An Interview with Our Founder, Nick Spencer
What is your background?
I am the third generation of my family to pursue entrepreneurial ventures in the food sector, and grew up with a strong desire to be entrepreneurial and to pave my own path in life. I also grew up seeing the commitment and dedication required to run your own venture.
It took me a little while to strike out on my own. When I moved to America in 2007 from England, I was very much stuck in a corporate job. A couple of years later, newly married and in the depths of the recession, my wife and I decided to move to her hometown, Chicago, with a view to starting our own entrepreneurial endeavors.
It’s been ten years since I ditched my corporate life and followed my passion - helping people to raise their spirits and elevate everyday dining. Through various iterations, I’ve owned and operated two retail locations, two restaurant concepts, launched an online store, run farmers markets, and brought a wholesale business to life from product development to national distribution. I’ve also closed many of these businesses and/or sales channels and learned the hard way how to reposition for success.
Spirit & Co. brings together what I’ve worked so hard on for the last decade – bringing both specialty food and craft liquor together; and builds on the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
How did you come up with the idea: sauces with premium liquor?
My idea is based on a simple philosophy: that adding premium liquor enhances flavor and adds excitement, resulting in more enjoyable and better tasting sauces. I wanted to develop sauces and condiments that connect with everyday American tastes and preferences - and that’s how Spirit & Co. emerged.
What is the sourcing process?
We buy boutique ingredients and premium liquors for our sauces from select vendors across not just the US, but around the world. For example, our Tequila & Green Chile Hot Sauce features 100% Tequila Blanco produced and bottled in Mexico. The tomatoes that we use in our Vodka & Italian Tomato Ketchup are grown on volcanic soil in southern Italy and are naturally sweeter and less acidic. You can taste the difference in our sauces.
How was the formulation made?
I like to be hands-on in product development and made many trial batches of our sauces in my home kitchen. I was in recipe formulation during coronavirus lockdown, so I tested several formulations on my family and neighbors. However, I know from previous experience that you have to be your own guide, and I largely ignored their opinions. I like to be honest with myself about which ones tasted better and change ingredients and formulations accordingly.
What did your friends and family think of the idea?
I have an unbelievably supportive wife who always seems to back my ideas. My children think it’s wonderful that we make ketchup and other sauces that they can eat with their meals. My family back in the UK always chip in with business advice and general support. It’s definitely not a one-person effort to launch a new brand.
Why did you decide to focus on everyday eating?
Most of the food we truly enjoy I would classify as everyday dining. But in the general routine of daily cooking, it can be hard to transform a basic meal into something that is a little more special. With Spirit & Co. you can take everyday fare such as burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, pizza, sandwiches, tacos, fries, and so on; and to elevate your meal all you have to do is crack open a bottle of your favorite Spirit & Co. sauce.
What is your idea of the perfect burger? Perfect hotdog?
My idea of the perfect burger looks like this: artisan brioche bun; heirloom tomatoes; grass-fed beef; grilled red onions; local farmer’s market cheese; and of course, our Vodka & Italian Tomato Ketchup.
When it comes to the perfect hotdog, I’m thinking simple and tasty: Chicago-style with our Irish Whiskey & Honey Mustard.
Are you planning new products?
We’re currently working on expanding our product line to include more sauces made with premium liquor, including sauces with wine, IPAs, and more. Stay tuned for updates.