The 86 Company: Spirits for Bartenders Only

By Yolanda Evans

If there one thing that Simon Ford knows a thing or two about, it’s the spirits industry. After spending the last few years teaching bartender education as part of his gig as global spirits and cocktail brand expert for Pernod Ricard U.S., Ford jumped ship to begin a new venture with Employee’s Only owners Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas and created the 86 Company, a spirit company that caters to professionals behind the bar rather than the masses.

“My time at Pernod was amazing, it was the company that led the way for bartending education training in the United States,” Ford says. “I was a part of that team and I was proud at what we achieved there. It was very much what I was able to give to the bartending community like training, education and entertainment as tools to the trade. I could empower the community, but never had empowerment to create my own brands that would work for bartenders. That wasn’t given to me. So I’m doing something with the 86 Company that will challenge me and I’m really excited.”

Ford looked to famed cocktail bars Milk and Honey and Employee’s Only as inspiration for the concept behind the brand.

“I was inspired by Employee’s only as when you walk through the door you get treated well,” says Ford. “Milk and Honey was also an inspiration because they only took one or two of every type of spirit. They kept it simple. They look to what was the most versatile based spirit — the most versatile gin, the most versatile whiskey and so on and which one to keep. So I got inspiration from that trying to create a versatile based spirit for bars which is quite unique. I also get to be business partner with best the bartenders in the world who own the best bar in the world.”

Realizing this void missing from with spirit world, Ford, Kosmas and Zaric put their heads together and created a company that catered to the needs of the bartender all while getting rid of all the BS that looms around the industry.

“We created a company that listens to needs of the bartenders,” says Ford. “Like having bottles that are useful with labels that has useful and honest information instead of marketing spiel. We’re called the 86 company and the idea behind that was to 86 the crap and 86 the bullshit. Let’s just be honest with everyone.”

From that starting point, the trio put their best foot forward to deliver some good spirits that would make some excellent cocktails. Being that they are bartenders, the focus was on how their spirit would make good drinks. The trio brainstormed for hours to come up with four spirits that bartender could easily work with and the result was Caña Brava Rum, Ford’s Gin, Aylesbury Duck Vodka and Tequila Cabeza. And the bartending community could’t be happier, giving their nod of approval for the new products.

“We’ve been testing with bartenders for the last few months and they’ve been confirming that we’ve done a really good job — that’s nice to hear, “ says Ford. “Not only is the 86 company making bartender’s life easier by providing them with versatile spirits, but the bottles are adorned with measurement, which is something that never been done before.”

Since the focus is on the professional, the company is more interested in lining the shelves in bars across the country then being sold at  stores for the masses.

“We’re not interested in being sold in liquor or grocery stores,”said Zaric. “If we do, that’s great, but our product is for the professional bartender.”