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May 31, 2024

Have non-alcoholic cocktail menus gone the way of the BlackBerry? Milan Martin thinks so, and he has good reason to believe it.

Milan is the founder and CEO of The Free Spirits Company, a brand of hand-crafted, non-alcoholic spirits and RTD cocktails. Founded in 2020, the company markets zero-proof bourbon, gin, tequila, amaro and vermouth, along with a canned margarita and Kentucky mule. Milan’s vision is not to replace spirits from consumers’ drinking occasions, but to empower them – and bartenders – with the optionality to create no- or low-proof cocktails, depending on their mood and setting. 

Free Spirits products are produced using a process it describes as “distillate reconstruction.” The company sources natural ingredients – American white oak, European juniper, and Mexican blue agave, to name a few – and distills their essences while reconstructing the nose, flavor notes and mouthfeel of traditional spirits. Vitamins B3 and B6 are also added to enhance the consumption experience.

In our interview, Milan talks about the “aha” moment that led him to create The Free Spirits Co., why flavor improvement is a process, how to convince someone who didn’t like a product the first time to give it a second try, and why he’s bullish on the brand’s RTD cocktails.

Show notes:

0:35: Community, Class, Clouds and Cookies – BevNET’s director of community Melissa Traverse joins the show and chats about recent and upcoming episodes of Community Call and the hosts collectively talk about valuable content for early-stage founders at BevNET Live Summer 2024. They also munch on mood-boosting, freshly baked cookies (and some crispy ones, too) and highlight Cloud Water’s new look energy drinks along with a new flavor variety for a sparkling tea brand.

22:20: Interview: Milan Martin, Founder & CEO, The Free Spirits Co. – Milan shares recommendations for Philadelphia restaurants, before Taste Radio editor Ray Latif shares an anecdote about the popularity of non-alcoholic cocktails in Boston. Milan explains why he undertook “zero” market research when developing Free Spirits, why cocktails generate irrational behavior (but not in the way you’re thinking) and the most common reasons that people buy his products. He also quotes Netflix founder Reid Hoffman when discussing flavor development, why niche retailers are a big part of the brand’s consumer trial strategy and why building strong relationships with the hospitality industry has helped the company compete with deep-pocketed brands

Brands in this episode: The Free Spirits Co., Fancypants Baking Co., Doughpamine, Bang, Oathaus, Honey Mama’s, Cloud Water, Sarilla, Seedlip, Ritual Zero