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Born in the Bar Room: The Story of Crafthouse Cocktails

It’s always the story behind the success that truly authenticates a brand like Crafthouse Cocktails. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s how Crafthouse came to be.

(Photo courtesy: @drinkcrafthouse)

There’s a funny thing that happens in the online space. There are countless products from countless places and limitless brands. But every product and brand has a story, and we rarely get an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes.

We got a chance to have a conversation with Matt Lindner and Charles Joly of Crafthouse Cocktails to learn theirs.

And we’ll be the first to tell you, these guys are some badass, cocktail-cheffin’, authenticity-driven, beverage pioneers.

We want to tell their story for two reasons. The first is that we have recently partnered with them to help make their products readily available for purchase & delivery online. The second is because their story is what makes their bottled, ready-to-drink cocktails so unique. They’re like the Steve Jobs and Wozniack of the craft cocktail industry. Truly ahead of the competition.

(L-R: Crafthouse Founders, Charles Joly and Matt Linder) Photo courtesy: @drinkcrafthouse

Lindner and Joly were hospitality experts in Chicago. Joly, a world-renowned expert bartender, and Lindner, a futuristic pioneer of the restaurant industry, began working together in 1999. Life in the hospitality industry stimulates creativity in the most unlikely ways.

“We always talk about Crafthouse being born in the bar room, not in the boardroom,” said Lindner.

And that’s exactly how it started. People in their bar were always asking Joly for his drink recipes, but couldn’t ever manage to effectively recreate them on their own. “Late night, one night,” Lindner added, “after close, we just said, what if we made these cocktails for people? You know, make it easier for them to enjoy at home.” And there it was. The big idea.

With the perfect combination of desire and expertise to make it happen, the pioneer (Lindner) and the expert (Joly) teamed up to create Crafthouse Cocktails. But it wasn’t without trial and tribulation that these gentlemen got to where they are today.

Let’s take it back a few years. From an idea comes research and development, and from research and development comes a product. But that product needs the appropriate resources, ingredients, and backing to truly become what it’s meant to be. Lindner said “Nobody in the states would even touch or try what we were doing,” so, like many people joke about after undesirable election results, they headed to Canada. The pair spent the first part of their development of Crafthouse bottled cocktails traveling back and forth from Montreal, Canada to test their concoctions among a rag-tag group of French-Canadian booze enthusiasts.

Picture John, Paul, George and Ringo returning to Liverpool to be greeted by the queen after making it big time in America. The origins of Crafthouse were the Beatlemania of Montreal. At first, it was “Here come the booze guys,” and that morphed into “Charles and Matt! Sign my forehead and pour me a drink!” However, in the early stages, turning a profit proved more difficult than anticipated. But pioneers and experts don’t shy away from adversity. They make it work.

(Photo courtesy: @drinkcrafthouse)

What needs to be recognized here, is that the pioneer and the expert were quite literally the first people ever to try creating bottled craft cocktails. Lindner said,

“We did 2+ years of research because people said it couldn’t be done. That you couldn’t put an actual cocktail into a bottle and still have it taste good and have it preserved. The reality is it just hadn’t been done before.”

The desire and dedication to their craft is what eventually led them to be the first-ever creators of cocktails to be sold right off the shelf. But success wasn’t just going to appear out of thin air. The research that led them to success is truly the embodiment of trial and tribulation.

“I would do a big charity event, and we would have like two thousand people come through,” Joly reminisced, “and I was like ‘OK… I can batch up and I know how to make two thousand cocktails taste good.’” Can you imagine batching two thousand cocktails at once? I mean… talk about dedication. Then, scale that up a bit and try to figure out how to batch for mass production and distribution. The aspiring Crafthouse team had their work cut out for them, even with a wealth of experience under their belts, but they were still raring to turn the idea into a reality. It’s these bits and pieces of endless effort that led the pioneer and the expert into the bottle… and we mean that in the wittiest and most endearing sense. The bottled cocktails are the pique of excellence and authenticity. “Nobody took the same ingredients that you would use in an actual cocktail and just scaled that up,” said Joly. And with his skill and careful coordination, the impossible became possible. But not without some friendly, industry-born relationships to help out along the way.

Joly says, “I think as a startup, you end up calling in a lot of favors, and end up developing relationships,”

and he couldn’t be more right. The friendships developed at the beginning become lifelong partnerships. Just four blocks away from the bar Joly was working in, was a little distillery still trying to get their feet under them. CH Distillery employees would often visit the Aviary, Joly’s bar at the time, and naturally, they developed a strong relationship. He was then able to leverage that connection to create a source for all of Crafthouse’s gin and vodka needs. A step in the right direction… and away from Canada. With CH Distillery's help, Lindner and Joly were able to develop their first cocktail: The Moscow Mule. Heard of it? Well, it was just beginning to emerge back on the scene at the time, so it made for the perfect starting point.

But they didn’t stop there. They did their dance in Canada, but as agave-based spirit enthusiasts, they decided to take their mission South. They spent tons of time in Mexico where they were able to develop a Paloma, their second successful and hard-hitting cocktail.

Joly said, “We were like ‘Alright, everyone’s seen the margarita. The margarita has been dragged through the mud, especially in the bottled cocktail category.”

(Hey, Big Beer Companies. Thanks a ton for ruining that opportunity with the Lime-A-Rita 👀... Corn syrup in a can? Yuck.)

(Photo courtesy: @drinkcrafthouse)

“You go into Mexico. Actual Mexico, not tourist Mexico, and you get Palomas,” he continued. And wham, bam, thank you ma’am, the Crafthouse premade Paloma was born. From here, the pioneer and the expert began cooking with gasoline. And by gasoline, we mean rum. Joly leveraged a past relationship with his friend, the founder of Plantation Rum. He thought he might as well go out on a limb with his next premade cocktail endeavor. Enter the Pineapple Daiquiri.

People hear ‘daiquiri’ and they think of bad cruise ship connotations or walking down Bourbon Street and there are slushie machines… bad mardi gras experiences and whatnot, but the Pineapple Daiquiri is kind of like a bartender’s handshake,” Joly joked. His pre-established connection with Plantation Rum allowed him to make this vision a reality. He continued, “I just love it because people see it and they’re like, ‘A pineapple daiquiri? Really? In this lineup of all these classic cocktails?’” But we can attest to the fact that, once this daiquiri hits your lips, the cruise ship sails right on home down Bourbon Street and you’re left with one of the most authentic and palatable beverages to ever hit your mouth.

And that was only the beginning… Since their grass-roots come-up, literally creating the bottled cocktail industry, Lindner and Joly have been able to create a delicious menagerie of truly authentic cocktails sourced from truly authentic ingredients, the most recent of which is a Spicy Margarita. They have also shaped their brand into something far more unique than many other beverage creators.

“I think our brand became a few things, like, yes, it is the cocktails, but it was also about what we did every night as a career for decades, which was to enjoy the opportunity to throw a party every night,” Joly expressed.

As the Crafthouse Cocktail brand continues to take shape, the pioneer and the expert are continuing to explore new ideas. Lindner jokes, “Everybody aspires to be a lifestyle brand and I think we do that to an extent, but we need to make sure we stay in our lane a little bit. We’re not gonna start coming out with, like, dog bowls or something.”

Instead of barking up the wrong tree with Crafthouse branded dog bowls, they’ve decided to emBARK (last dog joke, I promise) on a different, more reasonable path. They are now officially expanding into the online alcohol delivery space in their newfound partnership with Handoff.

(The Handoff Plugin shopping experience. LIVE NOW)

When asked about tackling the online space, specifically in regards to delivery, Lindner remarked,

“This is a wave, for sure. We’re trying to learn it, so to team up with Handoff, especially in the stage of growth where Handoff is, we have tons of room for continual growth, which is exciting.”

The online space is continuing to emerge and grow. 2020 has been a wild year in countless ways, but the Crafthouse crew knows exactly where to go from here. “And Jesus… The delivery,” Joly quipped, “2020 has certainly exploded the delivery world, and Handoff makes it so easy.”

Here at Handoff, we couldn’t be more stoked to be working with people who care so intently about both the people they serve and the products they create. We aspire to the level of care and patience the pioneer and the expert have for their craft, and we’re extremely proud and humbled to be helping them explore the evolving world of online alcohol delivery.

(Photo courtesy: @drinkcrafthouse)

Just in case the authenticity of Crafthouse Cocktails hasn’t become apparent yet, here’s one more quote from each of the men behind the operation to ensure that you know these guys are just as real as each batch of cocktails you effortlessly enjoy in the comfort of your home.

Charles Joly: “I would never put corn syrup into a cocktail.”

Matt Lindner: “We just launched the spicy jalapeño margarita which is pretty much what I’m drinking all the time. But I always go back to all of ‘em.”

Any alcohol brand is only as good as the people who make it. Matt and Charles know that, and it’s truly powerful to be able to ride the wave with them. Cheers to the authenticity not only in Crafthouse Cocktails but also in the people who created them. And as Joly said, “when you don’t wanna crack down and pull out all the ingredients yourself, Crafthouse is there waitin’ for you."

All Crafthouse Cocktails are effortlessly available to order for delivery in Colorado through the newly embedded Handoff plugin on every page of CrafthouseCocktails.com. Just click the rectangle in the bottom right corner where it says “Get It Delivered Today!” and you’ll be cruisin’ and boozin’ with less perusin’. Alternatively, download the Handoff app to shop from Crafthouse and thousands of other brands.

Stay thirsty, #HandoffNation. And Stay real.

Cocktails that you have to try:

⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️

Gold Rush 14.9% ABV

Moscow Mule 10.1% ABV

Paloma 10.6% ABV

Pineapple Daiquiri 13.6% ABV

Rum Old Fashioned 24.6% ABV

Smoky Margarita 13.9% ABV

Southside 13.8% ABV

Spicy Margarita 14% ABV

With Crafthouse Cocktails, there’s a little something for everyone. Sizes range from 200 ml cans to 750 ml bottles on average. 1.75-liter bag-in-box cocktails are also available for select cocktails. Cocktails just got a whole lot easier 😎