Crafting Cocktails and Building Brands: Mixology Insights With Chris Tunstall of A Bar Above

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Feb 29, 2024

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Crafting Cocktails and Building Brands: Mixology Insights With Chris Tunstall of A Bar Above

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by nicole

Chris Tunstall Headshot 2
Crafting Cocktails and Building Brands: Mixology Insights With Chris Tunstall of A Bar Above 11

Meet Chris Tunstall, Co-Founder and Chief of Brand and Product Development at A Bar Above. With a decade of hospitality experience and a passion for mixology, Chris is dedicated to sharing advanced cocktail techniques.

As host of the A Bar Above Podcast, they lead bar education content creation and product development, ensuring A Bar Above sets the standard in the industry.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Delve into Chris’s vision for A Bar Above, born in 2008, aimed at revolutionizing cocktail crafting
  • Explore Chris’s entrepreneurial journey and strategic decisions for success
  • Learn about A Bar Above’s meticulously crafted products, designed to address the shortcomings of cheaper alternatives in the market
  • Gain insights into the evolving landscape of mixology
  • Dive into the burgeoning trend of low-alcohol to no-alcohol cocktails and the art of non-alcoholic mixology
  • Hear Chris’s insights on the future of hard alcohol and the mixology space, as the industry continues to evolve and innovate
  • Benefit from Chris’s years of experience as he shares valuable advice for individuals considering starting a business in the drinks industry

In this episode with Chris Tunstall

Discover how a passion for mixology sparked the inception of A Bar Above, and how they transformed their bartending expertise into a global online platform. 

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks is joined by Chris Tunstall, the Co-Founder and Chief of Brand and Product Development at A Bar Above. From navigating entrepreneurial hurdles to mastering the art of crafting premium bar tools, Chris shares invaluable insights into building a successful venture in the drinks industry. Explore the dynamic evolution of mixology, the rise of non-alcoholic spirits, and gain expert advice on launching a mocktail program with finesse. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a cocktail connoisseur, this podcast offers a sip of mixology mastery from the mind behind A Bar Above.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

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[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast on the show. I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today’s show is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. Barrels Ahead, we help the wine and craft industry build stronger bonds between their customers through authentic content.

Now I’m super excited for today’s guest. Today we have Chris Tunstall on the show, who’s the co-founder and chief of brand and product development at A Bar Above. Welcome to the show, Chris.

[00:00:26] Chris Tunstall: Drew, thank you so much for having me, man. I am very excited about this conversation.

[00:00:30] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, thank you so much for being on.

And I gotta warn you. I took a month off, so I might be a little bit rough, rusty here. So if you’re tuning in, cut me some slack.

[00:00:38] Chris Tunstall: Oh, you’re such a pro, man. We got this.

[00:00:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Chris, tell me about A Bar Above.

[00:00:45] Chris Tunstall: Yeah. So A Bar Above was kind of this dream I had way back in 2008 of creating a kind of content company that really helps to allow people to apply their own creativity for constructing new, exciting flavor combinations, cocktails, and all that. So that’s kind of the vision of where we started with way back in 2008. And that’s when I was doing a lot of my work as a bartender really kind of engineering menus coming up with new cocktail ideas and helping businesses bars and restaurants just kind of make exciting products and make more money along the way.

So that was kind of the original idea way back in 2008. And then yeah, just kind of met my wife, she gave me some great advice of like the idea was DVDs for training and she’s like, “Man, that’s old school, man Have you seen YouTube?” And so that’s kind of where we leaned in on. And we launched our YouTube channel, I think in 2013, really focusing on communicating technique and skills.

And this new age of like, you know, the Renaissance and craft cocktails, there are new tools that came out, nobody knew how to use like even balance of a cocktail was so new that it was all over the place. And unless you were in one of the major cities like San Francisco and New York, you really didn’t understand what was happening.

So that was kind of the focus of like take all that knowledge that exists in San Francisco at the time and communicating it outward into the world to whoever was trying to get better at their craft and you know, kind of progress through the world of hospitality.

[00:02:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. And right, right around 2008 was really when mixology really just started coming into its own, becoming a true craft.

And so you were, you were behind the bar in 2008 when you started your journey. Talk to us about that. Yeah, I started an entrepreneurial journey, like how does one kick off this idea?

[00:02:45] Chris Tunstall: So I actually started behind the bar in 2003, and that’s kind of when I saw the, the movement happening. And so I was learning as much as I could to kind of get to the cutting edge of where everybody was at.

And then in 2008 is when we decided to kind of like really sort of communicate that. And then in 2013, after we had a couple of other business ideas that weren’t the best business ideas that’s when we launched this one, but during that time like when I was tending bar and kind of doing all that I had to make a lot of strategic decisions about what I wanted to do and how to make that happen. So for example when you’re a bartender, your biggest nights are going to be Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Friday and Saturday usually. So I had to remove myself from these very profitable nights and start to work in the daytime.

Luckily, I was in the financial district in San Francisco. So I was able to cultivate some really, really, really great regulars and basically make the same amount of money. As I did on working nights, and then I could use that time to really start to build a business out with my wife and, you know, devouring as much information as we possibly could and hopefully getting prepared to go full time on our business.

And that’s kind of when it started. And I think we both left our jobs 2014. Yeah, July 3rd, 2014.

[00:04:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That must have felt so good. It was a little nerve-wracking.

[00:04:13] Chris Tunstall: And scary. Terrifying. We had a year, year’s worth of money saved up to make it happen, so.

[00:04:19] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s great. Now as you’re behind the bar, what was the, I love the last question.

So you did a few ventures that didn’t work so well. What did you learn from that, that allowed Bar Above to succeed?

[00:04:34] Chris Tunstall: Yeah, so you know, as far as so the one of the original ideas we had when we were living in San Francisco was a meal delivery company and it wasn’t like a cooked meal like, like you see, but it was like, we would put together a meal that you could microwave.

Like a really healthy meal that you can microwave and we started running the numbers and my wife is really good at business and spreadsheets and stuff. So she started running the numbers about how this was going to work, I started putting menu ideas together costing all that stuff out really starting to get my understanding of what it’s going to look like from like a, you know, logistics perspective and a day-to-day stuff.

And when we started running the numbers, she pulled me aside one day and she goes, okay, we could do this, but in order for us to hire our first employee, you’re going to have to make 2, 800 meals a week. And I was like, yeah, let’s do something else. That’s that’s, let’s not do that.

[00:05:30] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s such a good point. Like there’s a good idea is a good idea, but can you reach to that point of making a viable? Sometimes it comes up and

[00:05:42] Chris Tunstall: So I didn’t really understand the idea of scalability, like, what does that look like? So that was a really good lesson to learn. And, you know, we’ve definitely helped that has helped us through A Bar Above.

 But I think we were very naive when we came at A Bar Above, like, very much the field of dreams. You build it, people will come. And that was not exactly the truth.

[00:06:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, that being in the marketing side, I can, that’s the first thing I try to tell people.

[00:06:09] Chris Tunstall: I would highly recommend not going that approach.

[00:06:12] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, how did you build it?

[00:06:14] Chris Tunstall: So we started off on YouTube and just every week. It could have been every couple of days, we were uploading information or videos in 2014, not 2013 and the idea was to kind of build brand trust and then launch a digital training product. And that’s something we actually did in 2014. As I mentioned, we had about a year’s worth of savings in the bank to make this happen.

So we launched a Mixology certification in 2014. It’s kind of a path to revenue, right? YouTube wasn’t really a path to revenue at that time. It was fairly new in the whole YouTube game. So there wasn’t a lot of, like, financial incentive for us to really do well on YouTube. But we launched a certification in 2014 and It didn’t actually live up to our expectations because in the e-commerce side at that point it was all about launch launch launch launch launch. And all these huge successes of like, “I made ten thousand dollars in three hours” kind of thing. And we made like three sales the first day and we’re like, oh, so then we really had to think about, you know, how we’re going to do this and what we’re going to do.

So we can kind of continue that. And we basically ran out of money and I had, I luckily got a job consulting with Diageo in bars and restaurants, and that gave us about a two-year window. Again, to kind of figure that out, and luckily towards the end of those two years, we launched our physical brands.

So our physical shakers, cocktail shakers, strainers, all the things that we need in order to make cocktails. And as many people know, it takes a long time to kind of get to market. And it took us 120 days from deciding on what to sell, placing the order with the factory in China, getting it in our hands, sending it out to Amazon.

And then once it was on Amazon, it took 30 days to sell out. So we’re like, okay, this is it. This is how we’re going to fund our company. And after that, it has been the cornerstone from a revenue perspective of what has really propelled A Bar Above forward.

[00:08:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And now you’ve got your own store and you’re off of Amazon. Working in conjunction with both.

[00:08:24] Chris Tunstall: And we’re kind of growing as well. So we launched an Amazon and crushed it. So Amazon was the first place we, we kind of learned and kind of cut our teeth and built revenue on. And then we are, as most brands are, we’re trying to get off of Amazon as much as possible without obviously cutting our revenue, but helping to grow our own channels, our own storefront through Shopify and stuff like that. So that is something we’re doing. And currently, we’re actually looking into distribution for bars and restaurants and retail stores.

[00:08:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I see that you have a whole B2B section on your site now. And that’s, I can see that would be a very valuable channel because there’s so many, there’s so many craft producers out there right now.

And what I see as a whole is what you’re offering, which is this really well-made bar products. That can stand up to like repeated use

Tell us a little bit about your products and what sets them apart. Cause that was pretty fascinating when I read about them.

[00:09:27] Chris Tunstall: Yeah. So the thing that is interesting about our products is when you look at our products, it looks like any of the bar tool. You go on Amazon and it’s hard for you to see the details that we put into any of our tools, but we, I personally take this very seriously. I’m no longer in the world of hospitality, but I really feel for anybody that is in hospitality.

Because when I was there what I noticed was many of the bar tools that I used were kind of cheap. And they fell apart in my hands at the worst times. And then when I would communicate to some of the larger companies that were producing bar tools about my frustrations they weren’t very hospitable to me.

Which is weird considering they’re facing hospitality professionals. So this was a real big point of frustration for me. And so when we talk about our tools, part of the customer service journey that I see is, first of all, produce really great tools that aren’t going to break in somebody’s hands. That is a form of customer service for me.

Put a lot of work into making these great tools on the asset that are highly durable for professional bartenders. And then we also have great customer service on the end, but, like, we take a look at all the details that go into these tools.

[00:10:47] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Mm-hmm.

[00:10:48] Chris Tunstall: And we reinforce them. Since I was behind the bar, I know where things break. I’ve broken every tool there is to break so I know what their, what those fail points are. So we in reinforce those points. We add additional functionality to ’em. So like I said, when you look at our products, they may look like everybody else’s, but I guarantee you there is something completely different that makes us stand out.

And the good thing is when professionals get their, our tools in their hands. They can feel the difference. They can see the difference. It’s no longer a conversation about quality. It’s like why wouldn’t I choose this and it’s, we have been called the best kept secret in bar tools. And I don’t like that.

[00:11:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, you want everybody to know I can say, yeah, gotta be there. Yeah. This is such an unmet need having ordered bar tools for he used to work in a wine store and really a lot of the bar tools that we would order just, they seem very flimsy and a little bit more like a promotional aspect. You get all those tools and they’re gimmicky, where you go into like and you see their line of tools that what even just looking at yours, I can see the difference, especially this hardwood metal stick. I mean, that thing looks fantastic.

Yeah. And actually, I have one. I just happen to have one here because we talked about them and we actually just did a social media post on TikTok on muddlers and why are they really interesting. So for anybody that can’t see these, these are really, really big muddlers.

 We have two, we have a hardwood I think it’s a beechwood, and we have a plastic one. Same exact shape, same exact profile. And for high volume, the plastic makes a lot of sense, just food safety. But the hardwood, there’s no lacquer, there’s no finish. So this is a very safe product as well, but when you compare it to like the other ones out there, yeah, it’s significant.

The difference in size and it’s not only an aesthetic thing. This is a very highly functional element of this muddler because when you’re muddling in a high, high-volume environment if you have a very short muddler, your thumb is going to go right inside of your tin and separate from your finger. So there’s a, so not only is it like aesthetic and there’s a high degree of functionality that we think about.

We, I’m very fanatical about thinking about use case and how to improve that from the customer’s perspective as well. So this is just kind of one area that we can, you know, geek out on and stuff. But yeah, it’s beefy.

And it’s going to speed up the process too. I mean, half the time when I’m trying to muddle at home, oh my Lord.

No, that’s fantastic. So these are built for the pros. But you know, general consumers, if you’re going to make a better drink. Let’s talk about drinks in general and mixology or how have you seen the landscape of all since 2008, like the way people are mixing drinks, the process, the whole environment?

[00:13:49] Chris Tunstall: Well, just kind of like anything, you know, we’re having that giant spirits renaissance as well. Wine has been exploding like never before. RTDs are just like on fire right now. It’s incredible. So when we kind of think about it through the lens of mixology, we kind of went through that as well. So in the very beginning, when I got involved with it, it was like, how do you balance a drink with fresh lemon and lime?

Because at that point, every bar was using canned sweet and sour or bottled sweet and sour. So now you’re separating the sweet from the sour, and now you have to figure out the ratios. So that was kind of like 1-0-1, but as we start to develop and as people start to really get dialed in with technique, that’s where we can really start to see a lot of fun, exciting things.

So the world of craft right now is probably the most advanced it’s ever been. We’re bringing in techniques from chefs from pastry chefs. We’re bringing in equipment from other areas outside of the beverage industry and pulling them in so we can experiment with them in order to kind of fit our needs.

So it’s this kind of hodgepodge of, like really interesting, like development from like a flavor perspective that is super, super exciting. And that’s kind of where I fit in. And what we really focus on is kind of that culinary side of cocktails. And we could see that being played out. Rtds are very much in trenching this and flavor and compatibility and technology. So it’s pretty exciting.

[00:15:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Now, give me an example of like you were talking about a pastry chef for that culinary side. Give us an example of kind of one of those innovations or what you’re doing there.

[00:15:29] Chris Tunstall: Yeah, so when I was when I first started out we didn’t know how to make really great syrups, you know.

That was something that’s like, oh, you put sugar in it and make it sweet. But the finer points of flavor and flavor development, we, I often look into the world of pastry because we deal with a lot of the same things. Sugars, fruits, and how to use them well in inside of cocktails. And once you start to understand Those techniques in the pastry world. You can pull them in.

So, for example, making a Gastrique, which is a syrup with a little bit of vinegar. It helps pop those flavors out. And then it makes it a much more interesting and dynamic flavor to work with in cocktails, everything from flavors to consistency to the types of sugars that you use.

These are all new elements that we can pull into the world of mixology to really dial in our flavors. So this is something that we actually teach a lot in the mixology certification, which was the, the program that we launched. Where we go down the rabbit hole of like, okay, you have your standard sours or souring elements like fruit.

Lemon and lime have the biggest pH that we typically use in cocktails, but there’s also orange, cranberry, pineapple. But once you go a layer below that, you also have like acids from vinegars that you could use for you is another pH enhancer that you could incorporate into your cocktails, but then even below that you can do refined assets like malic acid, tartar, cast like citric acid.

So now you have this really intense pH enabler, you know, a compound that you could use in basically any liquid. So the one I always say is like, let’s say you have a Bordeaux. They want to bring into a cocktail. Well, you could add citric acid to it. So it has the pH hit of a lemon or lime, but it has all that additional flavor.

From that bordeaux. So now you’re just increasing all the flavors that you can incorporate into a cocktail with one element and then we go through every single element. Okay. Now, let’s take a look at sweeteners and we go all the way through, all the way down to the ground level of sweeteners and then base spirits.

And then so we really set the framework up, identify all the variables inside of that element. As deep as we can go, and then kind of help you reconstruct and pull these elements into what you want to create in a cocktail. So, like I said, we’re taking that culinary approach of, here’s your mother sauces, these are the ingredients that you’re using in your mother sauces, this is how you substitute, and now here’s your technique.

We’re applying that to the world of cocktails.

[00:18:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fascinating. And it’s, it’s strangely relevant. Last night I was watching a PBS Special on Trader Vic’s and the whole Tiki culture and the whole mixology back in the the thirties and forties. And they all had the secrets, I’m going to call a secret squirt, but they had their secret concoction.

They’ll have the list of everything that’s there, but the bartenders never really knew what was in that, that bottle that went into all the drinks.

[00:18:32] Chris Tunstall: Yeah. Yeah. And Tiki culture is fascinating and the characters inside them are very colorful and almost kind of pirate-esque. It’s pretty cool.

[00:18:41] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh yeah. It was fast. It was a good show. Yeah. Yeah. They were talking about how not all Tiki bars are Tiki bars. Cause you gotta actually have Tiki’s in them. Most of them are bamboo bars.

[00:18:52] Chris Tunstall: Oh, interesting. Very interesting.

[00:18:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Just cause it looks like it’s in Polynesia. If it doesn’t have a Tiki in there, it doesn’t count.

[00:18:59] Chris Tunstall: Interesting. Okay.

[00:19:01] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. Well, that was what I learned last night. But talking about all these ingredients that you have, I think it’s more, it’s more important now than ever. Now that we’re going towards this kind of low alcohol to no alcohol movement, or many people are moving towards that. Now bars are not just offering like a Shirley Temple, but they’re offering a complete mocktail assortment. And you’ve done a lot of work in this space.

[00:19:23] Chris Tunstall: It’s one of the spaces I’m really passionate about, to be completely honest. You know, I love cocktails. I love the culinary side of it. But when we start to introduce the world of non-alcoholic spirits, it becomes very interesting. You have a whole new toolset that you can use for development.

So one of the things that I always, and I think one of the things that gets hung up on non-alcoholic is that, that is your only option. Right. You’re going to remove all the bases for it, and you’re going to replace it with nonalcoholic. And that is true. You can, and it will make a delicious cocktail or spirit free cocktail.

 But when we think about this in much more of a bar setting, as a cocktail creator, this gives me incredible control over my ABV. Right. So now one of the things I love to do is when we go camping, I make a session margarita. I’ll take half of that half to 75 percent out of my tequila and replace it with a non-alcoholic spirit.

And now re batch it and just set it out in a cooler or something like that and I can just draw from it, all my friends can draw from it, over the entire day, not get a splitting headache, and still have something really refreshing and interesting to drink. So it gives me that ability to really dial in my ABV from that perspective.

And this could be really fun from like, a bar, or even more importantly from like, a wedding. Right? Like the last thing you want to do is get all your guests hammered, but you still want to deliver that quality and that taste and that. something interesting to drink. This is a great tool. And I, I’m so incredibly excited for this movement. So yeah, I’m thrilled with it.

[00:21:17] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I mean, he gave us some great tips there about being able to just dial it in. So you can conserve, you can serve a consistent 7 percent margarita, wherever you at my 4. 5, maybe after your camping guests. They’d only give a floater if they wanted.

[00:21:32] Chris Tunstall: Right. And they have that choice now. Right? So it’s incredibly empowering from that perspective.

[00:21:38] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What advice? So for a bar that’s wanting to roll out sort of a mocktail program, what advice do you give to them on how to compose it and how to add it to their selection? So it doesn’t just look like an afterthought for those people that don’t want to have a real cocktail and they are real cocktails.

I don’t want to make, I don’t want anybody can be used on that.

[00:21:56] Chris Tunstall: Yeah, so I think for me, it’s one of the best ways I’ve seen this done is to have a separate section in your menu of standard cocktails, right? You have a Mai Tai, you have a Margarita, you have a Daiquiri, you have whatever you want to put in there that really help to showcase some of the abilities of the non-alcoholic spirits.

And then you can offer them spirit or spirit-free. So now it’s a very different conversation of like, I feel like this, but I don’t want the alcohol. Here’s a big, here’s some choices I can make right here. And really like leaning into like, which one would you like? Would you like one with rum or one with a non-alcoholic rum?

And that makes it a much easier conversation, a much easier sell. And then it doesn’t call people out that don’t want to drink, right? It doesn’t put them in a spotlight. So it’s a really great way that I’ve seen of really showcasing that.

[00:22:52] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I like, I like the word spirit free. I know. Mocktail has the cache.

That’s what’s got the thing, but it always just sounds like once removed. From the real thing, when the spirit free is the real, is a real thing. Now, do you do all the, of the spirit free ones? Do they include some version of a non-alcoholic spirit like rum? Or do some just kind of do away with the, any, with that base? Or is it that critical for the, spirit-free cocktail?

[00:23:18] Chris Tunstall: I think it really depends. Are you talking about from the brand perspective, from a brand?

[00:23:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I like do all mocktails for lack of a better word for even have a better word, but I used it for do all mocktails incorporate like a non-alcoholic rum and non-alcoholic tequila, or do some of them just, are some of them just based on like seltzer juice

[00:23:39] Chris Tunstall: there?

They can be so that might be the easiest path to add a mocktail onto your menu. And the hardest thing to do with just those kind of ingredients is balance. So we’re adding acid. We’re adding sugar to balance the acid and then that by itself is very rich. And usually what you do to stretch it out is add your base spirit.

So then it becomes so, this is one of the things I really kind of geek out on is a sour is our kind of standard template for a cocktail, right? You have a base spirit, acid, sweetener. And you have two parts base spirit, one part acid, one part sweet. And when we take a look at that formula, it’s basically an adult lemonade. Right?

So with the lemonade, that two parts is actually water, and that’s helping to stretch out that flavor and making the lemon-lime less intense and less rich. So when we take the water out, we replace it with alcohol, which is accomplishing the same thing. When we started talking about mocktails, you have your acid, you have your sweetener, so you still need that element of stretching of giving that acid and that sweetener kind of room.

So it’s not so intense. So you’re going to have to replace that with something. And what you use could be a non-alcoholic spirit. It could be soda water. It could be something else. But when you are making a mocktail, one of the things that I’ve seen is we lean very heavy on syrup. So it becomes very rich and it becomes that out-of-balance lemonade.

So we just have to figure out how to stretch that out. What are you going to put in that two parts? And it could be many different things. But that is, that is the one thing I would take a look at is like, okay, what am I going to put in that two part scenario?

[00:25:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. Now, as far as brands, do you have a favorite the alkalized spirit brand?

[00:25:31] Chris Tunstall: It’s so I don’t think I have a non, a favorite non-alcoholic spirit brand. There’s some companies that are doing really interesting and good stuff. And I think one of the hardest things that I see in this space is drawing parallels to the spirit world. And I understand what that means from like a production standpoint.

But, for example, there are many non-alcoholic bourbons and whiskeys that I’ve tried. And when you say you’re a non-alcoholic bourbon or whiskey, when I drink it out of the bottle, I’m expecting to have similar flavors, similar experience, similar weight on my palate. And it doesn’t happen. So I think it’s almost like a misconception and you’re setting yourself up as a non-alcoholic spirit producer to have a pretty dissatisfied customer from my experience.

So like Seedlip I think does a really good job on that of not really pinning their non-alcoholic spirits to a spirit equivalent.

[00:26:30] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Okay. I like that idea because I’ve tried a few of the spirit equivalents, drinking them straight is you can definitely, it’s not what you think it’s going to be if you drink bourbon all the time.

[00:26:42] Chris Tunstall: Right, exactly. And then, you know, like I said, it kind of creates this dissatisfaction with the brand and with the experience overall. So the thing I love is not actually like the isolated spirit equivalents. I actually like pre-made. I prefer pre-made non-alcoholic all day long because they have gone through the construction process.

They have formulated it. They have brought the flavor to it. And there’s so much more that you could do on the RTD side of the non-alcoholic and that’s usually where I tell people ahead if they’re going into non-alcoholic for the first time, don’t mess around with the spirits, go RTD, find some really, really good brands that you like and just sample your way through that category and you’re going to have a much better time, you’re going to have much better experience, and you’re going to have a much better product at the end of the day.

[00:27:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Inconsistency. Like, I could even see that in a bar. You could take an RTD and put your little spin on the top of it, but at least your base is consistent.

[00:27:45] Chris Tunstall: Exactly. And on that side, like you could use that RTD as a cocktail element, right? So now you can use that to boost up a Negroni and make it effervescent or something and you’re bringing a ton more flavor.

So there’s always like the next step. Like you take a product, you can always incorporate it somewhere else or add it into something else as another way of making money on it as well from the bar side.

[00:28:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. And for sure. And also consistency. Now, I’m still on non-alcoholic things. I had a conversation yesterday about wine and de-alcoholized wine.

And for years, that just tasted like crap because the process that to remove the alcohol was so intrusive and so abusive that the final result was just a wine that was, I guess, beaten up. And now they’ve got a very good, they’ve got a very good way to actually remove the alcohol from the wine without destroying the flavor of it.

[00:28:38] Chris Tunstall: Oh, that’s cool. Yeah. Cause I’ve had similar experiences in the wine space of like, I really want to like this.

[00:28:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. It’s now apparent. Yeah. What is being used for now is actually reducing the alcohol. So you, you may have a 15 percent bottle of base wine that you could bottle, but you can also remove the alcohol from half of it and mix it back with the base wine without destroying the flavor. And suddenly you have a 7 percent alcohol wine.

[00:29:03] Chris Tunstall: That’s great. That’s fantastic.

[00:29:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Similar to what you were doing with the margarita.

[00:29:08] Chris Tunstall: Right. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.

[00:29:10] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. So it’s, I definitely see the mixed drink industry going that way as well. Talk to me about the future. Where do you see the hard alcohol and the mixology space going over the next 10 years?

[00:29:22] Chris Tunstall: Well, I don’t think hard alcohol is going to go anywhere. I think it’s here, you know, I think it’s here to stay. Mixology, I think is just going to continue to grow. I think, you know, from my perspective, you know, I always see these bars that are doing fantastic things and, you know, they’re incorporating a lot of these mixology elements into their beverage programs, but there’s a lot of the country that hasn’t really latched onto it yet.

You know, we focused a lot on like, you know, advanced cocktail techniques, or even just mixology in general with fresh ingredients, but there’s still a lot of legacy bars and restaurants out there that are still using sweet and sour on the gun. They don’t know a lot about how to balance cocktails.

 And so I think there’s still a lot of room for growth as far as that goes. You know, we’re starting to see mixology being mainstream with that recent Netflix show and I think the skill has really evolved to a point where it is very culinary-driven. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see even more entertainment on major, you know, streaming platforms around this topic. So, you know, once that happens, I feel like it’s kind of really hit critical mass where it opens up many different conversations around this topic. And when that happens, you get a lot more creative people involved, and then, you know, you’re standing on the head and the shoulders of giants, and you’re taking all these techniques that have come before them and putting their own cool, creative spins on it.

So I don’t think it will ever go away. I think we’ve, we’ve got to a point where it’s going to be here to stay. So, I don’t know where it’s heading to be completely honest, but I’m very excited for it. Like it is something that’s really, really exciting from my perspective.

[00:31:03] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I, I agree. I see it. It’s becoming a culinary, it’s a culinary art in itself.

 I’ve said probably the lowest point in hard alcohol was probably when I was selling it back like in 93.

[00:31:14] Chris Tunstall: That was a hard time. Yeah.

[00:31:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: In 93, way back then, hard alcohol was hard alcohol and the drinks were about, you know, there wasn’t a lot of creativity there versus like in the fifties, it was still about drinking.

I mean, then you had drinking for drinking. Now we’ve got the hard alcohol, but we’ve got this whole culinary side of it where it’s people are in it for the quality. And I don’t see that going away. I think it’s found. It’s it’s found its legs.

[00:31:42] Chris Tunstall: Yeah, and I think,

Pun intended, hopefully. But I think that COVID had a big, big push on that because, you know, bars and restaurants closed down, people still wanted those craft cocktails so that they took all those skills home with them and started developing them at home. So I think there’s just a lot more general intelligence, general acceptance of what it means to make a craft cocktail.

So I think it’s just going to get even bigger and bigger in the future, from my perspective.

[00:32:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, I agree. So your years of experience here, what advice do you have to someone who may be in there? You know, they’re maybe considering starting a business in the drinks industry.

[00:32:27] Chris Tunstall: Oh, that’s a good question. And I think it is really do your homework. You know, lay out the business plans, really figure out how you’re going to make money. How are you going to go to market? What advantage are you bringing to the table that doesn’t exist? Or what’s that space look like for you? There were a lot of lessons learned for us, and we’re still learning them now.

But if you are interested in getting into the spirit’s world, the bidder’s world, making your own, whatever it is you need to learn, learn as much as you can on somebody else’s dime, too. So, if you’re in the hospitality world, become a manager. Really understand the business side of running a company. The numbers, the finances, all of it.

Just learn as much as you possibly can when somebody is paying you. That is so helpful. And as many of the people that are probably listening to this podcast that have their own brands, have their own companies can relate to, like there are so many facets of a company, especially in the beginning that you have to understand.

And you have to experiment and you have to learn everything from the numbers we just talked about to marketing, which I know you talk a lot about and you have a lot of experience with. Advertising and how to grow a company and how to scale it up and, and there’s going to be a point we’re going to have to learn leadership skills when you hire people.

And like, there’s a lot to learn. So just dive in to everything you can consume about business and really find people that are doing interesting things, learn from them as much as possible. If you could get a mentor, get a mentor. Really, really, I mean, mentors have been huge for us in our company.

And it is definitely worth finding the right people to learn from.

[00:34:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. No, that’s great advice. If you could give yourself advice going back, what would you have done differently?

[00:34:32] Chris Tunstall: Oh, geez. So many things. You know, we learned so much more looking back. You know, just really understanding our space and how we are competitive in this.

And I think especially when we first started out we, I suffered from imposter syndrome of like, I’m not good enough to be in a space. I don’t know what I’m doing. And as we get more and more years and miles under our belt with this brand, with this company, doing what we do I would probably advise myself, like. You’re making something cool, man. Be proud of what you’re doing. You’re not an imposter. Like you’ve done the work and you deserve to be in this space and be a part of the conversation as well.

I think that’s something very natural when people go out on their own. Don’t be like, you should be proud of just taking that 1st step. And you don’t know where you’re, that path is going to lead. You’re going to learn a lot of things along the way and just look, probably look for opportunity that exists and, you know, it’s going to come.

[00:35:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I love that. Shedding that imposter syndrome is so important and I think most people don’t realize that everyone kind of feels that way there.

And the quicker you stop thinking about it, the quicker you can move forward and be authentic. One thing I’m gonna add from my own personal background and entrepreneurship is forgetting the fact that you think you’re too late. Like, you always like, “Oh, it’s already been thought of. I don’t want to do that.”

And then 10 years go by and you’re like. “Man, I still could have done that. I wish I did it 10 years ago.” So I think if you’ve got a good idea and you’ve got a passion for something, you’re never too late to try.

[00:36:13] Chris Tunstall: No. And then kind of on a similar note, we thought that back in 2014 when we launched our podcast.

[00:36:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. And everyone has it.

[00:36:20] Chris Tunstall: We, yeah. We’re like, we’re so late to this party. Like, look at all the people doing podcasts. And we were, we’re the OGs. We’re some of the ones that started way back.

[00:36:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, that’s amazing. 2014, and what were you singing in the pre show? How many do you have under your belt?

[00:36:37] Chris Tunstall: We had eight years under our belt, 215 episodes but yeah, it’s, and it’s a lot of fun and it was a great, so the podcast in general was a great platform for outreach and I didn’t understand it at the time.

You know, it was like, “Oh, let’s do this fun thing and make podcasts,” but during the process of learning the value of a podcast for a brand, it gives you the ability to network build like crazy.

[00:37:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely.

[00:37:07] Chris Tunstall: It’s insane what you can do. And it’s interesting when you start reaching out, once again, the imposter syndrome in the beginning, we’re like, “Oh, let’s talk to bartenders and all that,” which was good.

And exactly what we need to do at that time. But as we started to grow the brand and the podcast, you know, we started engineering the podcast around certain topics, and then we started reaching out to the true top creme of the creme in that specific space, right?

And then you just, it really doesn’t unlock a whole different ability to make connections with people, build your brand. And it’s, it’s pretty incredible and unfortunately stopped, but I miss it a lot. You know, every, every week, every day, I’m like, “Oh, I’d really like to do that one day again.”

[00:37:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: But as we’ve learned, it’s never too late to restart.

[00:37:57] Chris Tunstall: Right? Exactly.

[00:38:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Take a hiatus. And the one thing I do have to say about podcasts, I’m a big advocate of this, especially in the wine industry and especially with AI and you never being able to tell what’s real and what’s not, podcasts and the audio dialogue between two people, maybe one of the last authentic form, authentic marketing channels. And we beef it up with video and stuff, but really it’s a lo-fi medium that is directly, you have a direct access to the person that you’re talking with or listening.

[00:38:28] Chris Tunstall: It’s pretty incredible. It’s a great platform and yeah, it’s a lot of fun to get in there.

[00:38:36] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh yeah. So let’s see as we’re wrapping down, what’s your favorite drink? What’s your cocktail choice these days?

[00:38:45] Chris Tunstall: So, I’ve kind of mentioned this a handful of times on podcasts in general, but for me, it’s all about experiencing the world of liquid and creativity through somebody else’s lenses, right?

So whenever I travel, that’s kind of what we do. Whenever I go out to eat, I’ll narrow it down to three choices. And unless I’m really feeling something on the menu, but I’ll narrow it down to three choices and have the waiter pick for me. And really, I really want them because they understand that space.

They understand the food and all that stuff. So they probably have some great insights that I just can’t see inside of a menu. So when I go to bars and restaurants, I kind of take the same avenue with bartenders. You know, first of all, we build rapport, we talk and all that. Because I’m not going to have that conversation on a Friday night when it’s three deep, but it’s a Wednesday and things are really mellow and I have a chance to, you know, build a relationship with a bartender and say, “Hey, what are you excited about? What are you making now that you absolutely love?”

And then I let them take me on that journey with them. And that is really, really cool from my perspective to see that if I’m at home, it’s probably just going to be beer or a glass of wine because I don’t want to make the mess. I don’t want to go through it because this is work for me or work.

So the mystique, the joy and all that is is more work than fun.

[00:40:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I get it. I get it. I love that. What did, what great advice. And I do that quite a bit. I’ll pick the base. Like I want to drink this bourbon. What would you, take me in there. Just do something that is tasty. And some of the best drinks I’ve had have been through that.

[00:40:22] Chris Tunstall: Absolutely.

[00:40:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: He’s got it. Yeah. You got to kind of suss out the bartender though.

[00:40:27] Chris Tunstall: Right. Exactly.

[00:40:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Before you give them free reign. You might just get

[00:40:32] Chris Tunstall: A hundred percent. Yeah, exactly.

[00:40:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, this is fantastic. Is there anything else that you’d like to bring up as last thoughts?

[00:40:41] Chris Tunstall: No, not really. You know, I think for the people listening to this podcast, you know, you’re doing what you’re doing.

You love it. You know, just keep going. And for anybody that is trying to enter this space like, like we mentioned really dial it in, have fun, get creative, but learn as much as you can before you start investing your own money into, you know, launching a brand, getting in here as well and get creative.

You know, you don’t have to be the person filling liquid and doing this stuff. There’s a lot of interesting ways of creating brands that you may not understand. So that could be another thing to take a look at. But yeah, other than that, that’s it. And we’re a podcast.

[00:41:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, we’re a podcast. And so Chris, where can people find out more about you? And especially other businesses that may want to partner with you and start carrying your line.

[00:41:33] Chris Tunstall: Yeah, and I’m glad you mentioned that because I, you know, I know we’re talking to a lot of people that are making liquids and stuff like that. And different styles of business.

We’re always open for collaborations. We love it. So if you want to talk about giveaways, you want to talk about, you know, working together in some form we’re always here for that. Where you can find us on pretty much any social platform is A Bar Above. You type us up and you’ll find us. And then on our website at

And you can take a look at all the education we provide and all the tools over at shop dot But like I said, we are always open for collaborations. You know, it, it takes a lot of people in this space. And the more that we can interact, the more that we can support each other, the better it is for everybody.

And I just love meeting interesting people.

[00:42:22] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, yeah. Well, that’s awesome, Chris. Thank you so much for joining us today. This is, this has been a true pleasure. Thank you.

[00:42:29] Chris Tunstall: Absolutely. Thank you so much for Drew. I really appreciate it.

[00:42:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I will talk to you later. And I can’t wait to, now I need a cocktail, right? Talk to you later.