GTPulse: Iris Cocktail Co. Elevates Home Happy Hour

It’s Friday so there’s only one thing on my mind: booze. Over the past year, our homes have had to function as our workplaces, classrooms, gym, and bar. Sure, I don’t mind making my own drinks, but what I really miss is people watching, striking up conversations with other bar patrons, dancing, and enjoying a real cocktail.

My idea of drinking at home is going to the party store and picking up anything in a can or with a twist-off lid. Needless to say, I haven’t had a good cocktail in awhile. Shameful, I know, considering we have so many wonderful options with local spirits. Adrian Juarez is hoping to elevate what people have at home with Iris Cocktail Co., his Traverse City-based cocktail cordial business.

Adrian’s love for good cocktails began when he started working in the hospitality industry. For the past 10 years he’s worked in almost every position there is to work in a restaurant. “Basically everything except dishwasher and cook,” he said. His favorite among those different roles was being the bartender. He felt at home behind the bar where he entertained guests with cocktails and conversation.

When he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, he took some of his skills from behind the bar with him, this time as a barista in a cafe. 

“I wanted to learn more about coffee. So I went from barista to barback to bartender at The Nomad. That’s really where I got into the making of craft cocktails. I had access to all of the exotic and high-quality ingredients. From teas to coffees to different liquors and spirits.”

The handmade bitters and sous-vide fruit-infused vodkas became Adrian’s personal flavor playground. He was hooked on the idea of creating high-quality cocktails.

“I think that cocktails can be made with intention at a higher level. Like with a classic Manhattan, you could elevate that by infusing it with something, or fat washing it or making a milk punch version of it.”

Adrian and his girlfriend left Los Angeles for Traverse City when the pandemic hit. TC is her hometown, and after the two of them were laid off from their restaurant jobs they made the move out here for an undetermined amount of time. 

“The idea for Iris Cocktail Co. popped up the same time we moved here. I was thinking about what I could do in Traverse City to keep me occupied these first couple of months here. So it was born from moving here. The Dwarf Iris flower is native to the area, Mackinac Island to be specific.”

Iris Cocktail Co. is all delivery based for now. The cordials are meant to be shaken, stirred, or poured with your favorite spirits and are seasonally inspired. Before moving to Traverse City, Adrian had been helping a friend out with a pasta delivery service. The model gave back to charitable causes and Adrian has modeled Iris Cocktail Co. to do the same. Ten percent of all proceeds go to the Farm2Neighbor program through The Northwest Food Coalition. The program’s mission is to increase access to fresh, local produce by providing it to food pantries throughout the region.

In any given season there are six cordials to choose from, each pairing well with different types of spirits. Current offerings include an iris old fashioned, seasonal manhattan, apple sour, cherry cosmo, a blueberry east bay side, and a seasonal margarita. 

“Initially I wanted them all to change seasonally, but we’re only two people. So we have six, but we’ll rotate two with the different seasons. These next ones will change when spring comes around. For me? My favorite is the old fashioned. It’s got a lot of different botanicals going on. We’ve added cardamom which ramps it up and is a cool, exotic flavor. We’ve added maple syrup which is really nice.”

Their cordials are handmade with local ingredients when possible, and at the very least, organic and ethically sourced ingredients are used when they aren’t found locally. They can be ordered online for contactless drop off every Saturday within 20 miles of Traverse City. Shipping nationwide begins next week as well.

“I know the cocktails are something I’ve missed, and Iris is a way to get a quality, multi-ingredient drink that is really complex and really delicious.”

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Categories: GTPulse