Monk Drinking Botanicals – a craft beverage line with 5 premium flavors. Infused with CBD, Monk Drinking Botanicals brings a new category to the beverage industry. Today, I am delighted to have a chance of talking with Mel McGraw, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer at Monk Drinking Botanicals.
Aaron Burke, MONK co-founder, and I met when we were working as consultants for a management firm based out of Scottsdale, AZ. The money was great but the work and environment felt passionless. I’d fly in from L.A. and he’d fly in from San Francisco and we’d muscle through 12+ hour workdays. Walking into the office each morning it felt we had to leave the most interesting parts of ourselves at the door.
Our saving grace was our nightly ritual of bellying up to the bar at Citizen Public House. They had us at “house-infused leather and tobacco bitters”. As we sipped gorgeous drinks made with craft, care, and intention, we felt our passions, personalities, and spirits restored. It was the act of connecting over well-made drinks that demand attention to the present moment, a type of culinary experience that wakes you up and roots you in the here and now. The only problem was, with alcohol, three drinks in and you’re no longer dealing from a full deck of cards.
No one was bringing that level of sophistication and intention to non-alcoholic drinks. We decided to change all that. We wanted to create a non-alcoholic drink that excited the senses, inspired the imagination, and knew no boundaries of flavor. We wanted to create a world-class drinking experience.
And so, MONK Drinking Botanicals was born, the craft CBD beverage that has California’s busy parents and overworked professionals decompressing over bespoke botanical cocktails. Our vision today is as it was at the start: help people (ourselves included) reconnect with their authentic selves through an extraordinary, relaxing, and wholehearted drinking experience.
Absolutely! The challenges are part of what’s made the process so rewarding. For example, initially we were playing around with different types and forms cinnamon, but it didn’t come together in a way that was exciting to us until we used a specific type of cinnamon bark to make a decoction. Drinking Botanical No. 017 wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without the addition of that cinnamon bark decoction.
While I am a huge fan of No. 034, No. 017 is my favorite. And I don’t lean toward spicy foods. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say something like, “I generally don’t like “cinnamon/grapefruit/cayenne”, but No. 017 is my favorite!” It’s just so complex and balanced, both belly-warming and thirst-quenching, and with each sip it brings people back to the present moment. My favorite way to enjoy it is simply pouring into a shaker filled with ice, shaking it for about 10 seconds, and then straining it into a coupe with a lime garnish. It’s fantastic.
For us CBD is powerful because it is the combination of “relaxation and bodily support,” “non-intoxication,” and also a “cool factor” that gets people excited to experiment with it and maybe use it to replace other, sometimes more harmful substances. But it’s important for us not to focus solely on CBD. Most of the CBD drinks on the market are singularly focused on the CBD itself, and the drink flavors and overall drinking experience suffers as a result. For us, CBD isn’t a way to sell drinks. It’s a plant-based compound that is yet another botanical in our plant-based drinks, and it’s an additional tool in our kitchen to elevate and expand a foundationally exceptional drinking experience.
First, it’s important to have an understanding of what “adult beverage” means, particularly when there’s no alcohol or psychoactive compounds included. The way we look at it is that adult people have “adult people problems.” Bosses. Kids. Employees. Bills. It could be argued that most adults exist in a mild but chronic state of overwhelm: preoccupied by the past or in anticipation of the future. An “adult beverage” is one that invites people to carve out a moment for themselves in what otherwise might be a busy and hectic day. While alcohol is the traditional go-to, our mission has been to recreate that essential emotional function using non-alcoholic, botanical ingredients.
Direct conversation wherever possible – that’s been our approach to understanding MONK buyers. We are trying to start a conversation about what makes an “adult beverage” adult and so we’ve invited dialogue whether through social media, email, or in-person at events. Understanding and serving our customers is the reason why we created MONK (it helps that we are also big MONK customers!). It’s always been about helping people connect with themselves and the people they love.
At this point, there’s a general understanding of the benefits of CBD in the mainstream market. That said, we are not focused on educating our customers on all of the health benefits of CBD because we are not selling targeted effects (e.g., sleep, inflammation, anxiety, etc.). Other CBD brands and products are doing that and will continue to do that. But we are not a health supplement. Our interest is in providing an exceptional drinking experience and so we are in constant conversation with customers as to how the CBD impacts their nightly tipple.
At some point, definitely. For example, there’s a substantial and growing market for non-alcoholic beverages in Europe, which would be exciting. But for the short-term, there’s plenty to focus on in the U.S.
Scaling our wholesale business in California and other key markets. With the help of our customers we’ve built a truly unique product. In the stores that we’ve piloted, we are extremely pleased at the velocity with which it is moving off the shelves. That said, everywhere we go, people are asking where they can find MONK locally. So we’re actively searching for a distributor with the right experience, capacity, values, and, of course the appetite, to introduce the first truly premium, craft product to the CBD Beverage Market. We want to ensure people all over the country have access to an exceptional drinking experience.
The first is this – know your core values from the get-go. Talk about them incessantly. Pin them up on the wall and revisit them constantly. If you can ensure those values are driving every decision you make, as well as your vision/strategies/tactics/policies/day-to-day operations, you will get to where you need to go and have a damn good time doing it – even when it’s incredibly hard (which it will be). Even when it’s painful (which, ahem, it will be).
The second is this – it will take much longer than you think it will, and will take much more money than you think. There may be no way to really prepare for this reality. And let’s face it, knowing it could even prevent you from starting. It’s sorta like having a kid. If you truly understood what was ahead – the endless exhaustion, relentless bodily strain, impossibly unsolvable problems, and fear that so great you’ll feel you’ll be swallowed up – you’d never do it. But when you do, your world expands and your heart explodes and you suddenly experience more love, joy, and aliveness than you could have ever imagined. Not that different than starting a beverage company! I’m grateful my naïve younger self didn’t know all the ins and outs and simply started.
For more information visit Monk Drinking Botanicals website.