Our Spiritless founders often describe themselves as winers and diners — none more so than our Chief Relationship Officer, Abbey Ferguson. While she built her career conceptualizing and managing practically every culinary and lifestyle experience you can think of, Abbey’s interests don’t begin or end there. Our certified food and beverage whisperer explains why her industry roots run so deep.
Okay, first things first. How do you start your day?
I try to always start with exercise, which is great for building my mental capacity for the day ahead. Also: I have three kids under the age of 8. There’s no such thing as staying in bed, even if I wasn’t getting up to work out. As any working parent can relate, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging; I’ve been the daycare and elementary school teacher while putting the pieces of this Spiritless puzzle together.
That’s right, your other day job. What does a day in your life as Chief Relationship Officer of Spiritless look like?
Most days, I’m working to get Kentucky 74 “live the wild” of the food and beverage industry: bars, restaurants, retail, strategic partnerships, buyers. Again, the coronavirus has presented a challenge because the industry has experienced so many ups and downs. Navigating how we can bring this new product to market in a vastly different F&B world… I don’t necessarily know how to do that, but I’ll let you know!
It has to be tough, because there’s such an experiential element to Spiritless.
Exactly. But I don’t shy away from a challenge. America is finding a new way to entertain, dine and travel. Building a brand that can be at the forefront of that movement — helping to define the non-alcoholic spirits category, which is still very much in its infancy, itself — is exciting.
Who inspires that dauntless attitude?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my parents and the family restaurant business I grew up in. My father and mother have spent the last 30+ years building a small restaurant empire in upstate New York. Watching their hard work, loyalty and ambition is why I am who I am today. They and that business taught me what hard work meant and I am forever grateful.
With your family legacy behind you, it’s fair to say your roots run pretty deep in the culinary world...
Growing up in it, living in it for the last 15 years gave me my foundation, yes. That, and travel. I think that’s what I really miss the most in our new normal: finding a local restaurant in whatever town I’m in, sitting in a bar with my husband, and getting to know the bartender and the people around us. No matter if it’s a five-star restaurant or a hole-in-the-wall, I would take the bar over a table any day. That’s where the action is.
What else about the industry excites you?
I love that in F&B, the trends always change, there’s always something new, a curve to stay ahead of. That’s what’s so exciting to me about Spiritless. We’re one of the first to the non-alcoholic space, so we get to help drive the direction. I hope in 10 years everyone will know what a no-or-low cocktail is, that they’ll be able to walk into any bar or restaurant in the world, Order it Spiritless and know what they can expect.
Which begs the question: How do you Order it Spiritless?
I use Kentucky 74 as a 1:1 substitute, mixing it with my favorite bourbon to take the ABV down in an Old Fashioned. (Because, three kids under the age of 8!)
Let’s close with a lightning round of Q&A. Tell us:
- What are you reading? Mark Brown, president and CEO of the Sazerac Co., sends a daily industry news update. Over the course of 10 minutes and a cup of coffee, I can get up-to-speed on everything related to the beverage industry: what’s going on, who’s drinking what, what people are talking about, how the industry has been impacted by recent events or legislation, that sort of thing.
- What are you eating? Every Sunday, we do a big family-style meal, drink wine, cook something together. Last summer, we made wood-fired pizzas on the grill. We had dozens of different toppings, picnic tables set up with red and white checkered tablecloths — the whole nine yards.
- Do you have a favorite show or podcast? I listen to a lot of entrepreneurial podcasts like How I Built This. But I’ll be the first to admit I watch garbage TV, very pointless shows that I don’t have to think about!
- How would you describe yourself in five words? Purposeful, approachable, tenacious, diligent and reflective.