Talk show host, film producer, New York Times bestselling author, voice artist for a gunslinging, smack-talking spy — all of these job titles can describe the very busy Aisha Tyler, who is currently juggling her work with animated spy comedy show “Archer” alongside directing her first feature film and co-hosting the Emmy-winning talk show “The Talk” (among other projects). Now, she’s adding yet another job title to her belt: spirits entrepreneur.
If you attended last year’s Spirited Awards, you may remember the sharp-witted Tyler as the night’s co-host alongside Simon Ford. (We say “may remember” because, let’s be honest, that ultimately depends on how many flutes of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut made it to your table.) As an actress and comedian firmly rooted in the entertainment industry, Tyler may not seem like the obvious choice to host an awards ceremony at a craft cocktail and spirits event. But that career path in entertainment is exactly what led her to fall in love with the bartending trade. “I travel for work all the time. I found myself in bars talking to bartenders, and I just gradually developed friendships,” she says. “I would say for the most part, 99 percent of people working behind a bar are there because they love to make people happy. And so I just love the experience of being on one side of the hospitality culture — what that meant, what that made me feel like.”
This year, that love for a good drink is manifesting itself in yet another new endeavor on Tyler’s plate: Courage + Stone, a lineup of bottled cocktails launching this fall. Why venture into the ready-to-drink category? “I was batching cocktails for myself, and keeping them in the fridge so when I came home, I could just pour myself a nice drink, and I didn’t have to make a big mess,” explains Tyler. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could just buy this?”
So, Tyler began the arduous and heroic process of research and development — a.k.a., she jokes, “a lot of day-drinking.” (But, to be fair, there was also quite a bit of granular research, familiarizing herself with liquor law and tweaking her formulas.) “I started mixing prototypes on my own, tasting them, letting them sit, tasting them again, recalibrating, and trying to find something that worked for people who had a strong, well-developed palate but still friendly enough to the mass market,” she says. She also sought out a high-quality craft spirits distilling partner, ultimately pairing up with New York Distilling to supply the drinks’ base spirits.
Tyler settled on the final line-up — a rye Old-Fashioned, a gin Old-Fashioned and a Black Manhattan — because they represent a good range of the classics (and don’t require shelf-stable fruit juices), but also because they reflect her own tastes. “It was a natural progression of finding the things I loved, and also the things that are broadly appealing, and wouldn’t require coming up with magical ingredients,” she says. “I always feel like you have to start from a place of personal passion — what’s the stuff that I like to drink, and then, what do I feel like is going to be appealing to a broad audience? I also wanted to create a family of cocktails, where there was something there for everyone.”
Courage + Stone hits shelves this fall, but if you plan on attending this year’s Spirited Awards, you’ll be able to catch Tyler onstage co-hosting the ceremony with a fellow Tales vet, 86 Company’s Simon Ford. Tyler, who also co-hosted last year’s Spirited Awards, says she fell in love with Tales on her very first trip. (She also laughs at the fact that when she arrived, she was shocked at how many bartenders she recognized from her travels. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what this says about me as a person!’”) Tyler remains tight-lipped about what she and Ford have in store for the event, but she’ll divulge this much: “I plan on front-loading my good material at the top of the show so that people are sober enough to enjoy it. The last two-thirds of the show will be Simon and me performing a Cirque du Soleil-style interpretive dance holding flaming cocktails and a poodle in a Prohibition-era leather bartender’s apron. Ready yourselves.” Duly noted.