The liquor industry is incredibly male dominated. She’s helping to change that
(CNN) — When Tiffany Hall conducts tastings for her Empower Cocktails Cosmopolitans she’s often asked the same question.
“At first, people at these tastings ask me who I work for or work with,” said Hall. “When I tell them I’m the founder, they’re excited to meet the person who started a company of their own.”
The alcohol industry has historically been dominated by men, she explained. “It’s across-the-board from employees to executives and salespersons. They decide what products are developed and which products go on the shelf in stores.”
Hall said she wants to change that.
She came up with the idea for Empower Cocktails while she was working as legal counsel for French liquor giant Pernod Ricard, where she reviewed marketing and commercial contracts. When it came to developing new products, she noticed that women were often an afterthought.
“Men are the primary target consumers for brands in this industry and women are second tier,” said Hall. “Women should have the opportunity to have multiple choices for the drinks they want to buy, other than wine.”
In 2013, Hall left her job to create a cocktail she hoped women would like.
“I wanted to redefine what this category looked like for women,” she said. She settled on a Cosmopolitan as her first cocktail because, as she had observed, “it is one of the top five ordered drinks in bars.”
Hall set out to create a Cosmopolitan that was low in calories but still flavorful. “The number one goal for me was to not sacrifice the taste for the caloric content.”
For two years, Hall worked on developing the recipe. A major breakthrough came when a friend told her about D&S Farms, a 100-year-old farm in Atwater, California, that produces vodka from sweet potatoes.
“I originally sent them my recipe and they sent back samples of the drink,” said Hall. “I tried it and said: ‘This is it.'”
About a year later, in September 2015, Hall launched Empower Cocktails with its first ready-to-drink cocktail: a Cosmopolitan martini, made from sweet potato vodka with white cranberries, Triple Sec and lime.
The drink is now sold online and in 35 wine & spirits stores in five states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Hall has used $25,000 of her own savings to fund the production, bottling and packaging of Empower’s cocktail and says she is working on a plan to raise funds so she can expand to other locations and work on launching new cocktails. In the meantime, she continues to work full-time, as a vice president and senior managing counsel for Mastercard, while also running her liquor business.
The mission behind the cocktails
Tom Geniesse, owner of Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit in New York, met Hall about three years ago when she came into his store to pitch Empower Cosmopolitans.
“She talked about this drink she created and how she focused on creating a great recipe for it,” recalled Geniesse. He was skeptical. “I’m not particularly fond of premade cocktails. For me, they tend to taste very manufactured.”
Geniesse said he was pleasantly surprised by the taste. “I hadn’t heard of any other ready-to-drink Cosmopolitan brand, but this one tasted fresh and I could really taste all of the ingredients,” he said.
He said the Cosmopolitan has been selling well at his store and has a fan base that’s steadily growing. “I’m excited to see what she comes up with next,” he said.
Hall wants to inspire other women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. She has been mentoring women and helping to raise funds for female-focused non-profits, such as Dress for Success Boston and Kicked it In Heels.
“This brand was created with women in mind,” said Hall. “I called it Empower Cocktails because I want women to be celebrated and empowered.”