Meet A Local | Liber & Co.
Liber & Co. is the brainchild of three friends out of Austin, Texas. After impressing their friends throughout college with their cocktail creations (and who in college doesn't appreciate a nice cocktail) they decide to turn their passion into a career. Liber & Co. is a blossoming company creating some of the BEST cocktail additives, enhancers and mixers America has to offer.
We met up with Adam, Chris and Rob to learn more about how they got started and what keeps them motivated in the world of artisanal + craft cocktails.
What inspired you to start your company?
We started off as home-bar enthusiasts in college, making drinks for friends at gatherings and backyard barbecues. I think the history of the cocktail and cocktail culture intrigued us from the start. Then, after college, Chris took a job as a research associate in Lawrence, Kansas, and Rob took a job with a consulting firm in DC. All the while, we all obviously maintained an interest in making (and consuming) craft cocktails. After Chris tried a house-made tonic water at a favorite bar, we began experimenting on our own versions. We'd exchange recipes as we tinkered with different flavors that paired well with our favorite London dry style gins. Eventually, it occurred to us that we were not the only ones who would be interested in having these types of ingredients stocked at our home bars.
Tell us about your products.
Our goal is to make essential cocktail syrups-- the ones you really need in your bar. This runs the gamut from relatively basic, straightforward sweeteners like Classic Gum Syrup to more exotic (but highly versatile) offerings like the Texas Grapefruit Shrub. Unlike the many "small-batch" syrup companies who outsource their production, we still make every bottle ourselves, using all-natural ingredients. We strive to offer syrups that capture the style and quality of those found in the best cocktail bars in the world.
What Does “Artisan” Mean To You?
The word "artisan" gets thrown around a lot these days. I think being an artisan captures much more than what it is marketed as. We've built our company from the scratch, and we committed ourselves from the beginning to doing it that way. We have the utmost respect for those individuals who do creative work for a company that may not be their own, as well as for those who start a company and employ creative and talented individuals, but don't really engage in the creative work themselves. However, there is a unique set of responsibilities and considerations that comes along with doing it all yourself-- we've learned more since starting Liber & Co. than we could have imagined. We think that the learning experience is what being an artisan is all about.
What is your favorite artisanal treat?
We love that everyone seems to be caring more and more these days about what they're consuming. We love all of it-- but if we had to choose, I think we'd pick something that, like Liber & Co., captures exiting flavors using traditional production techniques. Salt & Time is a butchery and charcuterie shop here in Austin. It's a pic-nicker's paradise, and you can't go wrong with any of their offerings!
What Drew You To Food?
To us, food and drink are the ultimate couriers of sensory experience-- the smells, the flavors, the conversation and laughter. There are no memories more vivid than those attached to food and drink experiences... a good dinner party at the end of a long week of work, a birthday gathering for a close friend, a 4th of July barbecue around a swimming pool and a smoky pit. These are the things people remember longest and most fondly, and it means a lot to us to offer some of the necessary provisions for these moments.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
We've sort of fallen down the rabbit hole of cocktail history, and a lot of the syrups we make have truly unique and significant origins. The gin and tonic has its roots as a treatment for malaria, and lime cordial was the British navy's ration against scurvy. All of our syrups, whether in their respective flavor profiles or in the techniques we employ to create them, have important places in the cocktail canon. Our inspiration stems from trying to recapture these historical roots for a modern cocktail.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
We've always got something up our sleeves-- it's what keeps us motivated to grow! We've been developing a grenadine and are excited to get it to market ASAP. Also, new shrub ideas are always floated, and we'd like to do something with a dark fruit-- perhaps black cherry or plum. Stay tuned!
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
I think the Authentic Lime Cordial is the product we're most excited about-- we haven't released it yet (because of the recent lime debacle), but it will blow away the current offerings on the market. It's such a staple ingredient, and I think home bartenders are ready for a new option.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
I hope this doesn't come off as a cop out, but I think for us it's an ongoing obsession with all classic cocktail ingredients. We really do want to offer the staple syrups of a good home bar, and until we do I don't see us focusing in on a product type or category. I think there are a lot of applications for cordials, and expanding our line of citrus syrups has been talked about a lot lately.
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
I grilled up some cheeseburgers!
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
I think if we could serve up a Papa Doble (Hemigway Daiquiri) riff to the man himself, Ernest Hemingway, we'd die happy men. Hemingway was notoriously anti-sugar, but I think subbing the Texas Grapefruit Shrub for the grapefruit juice the original recipe calls for would add the right amount of complexity and balance to an otherwise boozy, citrusy cocktail. We like to think it would become his new standard.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
We've received so much incredible advice from so many people along the way-- the support really is the foundation of our business. There's not a singular nugget or anecdote that stands out among them, but the distilled message is the same: trust in your vision and do something every day that gets you closer to achieving it. It's not easy, and we genuinely still struggle everyday, but we've made progress. If every day you can make progress, you are building something!
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
Austin is riddled with uber-talented people working in the food and drinks industries. It really is hard to narrow it down, but Paul Qui has done a lot to put Austin's food scene on the map. We can't afford his swank new joint, Qui, but he's also one of the godfathers of the vibrant food-truck scene here in town, and his East Side King trailers are always a safe bet for great food. In the cocktail world, Jason Stevens always seems to be ahead of the curve, and his cocktails can be simultaneously esoteric and absolutely delicious-- a tough combo to pull off consistently.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Always a tough question, but thoughts of Franklin BBQ's brisket keep intruding into my mind's eye. The stuff is unearthly-- the 8lb brisket literally jiggles when he throws it down on the block for slicing. The marbling, the flavor, the ever-elusive perfect smoke ring-- it's all there. These Texans would die happy men if that were the last taste we had on earth.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
I recall Chris and I visiting Rob in DC a couple of years ago... we stopped by an open-air seafood market on the water and picked up some muscles and some shrimp. We had a seafood feast fit for kings, the details of which I'll spare you-- because the most important part of it all was the camaraderie. The weather, the conversation, the smells, the flavors... truly memorable.
What’s Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
Being in Austin, I think music pumps through everyone's veins (as it rightly should). We love listening to music and, when we're able, catching a show. We're also all three avid basketball fans and love finding pickup games as regularly as we can.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
Great question! It's really important to us that music be on whenever we're working. It frees our minds and lifts our spirits. We mix it up-- sometimes is classics like the Gorillaz, the Beatles, or Wilco, and other times it's something new one of us has recently stumbled upon. However, the stand-by is always mo-town. Whether morale is low or high, the day is busy or slow, mo-town keeps us plugged in. It's what we listened to early on, when we were working all hours in a hot, crowded commercial kitchen 30 miles from home. It's what Liber & Co. grew up on.
Liber & Co.'s Texas Grapefruit Shrub is available NOW in from The FareTrade