Ever since I started Distillerista, I’ve kept a Google Doc a mile long with names of like-minded companies and brands to reach out to for content ideas or partnerships. Cocktail Subscription Services (think Birchbox meets Blue Apron, but with booze!) and specifically Thirty3Club, were high on that list of contemporaries to get in touch with. Thanks to a busy schedule, that Google Doc doesn’t always get the love it deserves, but lucky for me the folks at Thirty3Club beat me to it! When their co-founder Lisa reached out to chat distilling and collaboration ideas I was over the moon. Thanks to our newfound friendship, there’s a ton of exciting Thirty3Club-sponsored content in the pipeline for you but before we jump in, let me introduce you!
What is Thirty3Club?
Thirty3Club is bridging the gap between the bar and your home, bringing the craft cocktail experience to your kitchen. We are a purveyor of craft cocktails, aiming to elevate any drinker’s repertoire through education on spirits, recipes, and techniques steeped in tradition and being invented every day.
Explain more about cocktail subscription services.
Each month we deliver two craft cocktail recipes with step-by-step directions, instructional videos, all of the ingredients required to mix four drinks at home, and the latest and greatest from the industry. To keep it fresh we continuously partner with top bars, bartenders, and distilleries – we don’t even know what’s coming next!
How the idea for Thirty3Club came about?
Thirty3Club stemmed from two successful startups we admire – Blue Apron and Birchbox. We love the experience of discovering tasty recipes, learning new cooking techniques, and creating something ourselves from the Blue Apron meal kit boxes. Birchbox, on the other hand, offers sample sizes, an element of surprise, and an online store to complement the monthly subscription. Thirty3Club is the Blue Apron for craft cocktails combined with Birchbox’s forced exploration and comprehensive online store. We do not just want to offer education, but also house a repository of recipes, tools, glassware, and spirits online creating a single hub for all things cocktails.
Tell us about your team! Who’s behind Thirty3Club?
Humans are naturally curious creatures with a thirst for mastery. Bartending has been a craft reserved for those who dedicate their careers to it, but Thirty3Club is challenging this notion. We began as four friends who enjoyed fancy drinks, but as we started to ask questions, dig, research, and ask more questions, we quickly realized there was so much more than a cocktail sitting in front of us. Whether an industry professional looking to expand your palate, or a novice as we were, there is always something new to discover. And we have not stopped discovering. What’s really unique about Thirty3Club’s founding team, is none of us come from the industry, so we are constantly crafting the experience for likeminded subscribers. All of us come from corporate America (advertising, engineering, sales, and data science), so we are constantly networking and finding new talent to work with from the industry. This makes for a more diverse experience, that incorporates different perspectives and personalities into each cocktail.
What does an average day look like for you and your team? Do you all still keep a “day job?”
The average day is hectic, but we have made enormous strides to streamline processes and are more organized each month. At the moment, all four of us work traditional 9-5 day jobs, and spend the majority of our mornings, evenings, and weekends working on Thirty3Club. Fortunately, our jobs do grant us the flexibility for calls, meetings, and other areas of the startup needing attention during the daylight. Before launching we were in research mode – experimenting with shipping, polishing packaging, and working with lawyers on the legal hurdles in the very heavily regulated space. Now we are focused on the backend, to set us up for success when we scale, and the front end to fill the pipeline for upcoming months. Our team tirelessly searches for the best partners to bring the highest quality product to market.
How long did it take from idea inception to actually shipping your first box?
From the late evening laying in bed when the idea struck, to shipping our very first for-revenue box, it took roughly a year. The first few months were casual market research, but it quickly became obvious we were onto something. We then transitioned into legal mode, teaming with lawyers and domain experts to pick their brains on rebottling spirits, selling the alcohol, and shipping boxes. Once the idea was validated and proven legal, we had about three months of prototyping and beta testing. Then the first few glorious boxes were delivered in November 2015.
Starting any alcoholic beverage-related business is tough. Restrictions, regulations, red tape, etc. are rampant. What was the most challenging speed bump on the road to launching Thirty3Club?
Thirty3Club targets to not just introduce subscribers to new craft cocktail recipes, but also new brands, because the final concoction is truly a sum of its parts. Therefore, we wanted to focus on the highest quality products, local companies, and all things craft. Before we started Thirty3Club, the only sample sized bottles of spirits we could get our hands on, were from the big name brands drinkers are familiar with. Our first two months we went the simple route of working with these spirits, but since have transitioned to working with smaller craft distilleries, who’s love and passion is poured into every bottle. This required navigating the regulations regarding bottle sizes, rectification, labeling, and procuring, but also working hand in hand with these craft brands that are entering unchartered territory as well. Fortunately, the alcoholic beverage-related industry is a unique community, and we have been welcomed and supported to date. Each company has their own objectives and priorities, but there is clearly a sense of camaraderie and known fact we will go further together.
I love Thirty3Club’s focus on education and technique. What was the inspiration behind this aspect of your company culture?
As we began forming Thirty3Club, competitive research identified a clear gap in the marketplace. For example, recipes across the internet consist of 1 part this, 2 parts that, and do not compare to the food norm, where you will find detailed, step-by-step cooking instructions. How would beginner bartenders know to dry shake some ingredients, while muddling and stirring others? Does the order matter? How about a floral verse herbal gin? It always matters, and the best bartenders carefully curate their craft cocktails. Ultimately, it was essential to focus on education and technique, but it also creates a better experience. We like to say it’s like learning a new language, except you get a buzz.
How involved are bars and bartenders/mixologists with the development of each box?
Our partners are integral to the development of each and every box. We contemplated having an in-house bartender formulate each box, but then realized the diverse cultures we would glance over, the local twists we would never discover, and the amazing stories that would never be told. Before we launched the company, we met a gentleman so bright and motivated, he could have excelled in any profession. We were interested to learn why he chose to dedicate his life behind the bar. This man was no bartender though, more of a magician, bringing to life old traditions and dreaming up new ones. Mixing foreign ingredients with funny tools, he concocted an elixir of amazing smells, textures, and tastes, served with an incredible tale of history and culture, worth the price alone. This is a craft cocktail, and these masters of the craft exist in every city. Thirty3Club is determined to share their wisdom, and we hope that brings an unparalleled experience to your home, each and every month.
How important is the craft liquor industry to Thirty3Club’s mission? Do you try to feature craft spirits in your boxes? If so, why?
Making craft cocktails with poor ingredients is analogous to putting an average car’s engine in a Ferrari. It appears fancy and worth the extra money, but is missing the heart and soul. Craft spirits are the heart and soul of cocktails. Each distillery has a unique twist and story that adds an essential layer to the Thirty3Club experience. For this reason, we go the extra mile to pair recipes with the best craft spirits, and make them accessible and convenient.
Do you plan to continue featuring California-specific craft spirits?
Sunny San Diego will forever be Thirty3Club’s birthplace, and we will strive to support the community as it has done for us. Southern California is becoming the craft distillery Mecca as it already is for breweries, which makes it a no brainer for getting off the ground. While the craft spirit movement may be most heavily concentrated here, we would not be doing our subscribers justice if we neglected the rest of the great distilleries spanned across the nation. We are already branching out of Southern California, and will have many surprises down the road, so stay tuned!
In terms of a hypothetical anonymity – to – mainstream spectrum (On a scale of 1-10, 1 being “completely unknown” and 10 “house hold notion”), where do you feel the American “Craft” Distilling industry is today and how would you describe this phase we’re in?
The craft cocktail boom is already here. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., beer has continued to loose shares of US alcohol revenue over the last six years. The Wall Street Journal writes, “The liquor industry – once the pariah of the alcohol world – has been steadily gaining popularity due to a major cocktail renaissance…because of fickle young drinkers.” And now supply is ramping up to meet this demand. In a Harvard Business Review Interview with Aviation Gin, founder Thomas Mooney lays it flat out; “there are probably around 300 craft distilleries today. Is that a lot? Well, there were 5,000 distilleries in the US at the end of the 19th century. So it took Prohibition to make that go away, and maybe we’re just starting to work our way back to historically normal numbers. There are over 2,300 craft breweries.” You cannot open a hip, trendy restaurant nowadays without a solid craft cocktail program. However, that’s just craft cocktails, not craft spirits, and excludes those who live outside the reach of urban trends. Therefore, we would put the American craft distilling industry at a 4. The industry is on the precipice of becoming more mainstream in large part due to the craft cocktail boom. This is where Thirty3Club has a unique opportunity, since we have the ability to introduce craft cocktails and distilleries to an audience who otherwise may not have access.
What’s on the horizon for Thirty3Club? Where do you see the company in a year?
Thirty3Club is at an exciting point in the lifecycle of a company, as we are still constantly learning about our product and target demographic. Everyday new opportunities present themselves, and several major pivots may yet exist in the future. In a year we see Thirty3Club being a major player in the craft cocktail and spirit conversation, playing an important role in the expansion and mainstream adoption. We hope to reach this goal by continuing to produce an amazing product and experiences that highlight what this industry is all about.
Why should someone subscribe to Thirty3Club?
If you enjoy drinking, discovering, and doing, then Thirty3Club is for you. You could order text books, spend hours chatting with your local bartender, or you could sign up for Thirty3Club. All of the knowledge to become your own bartender, find your favorite spirits, and order better drinks than James Bond is now accessible, delivered right to your doorstep.
Who is the ideal person who should be subscribing?
Thirty3Club is targeting adventurous drinkers who are looking to elevate their repertoire through education on spirits, recipes, and techniques. We have all too often heard the New Years resolution of cutting back on alcohol, but we suggest making a goal to drink better instead, and Thirty3Club will show you the way.
What can we look forward to in the next box(es)?!
As Thirty3Club becomes a household name in the industry, expect more unique brands and partnerships. Additionally, it is a priority to both expand our store with more premier products and craft spirits not available in your local liquor store, and of course, be a hub for education to become a knowledgeable drinker and bartender. If you think craft cocktails, recipes, products, etc., and Thirty3Club is not your first stop, then we have failed.
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