Brandon Everett, the creator of Cocktail Drops, was quick to correct me when I asked what "flavors" he had experimented with thus far. "I wouldn't say that they're a flavor," he said. "They are cocktails. They're not flavored to taste like cocktails."
On the table next to us, a display of Everett's cocktails sat in front of a menu that included a number of classic drinks, ranging from the margarita to the Moscow mule. The drops were arranged three to a stick, each boozy kebab topped with the appropriate garnish, such as a lime for the margarita variety. They reminded me vaguely of Jello shots, but only because there was so little else to compare them to. These were completely solid cocktails, and truthfully, they were unlike anything I had ever seen.
Everett began playing around with new mixology techniques in 2012. As an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, he started working on-and-off in his kitchen on a constantly evolving idea. "I didn't really know what I was trying to make at first," he said. Ultimately, he decided that he was interested in finding a new way to serve a classic cocktail. That's how he landed on Cocktail Drops.
I didn't really know what I was trying to make at first.
The first drop that Everett developed was the whiskey sour, his favorite cocktail to drink at the time. "I knew that I'd be able to recognize when I hit it perfectly," he explained. It took hundreds of "not very enjoyable" whiskey sour drops before he was satisfied with the recipe. After this initial learning experience, other recipes have since come much more quickly.
The actual science behind Cocktail Drops is a closely guarded secret, but the ingredients that go into each are nearly identical to those that would go into a drinkable cocktail. Everett uses premium spirits in the drops, and all of the juice is cold-pressed from a whole fruit. So the actual taste of a drop is remarkably similar to that of a sip of the liquid variety.
The experience of eating one, however, is quite different. "When you first bite into a Cocktail Drop, they have a smooth, almost custard-like consistency, and then they melt into a liquid sip in your mouth," said Everett. He said that, while there was really no wrong way to eat a Cocktail Drop, he recommended putting the entire drop into your mouth at once and savoring it. And in case you were wondering, they definitely aren't reminiscent of Jello shots when you eat them.
Nine of the drops are just about equal to the alcoholic content of one traditional cocktail, providing a huge benefit to customers who prefer to mix-and-match when it comes to their cocktail intake.
As soon as Everett explained this to me, I was struck by how limiting traditional drinks suddenly seemed. Often, I've found myself having difficulty choosing just one cocktail from a menu filled with clever creations, eventually reduced to asking friends to sample a sip of their drinks. But with Cocktail Drops, you could have nine different tastes without ending up too drunk, which previously sounded like an impossible feat. I personally don't know anyone who would be able to properly function after nine traditional cocktails. But nine drops? No problem.
While the general response to the drops has been one of excitement, Everett still faces the challenges of a highly-regulated industry. Since finalizing the recipe in 2016, he's been looking for the best way to take Cocktail Drops nationwide. "I was able to start doing sales through private events," Everett said of his early business model.
For caterers, Cocktail Drops can increase the speed of service over traditional beverages that have to be mixed on the spot. "You can turn serving cocktails at your event into something that more closely resembles an hor d'oeuvre experience," said Everett. By offering Cocktail Drops at an event, caterers are also able to ensure that the quality of the "drinks" is consistent, which isn't always a reality at a busy event.
Going forward, Everett plans to turn Cocktail Drops into more of a subscription service by offering kits that would allow customers to make the drops in their own home. Given that the complete recipe from start to finish is fairly complex, the kits would only require customers to carry out the final step in the creation process.
"My vision for Cocktail Drops is for it to be the Blue Apron of molecular mixology," said Everett. Many subscription box services have found high levels of success in recent years, including quite a few related to the cocktail industry. Companies like Bitters and Bottles and Cocktail Courier send their subscribers a box filled with all of the ingredients necessary to mix their own craft cocktails. However, Cocktail Drops would offer something unique in this space, given that the end result is only attainable through the kit and not by any other means.
I tasted five of Everett's Cocktail Drops offerings: Moscow mule, sangria, whiskey sour, White Russian, and classic margarita.
If I was in a bar with these choices, I'd order a margarita, and the drop didn't disappoint. But the advantages of Cocktail Drops were evident as I was able to sample even the cocktails I'd never order, like the whiskey sour. And I was surprised when I found myself enjoying the whiskey sour drop. I hadn't expected the drops to give me insight into my own cocktail preferences, but when I savored them as Everett recommended, I was able to appreciate the tastes more than I would with their matching beverage forms.
As innovative craft cocktails continue to disrupt the bar scene, Cocktail Drops takes things one step further by providing an experience like no other. After trying out these solid cocktails just once, you might find yourself wishing that they were a permanent fixture in every bar. And as Everett continues to get the word out, maybe one day, they will be.
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