A Drink With… Rob Cooper, founder of St-Germain
Rob Cooper, director of the Cooper Spirits Company has just sold his flagship product St-Germain elderflower liqueur to Bacardi. With its reputation as an artisanal product in the balance, he tells Becky Paskin what the future holds for his baby.
Let’s have a drink to celebrate the deal. What will you have?
I like a julep, with St-Germain, instead of sugar. Otherwise, I love wine — esoteric, interesting wines.
Why did you decide to sell St-Germain to Bacardi?
We had a lot of interest from companies to buy St-Germain, but I selected Bacardi as the company I wanted to divest to because I felt they were going to nurture the brand and not commercialise or mass produce it, nor try to take advantage of some kind of economic opportunity.
St-Germain has a reputation for being a very artisanal product, how will you make sure it stays that way?
We pour our blood sweat and tears into ensuring we make our product with unparalleled quality and integrity. Our undying commitment to working with the fresh elderflower and making it a seasonal production process is what has given us the greatest amount of credibility and respect in the bar trade. Bacardi appreciates the iconic, classic nature of St-Germain and they want to be a curator of that as much as I do.
What effect will Bacardi have on the product?
Its an artisanal product so there are some limitations in terms of production capacity – its not like we can make as much as Grey Goose – but it will be interesting to see it grow steadily and methodically over time but always with the quality and integrity of the product coming first.
You’re a third generation distiller – did you always want to follow in your family’s footsteps?
No. I wanted to write the next great American novel. Now I write copy for labels.
What’s been the highlight of your career?
Seeing the happiness wash across people’s faces as they drink St-Germain. I love hearing the stories of how much they love St-Germain. It is very nice, and I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and reward.
What’s the most interesting drink you’ve seen made with St-Germain?
Cement Mixer with St-Germain. It is my friend Brit Soler’s favorite.
You’re going to stay as a brand manager for St-Germain with Bacardi, but what’s next for The Cooper Spirits Co?
We are extremely excited about our ready-to-drink six-year Straight Rye-based Rock and Rye cocktail called Slow and Low. We macerate three citrus peels in the whiskey and then add a little rock candy syrup, a touch of honey, and some horehound. It is like a proper Old Fashioned, out of the bottle, at 98 proof. Utterly drinkable. Also, we have a product call Crème Yvette which is an extremely historic liqueur, emanating from the 19th century. It was referenced in many vintage cocktail books, like How to Mix Drinks by Hugo Enslin, and the Stork Club Cocktail Book. It is a blend of mure, cassis, fraise sauvage, and framboise with a hint of violet petals from Provence. It is a rich, historic berry fruit liqueur, with a subtle botanical (violet) overlay, and is great in a margarita, like our Black Margarita, or with champagne.
How important are bartenders in the development of a new spirit/brand?
Bartenders are everything. Bartenders often feel they are only as good as their ingredients and with St-Germain they feel really good about standing behind it and using it as a go to ingredient for many of their cocktails. I am extremely grateful to my friends in the bar trade who have supported St-Germain from the start. Its important for us for the bar trade to know that we always have their back and are there to support them with whatever they need.