Steven Grasse is a bit of living legend here at DIA. We told you all about his latest venture, Art in the Age, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg with Grasse.
He started out in the advertising world, being called the original Mad Man and working with brands like Puma, Camel and Coca-Cola. He eventually moved on to booze (in a big way). Throughout his career he has had a hand in creating major brands such as Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry, Narragansett Beer and Spodee Wine. He is the founder of Quaker City Mercantile and the highly anticipated Tamworth Lyceum. He makes his own spirits and has a drink (or two) every night. He’s an alcohol lover’s hero.
We caught up with Steven recently about his life in NH, his go-to drink choices and what makes his brands so successful.
Rated M for Mature.
Tasting all of this booze must get exhausting (not). How do you stay inspired?
Come on, seriously? Tasting booze is fun. It’s easy to stay inspired because I love what I do. And, we do interesting stuff. So it’s not like I’m tasting shitty vodkas all day.
We assume you’re quite attached to the brands that you helped create, define, and build. However, if you had to pick one of them to drink for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?
That’s easy… Art in the Age ROOT. Every day when I get home from work, I pour myself a refreshing ROOT and Birch Beer cocktail. It’s my “go to.” I also do a shot of ROOT in the winter if I feel a cold coming on. Stops it dead in it’s tracks. ROOT does the job! It’s a miracle cure for whatever ails ya!
When you grab a drink after a long day, what is it?
Oops… just answered that. ROOT and Birch. And a Gansett Lager Tall Boy. That is my nightly routine. And I like things to be exactly the same every day. I am a weirdo about rituals.
What’s a typical day like on your farm in New Hampshire?
I get up at 4am and answer emails. Then I work out like a motherfucker so that I don’t get to be a fat ass from drinking ROOT and Birch Beer every day. You can do your laundry on my abs… no shit. Then I spend the rest of my day dealing with engineers, builders, etc. regarding the distillery we are building. A healthy part of my day is also spent on the front porch contemplating the universe, thinking of new ideas and reading ancient tomes. At night I watch Monty Python with my kids. We are going to get through the entire boxed set of all the TV episodes this summer. It’s their summer education.
Tell us about Tamworth Lyceum.
It’s the start of a grand transcendental utopian experiment. No shit… I am serious. The distillery will complete the picture. That and before we opened it you had to drive 45 minutes to buy beer. That’s the real reason I opened it, I wanted to be able to buy beer close to my farm. Of course, all we sell is Gansett. We also sell gourmet sodas, syrups and bitters for cocktails. This, for some reason, drives the locals crazy… too fancy. And I am like… look; I am not mixing my Art in the Age SAGE with fucking Sprite!
Other than the brands you helped create, what can we find in your liquor cabinet?
I tend to buy things that work well with my [brands]. So, for instance, St. Germain and Lillet go well with Art in the Age SAGE. I am not a good enough mixologist to warrant having a fancy pants home bar. I tend to keep it real simple. Which is why I pretty much stick to the stuff I make. Jerry & ginger beer. Hendricks and Tonic. And all the Art in the Age stuff is interesting enough as is… so I do them as simple one ingredient cocktails usually.
What was the last drink you had?
The last drink I ordered in a bar was probably a Manhattan. I like Manhattans. Although I suck at making them.
As the creator of such huge brands, you have some serious experience under your belt. What would your advice be to someone looking to create his or her own brand?
Hire me to do it for you… ha! No, seriously, you need to make sure what is inside the bottle is as interesting as what is outside the bottle. What ties all the brands together that we have done is they are very complex, interesting stories and then the stuff in the bottle pays off… it ain’t brain surgery. Yet, no one seems to get it right which boggles my mind.
Of all your successes, do you have a favorite moment?
Yeah, when I got a telegram when I was in Bermuda with my family that the money arrived in my bank account from the Sailor Jerry sale. Ha! Soon after that we were able to tell Camel cigarettes that we no longer wanted to do their advertising anymore… cuz we didn’t have to. We changed our name to Quaker City Mercantile and stopped being corporate whores. FREE AT LAST!
What’s the next adventure for you? Any new alcohol we can look forward to?
The distillery we are opening in Tamworth is going to allow us to be the Willy Wonka of booze. We are going to go nuts experimenting with distilling all sorts of shit. Hey, wait a minute, distilling shit… as in dung… what happens when you distill moose dung? Let’s find out!!!! This is gonna be fucking AWESOME!!!!!!!