September 28, 2023 — With great creativity comes great booze. Introducing Steven Grasse: Recently named a 2023 Food & Wine Drinks Innovator, Grasse is a force to be reckoned with in the advertising, marketing, and booze industries. As the brains behind beloved brands such as Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum, the marketing guru who made cheap-beer-standbys like Narragansett and Miller High Life cool again, and the owner of award-winning craft distillery Tamworth Distilling and renowned advertising agency, Quaker City Mercantile, Grasse’s achievements are plentiful – and he’s not done yet.
In 1999, Steven Grasse launched the Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum brand to promote its namesake streetwear shop in the heart of Philadelphia. Before it was a household name, Grasse seeded the spirit to punk bands, and it became ubiquitous with underground bands worldwide. The brand was catapulted to a viral inflection point and become the fastest growing rum in the United States. Fueled by a loyal fan base, the rum soon grew to over 1 million cases of volume annually. It’s gone on to collaborate with the likes of Converse, Gibson Guitars, Airstream, and Schott. As a digital-first brand, it led the rum category’s adoption of the vertical social video format. After 20 years, the brand still remains popular within tattoo, punk, and rum communities alike.
In the same year, Grasse turned the gin world upside down by creating the strange and whimsical brand Hendrick’s Gin. Inside its iconic apothecary-style bottle is an entire world that comes to life at everything from parties and cocktail classes to airships and penny-farthing bicycles. His agency, Quaker City Mercantile, has done everything from designing stained glass for the Distillery (the Gin Palace in Scotland) to developing a stream of product innovations – Orbium, Midsummer Solstice, Lunar, Neptunia, Absinthe, Flora Adora, and more. He continues to function as the head of the spirit’s global creative agency, while also working with agency partners around the world to keep the brand growing for over 20 years.
In 2015, Steven Grasse opened his New Hampshire distillery, Tamworth Distilling. Heavily inspired by the 19th century Transcendentalists of New England, like Henry David Thoreau, the distillery pulls inspiration and ingredients from the local flora and fauna to create scratch-made spirits.The distillers behind these spirits are literal botanical chemists whose creative processes encapsulate nature and the myriad of ways to bottle the lush surroundings of Tamworth.The House of Tamworth line is home to the distillery’s most innovative products, including a venison-flavored whiskey, a bourbon infused with beaver castoreum, and a whiskey made with invasive green crabs. These “weird whiskies” have put Grasse at the forefront of several viral PR campaigns, including the launch of Crab Trapper whiskey, which totaled over 3,552,910,768 online and print impressions with an ad value of $47,455,917; broadcast impressions spanning 29,091,927 with an ad value of $4,246,738; and 25,805,611 radio/podcast impressions with a total publicity value of $301,590.
And he’s not done yet: With the recent launch of Sylvan Mist, the world’s first wearable and drinkable perfume gin, Grasse continues to push boundaries both inside and beyond the booze world. This year, imbibers can stay tuned for the expansion of the House of Tamworth line with a whiskey perfect for flyfishing season, a rum inspired by a storied wolf attack on a rural village as reported in a 19th century edition of The New York Times, and more.
Additional endeavors include Grasse’s partnership with other long-time spirits industry experts and cannabis industry pioneers to create a truly innovative spirit, The Pathfinder Hemp and Root. The hemp-based, fermented, and distilled zero-proof amaro has been celebrated nationwide by leading bar talent, industry experts, retailers, and more. Accolades in The New York Times, Bloomberg, Oprah Daily, Wine Enthusiast, Good Morning America, Southern Kitchen, Variety doubled sales and sold the elixir out completely (before Dry January even started), causing wholesalers to ration out their remaining supply in locales including New York’s Boisson, Spirited Away and Minus Moonshine, Atlanta’s The Zero Proof and The Zero Co., Los Angeles’ New Bar, Pittsburgh’s Open Road, and Virginia’s Point 5, who, overwhelmed with interest, limited purchases to one bottle per customer per day. With a waitlist upwards of ten thousand, The Pathfinder Hemp and Root was hailed as the “Pappy Van Winkle of the nonalcoholic drink world” by the New York Post.
Grasse has taken pen to paper to share his extensive knowledge of the spirits industry, writing seven books on the subject, including The Cocktail Workshop, Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History, The Good Reverend’s Guide to Infused Spirits, Evil Empire, Brand Mysticism: Cultivate Creativity and Intoxicate Your Audience, and Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places. Nothing is off limits in these books – readers can expect anything from personal anecdotes on building and maintaining a standout brand in business and life, to advice on how to survive a bear attack, to unique make-at-home cocktail recipes.