Absinthia Vermut

CEO and Founder of Absinthia’s Bottled Spirits

What inspired you to start your business?

I have been obsessed with the misunderstood absinthe since my first sip in 1996. I started making my own for friends, family, and myself in 1997. Ten years later, absinthe was suddenly legal for the first time in almost 100 years! I started my business to show the world that absinthe can be delicious and made with organic ingredients. I helped a bartender friend launch his syrups and recently acquired that business, selling my absinthes and syrups under Absinthia’s Bottled Spirits to help consumers and bartenders make better cocktails.

What challenges have you faced as a woman entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

Starting out with a male business partner, we found out very quickly that people wanted to talk to him and not me, despite the fact that I ran the business side. Additionally, my undergrad in photography and art history along with my marketing experience were not enough to be a founder and CEO. I went back to school and worked hard as a single mom to earn my MBA. I now include MBA next to my name on everything, and I have definitely noticed a difference in how I am perceived. Not only did I receive an important education to run my business, I also received the respect of the alcohol industry’s “boy’s club.” Two years ago, I was asked to join the Women’s Cocktail Collective, and have really enjoyed the community of collaboration and a philosophy of helping all ships rise from the amazing women who also own their own spirit brands.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

My brother, a successful entrepreneur, told me, “49% of the people want you to fail, and 50% won’t even care.” When I meet someone who supports me and believes in me and my business, I hold them close and take good care of the relationship. They are few and far between and they mean the world to me and really make a difference!

What three traits define you?

I am doing what I love, which doesn’t always mean the money will follow. It means you have to work hard, watch your boundaries, and try not to take things personally. That said, the three traits that define me are persistent - I always keep going and refuse to give up. I am kind to my customers and vendors, with a personal philosophy to be someone people like doing business with. Lastly, because of my art background, I am creative in everything I do, whether it is a new product I want to create, new packaging, or the photography needed for social media posts and ads.

What women inspire you?

Tonya Holland is a professional chef, restaurateur, podcast host, cookbook author, and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA. We shared Passover dinner several years ago and I have watched her become a successful business woman in the Bay Area. Her first book, New Soul Cooking, was published by Stuart, Tabori & Chang in 2003. She was recently named in the 100 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business.

Allison Evanow, founder of Square One Organic Spirits, is an innovative marketer with a penchant for developing new products and marketing strategies in established categories in order to drive new growth. We met years ago through a colleague and she has been a mentor to me since I started out, always available to share her knowledge and advice. She is the founder of the Women’s Cocktail Collective.

Allyson Felix is an American track and field athlete. From 2003 to 2013, Felix specialized in the 200 meters sprint and gradually shifted to the 400 meters sprint later in her career. In 2019, Nike made a huge decision to cut her pay by 70%, citing her pregnancy. I am impressed with her resolve to quit the Nike sponsorship and start her own brand of shoes for women. I pre-ordered a pair when she first launched, as I believe that how and where we spend our money is as important as voting. 

How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?

I love being a WBENC-Certified business because of the status that it gives my business. There are so few women-owned spirits brands, and being certified as one shows the world the importance of that, which is central to my brand. I work with as many women-owned businesses as possible.

What do you see as the coolest or most important trend in your industry?

During the pandemic, selling online became important to stay in business. The three tier system of alcohol sales in the US has made it impossible to do so until a handful of businesses set themselves up to do so. This was the most important pivot I made during the pandemic, and I now have customers in over 47 states! The newest trend now is RTD canned cocktails. I am working on creating these now and am very excited!

As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?

Cash flow is what keeps me up at night. In my business, I must create and ship my products, which means my cash is tied up in production. Because of the three tier system, I sell to distributors who pay me anywhere for 60-90 days. I feel like I am always one order behind! I am seeking investors at this time to help with cash flow, however, raising money is also a thing that keeps me up at night.

What do you love about being a business owner?

I love that I can create and develop my own products for the world to enjoy. I love being the face of the business and attending events to promote them. Recently, I sponsored a table at both the Oscar and the Emmy’s gifting suite, and I will do so again in January at the Grammy’s. At these events, I love meeting the other business owners who are also overworked, worried about cash flow, and passionate about their creations.

What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?

I work with about a dozen contractors to keep the business running. They range from bookkeeping, creative marketing, digital paid marketing, design, email marketing, product production, and more. The challenge is to keep everyone working and meeting deadlines, dealing with changes, and dealing with humans who have other clients and personal lives. It is a lot to juggle with so many details and different personality types.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have ever received is to be careful which advice you take! I love asking a few colleagues for advice and then carefully considering all of it before deciding what is right for me.

What’s your favorite career moment?

Late one night in the spring of 2018, I was checking my email before falling asleep. There was an email waiting for me - my absinthe blanche had won Gold in the San Francisco World SPirits Competition, beating out bigger, more established brands. In that moment, I went from an absinthe bootlegger to an award winning absintheure!

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

I would love to use the time to write my story. I realize that there is a lot left to do in my life before I am ready for that, but I have so many stories and experiences that got me this far that I would love to share in a book.

What’s the best way to start your day?

I start my day by looking at my schedule, skimming email headers, and then walking my dogs. Getting an idea of what the day ahead looks like and then getting out for fresh air with my fur babies allows me to digest it and clear my head for the day.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to either be an artist or work with horses. If you had told me I would be running a spirits brand, I wouldn’t even know what that meant and I am sure I wouldn’t believe it! It is fun to consider the path that got me here.

How do you unwind after a long workday?

Often with a glass of absinthe, of course! I live with my teenage daughter, and we spend some time in the evening catching up and following her train of thought about the world she is living in. And of course, with an evening walk with the pups.

What do you like about your workspace?

I have worked from home for so long, and I love it. A while ago, I noticed my desk was more of a catch all than where I wanted to work. I bought a beautiful green velvet couch and sit with my laptop and pups to get my work done. I feel comfortable and productive here. I do love when I get to go out and meet with clients and do tasting events at shops, restaurants, and conferences.

Fill in the blank:

When I face a challenge, I… seek advice of those who may have experienced this issue, and carefully consider that advice to determine how I will proceed.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself don’t spend the money on the alcohol attorneys! The process is easier than you think, and you will need that money later for marketing and new products.

The one thing I couldn’t live without is… having easy access to other women-owned businesses.

By this time next year, I… creating new canned cocktails and spirits and hopefully with greater distribution to the US and beyond. My next goal is Mexico.

To get my creative juices flowing, I… take time away from work to focus on my habits and passions, which include kickboxing, travel, and hiking.

ABsinthia’s bottled spirits

Absinthia's Bottled Spirits is 100% women-owned based in California. Their products are used by consumers and bartenders to make better cocktails. They currently have six award winning products - absinthe blanche and verte, made with all organic ingredients. Their carefully crafted, small batch, farm to glass absinthe is delicious with ice and cool water and in hundreds of cocktails such as the Sazerac, Corpse Reviver, and Death in the Afternoon. Their all natural syrups include Caged Heat, Crimson Smoke, Fairy Dust, and Cherry Bomb. Their syrups are used to easily make artisanal, unique, and bold cocktails and mocktails.

Learn more.