels, spirits partnerships and alcohol delivery. We’re beefing up our photography, social media activity, are launching a youtube miniseries, and more. We’ve already been very fortunate with national press mentions (click here for links) but I’ll be formally pitching us to a range of media. 

Thanks everyone for accompanying us on this journey, and happy cocktailing!!

:)

April

Follow us at @swigandswallow on Instagram and Facebook or @swig_swallow on Twitter

Sign up for our mailing list here

Contact me at april@swigandswallow.com

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Swig + Swallow Startup Update: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

*This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn July 30th, 2016

For anyone following Swig + Swallow’s journey to launching a cocktail mixer company, you’ll notice it’s been months since I last posted. Here's a summary of where we came from and where we are. 

Cocktail batching and delivery is an idea I came up in 2015 with as a service for spirits companies and caterers throwing large parties. This was born out of my own need when I was a Brand Ambassador for Bacardi, and the idea was that I would take the client’s cocktail recipes, and scale them up for the event, properly proportioning fresh juices and custom syrups in gallon jugs, leaving room to add the spirits directly to the jug. The results were great, and clients loved the convenience, but there were a whole bunch of things wrong with the business model, including the glaring fact that custom recipes were incredibly service-intensive, often requiring tens to dozens of calls and emails for a single order. 

Enter February of 2016. I had had a non-equity partner who ran a wholesale juice and syrups business, and they decided to shutter their doors. The timing couldn’t have been better, as I had decided I wanted to launch a consumer product, with a specific selection of iconic, recognizable cocktails that could be prepared as is, or used as a base for custom cocktails. When I heard the news, I last minute applied to an Accelerator, made it into the top 10% of applicants, and whipped together a prototype of the new business model- what I decided to call (tongue in cheek) the Blue Apron of Cocktails for Lazy People. In my second interview they told me they didn’t accept single-founder companies, and “was there any way I could find a partner in the next week?” 

The answer, surprisingly, was yes, and somehow I got up the nerve to ask my friend Gates Otsuji (he runs the cocktail programs at the Standard Hotels in New York) if he would consider coming on board so we could get into the Accelerator. The meet-and-greet came and went, and the Accelerator folks seemed to love the product. When we did not get in, I was almost dumbfounded that Gates still wanted to be involved- that he wanted to put in the hard work and hustle and faith that I had, without having any idea what the future might hold. 

Fastforward to May, 2016. We had bounced the product of dozens and dozens of people, had run multiple samples through a process that extends shelf life and kills pathogens, and were psyched by the results. We had also done all of the product photography, styling, editing, recipe card layouts, website builds ourselves, and had joined Brooklyn FoodWorks, a brand new food incubator and kitchen in Brooklyn. As I had been bootstrapping the project on my consulting proceeds, I was forseeing a money crunch as we segued into production, and so we decided to run a Kickstarter for the month of May. Again, we taught ourselves how to film and edit video, learned how not to record sound (we now own 2 lavalier mics), and how to better tell our story. Also, my good friend Allison Hamlin- a food marketing, education, and media person, came on board to help us with our Kickstarter. We asked for only a small sum- $5000, and met our goal within 30 hours. We then spent the rest of the month trying to figure out how to keep the interest up, and finished out the campaign with just over $10K- just over double our goal.

June and July have been spent primarily on solidifying production, adapting the business and distribution model, learning about our financial options, and just shoring up the infrastructure of our business. One of my greatest learnings in these past months is that there are zero small manufacturers set up to service a product like ours. No one has full answers, there are very few systems in place, and every single business interaction takes persistent phone calls, emails, and long conversations to get people to do business with you. All this said, we’re making excellent progress. We have a new bottle, a new label manufacturer, a new logo, a new label in the works, shelf life studies, a new co-packer, a business plan, 12 months of projected financials, and a brand new pitch deck. We’ve applied to about 10 accelerators as a backup plan, got to the second round of Shark Tank auditions, were on National TV twice, and are ecstatic to have just gotten a small loan that will get us through at least the next couple months purchasing equipment that we need to supply for our co-packer.

So what now? We’re on schedule to fulfill our Kickstarter orders this month, and have been getting repeated requests for thousands of dollars of product for large scale events and partnerships with caterers. This past month in particular, I’ve been buckling down learning about the benefits and drawbacks of getting investor funding at this stage. The competitive side of me is tempted to go out and raise millions of dollars, but the cautious independent side knows we can absolutely make it on our own, it’s just a matter of how fast we plan on growing.

After feedback from roughly 20 mentors and investors, from food consultants to serial entrepreneurs to VCs, to private equity folks- we’ve decided to keep going it alone- not give up any equity at this point, and we couldn’t be happier about it. 

Until next time follow us on Instagram @swigandswallow, on Facebook or sign up for our mailing list.

Cheers!

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Swig + Swallow Update, Cocktail Classes, Whisky Events

Dearest friends, I apologize for the extended delay between posts! It has definitely been too long. Never a dull moment around here as it seems. 

Since I last posted, almost everything has changed about our business. Sadly, after several months of partnership, Cocktail Kingdom Logistics shut down their entire juice/ice/glassware operation on February 12th after two years serving the spirits community in NYC…thus taking our partnership with it. Fortunately the timing of the split coincided perfectly with some big changes I wanted to make to the business model that would have been difficult to execute while partnered. 

While there is clearly demand for cocktail batching on the B2B side, there are lots of challenges to executing custom cocktails for every single event. Ive been brainstorming ideas for standardization for months, and am finally convinced that the answer is to launch B2C utilizing the same concept of ‘just add spirits’ to complete the cocktail. There’s a whole bunch of other elements in our secret sauce, but what I’ll share for now is the new objective, to be the ‘Blue Apron for cocktails’ (prototype packaging above)….More on this later.

Of the various actions I’ve taken to achieve this objective, the most significant would be that I applied to a food incubator called Brooklyn Foodworks and got in, and an accelerator called Food-X, which provides you with 3 months of mentorship, $50,000,  and an opportunity to pitch to VC’s at the end of the 3 months. I’m days away from hearing a verdict, (we made it into the top 10% of applicants) but even if Swig + Swallow doesn’t get in, the experience has already been invaluable. I have had so many friends and acquaintances come out of the woodwork to help me prepare, not only am I incredibly fortunate (and grateful for that good fortune) but I’m also much more well informed and excited to learn more. I’ve had VC and founder friends coaching me through financial projections and comparables, friends who run food mail-order businesses talk me through logistics and refrigeration, and branding and cocktail folk talk me through the idea, poke holes, and experiment with my prototypes. 

Additionally, and possibly most significantly, Food-X’s requirement for 2+ founder companies forced me to seek out a co-founder, and I am thrilled to announce that I found someone brilliant to come on as my co-founder. I can’t explain how exciting it is to find someone who also wants to build this dream, it’s truly a blessing.

So, I’ll keep you posted on Food-X. If we don’t get in, we’re still going to grow and build and find financing some other way. Adaptability is the name of the game.

Until then, a few other housekeeping items:

MAILING LIST
Finally we have a public link for a mailing list! To sign up for Swig + Swallow Updates click here,  scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your email. For cocktail class updates please click here and enter your email.

MY UPDATED COCKTAIL CLASSES

I’ve been really bad about updating public classes on www.aprilwachtel.com, but finally entered those that are scheduled through March. Likely more will be added, but this is the current roundup.

WHISK(E)Y EDUCATION!!

If anyone is looking for some fun and informative Whisk(e)y education in the upcoming week, my friend Francine Cohen is helping organize the Whiskies and Spirits Conference on Tuesday the 23rd and Whisky Live on Wednesday the 24th. Industry friends save 20% on tickets for Whisky Live with the code tradeny !!

WHISKIES AND SPIRITS CONFERENCE
Expect no-holds barred conversations, tough questions answered with candor, and a roadmap to brand success.  This is what takes place at the annual Whiskies and Spirits conference and explains why taking the pulse of the spirits industry at this annual gathering entices spirits industry leaders take the day off and gather here.  Nowhere else during the year can they come together and so thoroughly explore the state and growth of their products along with challenges, successes and future plans for building, positioning, marketing and growing their brands.  Attendees get full access to an unparalleled view into the world of whiskies and spirits at this trade-only conference; a place in which to mingle with marketing, branding and strategically focused colleagues as they take part of this unique and unvarnished conversation about the state of the whiskies and the spirits world.    Whiskies and Spirits Conference.  Tuesday, February 23rd at Chelsea Piers - Pier 59 from 8 AM-3:30 PM. Tickets: www.whiskiesandspiritsconferenceusa.com.

WHISKY LIVE NY
C
ome enjoy 300 of the world's best whiskies (plus exclusive pours in VIP), full buffet, master classes, whiskey cocktails, live music, chocolate pairings, and more. Warm up with whiskies in February at Whisky Live NY on February 24th, 6-10 PM, Chelsea Piers Pier Sixty.  Tickets at: www.whiskyliveusa.com

 

 

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Swig + Swallow Update + Part #1 of ‘Why Batching is the Future of Cocktails’

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Today marks almost 5 months since I first launched Swig + Swallow’s cocktail batching and delivery service, and a lot has changed in a short period of time. For starters, 2 months ago I partnered with Cocktail Kingdom Logistics, the industry leader supplying wholesale juice, syrups, and garnish specifically to spirit companies and restaurant clients in New York City.

This is such an exciting partnership and is a great opportunity for both parties, as we now provide complete event solutions for various tiers of trade. We supply the basics, from wholesale juices and syrups for cocktail professionals accustomed to ordering and preparing ingredients for events… or, we can provide perfectly measured and batched cocktails (minus the spirits of course) along with garnishes, custom ice, and more, for the thousands of event producers, brand managers, and agencies that are tasked with throwing cocktail events, but are not bartenders themselves. We provide the knowledge from our decades spent in the beverage industry to ensure our clients’ cocktails are perfect every time.

This has been an amazing learning opportunity so far, as literally every client we have had has given us great feedback, saying how the experience was seamless, the cocktails were delicious, and our system could or did help them conserve product, and therefore reduce costs.*

I have noticed however, that while everyone we tell about Swig + Swallow immediately recognizes the need for the service, so many potential clients who should be using us are not.  This question, “how do we go from being the best option in a pinch, to becoming the instant and immediate choice for events” is really what drives my thinking most days.

Of the various ways I could explain this phenomenon, I think lack of awareness is our biggest challenge- and therefore our greatest opportunity. The notion that fresh juices (not frozen juice or juice from concentrate) are essential to delicious cocktails is only now seeping into the mainstream, and clearly awareness of the superiority of our batching experience vs the norm (with few real standards) has yet to fully make news in the industry.

My plan to address the awareness issue is multifold, spanning design, sales, and marketing. It includes revamping the logo and website, so our visuals better communicate our process and points of differentiation (the logo redesign is complete, website is still in the works.) It also includes contributing interviews and editorial pieces to trade and consumer media, to ensure we reach our ideal clients (brand and agency folk) as well as our bar friends who clearly see the value, and often request our help for their larger events. Lastly, our sales strategy is layered, and encompasses pitching brands directly, pitching event hosts in their time of need, cold calling caterers to the stars, creating an influencer program that creates a mutually beneficial scenario for referrals, and so on and so forth.

In short, we are thrilled to be where we are at this moment, and we are excited about the future.  We truly believe that we are at a point in history when the mainstream palate and the craft cocktail world are converging…. Where lounges and high volume clubs want to offer a higher quality of cocktail, and the craft cocktail world wants to serve their guests more quickly, and with a greater diversity of presentations. Batching is step one of uniting these worlds, and we are excited to be around to help make it happen.

*Because preparation at the venue is so easy- clients pour their spirits into the jug with the batched non-alcoholic ingredients – clients can conserve alcohol and only add spirits to a half or quarter of the batch if they thought they’d have fewer attendees. (Typically you prebatch everything including alcohol for the maximum number of guests you might have, but this can be a tremendous waste of product if fewer guest show up.)

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Tech Picks for Launching Your Home Business (And Staying Organized)

Originally Posted on LinkedIn Pulse, Aug 15, 2015

I am the sort of person who would rot and die, or worse, implode- black hole style- in a traditional office environment. I can’t sit still, I’m constantly moving from room to room, I have extreme energy swings where I’m 10X more productive than the average person, then hours where I twiddle my thumbs, go for a run, or have to break from the task at hand in order to come back refreshed. 

Basically, I’m the cubicle dweller’s worst nightmare of a neighbor.

As such, I’ve made a lifetime career out of avoiding offices- finding non-traditional jobs working remotely, and working ‘in the field.’ The flip side of liberation of course is that it is just more difficult to stay organized when working from home, with pets, kids, social media, household duties, and hobbies as a constant distraction.

Or, at least, organization SEEMS like it should be more difficult when working at home.

 Luckily for us little guys, we are at a place with technology where often free or inexpensive apps and budding tech companies provide better, smarter, and more user-friendly services than are available at your cushy corporate job. While larger companies need long periods of time to adapt to new systems, little guys like us can identify new or well-endorsed technology, give it a whirl, and if we like it, use it to work organizational magic. All the benefits of having an office but minus the cubicle, the 8 hour days, and the commute in to work.

I do not claim to be an expert on technology or on launching startups, and I do not think working at home is a successful for every personality. But, I can tell you that I started discovering these tools several years ago when I worked for a multinational spirits company, and in particular Evernote and Boomerang enabled me stay far ahead of the curve on the many conference calls, the never-ending email threads, and the 24/7 schedule, while still carving out ample time for myself and my hobbies.

Today, as an individual entrepreneur I still use all of these tools, and they have allowed me to freelance like a boss, and launch my business(es) on the thinnest of shoestring budgets. I hope you enjoy, and if you have any add-ons, I would love to hear them! 

BEST CATCH-ALL ORGANIZATIONAL TOOL
Evernote

Evernote is kickass. I use this for every important bit of information in my life. You can use it on the web, download it for your mac, PC, tablet, smartphone. The basic program is free, you can upgrade for a small fee to access more advanced features, like access to notes offline, and sharing notes with collaborators in realtime.

What makes Evernote so killer is that you create ‘notebooks,’ and create individual ‘notes’ within the notebooks. You can switch the location (notebook) of the note at any time, and can create your own unique tagging key. You can incorporate images in your notes, and text in the images is searchable! Basically this means you can find any tiny tidbit of information in seconds. You can also send multiple notes in a single email in seconds (I believe this is only possible from your desktop, not your tablet or phone.) 

For example, when I worked for spirits brands, I created a cocktail database, complete with images. I could search for any word within the recipe, but I also created a tagging key for number of ingredients (3, 4, etc) and method (shaken, stirred, muddled, etc) so if our distributor partners needed ‘easy shaken cocktail recipes’ I could immediately locate all the recipes I had, and send them in a single email complete with images. Just amazing.

Evernote Web Clipper is also pretty boss. This is a little widget you install in your browser, and great to use for research. If you’re searching the web to accumulate information, you click the widget and it asks if you want to save a screenshot, bookmark, the full article, etc. It automatically saves it as a note in your database, and you can assign tags and a notebook when saving. Of course you can always change that information later.

 

“I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING AND NEED TO TEACH MYSELF” TOOL
Skillshare

Skillshare is an amazing database of thousands of skills-based, online classes, with great digestible classes in the fields of business, entrepreneurship, design, photography, culinary, music, writing, etc. Like many of these tools, I had a need for their services before they actually existed. Almost 5 years ago I was one of their first students and one of their first teachers when they still had a face-to-face model. At the time they were struggling to provide affordable access to great content, but they switched to an online model with $8-$10 monthly membership, and have done a killer job sourcing content from thought leaders in each space- Barbara Corcoran and Seth Godin being a couple of shining examples. (If you look hard enough, you can also find a beginner cocktail class of mine up on the site;))

 I can honestly say, I’ve learned so much from the SEO, marketing, photography, and social media classes… I’ve incorporated learnings from every class I took into building my current businesses.

In my mind, without a doubt, this is the best educational deal on the planet, and perfect for small businesses where you don’t have the option to hire outside help.

GENERAL COMMUNICATION TOOLS
Boomerang for Gmail

Boomerang genuinely changed my 24/7 lifestyle as a spirits brand ambassador from something exhausting and soul-sucking, into work that was pleasurable, and manageable, and would leave me feeling smug and delighted every time I sent an email. 

Boomerang is another (widget?) that you install in gmail. It does two remarkable things with resounding lifestyle implications.

  1. It allows to type/respond to emails at any time, and schedule an exact time to send it at a later date. If you’re someone, like myself, who like to work at all hours but doesn’t want to be bothered by endless email threads over the weekend or at the end of the day, this ensures you can respond, but don’t have to worry about the instant low priority response.
  2. You can schedule any email to return to your inbox at a later date, saying ‘return after X days if no reply,’ ‘return regardless,’ etc. I had one boss who would never respond until the deadline had just passed on my projects, leaving me looking like I didn’t take care of the project. After I found Boomerang, I would send my initial email, and schedule it to return a week or a few days before the deadline, so if he didn’t respond, I could hustle him. Literally no problems after that point.
  3. This last feature, is merely a hilarious implication of this awesome service. I had one boss who was super responsive Monday mornings, but less so after he was buried in work the rest of the week. As I had a very late night schedule, of course I didn’t want to be up at 9 am Monday morning, so I would write all my emails over the weekend and schedule them all to bombard him at 9 am, 9:01 am, 9:02 am, etc. When I announced what I was doing he was both indignant and thought it was hilarious, and I just continued to feel smug. Lol.

  

Hellosign

I started to use this tool when it was Hellofax- a service that allows you to store your legally binding signature in their software, and sign and fax documents without printing, scanning, etc. I am not sure why they changed names, but as far as I can tell, the service stayed the same. This is so amazing for the home office as you can upload any document you receive through email, add text, dates, check marks, and signatures, then email it to an email address, or EMAIL it to a fax number!! Mind blowing. The first 3 uploads per month are free- if you use it more often, you’ll pay a small monthly fee.

GET MY BUSINESS UP-AND-RUNNING TOOLS
LegalZoom

These guys are an excellent one-stop-shop for everything you need to get your business started. They have great resources on entity types, attorney services, trademarks, patents, and copyrights, tax advice, and more. Highly recommended.

Squarespace

If you’re looking to create a beautiful website with basically zero tech-savvy, Squarespace will blow your mind. Mind you, there are a few details that take some getting used to (like editing font style from a master menu within the style editor within the design menu, rather than on each page itself.)

That said, they provide beautiful templates, excellent customer service, and you can see what your site would look like before purchasing. Also, you get a free domain if you purchase hosting through them annually, or you can use a previously owned domain with Squarespace. 

**They also have a very helpful metrics app as well as a blogging app available for iPhone, for business owners on the go.

99 Designs

Need a logo, brochure, brand identity, web design, business cards?

99 Designs is a community of designers that has streamlined the process of describing a design brief. You choose the prize level (cost of the project) and designers submit designs for your feedback. You have several days to give feedback and choose finalists, then more time to refine your design with the winning designer. Really excellent, low cost way to get design work done. (I know of course that there are other services out there, but this is the one I’ve used, so it is the only one I can vouch for.)

Square

If you haven’t seen or heard of Square, you have definitely missed out on a transformational tool for small businesses. Square processes payments for businesses of all sizes. You have the option to take payments using several methods- their tiny Magstripe reader for smartphones, a POS stand for tablets, a chip reader, or my favorite method for my type of business, Square Invoicing. **You should note that while Square accepts any credit card for a flat percentage rate of 2.75%, the rate goes up to 3.5% + $.15 for any keyed in card numbers. The 2.75 % is lower cost than Paypal’s rates as well, but of course everyone has their preferences for various reasons.

 My experience with Square has been seamless, with payments transferring into my account within 2 days.

QUICK PHOTO EDITING FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Snapseed (app)

Photo editing may seem like a minor category next to filing paperwork to become a legal entity, but it is KEY to presenting a polished, professional appearance, especially when starting out.

Snapseed is a photo editing app for smartphones. What is distinct about this from any other app I’ve found is that you are able to edit brightness, contrast, and saturation selectively- meaning on small details, rather than on the entire photo as a whole. This enables you to create relatively precise edits to smartphone (or real camera photos) in seconds rather than spending hours in Photoshop on your desktop. Even real photographers think I’ve edited some of my images using expensive software….

 Square Ready (app)

We all know how annoying it is to lose part of your image in Instagram because they only upload square images! Square ready takes images of any shape and shrinks it just enough to fit into a Square for Instagram. Typically I do my major edits in Snapseed, pop it into Square Ready for ‘squaring,’ then publish via Instagram and Facebook. This works great for professional photos I’ve taken as well as smartphone photos. Typically takes 1-2 minutes for each photo in total.

 And there you have it! A not-entirely-comprehensive roundup of my favorite tools. Please post any add-ons or questions below- I am always in the market for new technology.

Thank you and have a great weekend!

:)

April W
Owner
Swig + Swallow
"Everything but the booze"

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Update: Swig + Swallow Batching + Delivery Service, Month 1

*Blog originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse, August 1, 2015

Just over a month ago I decided to take an idea I thought could be a game changing innovation in the beverage space, and make it into a living, breathing, reality.

I launched Swig + Swallow’s cocktail batching and delivery service with a single email to friends in the spirits world, one LinkedIn post, and a handful of updates to my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts.

I’ve decided to post a monthly update to LinkedIn, and I am thrilled to report that this first month of being in business has been truly amazing.

For those who may have missed my original post, the actual idea is stupidly simple....

When serving real cocktails at events (not two ingredient vodka soda/highball type drinks) consistency and speed of preparation are always an issue. Experienced bartenders and beverage consultants provide batching services for clients, where they mix all ingredients fully before the event, combining liquor and mixers en masse at the venue.

However, although batching resolves consistency and speed issues, even when batching cocktails there are a million things that can go wrong in the hours leading up the event, typically involving missing ingredients, last minute sourcing issues, limited batching containers, inappropriate facilities for batching liquids, and friction around training often inexperienced catering staff how to batch advanced cocktails at a moment’s notice. Additionally, there is typically a very short window to receive goods and batch at the venue, (often 2-4 hours before an event) adding stress to an already high-pressure situation. 

Swig + Swallow’s Batching + Delivery service removes a huge number of these challenges, and already in this first month of ‘official business’ I’ve been amazed at how smoothly every event has gone.

We take care of volume calculation, and tell the client how much alcohol they’ll need to order to the venue (we don’t order alcohol ourselves.) We then order and batch all mixers off the premises and deliver with space left in each container to add alcohol, clearly stating how many bottles to add per batching container. We wash and prepare all garnishes to cocktail bar quality standards, deliver them to the venue, and ensure the goods get into the organizer’s hands. For every one of these events (thus far) the handoff process has been a quick 5-15 minute affair, but we’re happy to spend extra time to ensure the organizer sets eyes on what they’ve ordered.

Feedback & Vision

Already we’ve had a handful of spirits companies use our services saying it’s the easiest batching experience they’ve had, and though it’s a fledgling business, we already have repeat business scheduled for the next few months!! Very exciting, but this is just the beginning.

My long-term vision for this service is to innovate in the following dimensions…. the combination of which will hopefully make us a pleasure to use:)

  1. Product Quality:
    We will provide a higher quality, more consistent product than what is currently available, by streamlining our production and delivery processes (utilizing commercial kitchen space, providing easily-handled disposable batching containers, removing the pain point of loading in and loading out batching equipment, etc)
     
  2. Cost Savings:
    The consultation/production/delivery structure magnifies the impact of our skilled workforce, enabling us to provide expert consultation for many events in a given night, rather than limiting us to overseeing singular events from start to finish. This will result in cost savings for clients because we can keep labor costs low while increasing sales and paying our employees a living wage.
     
  3. Transparent Pricing: **Update: We released $3 cocktail pricing effective August 12th, 2015
    We’re not there yet, but we are close to releasing a simple formula (cost per batched cocktail inclusive of cost of goods, labor and delivery) so our clients can estimate costs on their own and work us into their budgets, bypassing the messy back and forth typical when soliciting quotes.
     
  4. Customer Service:
    Per the above comment on cost savings, this particular structure is just a more efficient process than anything (that we know of) that exists for batching. As such, we will ensure that unlike most delivery services, whomever delivers the product is skilled, knowledgeable, and committed to delivering the product into the hands of the organizer, as well as prepared to troubleshoot should issues arise during delivery.

I’m not, of course, under the illusion that this process will be entirely smooth and without issues, but I do know that there is plenty of opportunity to raise the bar on batched cocktails and we’re just scratching the surface.

I’ll check in with you all again next month, but until then, happy cocktailing!

:)

April Wachtel
Owner, Swig + Swallow 

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Why my new cocktail batching service will change your event planning life

I’ve worked in the hospitality and beverage industry for almost 20 years, holding every position from busser to bartender to manager, to event planner, to spirits brand ambassador, to consultant.

Every private event brings with it hundreds of tiny details and includes a tremendous amount of pre-planning, delivery coordination, on-site logistics management, and staff training and oversight.

My 2 years of work as a spirits brand ambassador for Bacardi were particularly enlightening, as my team was regularly called upon to coordinate logistics for high volume, high profile regional and national cocktail events, as well as to provide general event management and emceeing services. I can tell you that executing craft cocktails consistently and at volume is insanely difficult, even for incredibly skilled, incredibly experienced event planners.

 When planning a cocktail event you need to vet or develop the cocktail recipes, understand what spirits brands are interchangeable and which are not, source fresh ingredients from appropriate sources, calculate yields for juicing and syrups or infusions, accumulate appropriate batching equipment, hire bartenders to calculate the proportions in the cocktails in large quantities, distribute all the goods amongst the bars, and train the staff in minutes how to make the cocktail to your specs.

This crazy complexity added on top of general event logistics results in planners and hosts far over-ordering, incurring higher costs to the client, or under-ordering, and serving inconsistent, incomplete, or just bad drinks.

 Enter Swig + Swallow’s Batching + Delivery Service.

I know this is a shameless pitch, but frankly, had this existed when I was regularly hosting large events, I would have used no other service.

Batching + Delivery is simple. The organizer (spirits company, event planner, chef caterer, corporation, etc) answers a few questions telling us how many cocktails they want to feature, how many guests are expected, how long the event will be… etc, and we calculate number of total cocktails, quantities of alcohol and mixers needed. Due to the logistics of liquor licensing, the organizer or venue will order the alcohol to arrive at the venue (we'll tell you what and how much.)

The magic part is that we order and batch all non-alcoholic mixers off of the premises, leaving space in each batching container with a line indicating where to fill with alcohol to complete the drink!

There is literally no measuring on the part of the organizer, no confusion about what types of juice or cordials or garnishes should have been ordered, no more making syrups in the bathroom or washing batching containers in the hotel shower.

 And what’s the downside you ask?

Well for now, we’re just in the New York Metro area….but, we’re always open to requests! Follow the link above to get a quote, or if you just want to get in touch, send me a note at april@swigandswallow.com

Happy drinking!!!

April Wachtel, Owner
Swig + Swallow

Follow me on:
Instagram @aprilwachtel
Twitter @april_wachtel

 

 

 

 

 

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Refreshing Summer Cocktails & Hey SHUGA!

"Summer has finally arrived in New York City, and there is no better season to find fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs overflowing from farmer’s market stalls. Vivid contrasting colors and a mélange of aromas, from aromatic basil and sage, to last seasons apples, to fresh baked bread, intermingle and delight, enticing you at every turn."

While I’ve worked with spirits brands and as a cocktail instructor for the past few years, my background is firmly rooted in restaurants, and it shows in my drinks. I love culinary inspired cocktails and mocktails, so you’ll see me sourcing top quality ingredients, and building a drink around one or two fruits, vegetables, or herbs; adding spirit, spice, sweet, citrus, and texture where necessary to supplement those original ingredients. 
 
I also try to source sustainable and minimally processed ingredients whenever possible. Ten years ago almost everyone I knew used sour mix and sodas from the gun, filled with high fructose corn syrup and added flavoring and coloring agents, and thankfully we have marked progress since then.
 
 In my mind, juices should always be super fresh, and produce should be local if at all possible.  I’m not a nut about always making ‘healthy’ cocktails, but I do want to know and approve of all ingredients that go into each drink I make.  In the sweetener department I avoid products with even a short list of ingredients and preservatives. I like to use products that are simple and only one or two ingredients, and if they need dilution or other flavors added, I do that myself à la minute.  

I developed the following cocktails for SHUGA! Organic Cane Syrups and Sweeteners, with the contingency that I would not endorse the products if I didn’t truly like them. I was pleased to find that the flavor profiles of both Hey SHUGA! Organic Cane Syrup and Lil SHUGA!- a blend of Organic Cane Syrup and Stevia Leaf extracts, were excellent. Hey SHUGA! has a hint of subtle bubblegum on the nose (as is common with liquid cane syrups), but with a warm honeyed palate.  There are 20 calories and 5g of sugar per teaspoon (comparable to honey and agave syrup.) 

Lil SHUGA! has the addition of Stevia Leaf extracts, which increases the perceived sweetness, enabling the use of less sweetener in relation to other components, and thus allowing for fewer calories from sugar in your recipes. Lil SHUGA! has 10 calories per teaspoon, and 3g of sugar. The flavor and aroma are soft, with a molasses nose, and an intense lingering sweetness.

The Drinks
NOW! On to the part you've been waiting for... the drinks! Many of you know that I've been making a lot of mocktails recently, and I'm happy to say that these drinks are delicious with or without alcohol (just add water in the place of alcohol and you'll get the proper dilution.)

For the first one, the Easy Breezy Pank Drank I went for a simple champagne cocktail, with strawberries, Lil SHUGA!, fresh lime juice, and champagne... (with optional Angostura bitters and mint as a garnish.) What can I say, pink bubbles are hard not to like;) I'm putting two recipes below for a single serving with Angostura and mint, as seen at the image at the top of the blog, and a large format pitcher version without garnish that makes 48 oz, or 9 servings.


For my second recipe, The BK Bramble, I got a little more involved and did a twist on Dick Bradsell's Bramble, using Brooklyn Gin (a local, 80 proof, citrus driven gin), Hey SHUGA! Organic Cane Syrup, fresh lemon juice, fresh blackberries instead of Creme de Mure, and a couple of thin slices of ginger for additional backbone and depth of flavor. I thought it would be fun to photograph each step as I went, so I hope you enjoy!!


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Big Week!!

So this has been a big week. As many of you know, I was on the Today show with Tamron Hall earlier in the week making mocktails and cocktails, (woot!) but the rest of the week has been great too! I had a blast, but am also glad that everything is finished and buttoned up- lots of moving parts!

Pouring the 'Eastern Sun' for Tamron- The 'Zen Mocktail' is off to the side. For a styled closeup of the drink, click here

Pouring the 'Eastern Sun' for Tamron- The 'Zen Mocktail' is off to the side. For a styled closeup of the drink, click here

Thursday I did a Maker's Mark Mint Julep demo at a Derby preview party at Goorin Brothers hat shop in the West Village. What an ideal partnership- Goorin Bros and Makers Mark teamed up to host journalists and prepare everyone for the Derby- I did a Mint Julep demo, the fine folks from Goorin did a hat styling demo, and a Paddock Analyst came and gave tips for picking a winning horse! Really well organized, and truly a successful event.

Friday I launched a new class at Audrey Claire Cook in Philly called 'Wow-worthy Cocktail Methods for Fun and Flavor.' Since we were executing this as a demo instead of a hands on class, I thought it would be cool to include some flashier methods than normal- so we did a New York Sour (Rye, lemon, simple, egg white, red wine float),  a drink I'm calling the 'Thai Pearl' (we made a jalapeño infused vodka in class with muddled ginger and cilantro, pineapple, lime, simple), classic Mint Juleps (but we swizzled them!!) and a smoked Cognac Old Fashioned with angostura and chocolate bitters, and Pedro Ximenez sherry as the sweet component. Yum!

Me and one of my great student volunteers making the 'Thai Pearl' for the class!

Me and one of my great student volunteers making the 'Thai Pearl' for the class!

And last but not least, the kind folks from Aquavitae Institute, a bartending school in Center City Philadelphia invited me to present to a group of students in their professional bartending course on Saturday. My friend Ori Geshury, Director of Education asked me to choose  any topic that was meaningful to me (love the strategy) , so I did a seminar I'm calling 'The Bartender has 9 Lives: Reinventing your Career in the Beverage Industry.' The seminar was a compilation of the 9 most important lessons I've learned thus far in my career that have enabled me (and continue to enable me) to evolve, and learn, and grow, that I wished someone had told me years ago when I was first starting out.

Thinking back to how green I was when I went to bartending school eons ago, I am curious to know if these thoughts will ultimately resonate with any of the students in their future careers. I know I was in an entirely different frame of mind back then, but I also know that the zeitgeist of the beverage world was wholly different. This was Boston circa 2002, so The B-Side Lounge (the first classic cocktail spot in the city) had only been open for a few years and Green Street wasn't even open yet. Milk and Honey would have opened a couple of years prior in NYC, with Flatiron and Employees Only soon to follow. Thus the cocktail renaissance was just starting out globally, and every bartender I knew still seemed to be about shots and sour mix and Apple Martinis (of which I drank far too many, lol.) If someone came into that context and told me I could develop skills as a bartender that would enable me to reach for and realize my dreams, I'm not sure if I would have believed it.

These days, almost 15 years later, bartending is no longer just something you do while you're waiting for your acting career to take off (though it does offer flexibility for a range of professional circumstances), but it's an opportunity to learn and showcase a craft, to launch a writing career, a spirits brand, a TV show. Crazy and amazing how far we've come.

Ori showcasing the great library at Aquavitae. They teach hybrid content so students can learn speed and working flair, but also have access to cocktail and hospitality training, and books like Liquid Intelligence, the Death & Co book, and Setting the Table.

Ori showcasing the great library at Aquavitae. They teach hybrid content so students can learn speed and working flair, but also have access to cocktail and hospitality training, and books like Liquid Intelligence, the Death & Co book, and Setting the Table.

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Challenging the Status Quo

I know I've mentioned Seth Godin before, and his words have been on my mind much as of late. He's a hard person to put in a box, but I might classify him as a wise man, author, and business guru....you could also describe him as a practical philosopher, revolutionary marketer, and badass. Long story short, you should check out his work.

I first heard an interview with him on the life-changing podcast 'On Being', (seriously my best new find in the past couple of years) and have since bought several of his books and signed up for his daily blog posts. Hell, I even wrote to him to thank him for his words of inspiration and he wrote back! Super cool.

In any case, the below blog post landed in my email inbox a few days ago, though I only opened it just now. I've been thinking about the status quo a lot recently, as when I describe my mocktail project to people, they look at me like I have 5 heads, then warm to the idea and get really excited when they hear more detail. Part of it is that I'm still refining the language around it (it's not easy to explain a very new, strange idea in the time allotted to a standard greeting) but each interaction makes me realize that no one has dedicated the time and effort to make mocktails relevant, and hence, it challenges the status quo.

As a related aside, I taught my second class at Audrey Claire Cook yesterday and both times I was struck that they write checks for their guest instructors on the spot. In almost 20 years working in the hospitality and beverage industry, I've never seen that- it's always weeks to months to receive a check- and got me thinking of principles that are important to me as I build my own business. In an industry that operates on credit and often on shoestring budgets, it is so refreshing to see a business model that rises above the rest. 

I have still to announce my major plans on expanding my business because it is way too early to share, (I have to build it first) but when the time comes, I am certain that not only is it possible to run a business where all employees are respected and compensated appropriately, but in fact it is, as Godin suggests below, building a foundation upon which people can flourish and grow. Maybe it's 'anti-business' but to me, it's a worthy idea of real value.

 

(The following post is copied and pasted from Seth Godin's blog on April 16th, 2015)

I am 'anti-business', you might be too

 

A hundred and fifty years ago, when people finally began organizing to eliminate child labor in American factories, they were called anti-business. There was no way, the owners complained, that they could make a living if they couldn’t employ ultra-cheap labor. In retrospect, I think businesses are glad that kids go to school--educated workers make better consumers (and citizens).

Fifty years ago, when people realized how much damage was being done by factories poisoning our rivers, those supporting the regulations to clean up the water supply were called anti-business. Companies argued that they’d never be able to efficiently produce while reducing their effluent. Today, I think most capitalists would agree that the benefits of having clean air and water more than make up for what it costs to create a place people want to live—the places that haven't cleaned up are rushing to catch up, because what destroys health also destroys productivity and markets. (And it's a good idea).

When the bars and restaurants went non-smoking in New York a decade ago, angry trade organizations predicted the death knell of their industry. It turns out the opposite happened.

The term anti-business actually seems to mean, “against short-term waste, harmful side effects and selfish shortcuts.” Direct marketers were aghast when people started speaking out against spam, but of course, in the long run, ethical direct marketers came out ahead. 

If anti-business means supporting a structure that builds a foundation where more people can flourish over time, then sign me up.

A more interesting conversation, given how thoroughly intertwined business and social issues are, is whether someone is short-term or long-term. Not all long-term ideas are good ones, not all of them work, but it makes no sense to confuse them with the label of anti-business.

Successful businesses tend to be in favor of the status quo (they are, after all, successful and change is a threat) perhaps with a few fewer regulations just for kicks. But almost no serious businessperson is suggesting that we roll back the 'anti-business' improvements to the status quo of 1890.

It often seems like standing up for dignity, humanity and respect for those without as much power is called anti-business. And yet it turns out that the long-term benefit for businesses is that they are able to operate in a more stable, civilized, sophisticated marketplace.

It’s pretty easy to go back to a completely self-regulated, selfishly focused, Ayn-Randian cut-throat short-term world. But I don’t think you’d want to live there.

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Fine-ish Herbes

Many of you likely know that Fine Herbes pop up everywhere in french cooking- the classic 4 herbs are Tarragon, Parsley, Chive, and Chervil. I was thinking about another classic pairing recently- grapes and tarragon, and decided to unite the two concepts into one mocktail. When I made it with the below specs it was very yummy, but was a sorry purple color (what you get when you muddle green herbs into muted purple juice) and so I added roughly a quarter ounce of the beet vinegar I made the other day for color. Turns out it added a really lovely layer of soft acidity, so I would actually recommend it this way. 

Oh and one other thing. Somehow though I looked through 2 farmers markets and two well equipped grocery stores, no Chervil was to be found. Hence the name 'Fine-ish Herbes' as it's not quite the complete quartet.

 

'Fine-ish Herbes'

Red grape juice (just put it through your centrifugal juicer)           3
Celery Juice                                                                                                            1
Beet Vinegar*                                                .25  (add in bsp and taste as you go)
Fine Herbes                                          Pinch of each, depending on how much you like herbs:)

Muddle herbs in a mixing glass or tin. Add liquid ingredients, shake and double strain into a rocks glass over ice. Make a small bouquet with the herbs of your choice, and place inside the glass. Nibble the herbs while drinking if preferred:)         
 

*Beet vinegar- this was simple to make- I boiled 4 medium sized beets and beet greens in water until they were soft and the water was deep pink. (Roughly 8-10 min.) I poured out most of the water, conserving 1 cup, and added two cups of apple cider vinegar to the cup of pink beet water and the beets. In my case this covered the beets- if yours doesn't, add more water and more vinegar back in, in the same ratio (2 parts vinegar to 1 part pink water.) This made a flavorful but softly acidic ingredient which has proven to be pretty versatile as well.

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La Piñata

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La Piñata

Hey all, here's the specs for La Piñata! 

 

I was feeling kind of tropical today and also wanted to keep it simple cause some of these recent mocktails have been a little beyond the capacity of the average home tinkerer;)

I hope you like, summer is not far off!

 

 'La Piñata' 

Pineapple         2

Cucumber         1

Ginger root       4 alices

Add ginger to a mixing glass or tin. Muddle. Add remaining ingredients, shake and fine strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an edible orchid if available. Enjoy!

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Damascus Dame

Guys I said it on Instagram already but the aerial shot didn't look gorgeous so I'm going to reshoot. Here's a side view in the meantime.

This is super delicious and would be perfect for a summer brunch, picnic, or party. I love dried apricots, so I stewed some in water, and added a tiny bit of fresh squeezed oj for sweetness. I strained it then carbonated it for sparkle, (this is optional, it's awesome either way) and added an orange twist for aroma. Delicious, for realz! 

I generally am against derivative mocktails 'let's make a Margarita with no tequila or cointreau!' because I think they are just not that original, and why stay inside the constraints....? BUT, you may notice the more than passing resemblance here to a mimosa or bellini... now that I've made a mocktail with scented water, I'm totally on board to develop many more. This just captured the dried apricot so well, I'm in love!

'Damascus Dame'

Apricot Water                     5.5 parts (or whatever fills your champagne flute)
Fresh Squeezed OJ           .25 parts
Orange Twist for garnish

To make apricot water:
Simmer
Place 4-6 dried california apricots in a pot on the stove with 1 cup of water (more will make a more intensely flavored water, fewer will make it more lightly flavored.) Bring to a simmer, simmer for 20-30 min. Taste. If more flavor is desired, either simmer for longer, or cover and let sit. (I left mine accidentally overnight and it developed a bit more flavor.)

Strain
Remove apricots (you can mix with sugar and make into a jam if you'd like.) Strain water and oj through a chinois and preferable a coffee filter for perfect clarity.

Carbonate
This is optional- it's still delicious if you don't have a way to carbonate. I placed my strained water/juice into a Perlini Shaker, added ice and CO2, and shook and strained into a champagne flute. You can also use a soda stream, or try out other methods of carbonation.

Twist
Orange and apricot are an awesome combo, but too much orange will obscure the delicate apricot flavor. Express a small amount of orange oil by twisting the orange peel over the surface of the cocktail. Enjoy!!

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Visible Learning and The Dream

I’ve been really excited about something recently that I’m calling ‘Visible Learning.’

I strongly suspect that others may have another name for this, but this seems fitting so I’m running with it.

I believe there’s a dissonance in the education system as well as in our broader culture that states learning to be the main objective but then accepts no works-in-progress, or even shuns them. As luminaries like Sir Ken Robinson (mentioned in a previous blog post here) and Seth Godin (my new hero) will espouse, this is a result of our education system being designed during the era of industrialization and being modeled in its image.  Kids born in the same year must learn at the same rate, and perform similarly to make it in life, hence standardized testing, and individual evaluation as opposed to evaluation of a collaborative group- all grave fallacies with long lasting implications.

As an adult and someone who teaches a bunch of beverage classes (at this point I have roughly 10 that I teach at 4 schools) I think about this a lot. All of my classes are currently recreational, one-session classes. On one hand this is great because people who pay to attend one class are more likely to show up in the first place, be engaged, be open to having fun, and feel uninhibited about asking for feedback on their creations. On the other hand, this makes critique a funny thing (a lot of people don’t want it) and the practice of Visible Learning –the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow- hard to achieve….there’s just not enough time.

So what is this ‘Visible Learning’ you ask?

I am defining Visible Learning as the confidence to put yourself out there- to put your work out there- knowing it may be ugly and imperfect, but that’s where you are and you’re proud of it. It’s the willingness to not only seek critique, but to embrace it and thrive on it. It’s the acknowledgement that while you may want to be perfect right away, the more empowering reality is to invest the time- reserving judgment- and when you turn around you’ll be amazed by your progress. Basically it’s the courage to learn joyfully without judgment or fear of comparison…the courage to be authentically you.

 I’ve experienced this phenomenon in groups only a couple of times in my life- once in design school when my class of 20 got together to critique individual projects, and for 15 minutes people dropped their egos and had an honest and constructive conversation. Somehow that ‘safe space’ disappeared after those 15 minutes- I think someone made a snarky remark and all of the sudden guards were up again. I remember being very sad that the teacher didn’t rein the group back in and hold us accountable, because that was the closest we came to sublime collaboration in my entire academic career.

The second time I experienced this in a group was actually this past weekend. I have been going to an amazing yoga school, run by two incredibly warm, open, incredibly intuitive women. They organized a yoga retreat a couple of hours north of the city, and 15 of us trekked up and spent the weekend there.  All I can say is that it was the most fun, most heart opening experience I’ve had in years. People took a lot of risks sharing themselves, and the reward- love, confidence, community, empowerment- has already had resounding impact on my life.

One of the factors that made this retreat experience possible was the understanding that it was a safe place. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we live in a world full of judgment- of questioning whether people’s intentions, tone, attitude are intended to hurt us or not. The more we can strip away our fears of that judgment, the more empowered we will be and the higher we will soar.

This brings me to a dream I’ve been nurturing recently. Some people reading this may have seen my mocktail photos (themselves a joyful exercise in Visible Learning- I know they’re not perfect but frankly I don’t really care, I love making them and photographing them and drinking them:)).  A bunch of people have been encouraging me to make them into a book, (including some friends who initially thought I was a wack-job for wanting to make beautiful mocktails) and I’ve decided to pursue it! But publishing a book doesn’t get to the heart of what I want to do with this, and I’ve been mulling over this part for years.

‘The Dream: Part 2’ is that I want to create a space where I can serve beautiful healthy food and drinks to people- that is a safe community space, a place of learning, of collaboration, of actually genuinely giving of ourselves without ego, a place that welcomes Visible Learning. (I actually already decided that I want a little sign on the door saying ‘Please check your ego at the door’ with an arrow pointing to a basket labeled ‘ego check.’) LOL.

In any case, ‘The Dream: Part 1’ is already in progress (though if anyone has thoughts on content or what publisher might be a good fit, ideas would be super appreciated.) We’ll see how long it might take for ‘Part 2’ to happen, but it’s on the brain. Maybe it starts as a pop up or as a multi day class, who knows. For now, excitement is a great start:)

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'Sorry, lady, but that is definitely not a Mint Julep'

This is a title stolen cheekily from my buddy and cocktail writer extraordinaire. He wrote a blog post of this title with a video showing a lady make an abomination of a Mint Julep, then posted a video on how to make one properly. View the blog post and videos here.

This mocktail is also definitely not a Mint Julep (hence why I think the title's funny).... but it IS delicious! I drank it first this this morning after making it, and it is super duper refreshing, and a great start to the day:)

*By the way- I'm making an exception to my 'no added sugar' rule, as you need the sugar to carry the mint flavor....this will be an infrequent exception.

'Sorry, lady, but that is definitely not a Mint Julep'

Mint Granita* See recipe below- you'll need this entire batch for a standard julep cup
Pineapple                2
Celery                      2
Mint leaves              8-10

Prepare Granita as below. Place mint leaves in the bottom of a Julep cup and muddle, pressing gently. Add juice, and granita on top. Stir when cup is 3/4 full to frost the cup, then cap the granita into a snow cone shape. Sprinkle granita on top, like you would salt food (using your fingers.) Garnish with Cilantro sprigs (no leaves)...it's nice to nibble these as you drink. Also, though there is no straw in the first photo, you need one to properly enjoy this drink. Get badass metal julep straws from Cocktail Kingdom here.

Granita
*Granita recipe and visual inspiration taken from Dabbous the Cookbook. I paraphrase here a bit and add my own thoughts.

Mint                      150 grams
Water                    500 ml
Salt                         2 grams
Caster sugar      40 grams
Spinach               50 grams

Divide mint between 2 bowls. Bruise mint in one bowl, bring salt/water/sugar to a boil, pour over bruised mint and cover with cling film for 10 min. Strain through a chinois- press down well.

Bruise mint in a second bowl and pour mint liquid over it. (I let it sit for another 10 min), and strain as before. Transfer to a blender and add spinach. Blend for 3 seconds. Strain again, and pour into a shallow dish or sheet pan and place in freezer. Once frozen scrape with spoon or fork to separate ice crystals. (I had more success scraping with a spoon and mashing with a fork.)
 

If you want to make larger quantities, scrape granita from pan and place in a quart container, cover, and store in the freezer. 
 


 

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Website revamp and Mocktail recipes to date

Guys, apologies for the clunkiness here- I'll be making some big-ish changes to this website, so for the next few weeks it might be a little confusing where things are. The cool thing is that the website is changing to reflect Swig and Swallow's changing identity and I'm amped about the new direction!! I'll be migrating all the content over here from my other website, www.aprilwachtel.com, so my classes, Mocktail feed, press, and various projects and services have a single home, as opposed to being scattered as they are now.

First order of business is to get all the Mocktail recipes over here from Instagram. I can see from the metrics that a lot of people are coming here specifically to view the recipes I've been posting each day, and I want to make it easier for you to see everything at once rather than having to flip through the recipes in Instagram.

Comment below if you have a better idea of how to display this (I wanted to also maintain the images in gallery format, as I think they look so nice contrasting each other) but at the moment with this specific site template I can't figure out how to display them in grid format along with the text in a way that still keeps them clean and uncluttered. 

Cool, all the recipes are below... hope you enjoy! :)

Recipes

*All of the fruit/vegetable ingredients listed are fresh juice unless otherwise specified. These are not good- or good for you- with frozen juice, canned juice, or juice from concentrate, so beware the illusion of the shortcut! 

*I prepare these recipes in liquid ounces, though you can easily change the language to 'cups' or 'parts' as long as the ratios stay the same.

*'Fine straining' means to strain a second time, through a tea strainer or chinois. 

 

Green Machine.JPG

'Green Machine'

Kale                       1
Grapefruit          1
Green Apple      1
Celery                   1
Jalapeño              2 slices
Cilantro                large pinch

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin.  Add ice, shake and fine strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a pinch of salt and cilantro.

 

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'Carrot vs Stick'

Fresh OJ             4
Carrot                 splash
Ginger                 2 slices

Muddle ginger to a mixing glass or tin. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with drops of chili oil and a whole chili.

 

'Beet Down'

Beet                       2
Green Apple      2
Ginger                 2 slices

Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan until light brown. Mix in kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Dip rim of glass into a plate of fresh juice or honey syrup. Dip in sesame/salt/pepper mixture and set aside.

Muddle ginger to a mixing glass or tin. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and fine strain into the rimmed coupe glass.  Garnish with drops of sesame oil and enjoy!

 

'Bright Eyes' Celery Stalk, Cracked Pepper Garnish

Pineapple                        4
Green Apple                    1
Celery                                 1
Fresh Lime                        1 bsp (1/8 part)
Apple Cider Vinegar     1 bsp (1/8 part)

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin.  Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with cracked pepper and a leafy celery stalk.

 

'Zen Mocktail'

Pineapple                     1
Celery                            1
Cucumber                    1
Kosher salt                  1  pinch

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin. Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with drops of sweet Balsamic vinegar, and cucumber batons. 

 

Carrot.JPG

'For Eyes'

Carrot                         2
OJ                                 2
Green Apple              1
Ginger                          Large chunk (.25 in or so)

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin. Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe glass. Shake, garnish with curry powder.

 

'Spring Surprise'

Pear                          3
Celery                      1
Lemon                     .5
Ginger root            .25 inch, sliced
Vanilla Bean         .25 (scraped)

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin. Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe. Garnish with a celery curl.



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"There's a fungus amongus"

....is what my grandmother joked when any of us grandkids pouted- hinting that our lower lips looked like mushroom caps, and cheering us up. So, while it may not be the most appetizing of all names for mushroom mocktails, that's what it'll be;)

'There's a fungus amongus'

Shitake Broth*                                                2
Black Tea (I used English Breakfast)    1
Tamari                                                                1 tiny barspoon (1/16 of an oz)
Rice Wine Vinegar                                         1 dash
Salt                                                                        To taste, I used 4 pinches

Build all ingredients in a mixing glass. Taste at room temperature, then either pour as is into a coupe, or add ice, stir, and strain into a coupe. Garnish with seared or torched scallions.

*To make Shitake broth, place .5 ounces rehydrated dried,  and .5 oz fresh Shitakes in 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Add 2 cups of water and reduce by half. Repeat, adding additional Shitakes if desired. Strain immediately and reserve liquid.

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Mocktails!

So I've been on a bit of a mocktail craze these days and my great friend Alli reminded me that I should be folding these into my website (great call) so this blog will also be a home for my mocktail pics and specs. This first one is from my Mocktail-a-day project, Day 10. (I'll retro post the others too.) All juices are fresh and can be made with a centrifugal juicer and standard barware. Comment below if you want a full list of recommended tools.

Hope you enjoy!!

:)

'Lambs Blood'

Green Apple Juice          4 oz
Lime Juice                       .25 oz
Raspberries                     6-8 depending on ripeness
Mint leaves                      6-8

Cilantro sprigs (leaves removed) and Mint Oil for garnish

Muddle raspberries and mint in a mixing tin. Add juice and ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe. Carefully place cilantro sprigs and garnish with mint oil. Enjoy!

 

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