Over the past few years, the market for mail-order meal and cocktail kits has exploded as people sought creative ways to enjoy restaurant-quality food and drinks at home. Chefs transformed signature dishes into DIY boxes, as bars took advantage of relaxed liquor laws with delivery-friendly drinks.
But getting products into customers’ hands is just half of the puzzle—the rest is designing the experience. That’s the music humming from the speakers of a beloved bar, the plates and glassware on the table, and, of course, the people who gather around you.
For Shaker & Spoon, maker of subscription cocktail boxes, experience is everything. Each box holds the ingredients and tools you need to make 12 great cocktails (minus the alcohol), all based around a single spirit. (Think Bring on the Bourbon, Añejo, Let’s Go!, and Rum’s the Word, to name a few.) Beyond that, there are recipe cards, videos, music playlists, happy hours, food pairings, and much more to bring the party to life. The Shaker & Spoon team calls the whole package a “360-degree experience.”
“Our product is not just the physical stuff you get in a box—there are a lot of subscriptions like that, and that’s not us,” says co founder and Chief Brand Officer Anna Gorovoy. “We have every element you want around your cocktails. The through-line is the experience and connection with your loved ones and with a greater community.”
Read on to learn how Shaker & Spoon has brought their subscriptions to life with a tight-knit community and experiences to remember.
Raise a glass, wherever you are
Shaker & Spoon hits a sweet spot with its boxes, which are perfect for in-person or remote gathering. Especially during the pandemic, they helped people struggling with isolation.
“When people were in lockdown, they were really looking for that connection,” says Gorovoy. “I know we’re not out there saving lives every day, but I’m really proud of the work that we did. We got a lot of feedback from our community saying, ‘this kept me sane,’ or ‘this was a lifeline for me.’
One way that connection occurs is through gifting. Part of what makes Shaker & Spoon subscriptions a special gift is the experiential aspect—a parent might send a subscription to kids who live all over the country, for example, who can all redeem it at the same time and jump on a virtual happy hour. Remote office workers might do the same with their corporate teams.
As the world reopens, Gorovoy has found that Shaker & Spoon continues to fill a niche for those who prefer to get together in small groups. With three original recipes in each box, and enough ingredients to make four of each, you get 12 cocktails total—just enough for an intimate group.
“Some people are excited to go back to restaurants, but others got used to gathering at home with their friends,” she says. “Maybe they’re a crowd that prefers being able to linger longer, or the music is quieter. People want to be able to host and entertain with great cocktails. That’s where we come in.”
In addition to everyday gatherings, the boxes make great gifts for holidays, including a host gift for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving. For Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, a customer might give Mom or Dad a subscription that they can enjoy together. “Not only is it a physical gift, but an experience for bonding,” Gorovoy explains.
Digital content for real-world connections
A Shaker & Spoon subscriber gains access to more than just a box of ingredients. Once they have tools and recipes in hand, customers can hop on the website to see step-by-step videos of bartenders making the cocktails, follow a Spotify playlist meant to complement what they’re sipping, and whip up some snacks to go along with their happy hour.
“We did food pairing suggestions for the first time when we did a box called Shift Drinks—a collaboration between a chef and a bartender,” says Gorovoy. People were so excited about the food pairings that the team decided to keep them going. “It’s amazing to watch people take the suggestions and share photos of them doing a three-course meal with their friends.”
Shaker & Spoon also has a private Facebook group of nearly 16,000 members, where subscribers and fans can share cocktail recipes, tips, and general good vibes. In recent posts, members have asked about how to organize recipe cards, bottle recommendations for specialty liqueurs, bar recommendations around the globe, and also shared photos from their latest happy hours.
When we asked in a post what people love about the group, they jumped at the opportunity to rave. One woman said the community had saved her sanity at the beginning of the pandemic: “This group has become a type of family and friends to me. If there was one positive I can find out of Covid, it’s this subscription & group.” Another mentioned how she loved celebrating with other members virtually. Said another, “Because of this group, there is always something positive on my Facebook feed…This is one of my very few happy places.”
A few themes stood out among the comments. First, members said they had started out as gift recipients or casual subscribers, never knowing that Shaker & Spoon would come to mean something much bigger in their lives. Also, people complimented the staff and administrators for constantly pitching in with helpful tips, answering questions and encouraging camaraderie. Finally, many emphasized the real-world connections that have come from their subscription—from date nights and dinner parties with new friends to a daughter sharing cocktails with her mother who was battling cancer. (“After Mom died, the kind and compassionate members of the S&S community reminded me that I am not now and never was alone,” wrote the latter.)
According to Gorovoy, the group sees about 560 comments and 52 posts per day, and what members told us is just the beginning. Once, a travel agent organized a cruise for subscribers. An elderly member took a post-pandemic road trip across the country to meet friends she’d met through the group. During the holidays, subscribers hold a Secret Elf event, sharing Shaker & Spoon boxes along with more of their favorite mixology gifts.
That’s the kind of engagement that brand marketers dream about. So how did Gorovoy’s team pull it off? It all comes back to quality, content, and engagement. Shaker & Spoon hosts virtual happy hours and ask-me-anything sessions with bartenders. Resources, activities, and competitions abound to help people stay engaged, including the videos and playlists. They work hard to moderate the group and encourage conversation, creating a welcoming, respectful environment. Gorovoy notes that they also do a lot of social listening and answering people’s questions, so people love to interact with the administrators.
“We always wanted to bring people together—that was part of the mission,” she says. “But it really surpassed what we could have imagined.”