Two years ago, Maria Littlefield and Jennie Ripps left their jobs in marketing to start a company, and they began with a vision of making tea cocktails. The duo began a tea cocktail lab a floor above their marketing firm to get their idea got off the ground, and eventually, an idea for a tea cocktail mixer was born.
Today, the partners have a successful line devoted to that concept called Owl's Brew, good for crafting complex and inventive cocktails that happen to contain the benefits of tea, including vitamins and antioxidants.
What was the inspiration behind Owl's Brew? On-premise cocktails have never been so sophisticated, and there's a huge disconnect between the fantastic and complex mixologist-style cocktails one can find at a bar or restaurant, and the ready-to-pour mixes one can find on the shelf. At the same time, while the at-home-bar category is flourishing, those fantastic celery bitters that you bought to spruce up your home bar last year are still just sitting on it (who really knows what to do with celery bitters?) We also own a tea company, Brew Lab Tea, so it didn’t take us long to think of an innovative and delicious (and tea-based) solution!
How do you develop the flavors? Have you tried some that haven't worked? When we first started, we created lots of fresh-brewed specialty tea cocktails on-site at events. We developed the blends in our tea lab and added spices, fruits and herbs — until we found a flavor profile that enhanced and complimented the liquor(s) we were pouring with.
When creating the three Owl’s Brew blends, we made sure each of them would pair perfectly with spirits, and that they were super-versatile — all three flavors pair well with a wide variety of liquor, but also with beer, and Pink & Black is even great with a rose!
What makes your product different than other cocktail mixers? Owl's Brew is different than other mixers in that we’re the first tea-based mixer. Owl’s Brew also offers a new way to think about cocktail mixers - our brews are ideal for mixing with various spirits, not just one. The flavor profile of the tea is light, fresh, and versatile and therefore can be mixed with anything from vodka, bourbon, to even beer.
How do you most often use your product? Jennie's go-to Owl's Brew cocktail to make is The Classic with Bourbon while Maria's choice is always mixing Pink & Black with Tequila.
What was the most unexpected way of using Owl's Brew? We were most surprised at how well Owl's Brew paired with beer. Beer cocktails have definitely been our drink of choice recently, they have a delicious and light flavor profile and we think they will definitely be a big trend this summer. We personally love mixing The Classic with a wheat beer to create a delicious shandy-style beverage.
What advise do you have for small business owners? Jennie’s advice is don’t be afraid to seek out mentors and advisors — speaking to people with experience in your field can help accelerate your path to market, and your business’ growth. Also - the advice of mentors may help you avoid expensive mistakes (whether in terms of money, or time). Maria’s advice is “always be prepared to be prepared” — meaning that as a small business, how you respond to opportunities can be make it or break it. If you’re well-organized, you have a much better chance of being able to assess and then participate in a good opportunity.
What’s next for your business? We recently came out with gift-sets (8oz trio packs, for our three flavors). Each mini bottle is about 4 cocktails and the set is a great introduction to the product line. We’re also planning a big happy hour program this summer that we’re super-excited about — it will be local to NYC and Los Angeles.
What is your guilty pleasure? Our guilty pleasure is…the Herb Alpert at Mayahuel and sushi at 15 East 15th. YUM!