GTPulse: Local Cocktail Kits Brighten Happy Hour

I wonder if quarantine has affected anyone’s drinking rituals. I assume it has. When every day is a perpetual Sunday who cares if happy hour starts at 5 p.m. or at noon? I wonder, are people drinking a lot of beer and wine, or do hard times require harder booze? Have people bought things like bitters, vermouth or Cointreau to mix with, or has drinking lately become more about the effect and less about the experience. In normal life I bartend. Missing making drinks for others has made me think about how others make drinks for themselves. Amber Jaeger was having similar longings and thoughts. The Traverse City woman owns Tonic and Lime, a traveling bar. With many Spring and Summer events canceling or postponing, Amber has gotten crafty with providing drinks by creating and delivering cocktail kits.

Amber started in event bartending, which is a bit different than bartending at a restaurant or bar. There’s a lighter, single-serve nature to it. You show up somewhere, set up, work and then leave. Traceless. Never to see those guests or that bar again. Also, a lot of times those events are outdoors and are celebrations of some sort. Fresh air, happy people. Dish tubs and dahlias.

“I like bartending because of the social interaction with people. Everybody at an event is there to have a good time. And, we’re always giving away alcohol, we never do cash bars. People…really like us,” she laughed. “We’re usually the third most popular at a wedding, after the bride and groom.”

She grew up in Traverse City, and like many natives of the small town, left in early adulthood.

“I went to high school here, grew up here and then moved away for a while. I left for college but even after college, I knew that I wanted to leave for a while. It felt small growing up here. It felt like we lived in a small town where you didn’t see a lot going on. I thought I was going to move to Chicago. I wanted to be in a big city.”

Also like many, she returned. When childhood friends started moving back home to settle down and start families, Amber began to miss home. She didn’t want to miss things like her friends getting married and having children. So she came back to Traverse City, but not without some inspiration and know-how from a job she was working in Denver.

“A good friend that I met out there, he started a company called With A Twist, which was a bar catering company and I worked for him. So, I kind of bought into his company.”

She brought With A Twist to Northern Michigan before rebranding it as Tonic and Lime. The traveling bar has watched its event calendar grow barer because of the pandemic and Amber has had to adjust.

“We would be fully in wedding season. Our season started in April, well, was supposed to. So, my Friday nights would be cutting fruit, prepping for my bartenders to get out there and serve. I already work from home, so my day to day working environment is not that much different. There’s a meme I keep seeing that it’s not like you’re working from home, you’re surviving a quarantine while trying to work. That’s so fitting, you know, it’s not the same even though I’m in the same environment. It’s grace every day. Our moods change. Sometimes when I get a call first thing in the morning saying that another person is pushing their wedding, my mood goes down a little bit for the day. So, it’s giving myself grace.”

Something Amber started doing to lift her spirits in quarantine was Instagram video tutorials of different cocktail recipes. 

“Doing cocktail demonstrations, I’ve never done that before. I really like finding cocktails to do that that aren’t complicated. I’m not a master mixologist. I make cocktails that I like with what I have at home.”

Being a bartender by trade lends Amber to having cocktail supplies and ingredients on hand, but she knows that this isn’t the case for everyone. She knew that if people had alcohol of their choice at home, she could make their experience drinking it a little more special, and the idea for cocktail kits struck. Amber provides everything for a cocktail except the booze and delivers it before happy hour. 

“Dropping off gifts and putting together cute packaging is something I already enjoy so I started with doing some Instagram videos on how to make cocktails and I was getting feedback like, ‘well we don’t have that stuff at home.’”

So, Amber has been putting her love of cocktails and pretty packaging together and coming up with different themed kits to suit different occasions.

“I decide what kits I can make based on what ingredients I can find. It’s something fun, it gets me out of the house. I have nothing but time right now!” 

So far she’s covered Palomas, margaritas, mules, and has sangria in the works for Memorial Day.

Amber is delivering around the Grand Traverse and Leelanau areas. If you want to make cocktails with one of her kits, email her at amber@tonicandlimemi.com.

A wise woman once said, “You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency.”

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Categories: GTPulse