Alchemist of Spirits

The Story of Alchemist of Spirits

This is our story. It’s part business story, part love story.

It’s told by Jessica, because it started years ago, way back before Brian and Jessica had ever even met.

Prologue
When this story starts, I (Jessica) was living in Southern California and was the CEO of a Girl Scout council. Brian was living in the Lower East Side and was managing jazz artists for Jazz Tree.

At that point, neither of us knew the other existed.

And here’s where it began…

Back in December 2008, Bon Appetit published this story about a Brooklyn couple throwing a vintage-inspired party centered around craft cocktails.

It cast a spell on me  - there was something magical about the contrast of handcrafted and vintage against the sterile, chain store environment that I was in.

Fast forward to October 2010. I had decided to apply to Seth Godin’s Female Entrepreneur MBA program (FEMBA). Right after I submitted my application, I was sitting next to Seth at dinner in Atlanta (I had gotten to know him over the summer by volunteering at a number of his speaking engagements, including the one in Atlanta, but that’s a whole story unto itself).

So I’m sitting next to Seth and he tells me he received my application and then he starts asking me questions about why I’m applying (at that point, I was decidedly not a female entrepreneur).

He tells me that before he’ll consider my application, I have to write an eight-page business plan for a business, any business, and get it to him by Tuesday (it’s Thursday). The only stipulations: it has to be something that can be bootstrapped and start generating revenue almost immediately.

This would have been fine…if I actually had a business idea. But I had no idea what type of business I wanted to start.

I started doing some mind mapping around what I was passionate about: dance, how work is being revolutionized, events, craft cocktails…but at that point, it was just a list.

I happened to be heading to New York for the weekend and reached out to Clay Hebert (an entrepreneur and a Seth Godin Six-Month MBA grad, who I had met at a program at Zappos…yet another story unto itself) for help.

We met up and I showed him my roughly sketched out list. Craft cocktails stood out. He thought they were the way to go. We started brainstorming ideas. He thought I could make something happen quickly by creating a craft cocktail directory – a listing site of all of the places to get craft cocktails in the country, with businesses paying a premium for enhanced listings.

I got to work on it. I did research. I started following people on Twitter. I made lists of names and terms related to cocktails trying to come up with the name for my new website. I bought the obvious one – craftcocktaildirectory.com – but then decided I want something more creative, so I bought the url alchemistofspirits.com.

I wrote my business plan and used WordPress to create the Alchemist of Spirits website. I posted one sample post and one video, so that Seth could see that I was serious.

I turned everything in to Seth…he asked me to call him to discuss it. He questioned the fact that I wasn’t a thought leader in the craft cocktail space. He told me to drop the business idea and come up with six more (and eventually he invited me to participate in the program, which I did).

Even though I had put the craft cocktail idea aside, I kept getting more and more interested in craft cocktails and underground supper clubs…and also started getting more interested in moving to New York.

One of the people I started following on Twitter at that time was Brian, via the underground supper/wine club he co-founded called The Noble Rot. That was in November 2010.

At the time, I didn’t know that two months later I would find myself living in New York, signing up to attend one of Brian’s events.

We only met for a brief minute at the event, but a few weeks later, a woman who had been following both of us on Twitter saw that we were going to be at SXSW and asked me to speak at an event and asked Brian to curate the wine. That put us in email communication with each other and we started planning the event. In the end, the woman organizing decided not to do it, and Brian and I never connected.

Back in New York, I came down with an awful, awful sore throat and tweeted that I needed to find an urgent care. Brian emailed me within five minutes to tell me where the best one was.

A week or so later, I saw him at another supper club but we barely got to talk because my throat was still recovering and I my voice hadn’t fully come back yet. We agreed that we should grab a drink soon, since we had been bumping into each other for months but had never really had a conversation.

I went home and pulled out a blank index card (this is how I was keeping track of my to do list at the time) and wrote “Cocktails with Brian Quinn”

A week or so later, we decided to meet at Little Branch, one of Brian’s favorite bars, for a drink. Halfway through our conversation, Brian declared that he was tired of talking about business, so we started talking about more personal things. It was quickly transitioning from a platonic conversation over a drink to a date. By that point we were both starving so Brian suggested we head to Daddy O’s, a bar down the street where we could get bacon wrapped hot dogs and tater tots. Halfway through tater tots we sealed what then was definitively a date with a kiss (or a few)…and as I headed home in a cab that night, I knew something special had just happened.

Fast forward to today – February 2012.

We’ve been living together in Brooklyn for seven months and working together on throwing events, creating cocktails, and experimenting with cooking all sorts of things. We decided we should document all of our experiments and creations somewhere…and then I remembered this little blog – Alchemist of Spirits – I had created over a year ago, that was lying dormant waiting for someone (or two someone’s) to use it. It was the perfect name. We like bringing spirits together – both alcoholic and human – and creating something amazing through unique combinations.

When we went back to look at the Alchemist of Spirits blog to update it, we realized two things that gave us goosebumps:

First, I had called my original post on the blog “Craft Cocktails: A Love Story”.

Second, the only video I had posted on the site (again, before I had even met Brian) – that video of Rachel Maddow explaining how to make a Sidecar? Brian and I watched it together and at the very end Rachel announced the name of the bar she was in: Daddy O’s – the bar where Brian and I had our first date.

Alchemist of Spirits.

A love story, a couple of years in the making.

We hope you enjoy it. There will be lots more to come.

The Original Alchemist of Spirits Website from October 2010

Brian and Jessica

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