Raymond Snead

Raymond Snead | Cocktail Punk

Bitters are as old as cocktails, but Cocktailpunk looks to the future, not the past. With a simple goal: to create compelling accents for the modern cocktail. Cocktailpunk cocktail bitters are a carefully chosen set of basic elements that are focused and nuanced, simple yet devious. They are perfect in classic cocktails, but were really designed for the cocktails that haven't been invented yet.


What Inspired You To Start Your Company?

I started in the wine business, graduated to cocktails, and started making bitters as a hobby. Friends wanted a bottle, then 5 for christmas, so I showed them to bartender friends like Bryan Dayton of Oak at Fourteenth and Acorn and Allison Anderson of Frasca Food and Wine. Their encouragement started Cocktailpunk.

 

Tell us about your products.

Cocktailpunk cocktail bitters are a carefully chosen set of basic elements that are focused and nuanced, simple yet devious. Not just interesting flavors, they are designed to work as building blocks for cocktails across many different spirits. We make six basic flavors: Cherry, Orange, Aromatic, Smoked Orange, Alpino, and Pastiche. In summer we make very limited editions of our seasonal Colorado Cherry and Palisade Peach when fresh fruit is available from Colorado’s Western Slope.

 

Why do you believe in small-batch products?

With small batches we are able to take the time to make bitters the old way: pure alcohol maceration with carefully sourced ingredients.

 

What makes your product better than the their mass produced counterparts?

Our bitters do not include any sugar, caramel, or added sweetener of any kind, nor is there any coloring, artificial or otherwise. All ingredients contribute directly to the flavor, and the color is entirely natural. This is in sharp contrast to many established “Big Bitters” brands, which use caramel and food colorings; some even use “chemistry set” processes rather than alcohol maceration.

 

What is your favorite small-batch treat?

I’m very partial to Tonic Syrup made by the Jack Rudy Cocktail Company in Charleston, South Carolina. A perfect FareTrade item!

 

What Drew You To Food?

My mother gave me a set of Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks at age 12, and we cooked through them together.

 

Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?

Making better cocktails. Cocktailpunk bitters are perfect in classic cocktails, but were really designed for the cocktails that haven't been invented yet. 

 

What Products Are You Working On Now?

We have some barrel-aged bitters in the works, as well as a Winter seasonal bitters and another Colorado local product.

 

Do You Have a Favorite Product?

It would have to be the Smoked Orange, the hands-down bartender favorite.

 

Latest Ingredient Obsession?

Anything fermented! Looking for ways to incorporate this into bitters…

 

What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?

Take-out thai food and a home-made Mai Tai. Tiki is coming…

 

What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?

David Embury, bon vivant and the author of the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

 

What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other artisans?

Cocktailpunk was established using Lean Startup principles from the world of high tech. The key element is to build a “minimum viable product” early and to test the market on a small scale before committing significant funding. With Cocktailpunk we tested the market with three restaurants and two retail shops in Boulder before committing. The second key is waiting to spend money until a real “pain point” is reached. Putting labels on bottles makes you crazy - so a labeling machine was the first significant hardware purchase, long before a bottle filler.

 

What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?

Jack Rudy Cocktail Company in Charleston. Local chefs who are killing it are Kelly Whitaker and Steve Redzikowski; Hop Alley is doing very interesting things in Denver.

 

If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?

Every preparation of oysters, champagne.

 

Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?

Tour d’Argent in Paris as a 12 year old, or Arzak in San Sebastian in the early 2000s.

 

What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?

Traveling, though that is usually food/drink-related, and hiking around Boulder with family and dog.

 

What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?

Classic punk, particularly Fugazi.