Here’s a fact to keep in your head for your next pub quiz: the Old Fashioned has been the
world’s best-selling cocktail for five years in a row.
However, as is often the case, the quality of that Old Fashioned can vary greatly depending
on where you are having said drink.
For instance, pre-mixed in your hotel room.
One Wellington company set to change this is J.M.R. Cocktail & Co, producing pre-bottled cocktails which are ready to serve and taste just like you would receive in a cocktail bar.
I caught up with Amy Alexander, one half of the J.M.R. team, to find out how they got started.
“Jonny [McKenzie; friend, business partner and hospitality entrepreneur] and I both come from
hospitality backgrounds and we wanted to be able to drink a Negroni anywhere without taking the entire bar with us. We struggled to find a well made ready to serve cocktail.
“I have often travelled for my various roles and sometimes I just wanted the convenience of having a Martini, while in my robe in my hotel room instead of having to go sit in a bar solo. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t shy away from a solo drink, but after a long day, sometimes PJ’s and a cocktail in bed is the answer.”
I asked Amy what the motivation is behind the brand.
“We want to give people a quality cocktail experience outside of the walls of a cocktail bar - for example in their own home or beautiful hotel or eatery! You don’t have to sacrifice quality because something is pre-made for you. I also love the hustle, growing a brand and working for myself.”
The company itself is still in its early days, having been founded in 2017, but is already making an impact - which probably has something to do with the collective experience of 35 years in hospitality that Amy and Jonny bring to the table.
I asked Amy what challenges they’ve come up against in their journey.
“One of the main ones is having too many projects on the go and not being able to focus on one or delegate. Asana (project planning tool) is a godsend, it helps keep me track of all the moving cogs and deadlines,” says Amy.
“Mixing, bottling and labelling everything by hand is also something we underestimated at the
start. People think we have this huge glamorous operation, but the reality is, I spend hours a week mixing and bottling these drinks. Each batch of our cocktails are mixed, aged, quality control tested, hand bottled, labelled and boxed up ready to head out to our stockists. A process I believe in but definitely has its challenges!
“One of the other big challenges is that ‘out of stocks’ happen no matter how much planning you do. This might be bottles, this might be supply. We work incredibly closely with our wonderful suppliers to do our best, but even they can’t help it if a boat is delayed!”
Getting a business started can be fairly full on, especially given we typically don’t know what we don’t know. I asked Amy if anything has been easier than she thought it would be.
“I don’t think I would describe anything as easy. We knew what cocktails we wanted to launch with, so we got our designer on board to help develop the labels once we found our bottles.
“All of our past experience has brought us to this point. With our history, we have some excellent industry contacts and we had a good idea of where to start. I was running J.M.R. on the side all of last year while working full time, so this gave us a good chance to work out some systems and test the New Zealand market.
“This then gave me the confidence to jump in with both feet, quit my ‘real job’ and pursue J.M.R. full time as of March 2019.”
I asked what specific decisions have they made as a company that has contributed to their early success.
“It’s up to us to build this company, so from day one that meant it’s up to us to hit the pavement. No one is going to do the hard door knocking if we aren’t willing to. This is our dream and it's our responsibility to get people on board with it!”
I asked Amy what advice she would give to aspiring small business owners.
“Have a very clear goal of what you want and focus on that. It is so easy to get distracted by the next shiny thing - by the way, I am very much that person. If it does not line up with your goals and strategy, do not take it on. Time is very limited when you have a small or non existent team so prioritising is important,” Amy says.
“My other advice is: Talk to people. Get out there and ask questions. Ask for help, reach out to
other people and don’t think you can do it all yourself. My day can consist of a million different things from bottling, tastings, packing orders, chasing couriers, sales calls, marketing, event planning, accounting, emails, meetings, meetings and meetings. You will start to realise where
your time is best spent and this will help you develop roles when you look to expand your team.”
And finally, what are J.M.R.’s plans for the future?
“Growth. Short term, we want to see a J.M.R. & Co Cocktail in every home, minibar, cocktail cabinet and liquor stores around NZ, as well as launch a new cocktail range for glass free events - which is very much still in the planning phase. We also can’t wait to announce our upcoming collaborations with some incredibly talented kiwi artists and spirit makers.
“The dream... Enjoying a J.M.R. Cocktail & Co Negroni on that next Air New Zealand flight!”
For more info on J.M.R. & Co, visit: https://jmrcocktail.com/.