Creating the World’s First Luxury Ready-to-Serve Cocktail With Robert Haynes and Damiane Nickles


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Oct 27, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Last Updated on October 27, 2022 by rise25

Robert Haynes
Creating the World’s First Luxury Ready-to-Serve Cocktail With Robert Haynes and Damiane Nickles 12

Robert Haynes is the Co-founder and maker of Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned, the world’s first luxury ready-to-serve cocktail. He is an award-winning bartender and spirits producer. Robert started his career as a barback at a cocktail bar in Chicago in 2007 and worked his way up to eventually creating his own line of cocktails and spirits.

Damiane Nickles
Creating the World’s First Luxury Ready-to-Serve Cocktail With Robert Haynes and Damiane Nickles 13

Damiane Nickles is the Co-founder of Sunday’s Finest. His career began working in a restaurant, then he shifted to farming, and eventually worked in a PR firm. Robert Haynes invited Damiane to be the brand manager for Apologue Liqueurs. In 2021, the pair launched Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned.

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

  • Robert Haynes gives an overview of what Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned is about
  • Robert shares how he got into the spirits industry
  • The story of how Damiane Nickles got into Old Fashioneds and how he ended up working with Robert
  • How did Robert and Damiane get people to try Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned?
  • What’s next for Sunday’s Finest?
  • Robert and Damiane talk about how they became a Certified B Corporation 
  • Robert and Damiane’s advice for those who want to get into the ready-to-drink category

In this episode with Robert Haynes and Damiane Nickles

Launching a first-of-its-kind product is a double-edged sword. You have no competitors, but at the same time, people could be hesitant to try something they’ve never had before.

Robert Haynes and Damiane Nickles were in this boat — and they decided to embrace the unknown and make it their motivation. The possibilities are endless, so the only way to know what works (and what doesn’t) is to try.

In this episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon host Robert Haynes and Damiane Nickles. The pair talk about the story behind Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned, the world’s first luxury ready-to-drink cocktail. They share what inspired them to work on this unique idea and how they got people to try their product. Robert and Damiane also share what’s next for the Sunday’s Finest brand and give advice to people who want to get into the ready-to-drink category.

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.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show

Drew Thomas Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks here on the Legends Behind the Craft podcast on this show, I talk with leaders of the wine and craft beverage industry. Today we have a very special episode we have the founders of Sunday’s Finest on the show with produced one of the most stellar old fashions I have tasted and we’re gonna actually taste through it. But before I formally induce them, gotta do the sponsor message. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead, at Barrels Ahead we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. One that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue, go to barrels ahead.com today to learn more. Today, we have Bianca Harmon on the show. She’s our DTC marketing strategist. How’s it going, Bianca?

Bianca Harmon  1:07  

Good, Drew. I’m super stoked for today’s episode.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  1:10  

Yes, yes. I am super excited. Today we have Robert Haynes and Damiane Nickles. They’re the founders of Sunday’s Finest. They produce a ready to drink cocktail. They’re not currently an old fashioned. How’s it going, Robert and Damiane?

Robert Haynes  1:23  

Doing great man. psyched to be here.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  1:25  

Thank you so much for joining us. So as we delve into your story, let’s let’s like take a turn around a little bit. And let’s because I want to get to the tasting. Talk to me about this Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned.

Robert Haynes  1:37  

Yep. So Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned. This is a project near and dear to our hearts, something we’ve worked very hard on. The initial premise was was pretty simple. What is the absolute best cocktail experience that we can create, that folks can enjoy, when and where they want. And the old fashion is, you know, hands down. My favorite cocktail is something I’m intimately familiar with.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:11  

It is my favorite cocktail. Hands down for sure.

Robert Haynes  2:15  

And the gold fashion is a is a blend of vintage whiskies as the base. The 2021 version, which we’re tasting right now is a blend of eight year bourbon and five year rise. You have this kind of complex best of both worlds foundation for the cocktail and then the bitters. Sunday’s finest saffron bitters are made with the world’s most exquisite spices, impeccably sourced, talking saffron from Red Afghanistan, single state Ecuadorian cacao Jinshi, and from the French Alps, Seville orange peel from Spain, we really went all out to make this kind of the most pleasurable and robust at home cocktail experience that we could deliver.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  3:10  

Yeah, I jumped the gun and poured myself a glass right now. It tastes like a craft cocktail. Without undoubtedly, I felt like it just went into a high end bar. The one thing I loved the best. I mean, it came with its own little zester.

Bianca Harmon  3:24  

I know that’s my favorite part.

Damiane Nickles  3:27  

Yeah, I mean, we worked, we worked pretty hard on developing that. There’s a couple of different kinds of orange in there as well. There’s Valencia, orange, navel orange, and blood orange. So you know, top to bottom, we want to make sure if we’re giving you a great cocktail, you do feel like you’re walking into a bar, you’re was we’re changing the setting. So there’s, you know, there was a lot of consideration from the packaging to the liquid to the zest.

Bianca Harmon  3:54  

And how did you how did you determine you know, the size and the amount that would be needed? For the about bottle that you’re giving?

Robert Haynes  4:02  

Yep, good question. So, you know, we think a bout to zests is appropriate for cocktail knowing that, like, you know, some people are gonna go

Drew Thomas Hendricks  4:15  

or like me and miss the glass the first time. Yeah, I did that.

Robert Haynes  4:21  

We tried to make a recommendation. We tried to err on the side of of having a little extra and you know, so one big piece of feedback we got from folks last year was that they love this test. And I think people are are resist happy. And here we are actually increasing the size of this test. So all right, you’re nuts.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  4:45  

So, Robert, now that we know I’ve got this in my class, this is incredible. Tell me about your story. How did you get into the industry and how did you get from here to now? From there?

Robert Haynes  4:56  

Yep. So I moved to Chicago sight unseen when I was 21. And the was walking down the street in Wicker Park, and I was trying to find a job, I saw a young man running down the street, and he was parking cars. And I got a job as a valet hired off the street, I don’t even think they checked to see if I had a driver’s license. That led to me spending a couple of winters winters standing outside of a lot of really great cocktail bars and restaurants freezing my ass off for a couple bucks a night. Through that, I managed to meet a lot of folks that worked inside of these bars and restaurants, and would chat them up, you know, when they were taking breaks from their shifts and whatnot. And was talking to a gentleman at a club called Sona tech, they used to be in Chicago’s West Towne neighborhood. And he said, man, what are you doing, you got to get another job come inside, it’s zero degrees out here. The people I’m working for bout to open a really great cocktail bar, it’s going to be called the violet hour. And they need barbacks. And, you know, he had me at come inside. So I joined the violet our opening opening team, as a bar, but barback with with little to no experience. Other than, you know, I enjoyed drinking in my early 20s and late teens, and was there from day one on the ground floor, you know, I walked in the, the first day of training, and they and they dropped a hotel pan of ice on the unfinished part up and gave me a hammer and chisel and said, Make chucks. Oh, so I spent, you know, a year or so of just paying my dues as a barback and slowly worked my way up to to bartender and then bar manager and, you know, over over the course of, you know, seven or eight years made a lot of cocktails. And yeah, it was a great experience, and especially to be like kind of on the on the forefront of the craft cocktail resurgence. And working with with people that had, you know, really spent a lot of time in the industry, I was able to learn a lot and try to soak it all up. And, you know, that eventually led to getting into interested in, in product development and, and looking for opportunities to create things to work with and make cocktails with that, that maybe didn’t already exist. And, you know, being curious and creative by nature started playing around with recipes, whether it’s syrups and bitters. And then eventually, of course, yeah, the cocktails.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  8:05  

And then you have the company apologue with tours as well. That the decimal and really interesting blends, you’ve got a celery root.

Robert Haynes  8:14  

Yeah, yep. So, you know, apologue, you know, kind of post post violet hour, I was running a bar in the Logan Square neighborhood and spent a lot of time looking at the back bar looking for what I would call, you know, some people would call holes as opportunities. Just trying to think of things that I could possibly make and do justice that folks could use to make interesting riffs on classic cocktails and all natural Of course, you know, at the time, this is 2017 There’s still a lot of mystery in the course space. You know, a lot of like, this bespoke French the core has 130 ingredients in it. No one knows what 110 Of the MAR and just kind of wanted to zig where others zag and focus on some unique regional ingredients, things like persimmon, aronia, Berry, celery root, and, you know, build the course off of these primary ingredients, and then do a couple of things that were unique, like list every thing that’s in the bottle on the back of the bottle, so that, you know, bartenders know what they’re working with and can ideate and create cocktails.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  9:40  

Just to give that just kind of that to give the bar the ability to create that bespoke cocktail. It’s really a lot of these cures and bitters are what allows you to do that.

Robert Haynes  9:53  

Yeah, I think the you know, the course can be interesting because it’s like, they if you’re making a cocktail That’s like your chance to give it some personality, give it some character writing, and just switching out one of those ingredients for another one, you can create something that’s seasonal or unique to you, or that tells a story or creates a sense of time and place. So I think, of course, are fascinating, especially when it comes to, you know, creating cocktails and cocktail menus.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  10:23  

Absolutely. Damiane, how did you how did your How did you find your way into old fashions? And how did you get into the industry.

Damiane Nickles  10:32  

So if if Robbie’s the theme of Robbie’s sort of stories, depth, mine is definitely breath. I’ve had a little bit more of a long and winding path. So I went to art school actually, and moved to Chicago for like, you know, just change the scenery. I’m from New York originally. And wanting to get into the industry was going to go to culinary school, like an idiot. Everyone was like, Hey, don’t you can spend 40k and be able to make the less steaks and everyone next to you. So I ended up just jumping similarly to Robbie just i What’s the nearest restaurant and started bussing tables. And with the knowledge to though that, you know, there are people who’ve been working here for 10 years have been working since 1817. So I kind of was like I need to kind of treat it like culinary school. So working at a restaurant group, one front of the house, one back of the house. So I would wake up at six, prepping the kitchen, till three, you know, smoke a joint on the way over to the next restaurant and then work the floor from four to like a login, which was definitely hard, but also super fun and learned a ton and got exposed to you know, it’s kind of like a crash course. And so you know, kind of did everything from busing to serving, expediting, prep, cook line cook, do a little bit of everything. Until I actually move wanting to move away from kitchens and actually move towards urban agriculture, I got a gig of sales for closed loop farms, which is a small, indoor outdoor hybrid farm that was doing only microgreens and edible flowers and rare herbs, which was probably one of the best jobs and

Drew Thomas Hendricks  12:29  

vertical gardens.

Damiane Nickles  12:31  

Similar, I mean, they kind of each farm kind of has their own, you know, their permutations of how they grow and what their systems are. But we were just soil only, no hydro, no chemicals, just soil compost, and seeds, which was really cool. And just being connected with all like, you know, all of your favorite chefs like I was not making a lot of money, but I felt like I was like, Yo, I’m the coolest part in the world. Like, I get to text with some of my favorite chefs around the city to grow, but not produce but to grow. Just the garnish is just for the dishes that are coming up in the fall season or whatever. And so that kind of I was like, Oh man, this is really cool. They’re all these like ancillary industries that that sort of hug and keep the restaurant and bar industry warm and sort of firming

Bianca Harmon  13:21  

artists, something like that. That’s so cool. Yeah, it’s,

Damiane Nickles  13:24  

it’s like there’s a whole that’s the one of the things I love, especially about like brands like Sunday’s fun is an apologue and Cluzel farms like you think you go to a restaurant you think you go to a bar, there are so many other parts and pieces. So from that job is probably my favorite job ever, but wasn’t paying me enough. So I was like, you know, I need a cushy little bit more of a cushy situation. So I moved to a hospitality PR firm, which was sort of like close but adjacent. And a couple, you know, jobs. After that I was I was running a virtual plant shop on my own Instagram for a while, had worked at the Garfield Park Conservatory here in Chicago doing partnerships and was looking to move from that role. And Jordan and Robbie approached me and they were like, hey, you know, we’re looking for someone with a creative, you know, mindset to sort of manage the brand and do some storytelling and that kind of stuff. And honestly, originally when we chatted, I hadn’t tasted the liquid yet. And I was like, okay, like, cool. This is like a super strange, weird opportunity. Like I had never heard of anything like this before. But was I just recently bought a house and my partner and I were freaking our long days packing. were pissed off at whatever we were pissed off about and our back bar was packed up. So we’d like we’d like to talk we want to make a cocktail after a long day. Uh, and I was like, Oh man, I remember this. This bottle that Jordan gave me and it was like dark in the house super late at night and we put some rocks in our glass glasses and we poured it out. And I remember looking at her and being like, holy shit. This is it. And so since then, we’ve been working with each other to you know, just try and stay on this brand up and, and just make as much impact as we can with it. So that’s that’s how I’ve got how I got this on its finest.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  15:36  

That’s amazing. Yeah, when you it is shocking when you tasted it because it’s a higher end. I mean, it’s a higher end. Liquor. I mean, it’s spirit. I don’t know the right word, readymix cocktail. But when you taste it, it’s worth every penny. I mean, it tastes like exactly like you would want in an old fashion. So question is this whole ready to drink category? I love that it’s going towards that higher end, and it’s going towards stuff that you would actually taste? We do. We had drinks Smith on the show about six, seven months ago. And they do like actually ready to mix cocktails, where they where you mix the the juice with the liquor. But this is the first time I’ve really seen one. It’s a true spirit forward.

Bianca Harmon  16:19  

Yeah, me too.

Robert Haynes  16:22  

Yeah, I have seen the drinks and stuff. I think it’s ingenious. I really think that’s a cool package and product. For for us. Yeah, we wanted it to be the gold fashion to be as good if not better than any old fashion you would get at the best cocktail bar, and your closest major city. And, you know, so much of that comes down to the the base spirit, like in the RTD space, there’s a lot of competition at the lower rungs of the ladder, you know, people competing on price, creating seltzers, crushable, cocktails, things like that. And that’s just not where we wanted to go. We wanted to, you know, there’s something to me very special about having a really, really nice cocktail, especially when someone else makes it for you, you know, I feel like it is kind of like go into a spa or something kind of relax. Oh, yeah. But the day. And, you know, I feel like historically, I’ve gone to a nice cocktail bar to get that experience, which I love. I love going up. But you know, kind of this product was birthed during the pandemic, when, you know, cocktail bars. were, you know, not really open. But I think that was a real eye opening point for me just, you know, I began to kind of create crave that that experience at home, you know, and with the gold fashion, I think you can, you can get that like that. That sense that feeling of getting like a world class cocktail, it’s already made, you know, you’ve got the armslist atomizer. So you’re engaging all of your senses. And you’re able to have a really special moment in the comfort, comfort of your own home or in a small group with like your friends, family and

Bianca Harmon  18:28  

not pay $18. Later on, expensive because it is but when you break it down into that category, I mean, yeah, I go to art a nice bar around here and get an old fashion and it’s like 18 to 21 bucks. And I’m like, What in the world?

Damiane Nickles  18:50  

Totally, totally. And just to layer on to that to like, one of the big things that we took away. I mean, if you sort of extrapolate and pull back, pull out, like even outside spirits, and just sort of commerce and behavior in general. You know, we all collectively live through the pandemic. There’s still, you know, things on the pandemic that are happening now. But there’s 10 years of behavior shifting that happened in a truncated period of time, right? So if you talk to folks who have ecommerce brands, or you talk to folks who, you know, are just selling things in general, they’re like, hey, like, we we thought these switches were gonna take 10 15 20 years to get people to, you know, be comfortable with delivering items to the home be comfortable with, like, getting booze legislation to allow people to buy liquor at the house. So you know, that shift in like, it’s uncomfortable when your circumstances have changed a little bit, but also we realize like, holy shit, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have a fantastic cocktail at home. Just because you’re having it at home. Doesn’t mean it should be bad. All right. So given that hypothesis, like, how do we chase after that thing and make the best product that we can?

Drew Thomas Hendricks  20:06  

Yeah, sort of getting it on people’s lips? How do you dispel that? Because there’s so certain preconception, especially from people older, like, I’m in the older category and the 50 Plus category, where we we grew up on Bacardi mixers and just pretty crappy trade, drink cocktails, and how to get the revelation seeing this, like upper end style. And really just an alternative to going out. How are you guys going about dispelling this preconception that many people might have learned, there’s

Damiane Nickles  20:37  

a couple of things there like one. The way I think about it, and there’s many more parts and pieces to this, but the two that are like, most sort of Top of Mind, for me are one, just like block and tackle, you know, like, getting it in front of people. One of the things I like to think about is for any packaging any product, the goal is to seduce the eye, but also to address the intelligence Right? Like, I want you to think it looks good, I want you to love the experience. When you touch it, the paper feels wonderful. The the zest atomizer the label, the bottle is beautiful and heavy, and it feels precious in your hand. But also I want when after that first stage, you’re like, oh, man, there’s actually super quality ingredients in here. It’s super thoughtfully crafted, it’s masterfully blended, it’s not just do this together, and it looks sexy, right? So it’s like getting in front of people chatting with them, sharing it with them. But also making sure that it feels good, right? Like feeling something that like Robbie likes to say he’s like, Yo, I want to make something that I am proud of like that I want to give to my friends that they wouldn’t just be like, oh, cool, Robbie, that’s great. You made a finger like, Damn, that’s fucking good.

Bianca Harmon  21:58  

Well, you know, so then is that. So then in that sense, is most of your, like your customers people purchasing this? I mean, do you actually have bars or restaurants that would be buying this? Or is it all pretty much direct to consumer,

Robert Haynes  22:12  

they’re few and far, far between. Most of our consumers are folks looking to have this experience at home. That’s what I figured. We did a lot of interviews, you know, with folks that did multiple purchases of the last year’s blend. And the, there were a lot of common themes. You know, one, it’s couples who maybe don’t get the chance to go out as often as they used to, whether they have kids or or nine to fives. And, you know, for them, it was a real treat, to be able to crack this open on a Friday or Saturday night and feel like they were they were doing really doing something. Also, we had, you know, younger folks that maybe used to live in, you know, city centric locations, whether they were in, you know, New York, Chicago, Austin, like kind of like major city centers, we had, we had moved, you know, maybe recently out to the suburbs, and, you know, didn’t have access to kind of the high quality cocktails that they were used to. So it seems to be really fulfilling a, a, not only does it taste great, but I feel like it also fulfills like some sort of like emotional need for folks to treat themselves

Drew Thomas Hendricks  23:39  

very similarly, with a lot of wines and spirits, like the aroma and the feeling can just take you back to where you are, and close my eyes and tasting this. I feel like I’m in a high end bar in San Francisco. It’s right where I want to be. And I know I’m jumping around, but the fact that you’ve combined rye and bourbon, I haven’t seen that before. And I’m going to steal that I gotta wait after I finish this call. Start mixing it myself. Where did that idea come from? Yeah, that’s our standard.

Robert Haynes  24:11  

I’ve I’ve loved split based cocktails for a long time. They just and there’s a few different types and styles like you know, whether you’re using tequila and mezcal and the base of a cocktail to create a more like optimal or more accessible flavor profile for certain guests. Or if you want to get into classics like the VUCA re which is as a right and cognac split base. You get into the best of both worlds. I feel like with that cocktail in particular and so for the for the gold fashion,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  24:48  

you know, right no doubt Luka Raya Yeah,

Robert Haynes  24:51  

it’s an Old School New Orleans drink. So yeah, that’s right cognac vermouth, Benedictine Dasha bitters, but for that, yeah, for the Go to fashion and you

Bianca Harmon  25:00  

make that next.

Robert Haynes  25:03  

Let’s see. Yeah, I feel like right old fashions are awesome. There’s, there’s like have this like fruity spice note. They’re kind of rash, they’re assertive and I love a good ride fashion. On the flip side like a bourbon old fashioned, especially with an older bourbon once you get into the 878 year, you know, that’s more of like, kind of a sexy, so slow slipper. The split bass, I feel like you’re getting both of those, and it comes across as as more complex and really excited for this year’s blend. So, this year, what’s

Drew Thomas Hendricks  25:45  

new this year?

Robert Haynes  25:46  

Yeah, we sourced a 15 year bourbon. So this year’s bass will be a blend of 15 and nine year old bourbon and six year ride. So yeah, kind of upping the ante a bit. And I think it’s going to be really, really lovely.

Bianca Harmon  26:03  

Are you still for seed from all? on six continents? For everything?

Robert Haynes  26:09  

Yeah. And if I if we could find something that grows on an article, we’ll

Damiane Nickles  26:16  

also just to just to layer on, like, you know, some people like, oh, well, why did you do the split base whiskey? Like, why did you do this? Why do this? Because it is absolutely delicious. And because it’s the best thing that we, we think works for the for the application, right? Like, similarly. For us, like, This feels like the answer to the problem, right? And if you asked, like, Brian Chesky, 10 years ago, CEO of Airbnb, like, hey, like, why should people do this? Why should people stay in strangers houses who be like, because it’s more convenient? And because it works, right? And so I think it took a little time for people to sort of be like, oh, man, yeah, that does work. And we’re noticing that, you know, over time, little by little people are very much so agreeing with us. They’re like, yeah, it is delicious. It works. So you know, a long answer, short answer. It fucking works. It’s delicious.

Robert Haynes  27:21  

Yeah, I will say like, in been involved in it, and numerous projects, over the years, whether it’s, you know, consumer packaged goods, spirits, or even even bars and restaurants. And there’s always like, a lot of considerations that you have to take into account when you like, are making decisions, whether that’s on like, an A bar restaurant, it’s like build out style and design, finishes, things like that. And with cocktails, it’s like, okay, like, what kind of glass can we afford? What are the inputs that we’re going to be sourcing. And with Sunday’s finest in with the gold fashion was one of the rare, but hopefully not. Hopefully, these continued, there were no guards, the only guard rail was, Hey, make it taste amazing. You know, don’t worry about cost, whatever we need to source we’ll find it. You know, the only the only thing that I have to do on the cocktail side is is make it taste great. Just a really, I feel really fortunate to have that

Damiane Nickles  28:32  

opportunity.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  28:34  

And how, in the 2022 tasting great. How would that is it going a different flavor? Along the same sort of spirit along the same sort of house vibe, but what are what are we what will we expect?

Robert Haynes  28:47  

I think it’s going to taste more dignified, who

Drew Thomas Hendricks  28:51  

could taste more dignified, and a little more stately.

Bianca Harmon  28:55  

that stood out adding a 15 year to it?

Robert Haynes  28:58  

Yeah, yeah, there’s just something like, with I feel like with age bourbons that you just, there’s, there’s something that time does that nothing else can really do with spirits. And I’m sure there’s great young whiskies out there. I haven’t had I’ve had a hard time finding

Drew Thomas Hendricks  29:17  

yet but

Robert Haynes  29:21  

there’s stuff that happens around the five year mark, there’s stuff that happens around the seven year mark, and there’s stuff that happens you know, once you get you know, in the 12 13 14 15 years and would do I think it would be as amazing if it was all 15 year I do not but I think being able to access that note that flavor, and then blend it with the nine year and the six year. It’s gonna be it’s gonna be great.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  29:50  

Yeah, there’s something that time you can’t cheap time. And every time I see like a micro craft store, try to put their you know their way Steve, like these little one gallon barrels? And then give me 10 years and three months, it just doesn’t seem to work.

Bianca Harmon  30:07  

Yeah, it was interesting. I had a I did a, we did a spirit company come on. And when I did his pre interview with him, was talking and I had heard about it. And he’s like, you know, we’ve been around for this many years. He’s like, but I can’t release anything for this many years. He’s like, so it’s taken a really long time to even be where we are now, you know, because I’ve got 15 year I’ve got or he’s like, I’ve got 12, I’ve got six, I’ve got a, but you’re just sitting there waiting most of the time if you want to produce a good spirit.

Damiane Nickles  30:35  

Totally, totally. And especially to like, you know, we’ve got our eyes set on MIT, because, as you were saying before, like, there are gonna be people who are pretty skeptical, like, Why the hell should I drink this bottled cocktail that has a 15? Year, nine year, Bourbon six year, right? We want to make sure that when you taste it, you feel like, oh, that’s why because there’s those elements that time only time can bring that sort of like complexity of character. So we want to make sure that we you know, when you come the first time come correct.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  31:13  

So, coming in the first time coming, correct, transporting people to that, to the sense of place somewhere else in this ready to drink category, outside of the gold fashion, where do you see your brand and some of the things if you can, if you can talk about that evolving?

Robert Haynes  31:31  

Yeah, we are working on a couple of products now. For next year, cocktails, same ethos, different cocktails, we’re probably going to stay in the spirit forward. area. Still, I think it’s I still think there’s like some some real challenges on a like molecular level with incorporating lime juice. Yeah, it’s nothing that’s shelf stable in a in a way that feels good. So we’re gonna stay. There’s a

Drew Thomas Hendricks  32:10  

lot of transportation issues there. Cuz we’ve gone out with drinks. I mean, when I understanding for them, it comes in was like, refrigerated container. It’s, it’s everything about it. It’s got a big distribution issue their spirit forward, especially an old fashion,

Robert Haynes  32:26  

I mean, that it’s pretty shelf stable. Yep. Yeah, yeah. So we don’t we want, you know, that for folks to be able to buy something that can, you know, sit on the shelves for a little bit. So they, you know, are having company over and whatnot. But I think the one thing, another thing that will stay consistent is the atomizer. We think that’s really unique to this brand, it allows you to create something that’s organoleptic and, you know, engages all the senses. And you know, when we first are indeed, this cocktail, you know, we finally found the whiskies that was a, that took some, a lot of work to source. And then we were making cocktails, and we looked at each other and said like, Hey, okay, this is good. But is this better than a cocktail that you would get at x bar or restaurant? And the answer is that without the garnish, no, like, aroma is such an important piece of the puzzle, like when you taste something, and then like the light bulb went off, you know, I think someone kind of casually said, Well, what if we put the arm Zestimate atomizer. And you’re like, Whoa,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  33:43  

yes, that was brilliant, is that spread the hardest part for a home for a whole home bartender to do in the part they skimp on, they’re either going to cut that or so thick, you’ve got like a slice of orange in there. Or they’re not going to know how to twist it. Right?

Robert Haynes  33:56  

Yeah, it makes all the difference in the world. So I feel like that unlocked another level with this cocktail. And I think with all of our, with our future offerings, we will also be incorporated an aromatic zest for those as well.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  34:09  

I’d like to shift if I can for a second wait to actually are company and the fact that you’re a certified B Corp and all your social initiatives to set that ground works amazing. Can you talk about that?

Robert Haynes  34:20  

Yep. So apologue the course which is kind of where this this all started, you know, in addition to, you know, making, kind of thought provoking and thoughtfully made look, corpse you know, and apologue is a the word epilogue is a it’s a moral fable. And it’s typically it involves and an animal is the spirit guide. And there’s usually a good like little nugget of wisdom in there or a nice lesson to be learned. And with apologue a company we wanted to, you know, tell a a good story a meaningful story with, you know, not only our products but with with our business. And the B Corp. framework, the B Corp. Network has provided us with kind of a checklist, these are all things that we wanted to do. And this was just a good way for us to stay organized and stay accountable. So in addition to trying to, like just run a successful company, you want to also be like the best company you can for your community, your suppliers, your partners and your employees. So we do kind of regular Community Service volunteer hours, we track that 2% of all proceeds from each product we sell goes to a an aligned nonprofit, you know, whether that’s pilot light, which does food education for for young kids, and not only in Chicagoland, but around the nation to women in hospitality united to advocate for urban agriculture. So honestly, like, that’s, that’s as much, that’s a pretty big part of what we do and why we do it, it feels good for us, and these are things that initiatives that we we want to do, no matter what, and we see apologue and Sundays finest is, you know, a vehicle for us to, you know, make a positive impact in, in the ways that we can

Damiane Nickles  36:32  

think also to like, you know, if we kidding, if you’ve worked in a restaurant or bar before, you know, the challenges of working in a restaurant in a bar, right, like, and so I feel like I was referencing working at this farm and realizing like, all of these businesses are connected, right? Like, every restaurant has at least 40 different vendors that they’re buying things from, depending on the restaurant, right? So if we can be part of that ecosystem, and be sort of depositing regularly back into it. I think for us, that goes a really long way. And so with the B Corp framework, it sort of it makes you do a lot of those, it just bakes a lot of those things into your regular everyday business, right? Because then I’m sure you talk to your bartenders, you talk to your bar owners, your restaurant owners, they’re like, Well, I would love to do that. I would love to, you know, give back, I’d love to do this, I’d love to do this. But if you’re a B Corp, it’s like, no, you have to do. Right. So it’s you set your guard, you set yourself up with guardrails, that will sort of get you to the place that you want to go. So we’re pretty like Adam, it’s like alright, let’s it’s definitely the harder way to do it. For sure. It’s not the path of least resistance, but I think it’s a net positive.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  37:52  

Yeah, and also, I mean, it’s doing the right thing, whether it’s producing the best of fashion or doing the engaging in the best business practices. You can’t like sacrifice one and get the other

Damiane Nickles  38:04  

accountable. So well, just cool. Also helps you sleep at night.

Bianca Harmon  38:12  

Yeah, there’s that too.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  38:15  

Yeah, what so for other spirit producers and you know, other people in this free to drink category, you kind of set that high bar, what advice would you give to somebody trying to enter into the category? Man, great question.

Robert Haynes  38:31  

We’ve talked to quite a few people over the last few years, you know, friends that you know, have baby adjacent businesses that are interested in the ready to drink space. I would my suggestion is one don’t do it. Unless you unless you unless you absolutely know what you’re what you’re getting into. It’s a lot of work. You know, our before we launched Sunday’s finest, we partnered with a Restaurant Group in Chicago to release a canned Margarita. And it’s done really well for us. It’s called the brand is big star. And they have a couple taco spots in the city of Chicago and they are known for their ruckus patio, and they’re awesome margaritas and I cannot think of a better brand to extend beyond the hospitality space and bring into the retail space. But that’s because they have so much brand equity and such a recognizable name and such a great reputation in around the Chicagoland area. If we had brought that back ran to market from scratch, it would have been significantly more challenging. And the retail space is not always a friendly one, there’s a lot of pay to play. There’s a lot of folks paid for shelf space. And then you’re also competing with like, the largest conglomerates in the DevOps, you know, industry, who are going to, you know, be able to beat you on price, you know, X, Y, and Z, and they have these massive stats. So you if you want to enter this space, you’ve got to differentiate. And that’s, I think, one of the things that was appealing to us about Sunday’s finest, like, Let’s go where no one has gone before. And, and we legitimately think that we have the kind of the, the right to win, if you will, you know, in in, in this like, luxury cocktail space where the goal is to just create the absolute best ready to drink cocktail. And, you know, we’ve had to get, we’ve gotten creative with it as well, you know, we do a lot of our business direct to consumer, a lot of it is online. And because it’s a kind of a more of a nascent category, the playbook is not as like well defined. And, you know, we get to be a little bit like cowboys and kind of try things out and figure it out as we go.

Damiane Nickles  41:43  

I think that’s great advice. Differentiation, I would say, my advice would be, listen to your gut, but also listen to the numbers. Because, like Robbie was alluding to there, a lot of incumbent players, right. And I think a lot of people will be like, Oh, well, I’ll just like move in the big the big guys. Like it’ll take them too long, blah, blah. And you got to understand that it might, I think of them almost like boats, right? Like, you’re on your little Skipper. And like you can bounce around, you can move around, you can turn really quickly. You can accelerate decelerate really quickly. But you have only as much fuel as you have on board, right? Like you only have as much food as you have on board. Meanwhile, a lot of these bigger companies, their cruise liners, right? Like it might take them, it might take them eight hours to change direction. But once they’ve changed direction, they have way more resources they have all the time in the world. So if you’re gonna go after something like that, in our TV space, no one know what you’re doing trust your gut, but also under, like, know the numbers around what you’re doing, understand if what you’re doing works or not understand that the need is actually there. And if you’re feeling like what is the opportunity that you’re actually chasing after, right, and how can you prove that it’s as like, ironclad as as you see it to be. So that would be my, you know, listen to your gut, but also listen to the numbers.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  43:19  

That’s a great analogy, the small boat versus a cruise liner. And another question for both of you with all this kind of adversity and opportunity. How do you stay motivated?

Robert Haynes  43:36  

Man, you know, I tough to answer because it doesn’t. I’m just gonna start I’m not motivated. Yeah, the secret is, I don’t need to be. I don’t need to be motivated. This is just what I do. And I guess it’s like its own its own form of motivation. But like, you know, I wake up and I’m excited about the brand and excited about the opportunities and excited about what we make. I love the creative process. So I don’t know for me, it’s it’s just not really a question. It’s just start Riven just

Damiane Nickles  44:21  

I would say that’s a good answer. Robbie, I would say for me, it’s more like it’s more seemed like, like knowing the experience that I had, like from being not necessarily a non believer, but like it not really being on my radar and then feeling that feeling of like the switch going off in my head. And seeing that similar switch happened with other people. I think every time that happens, like it’s like a pull up to the gas station, and there’s just gas in the tank, you know, like I was at dinner with my girlfriend’s sister and her partner and and had bought some local fashion would be, and we tasted it out and just the look on their faces that was like enough for me to be like I, like we’re doing the right thing here were like, this is a thing that people can see and touch and feel and believe in anything to like. Sometimes the bigness of it can be so overwhelming because I call it man like, completely new category blue ocean, like there’s so much work to do. But simultaneously, it’s like a completely new category blue ocean so much shit to do. You know. So the bigness of it. And the unknown definitely is a motivator and pulling people from that unknown space to the now they’re in with you and getting that buy in is hugely rewarding.

Bianca Harmon  45:49  

I like that this is what you bring out to dinner because I usually break wine so I guess I need to

Damiane Nickles  46:00  

October 13. With our team, that’s when we’re going live. You can bring as many bottles of gold fashion to every every engagement

Drew Thomas Hendricks  46:12  

and Damiane and Robby, where can people find out more about Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned

Damiane Nickles  46:19  

sundaysfinest.com maybe. We have so we just refresh our website. We’ll be going live to the public October 13th. You can order on our website sundaysfinest.com It will show up right at your door. There’s also a ton more information there about about our ingredients, our stories, so you can really sort of dive deep if you want to. But yeah, sundaysfinest.com on Instagram with sundaysfinestcraftcocktails. Find us there shoot us a note we’d love to chat.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  46:52  

Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us. And this was a real treat, man. I found many cocktails.

Damiane Nickles  47:01  

Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us having me. Thank you guys.

Outro  47:11  

Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.