Q Mixers and Tales of the Cocktail Foundation present, Meet at Tales––a program going behind-the-scenes with eight industry leaders, delving into their best times at Tales of the Cocktail®––raising a virtual toast to the people, places and drinks that have shaped their careers.
After several challenging years, Meet at Tales is a chance for our Industry Leaders to give advice and mentorship to those rising up. Six lucky Tales of the Cocktail 2021 registrants will be selected to Meet at Tales for a 15-minute conversation and will receive a custom cocktail kit developed by the Q MIXERS Industry Leader they are paired with. Following Tales, each Industry Leader will select one individual for a one-hour follow-up conversation.
We could think of no better partnership for this project than Q Mixers––a brand whose entire mission is to make truly spectacular mixers. Additionally, during this year’s conference taking place in a hybrid format September 20-23, Q Mixers will host 4 Mix at Tales Happy Hour events ––each of which pair up 2 industry leaders to host a happy hour to field fun and pertinent questions, brainstorm, and have a few drinks of course.
Jordan Silbert – Founder, Q Mixers
“It started on a warm summer night in Brooklyn. A couple of good friends were in my backyard for gin and tonics,” says Silbert, who founded Q Mixers––a line of premium mixers 15 years ago.
“A couple of drinks in, my teeth felt strangely sticky,” he recalls. “While my friend Jon was talking, I picked up the bottle of tonic water and looked at the ingredients. Twenty-five grams of high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and artificial preservatives!”
He then consulted a can of Sprite. The ingredients were, essentially, exactly the same. In a flash, he realized that he, his friends, and the world needed a tonic water simple, bracing, gorgeous enough to mix with the best gins.
“As I was making my own tonic water in my kitchen, I went deep on the Internet, trying to figure out why no one else was doing the same thing in the U.S.,” he says. “I stumbled on something about bitters, which led me to an article about Tales of the Cocktail, pre-Katrina.”
By that point, Silbert had spent four years working on recipes, determined to perfect tonic water. He tracked down farmers from the Peruvian Andes and the Mexican countryside, to source ingredients. He’d spent late nights agonizing with a designer to make a bottle as beautiful as the liquid it held.
“When I was ready, I posted something on Chowhound.com about how I made my own tonic water. Sasha Petraske, Jim Meehan and a few others reached out. And soon my tonic water was being served at Milk & Honey, Gramercy Tavern, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, with me delivering it in a borrowed station wagon,” he laughs.
Jordan signed up for the 2006 Tales of the Cocktail conference and, with a few cases of his initial run of mixers, headed to New Orleans. His first conference looked a lot different than Tales of the Cocktail would 10 years later.
“The parties were in hotel suites and were not in big venues and, in retrospect, all attended by the who’s who of the industry,” he recalls. “I felt a real movement going on. One person was making his own gin, another was a long-time bartender at one of the world’s best bars; another was a journalist who had researched the history of one of my favorite drinks. I knew no one, so I would speak to someone at a party and find out all about why they were in hot, sweaty New Orleans for Tales. And, then at some point ask for their room number, and later that night, I would leave a couple of sample bottles of my first flavor, Q Spectacular Tonic Water, hanging in a bag on their door handle with a nice note. I really felt like I was part of something special.”
The importance of Jordan’s first flavor, Q Spectacular Tonic Water, brings us to his Meet at Tales cocktail, the Gin & Tonic. Crafted by filling a highball glass with ice and adding Ford’s Gin – pour in the Q Spectacular Tonic Water, gently stir and garnish with a lime wedge, this recipe is a nod to the origin of Q Mixers and the summer night in his backyard.
For Silbert, looking back on all the special moments and spectacular people, two lessons remain spotlighted in his mind. The first was meeting the late, great Sasha Petraske of New York’s acclaimed Milk & Honey, who advised him to take the long, hard way every time. No shortcuts. No excuses.“This inspired me, among other things, to make each and every new flavor as spectacular as my first tonic water,” he says. The second personality was Simon Ford, who had taken Plymouth Gin to global new heights, and today is one of the masterminds behind the beloved 86 & Co.––a bartender-focused lineup of premium spirits.
“Simon Ford showed me how much better it was to have a fantastic time, even as you’re working your brains out to share your creation with the world,” laughs Silbert.
Today, the company has 11 flavors and is a global icon for artisan brands going big-time, with products proudly served by tens of thousands of America’s best bars and restaurants. Bartenders love that by using terrific ingredients, less sugars, and the perfect amount of carbonation, each of Q Mixers’ products help them make their guests’ experience even more special. The key to Silbert’s own success has also been due in part to Tales of the Cocktail, where he connected with thousands of others in the industry.
Silbert, and so many others alongside, are working this virtual year to connect the best and brightest in our industry through Meet at Tales.
“I’m fortunate enough to have built a company large enough to be an actual sponsor this year rather than just being a freeloader sneaking into the big guys’ parties,” he says, “I’m still driven forward by that same realization I made that night in Brooklyn–– by making mixers with the same care, quality and sophistication as the best distillers, brewmasters, and vintners, I can help people make their drinks much better. And with everything going on in the world, helping people make their drinks taste better brings a little bit more of that needed joy and happiness to the world.”