Cask & Kettle: crafted coffee with extra perks
Even with temperatures going up and people returning outdoors after 18 months of sheltering in place, there will always be a time when the best thing out there is a cozy cup of coffee that happens to have a little something extra. Whether you love coffee hot or iced, you can always have it gourmet, thanks to the percolating wit and creativity of Michigan native Lucinda Wright.
Cask & Kettle began brewing when Wright and co-founder Pete Borozan were in a very long all-team afternoon budget meeting at their nine-to-five office. During the long session, the group was asked if they would like some coffee. Lucinda quipped she would, only if it included alcohol. That got the creative juices percolating and before long they created a prototype leading to the birth of the company that is now elevating coffee with a variety of spirits for any occasion.
Cask & Kettle K-pods contain liquid distilled spirits, coffee and crafted natural flavours, and can be placed into any home K-pod (Keurig and similar) brewing system, or simply poured into hot or cold water for a smooth, aromatic and completely finished cocktail. Everyone’s tastes are covered with decadent flavours like Irish Coffee, Mint Patty, Hot Blonde or Mexican Coffee and Spiked Cider—which take on new personalities when they are served chilled and over ice during the summer months. Better still, in creating these easy brews, they are supporting another small business, Temperance Distilling in Temperance, Michigan.
Lucire Rouge: What are some lessons you’ve learned as a business over the past year that you can share to help other entrepreneurs in the food space?
Lucinda Wright: Ah! I have learned several hard lessons! The most recent one was to treat “expert” opinions as input and not necessarily final answers to questions or challenges. Every founder has what they believe are “gaps” in their knowledge or expertise, and naturally seek out others who have more experience for advice. While it is smart to be very self-aware of strengths and weaknesses, I have made the mistake of thinking too little of my abilities and too much of others’. This has led to acting on advice that, in the end, didn’t serve us well.
How did you connect with your coffee and liquor purveyors? How did their goals as a small business match up with yours?
All four founders have worked for decades within the food and beverage industry and have had exposure to a wide range of suppliers. I just celebrated my 59th birthday and one benefit of being that “seasoned” is that you build a broad network, so we didn’t have any issues finding innovative ingredient partners. Some of the companies are large and others are smaller or specialized. Regardless of size, our common goal is to make the most delicious drinks and [a] fabulous drinking experience.
As the pandemic eases over the next year, how do you plan to keep pivoting to keep interest and sales up?
Since we appeal to people who want to kick back [and] chill (“let the day go”) in the comfort of their home, the pandemic hasn’t really impacted our business.
Are there any new flavours in the works? If so, what are they, and what’s the process of picking and formulating them for the line?
We are not going to introduce any new varieties this year since we currently offer five choices, which is a lot for a small start-up company. Having said that, we have developed a Jamaican Coffee with light rum–dark roast coffee–coconut–lime and a Bourbon Toddy with bourbon–black tea–lemon. Consumer feedback has been strong, so we will have to see what happens in the future.
In addition to adding a shot of a favourite liqueur or spirit to create cocktails (hot or iced), is there anybody in the company creating new recipes or are you working with others outside the company (such as a noted bartender)?
Well … each of our current drinks has between eight and ten ingredients, which is how we build the complex flavours people enjoy sipping again and again. When creating each new recipe, we compile a list of potential ingredients, take that list to our favourite bar in a nearby town and work with the bartender to make [and] taste tons of combinations until we find one (or two) that is a “wow” for the team. That is our goal. If the team doesn’t say ‘Wow,’ it’s a no-go. Once the general recipe is locked down, we work with our ingredient suppliers to commercialize our “ideal” drink.
Cask & Kettle beverages are available on its website, at Walmart and in grocery and liquor stores throughout Michigan, as well as Illinois, Missouri, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Florida.