Mimosas out, espresso martinis? 2 Dallas women launch coffee in a box

It all started at breakfast, when Dallas wives Nicole Craven and Alexis Smith ordered an espresso martini — just the right mix of caffeine and booze for a weekend cocktail, they say. When the pandemic hit, and workout buddies began hosting small dinner parties instead of going out to restaurants and bars, they discovered that making an espresso martini at home just wasn’t the same.

Why isn’t this for sale in a can, they wondered?

They quit their jobs in public relations and formulated their own canned espresso martini, a year-long process that involved going into a California “taste house” to taste concoctions mixed by people in lab coats. Their drink dream worked, and on Friday, August 5, 2022, three gluten-free, dairy-free espresso martinis will be available for sale online in 40 states.

Apres Hours Espresso Martinis come in three flavors: Classic, Vanilla and Salted Caramel. They become available almost nationwide on August 5, 2022 and were created by Dallas women Alexis Smith and Nicole Craven. (Brooke and Ryan Sagot)

Their new Après Hours company now has cans sold at nearly two dozen Dallas retailers, such as Pogo’s Wine & Spirits, Lucky’s Liquor, Buddy’s Booze and Uptown Liquor.

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While most espresso martinis are mixed with espresso, Kahlua and vodka, the Après Hours version uses agave wine instead, which adds a subtler flavor, they say. The agave wine ingredient also qualifies it to be sold in Texas grocery stores, not just liquor stores.

Craven, 27, and Smith, 29, join the male-dominated RTD, or ready-to-drink, industry. A study by Future Market Insights says it is poised to become a $35 billion business by the end of 2022.

Launching a canned cocktail is certainly fun, but Smith and Craven say they also want more representation in the industry.

“We want to encourage other women,” says Smith.

Here’s an edited version of a Q&A with Craven and Smith about how they make their Canned Espresso Martinis.

What’s in each box?

Craven: Espresso Martinis are traditionally made with vodka. And it’s funny because Alexis and I prefer ours with tequila, actually. When we developed our espresso martinis, 1, many of them are loaded with gluten. And 2, we knew that … people might not like a strong, tequila-flavored espresso martini.

Agave wine is a happy medium.

[Editor’s note: The ingredients are agave wine, Colombian coffee and natural flavors.]

What was the reason for making it dairy free?

Craven: That was the number 1 thing when we were going to formulate. we wanted it to be gluten free and dairy free. Alexis and I always ask for a dairy-free espresso martini anytime we’re at a bar or restaurant.

The whole reason people drink espresso martinis is for that choice. We wanted people to feel refreshed after drinking it. Looks like they’re ready to go. Many cans that are filled with dairy and sugar, even dairy substitutes, leave you feeling kind of heavy after drinking them.

There is caffeine and: drink in these jars. When is the right time of day to drink?

Smith: Happy hour as well as brunch. Many people have moved away from the traditional mimosa and [are] order an espresso martini instead.

Coffee and alcohol… it’s just the perfect combination.

Craven: We say it replaced mimosas at brunch, and it replaced Red Bull vodka. [late-night] energy.

How long does it take to make a canned drink like this?

Smith: We filed our LLC in February [2021]. We leveraged our connections in the restaurant and PR space, and they led us to other people who connected us to factories and flavor houses. I would say the longest process was creating the formula. We probably tried 20 to 25 different mixes.

… Tasteful houses?

Craven: We used to say: “This is like Willy Wonka!” It’s really down to a science. We walked in, and all in lab coats; it’s very strategic. You can change one little thing and it can change its taste.

It was like a science project.

Après Hours Espresso Martinis come in three flavors: Classic, Vanilla and Salted Caramel. They are dairy and gluten free with no added sugar. Each 12-ounce can has 240 calories, but they count as two drinks. They are sold in a 4-pack retailing for $13.99 to $14.99 or as a 12-pack online for $55, not including shipping. The owners expect to expand their retail presence outside of North Texas and into other Texas cities by the end of 2022.

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter @sblaskovich:.

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