When our business was focused more on classes and workshops, we wrangled a broad mix of learning experiences — bookbinding, gardening, jewelry making, calligraphy, and lots, lots more.
Several of our favorite Skillery events, though, came from one of our favorite repeat teaching teams: cocktail gurus PourTaste.
This Nashville-based husband-and-wife team shared the ins and outs of the cocktail arts with Skillery friends, including making bitters, mixing classic cocktails and sniffing out the best brandies. Still, what Jon and Lindsay Yeager shared at the front of the class barely scratched the surface of their wine-and-spirits mastery. These two are a fierce, combined font of cocktail knowledge, and their encyclopedic but creative mastery has made PourTaste a multi-pronged Music City cocktails success.
Early on, PourTaste aimed to steer imbibers to the best bars around the country, launching iPhone app that offered recs and recipes, among other info. Their non-digital influence in Nashville ramped up quickly — you’ve probably tasted a PourTaste cocktail even if you don’t know it, since they’ve designed drink menus for Two Ten Jack and Little Octopus in East Nashville, Gray’s On Main in Franklin and many other local eateries.
Leading the Music City Spirits & Cocktail Festival, the Yeagers have continued spreading spirits-ual education, presiding over an annual run of tastings and mixology-focused events that range from a tour of Southern beer cocktails to the history of the Bloody Mary.
More recently, PourTaste launched its own brand of bottles for bars: Named for their daughter Emerson Harlow, their E Harlow line includes Pristine Tonic and Magnolia Bitters, both unique flavor enhancers for cocktail enthusiasts and pro mixologists alike. (The latter is a particular rarity — go ahead and Google around, they’re the only ones we can find bottling it.)
There’s more, too — their Cocktail Club, cocktail tours and classes… They’re busy folk.
At The Skillery, we’re not just big fans of PourTaste’s cocktail artistry, but their abilities as entrepreneurs. Over a handful of years, their business has steadily grown right alongside Nashville’s cocktail culture, and we’ve been inspired watching it from the sidelines (and occasionally from the same room, tumbler in hand).
Given that admiration, we wanted to tap the PourTaste braintrust to get some insight into how they’ve made a passion for the bar arts into a thriving business. Hopefully it’ll offer food for thought for your own passion project, too. We hit the couple with some questions, the two of them put their heads together, and Jon typed out some answers.
A chat with PourTaste
The Skillery: “Most entrepreneurs have an, ‘OK, I’m gonna go for this’ moment. Was there something that kickstarted PourTaste?”
Jon and Lindsay Yeager: “It's hard to point to a day but we definitely remember a season where we realized that we had something to offer. Our app launched, our first partnership with an event space landed, our first consulting job was successful. All of this happened for us through a matter of four to five months and there was a lot of energy, sensing something was there to pursue. We were definitely blessed to be on the beginning side of Nashville's cocktail craze.”
One piece of business advice we see a lot: Don’t do business with family. What’s your perspective on that, as spouses/partners — is it as hard to juggle as people make it out to be?
“Ha, people ask us this often. Working with your spouse is difficult for sure, but also more rewarding. For us, our business sort of fell into our lap the same time we got married. Starting both at the same time was very interesting… However, it's caused some closeness is areas most don't get to experience. The best things in life are the hardest and for us, this is just another example.”
From the outside, it feels like the PourTaste focus has shifted and developed — from a mobile app/show pilot in the beginning to consulting/education and growing the E Harlow product line now. Can you talk a little about how that developed — how and why you’ve fine-tuned PourTaste in the direction you have, and chosen to develop certain parts of your business while shifting away from other ideas?
“It's been pretty organic, how it's developed and grown. We can confidently say we're still figuring it out. As with other areas of life, you sense some doors open at certain times and some doors close. Though we have ideas, or people approach us about something of theirs, time tells what surfaces to be a real project or not.
“It's frustrating at times. We've had many ideas that we were excited about just not come to fruition. But we've also been surprised and quite blessed when the simplest of ideas or a new relationship blossoms into something very substantial. It's a hard but valuable lesson in patience.”
Like chefs, it seems like your role is kind of creative artistry inside of the service industry. What’s your perspective on the balance between exploring the creative drive and creating menus that have broad appeal?
“As consultants, we want to honor the client as much as possible. Some people want to push boundaries, some don't care about it and just want simple and consistent. There's room for both and we're honored to help with either.
“We'll definitely throw in our two cents on what we feel can have life and many times our ideas have been the centerpiece to success, but we try not to overstep. We're of the mindset of helping businesses be the best they can be, and for who they are.”
Our biggest thanks to Jon for sharing his thoughts.
Learn more about Jon and Lindsay Yeager’s work — plus shop for E Harlow products and grab some great recipes — at PourTaste.com.