Drink Monday is a non-alcoholic spirit startup selling gin, whiskey, and mezcal alternatives. The company was a Deal to Watch during its SeedInvest raise from January to April 2022 thanks to its 2022 revenue of $3.4 million and its positioning in the rapidly growing non-alcoholic beverage market.
The company made a radical pivot in its business model since its last raise. That led to founder Chris Boyd stepping down as CEO to be replaced by somebody more in line with the startup’s new strategy, Ken Young. Before joining Drink Monday, Ken ran a consulting company that supported companies in the consumer packaged good space.
I had a call with Ken to better understand the company’s recent changes and his vision for the startup. And I even got to taste the company’s three drinks.
Let me walk you through the company’s business plan before giving a proper taste review.
Drink Monday was originally built as a direct-to-consumer (D2C) company, meaning that it intended to sell its products directly to customers through its website. While Drink Monday more than doubled its revenue between 2020 and 2021, the D2C model became too costly and made scaling the company more difficult.
So Drink Monday and its board made the strategic decision to sell through brick-and-mortar stores and bars and restaurants in addition to maintaining a D2C website. As the entire team, including Chris, had mostly expertise in D2C, the company brought on Ken to better lead the company in its new focus. I believe that this is a smart move. Chris made an elegant exit from the company and prioritized the company’s interests and investors above all else.
As this switch was happening, Drink Monday made $3.7 million in revenue in 2022, an 8.8% increase compared to 2021. It is understandable that the company’s performance slowed during its reconfiguration, but also encouraging that it still made some good progress. It launched its third drink, a mezcal, as well as cocktail kits. Launching cocktail kits is a smart move to uncover the true value of Drink Monday’s spirits. Customers who have never drunk alcohol might need them to appreciate Drink Monday’s drinks, and those who don’t care for the spirits on their own may still appreciate them in a mocktail.
According to Ken, Drink Monday actually generated $700,000 in revenue during Dry January this year — a record January for the company.
Drink Monday has a solid growth strategy. It also has a clear positioning as a luxury brand, with its drink prices and stylish packaging. These are valuable assets for a consumer packaged good brand.
Drink Monday will hire a salesperson and a marketing employee focused on brick-and-mortar retail. It will target metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago. It will also work to sell its drinks to restaurants and bars and try to close partnerships with luxury retail stores that could serve mocktails to clients without requiring them to obtain a license.
To fuel this growth, the company plans on raising a Series A round by the end of the year and seeking investments from venture capitalists and other institutional investors.
Drink Monday is clearly at a turning point in its growth journey. But to really evaluate its chances of success, I needed to taste the product myself.
A little bit of background: I no longer drink alcohol and would never go back to it. But I used to be a gin and whiskey connoisseur. So I was curious to see if Drink Monday could provide some of the tastes I used to appreciate without the negative consequences of drinking alcohol.
Ken sent me the company’s three drinks: the gin, the whiskey, and the mezcal. The packaging — from the shipping box to the label on the bottle — makes each bottle feel like a luxury product, which I believe is important for a good customer experience. Each of the bottles comes with its own cocktail card — a great way to increase the product’s value by giving customers more ways to enjoy it. While the colors of the spirits look very similar to the alcohol they’re imitating, the liquid has a water-like consistency. It doesn’t produce any drag on the sides of bottles or glasses like alcohol would.
A Lemony Gin
I started with the gin. I expected a strong alcohol-like smell that would pinch my nose. But instead it smelled like lemon. It also didn’t quite look like gin.
At this point, I didn’t know what to expect. I poured it in a glass and tried a sip. I was pleasantly surprised. The drink produced a warm sensation in my mouth that felt like the burn of alcohol. It was not as strong as a 40% gin, but good enough for somebody like me who hadn’t had a drink in more than three years. The slight burn actually lasted a long time, which was a pretty impressive imitation. The flavors are pretty close to a real gin.
It also left a very bitter aftertaste, which made it even more reminiscent of how I used to feel after tasting a gin or drinking a glass of gin and tonic. I think that Drink Monday’s gin gets that bitterness from the lemon flavor. I also made a gin and tonic with it, and the imitation was good enough to feel like the real thing — without the side effects or extra calories of alcohol.
Now that I’ve tried Drink Monday’s gin, I really see the potential of the product. Sodas, juices, smoothies, mocktails, and ginger beers are too sweet to replace gin. They just do not fit with most meals or relaxing moments. And they do not feel like an adult drink the way Drink Monday’s gin does.
A Caramel Whiskey
I was so excited by the gin’s successful imitation that I was disappointed when I realized that Drink Monday’s whiskey doesn’t taste anything like whiskey. Thea Engst’s review is very similar to what I experienced the first time I tried it. I used to drink whiskeys neat and enjoy their different flavors. Drink Monday’s whiskey tasted good — it had a warm, spicy, and predominantly caramel taste. But it didn’t taste like the real thing.
Still, the drink was tasty as a mocktail. After adding the juice from half a tangerine and a little bit of honey, it felt like the right drink to warm me up during fall evenings. It didn’t look pretty, but it had complex and interesting flavors. The spicy lingering notes in my mouth made me stop and savor the drink little by little.
A Smoky Mezcal
While I was very familiar with gins and whiskeys, I had never heard of mezcal — a type of tequila — before trying Drink Monday’s mezcal. My ignorance here can be an asset, as my assessment will reflect what people might think if they are looking for a nice cocktail rather than a perfect imitation of tequila.
Drink Monday’s mezcal is smoky and spicy. I really didn’t like it neat. But I was never a fan of tequila either. The cocktail card suggested adding agave syrup, lime, and lemon to create a drink. As I didn’t have these ingredients, I mixed the mezcal with three-quarters of a tangerine I pressed and a bit of date syrup. This surprisingly good mix gave more consistency to the drink while uplifting the smoky and spicy notes.
For anyone who wants an opinion from a mezcal specialist, Thirty-One Whiskey has a positive review of Drink Monday’s mezcal.
A Warm Feeling
Investors who want to back Drink Monday now have an advantage over previous investors: They would be investing in a company with a clearer vision and at a cheaper price. Drink Monday is raising at a $23.03 million valuation today, down from $24.5 million a year ago. The company also made changes that seemed necessary for its growth while maintaining its revenue.
Let’s hope that investing in Drink Monday will leave investors with a feeling as warm as the company’s drinks do.
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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau
Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.