Downtown met up with Owen Meyer, founder of Wine & Whiskey NYC, for some questions about Wine & Whiskey and his second concept Liquor Lab; Liquor Lab was recently tested out in Chicago and will soon launch in New York City.
Can you tell me little more about the background of how the concept behind Whiskey & Wine NYC started?
Owen Meyer: There is a huge market of people out there who are very interested in learning about craft cocktails and the evolution of the industry but are intimidated by it. [Wine & Whiskey NYC] offers a platform for people to come experience cocktails without the pressure of picking a cocktail off a menu or not knowing what the ingredients are and then use it as a stepping stone to go out to a great cocktail bar and order what they have learned to like.
What has been the hardest part about starting up Whiskey & Wine NYC? And what’s been the best?
OM: I think the hardest part is getting the message through to people that we aren’t trying to be a substitute for going to their favorite bar. We are simply a middle man between those bars and the curious consumer who wants to learn something through an experience. People should look at W&W and say, “I can go to a cool private pop-up event, learn about some cocktails, meet some fun people, have a little bite to eat.” You really can’t beat that deal for the value and experience.
How do you go about creating events? Do you seek out the bars and bring the bartenders and members, or how does it work?
OM: We seek out established and upcoming bartenders and great private locations, then we create a one-time menu with that bartender, put up the info for our members to see and then we all meet at that location for the event. We’ll start out with 1-2 events per month and scale up accordingly to the point where we are doing several each month including brunch events and events out east in the summer with some of our partnership companies.
Wine & Whiskey NYC wants to create a platform where bartenders can test out menus and tell stories – how exactly do you do you ensure this?
OM: That really lies within the bartenders we work with. There are so many talented bartenders out there and these events put the focus directly on them. It allows talented bartenders to test out some new — and proven — things that really tell their story in their own liquid way.
Who are your members? How do you ensure a variety in members?
OM: The whole membership thing isn’t meant to be cheesy or exclusive. It just means that you’re a quality type of guy or girl who seeks out cool experiences and the membership fee comes with free tickets to offset the cost. So, it really is just a barrier to entry to ensure we have a good group of people with similar interests. Nothing more.
Why introduce the concept in New York City?
OM: Why not? New York is the capital of the world, it’s the greatest city on earth — some will argue London, but I argue London is a city that sleeps. W&W is a concept that really, only works where you have people that seek out new and exciting things, and that has New York City written all over it.
What are you most excited about for your upcoming Grand Opening Launch?
OM: Working with the Pouring Ribbons guys for a location, Freddie Sarkis and one of our favorite craft distilleries of all time, CH Distillery. Some of us are from Chicago, so this launch event is sort of a Chicago to NYC theme with Freddie and CH.
I heard a little bird singing about bringing Liquor Lab to New York City. Can you reveal anything about that?
OM: Yes! Liquor Lab is a concept we piloted in Chicago for a year to sort of test the waters and it was amazing. We are currently closing a round of funding needed to expand across the country as well as open our flagship Liquor Lab location here in New York City. This concept is like nothing you’ve seen or done before, and there are so many different experiences that we offer at the space so we are really excited to get the HQ Lab opened!
Wine & Whiskey NYC’s annual subscription fee of $175. The membership includes invitations to secret, exclusive pop-up events with an exciting menu of drinks and bites. You can learn more about the upcoming events on their website and social media.
Photos: Courtesy of Wine & Whiskey