The colorful, fresh, concoctions known as Strangeways Cordials have hit the shelves across the country, and the burning question I had when interviewing award-winning Mixologist Christian Sanders, owner of Strangeways Cordials / founder of Strangeways Solutions, LLC, was this: Why the name Strangeways? What could this possibly mean?
“I was having a candid conversation with a friend about what direction I wanted to go with my branding, and I said, ‘It’s been a really strange journey getting to where I am, my career journey and business journey had gone up and down, sideways and literally flipped on its back due to unforeseen bumps in the road like Hurricane Sandy, and it’s been a really strange way getting to where I’m at now' and then I said ‘Strangeways - that sounds great.’ We think outside the box, we are eclectic, and we go about things in a different way than most. I want Strangeways to stand for a way of thinking in life, thinking outside of the box, getting out of your comfort zone and opening your mind to explore other ways of fulfilling your life, which in return is fun. We all need to not forget to have a little fun, run wild, and be free. It's important for the health of minds and how we treat others. Being strange can help you live better and have a more open mind to what the world is going to throw at us next,” Christian says about the name of the brand he has created.
Christian is a sixth-generation Memphian, has won national competitions, and currently consults for bars and restaurants about their cocktail programs, utilizing his “strange flavors” as Christian refers to them.
“It’s an old method from around the 1700s that I have balanced to appeal to the modern-day palate for cocktail drinkers, tweaked by adding layers of subtle spices in order to give it a back bone, and modernized with proprietary methods in order to maximize its shelf stability,” Christian says of his glass-bottled cordials. There are 7 flavors: Lemon, lime, mint, ginger lime, lemon turmeric, pineapple jalapeno and grapefruit hibiscus. He says that the core 4: lemon, lime, mint and ginger lime are the backbone of any cocktail program and make up the majority of the cocktails ordered by consumers. “The world is your oyster…with these 7 flavors you can make at least up to 100 cocktails.” Any of these could be mixed with club soda to make a mocktail. “There’s only around 11 grams of sugar and 45 calories per cocktail, and the mixtures have some health properties. They all have pink himalayan salt, which promotes a number of health benefits including digestion, balancing your pH, sleep quality, regulating blood sugars, and more. The addition of the all-natural spices not only lend to subtle layers in flavor but also have health properties in order to provide what could be the healthiest mixer for a cocktail,”
He says the pineapple jalapeno is the most popular in Memphis. He also customizes flavors for bars and restaurants.
As for how Strangeways cordials began, “I came up with the product literally out of devastation,” says Christian. “In 2012, I opened my first cocktail bar, Evelyn Drinkery in New York, and 5 weeks after we opened we got hit with Hurricane Sandy.” At that time, Christian initially thought they may not even open again. They lost two brand new ice machines, their walk-in cooler, and a bunch of inventory. They were even featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams about powering through the hurricane damage. Within a day, the water was cleared out and they moved forward by borrowing ice, etc. Christian borrowed a generator, and since the bar was decorated Parisian/New Orleans style they had lots of candles that gave plenty of light. They were the only place open within 10 blocks. “We were giving away food and drinks to the neighbors. We trucked on, and became very busy,” Christian says.
Evelyn Drinkery got nominated as one of the best cocktail bars in New York in 2012 by Time Out. Christian recalls at this time, everyone in New York was drinking Old Fashioned cocktails, because Mad Men had made the Old Fashioned popular to the average consumer. “So I am sitting there with 30 or more scored oranges at the end of a weekend and I didn’t want to be wasteful so I started making flavored cordials.” So, Christian made “lemonade out of lemons”, or quite literally cordials out of oranges. Orange thai basil lime, spiced orange, earl gray yuzu orange were a few flavors Christian created, and he used these flavors in his cocktails and syrups to avoid waste and to be sustainable as well as save money.
Christian started thinking about the methods of soda fountain shops from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and so he started making all these different cordials to be the base of his spirited phosphates. When he opened his bar, he wanted the program to pay homage to old-school drink concoctions with the addition of alcohol: spirited phosphates out of a soda canister, egg creams (with and without alcohol), soda jerks, and punches on tap. As time went on, Christian started using more flavors, such as lime, to make cordials, and used the lime to make his Gimlets and Daiquiris. Next, Christian decided to incorporate orange bitters with blanco tequila, and he said it made one of the best Margaritas he’s ever had. “It was like if a classic and a Tommy’s Margarita had a baby.”
Over the years, Christian has worked with bars utilizing his cordials concept - showcasing the efficiency of using 2 bottles to create a cocktail rather than using 4-6 ingredients. This allows bar programs to spend less time juicing, having to throw away juice that is out of date, speed up ticket times, create more consistent drinks in a timely fashion, and leaves less room for error. Citrus prices have soared over the years and with the increased demand for handcrafted cocktails that call for premium spirits, if you are not careful when building a cocktail you can really cut into your bottom line in more ways than one: spillage, over pouring, returned drinks, or just a simple loss of revenue due to slow service. Furthermore, with the lack of seasoned bartenders and high turnover rate in hospitality, Strangeways allows bar and restaurant owners to have a consistent cocktail menu that is easily executable with very little training.
Christian moved back to Memphis in January 2020, and is expanding Strangeways every day. These beautifully bottled cordials are found in bars and liquor stores across the country, and soon to be around the world, as Strangeways is expanding globally. Follow them on Instagram @strangewayscordials, and their website that is due to launch by mid-March. www.strangewayssolutions.com #staystrange.
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