Photo Courtesy: Artet Mixology
I’m what some have called a Master Mixologist. My professional qualifications are many. I started as a bar back for Chris James at the Ryland Inn. This is the very bottom of the ladder to become a bartender or mixologist in my opinion. It was not easy work at fifty years of age, far from, it was very physically demanding. Chris was not easy on me. You don’t write about spirits from behind a desk, you must be cleaning the speed racks at three in the morning to know what goes into being a bartender. I’ve taught Master Classes in un-manipulated rum at places like the Moscow Bar Show in Russia and Stonewall Kitchen in Maine. I was a rum judge for the Ministry of Rum and the Rum XP folks in Florida. I’ve led and sat on panels at SXSW on cannabis and the Berlin Bar Convent. My six books on mixology are sold globally. There even is a book on Cannabis, named Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics.
The legal cannabis market has been craving a way into the vast pool of communication between liquor and cannabis for years. The trouble with most of the infused beverages on the market, they are produced to a degree that I see in my role of a tastemaker, as less than satisfactory. Many are way too sweet and others are so far out of balance that their “designers” should stick to putting worms in bottles of mezcal and deeply caramel coloring their rum to make them appear to be old. Not Artet. This new infused beverage mimics the bitter beverages that make up classic drinks like the Negroni and the Americano.
Photo Courtesy: Artet
Artet is the first ready to drink aperitif that is a true reality check for THC based beverages. Most cannabis beverages, (but not all) are geared towards the twenty one to thirty one year old set. I understand the market well having just attended the bi-yearly event: Hall of Flowers in Santa Rosa, California. Sweet sells and it is found in everything it seems from gummies to edibles to beverages.
You can be happy to know that Artet is unlike anything produced on the infused drinks market, it’s not sweet or cloying. Artet is sophisticated and memorable, bitter and oh, so mixable. All I could think of was a Negroni or in this case, a take on the classic I named, One- And One-One Cocktail.
One- And One-One Cocktail: Artet, Dolin Rouge, Beefeater Gin. Rub the inside of a pre-chilled rocks glass with a hand-cut orange peel preserved in Lucid Absinthe. Add one large cube of hand-cut ice. Add one ounce of Artet, one ounce of Dolin Rouge, one ounce of Beefeater Gin. Stir quickly with a cocktail spoon, express a further Absinthe infused orange zest over the top and serve with a smile. Finger-stirred? Perhaps not.
Gaz Regan would be proud.
Artet acts as a metaphor for opening your palate. Artet is meant to be enjoyed before a meal, that’s why it’s called an aperitif. An aperitif makes you salivate making you hungry, your stomach gets ready to accept a meal for digestion. Sipping an aperitif is also a way into your emotions. To those who enjoy bitter beverages are a way to balance your inner sense of self, the bitter against sweet of life. This balance is like life itself.
Artet aperitif makes you hungry for a meal, and each sip brings a certain intellectual clarity enhanced by THC.
Artet was created to compliment food. Yes, Artet comes dosed with very low amounts of THC. You won’t get destroyed, it actually stimulates your stomach and makes you hungrier, a win-win for the microdose set.
I can say that they get it, (with reference to THC mixology) at Artet. I’m the lucky one to be able to introduce these real NYC kids who made something of their lives by hard work and deep ambition. They also had the best teachers (family members) who cared to teach lessons in life, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. My tip of the bar stick to them.
Photo Courtesy: Artet Mixology
Warren Bobrow=WB: Where are you from? Why cannabis? Did you go to business school to learn about building a company? Who is your mentor? Outdoor or indoor grown. Why?
Maxwell Spohler=M: Well for one, we’re family. Two brothers and a cousin all born and raised in NYC to a large and very boisterous family that always looks for any excuse to get together over food and drinks. Being from New York, cannabis has always been a part of the culture, so it was something we grew up enjoying with friends.
Zachary Spohler=Z: We enjoy all cannabis but particularly appreciate sun-grown cannabis as we care less about chasing the high levels of THC found in indoor cannabis and more about the way the strain tastes and feels when you factor in terpene profiles and levels of other cannabinoids.
Xander Shepherd=X: I’m confident that I speak for the three of us when listing our grandmother as a huge mentor to us. A successful entrepreneur in her own right in the hospitality industry, we’ve been able to learn by osmosis over the years about what it means to create a service-oriented business and transform that into a luxury proposition. It’s not just about a price point, or pretty packaging, it’s about caring about people and their needs always. She’s also a fantastic painter in her free time, and it was actually a fun moment for us to be able to use her paintings as inspiration when designing our bottle. A nice homage to her and also an everyday reminder to us about putting people first and foremost in everything we do.
Photo Courtesy: Artet Mixology
WB: Please tell me about your company? What was your inspiration? (Or who was your inspiration?) What is your Six Month Plan? One Year?
X: We are a beverage company at the intersection of cannabis and cocktail culture. Our flagship product, a 750ml cannabis aperitif, was inspired by a vision a few years ago that one day someone should be able to walk to their bar cart or liquor cabinet, take a bottle off, pour a drink, and have that entire experience be cannabis-based. But it also goes without saying that you’ve actually been an influence on us as well in your pursuit of celebrating the intersection of these two categories. I actually have your cannabis mixology book on my coffee table! (Author’s note, this was my book, Cannabis Cocktails, which was a complete surprise to me.)
M: We love mixology and we love cannabis and believe strongly in bringing them together. In the end, there’s much in common between a well-rolled joint and a balanced cocktail. We chose the aperitif because for the three of us, we believe cannabis is the perfect aperitif. The aperitif is a drink taken at the beginning of the evening to set the mood, stimulate the appetite, and wash away the work day. In the form of Artet, cannabis is finally able to play a role in a behavior traditionally reserved for alcohol. Instead of a dealcoholized beverage, we built a zero-proof beverage from the ground up with cannabis at the core, inspired by flavor notes of iconic aperitifs.
Z: Our six-month plan is for Artet to be on as many bar carts, and in as many liquor cabinets, as possible in the state of California and to continue building partnerships in the food and beverage world to help expand the types of places where people can enjoy Artet. As for a year from now, we see strategic value in bringing Artet to additional markets to bring Artet to more people and continue normalizing the roll of cannabis in cocktail culture and mixology. And if we look slightly over the 12-month horizon, we’ll begin to roll out new formats that bring the world of Artet into different occasions and products that compliment Artet as a mixology base.
WB: Do you cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to prepare? Who taught you? What’s your favorite restaurant? Where? Type of food?
X: When you live in a family where your mom is a stellar cook, your sister a knockout baker, and your girlfriend a professional cook there is only so much value you can bring to the table. So I default to drinks. In the summer, I love batching different cocktails to pair with whatever we’re making. One of my favorites this summer was fresh watermelon juice, tequila blanco, campari, and lime juice. After shaking and pouring, I would top with Prosecco. But that’s only because I didn’t have Artet to work with yet!
M: I am an avid cook. My favorite thing to make is Tostones (fried plantains). My journey in the kitchen has mostly been a learn as you go experience, slowly adding new dishes to my repertoire. When I’m not cooking, I like to go to a neighborhood spot, Hart’s, a small Mediterranean restaurant in Bed-Stuy. As a seafood lover, the clam toast is my favorite.
Z: My favorite cuisine is Chinese. While studying abroad in Hong Kong, I fell in love with dim sum and I am always looking for the best local spot. Dim sum VIP in Chinatown, NYC is one of my favorite places but in my experience nothing beats Wu’s Wonton King when it comes to large, shared plates.
WB: What obstacles stand in your way? How do you propose removing those obstacles? What market do you most want to enter? Why?
M: For the most part cannabis beverages are still a relatively new phenomenon. We are excited to work with other beverage companies in cannabis to move the category forward together. One of the challenges is that many people don’t enjoy the taste of infused beverages. That said, we have always identified ourselves as a beverage company that uses cannabis as a core ingredient, and we are very precious about the flavor and drinking experience.
X: Also, as a new product there is still a lot of education needed so consumers can learn how to use Artet. Our product relies on social experiences and the regulations in the cannabis industry are such that until recently there haven’t been public spaces to consume cannabis products. Since Prohibition, alcohol has had a sanctuary for enjoyment, so we are quite excited for the future of consumption lounges in the state of California and town of West Hollywood specifically. That said, we are also focusing heavily on the bar cart and in-home mixology as our place to thrive.
Z: When we got started around three years ago, the infrastructure for beverages in this industry didn’t exist. It took a number of cold emails and calls in order to find the people that were willing to work together and take a risk on going into this category. We started in our kitchen and set out to build the formulas and processes to make it seamless for our partners in California and to allow us to keep Artet consistent as we expand to subsequent states. Every person who drinks Artet is an active participant in both the culture and idea of drinking cannabis. As the infrastructure barriers come down, we will continue to focus on the craft and quality of the beverage. Looking into the future we are interested in entering markets with rich food and beverage cultures —and, of course, our home state of New York sooner rather than later—but for now our focus is on serving the robust California market.
WB: What is your passion(s)
X: Manchester United. Half of my family is from the greater Manchester area, so it’s deep in the blood. Whether I’m on the East Coast or West Coast, I’m up very early in the morning watching every game, week in and week out.
M: Cycling. I am an enthusiastic biker, mostly found exploring NYC’s five boroughs. As a former athlete, I love being outdoors whether it be scuba diving, hiking, or running. I particularly enjoy experimenting with the way cannabis fits into these activities.
Z: Music. I enjoy deep house and the accepting culture around it. I grew up playing the cello which got me hooked on all things really DEEP and melodic.
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