It’s been an unexpected runaway success, and now the Homemade Gin Kit has led to a rash of bootlegging-themed parties across the States.
Co-founder Jack Hubbard said: “I’ve heard that people are throwing Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men-themed parties using our gin. Gin is experiencing a big renaissance and more and more people are serving it at parties in drinks other than the predictable gin and tonic.”
But Hubbard and business partner Joe Maiellano had to endure more than one sore head to get the recipe just right.
Hubbard said: “We made many batches, conducted many taste tests and suffered through many hangovers to find the perfect balance of botanicals and juniper.”
Passionate about cocktails and food, the pair came up with the idea for the Homemade Gin Kit when they were discussing how the spirits industry was in the doldrums, just as the beer industry was in the 1980s.
He explains: “The spirits industry was underdeveloped, highly regulated and so competitive that small boutique brands weren’t represented nearly enough.
“We decided to set out on opening a distillery. The problem was that you need $1-2million to open one. I’m from Rockaway, not the Hamptons, so I didn’t have that sort of cash.
“Then we had a lightning-bolt moment. Rather than selling the final product, why not give people the tools to legally make their own compound gin?”
That’s where the hangovers came in. Novices to the drinks industry, both Hubbard and Maiellano had to teach themselves how to make an appetising brew with quality ingredients, by searching through specialist books…and drinking.
He continues: “We then spent a great deal of time sourcing components and spices. We are proud to say our product and its components are made in the USA. That was something that has always been important to us. The more jobs we can create here in the USA the better.
“We assembled 250 kits and stacked them in a one-bedroom apartment. Sales were slow at first. Then we got a very positive review from the New York Times dining section and sales exploded. We are now on track to hit $1m in sales.”
Hubbard describes his customers as “gin lovers, people who are into DIY, aspiring bootleggers, the curious, and generally awesome people” – but why make your own booze when there are perfectly good brands available in the shops?
“The same reason why people brew their own beer versus buying a six-pack of Budweiser. The experience is fun! You learn about the ingredients and gin-making process. And you get to make two bottles so you can share your own homemade gin with your friends.
“How many times have you brought a bottle of wine to someone’s house as a gift? Give them your own homemade gin instead! It’s so much cooler, unique and memorable.
“We also think out final product tastes better and is unique. It’s more floral, fresher, and the botanical flavors haven’t been dulled by sitting on a shelf for two years.”
And while Hubbard’s product is flying off the shelves, the renaissance in vintage-themed house parties will no doubt continue. You don’t even need to use a bathtub.