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Yes Cocktail Co. of Paso is making a splash in the beverage industry with awards, expansion, and more 

For Yes Cocktail Co. founders and theater buffs Lauren Butler and Brandon Alpert, the path to success boils down to saying yes, which also happens to be the first rule of improvisational acting.

Their life's motto has served them well as they round the corner on their first decade creating all-natural mixers and syrups, sold worldwide at more than 3,000 retail outlets, including their bottle shop and tasting room in Paso Robles.

click to enlarge LIQUID IMPROV Lauren Butler and Brandon Alpert of Atascadero are the masterminds behind Yes Cocktail Co. in Paso Robles. Their bottle shop, tasting room, and future bar and restaurant will be part of the new Union Road Collective. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • LIQUID IMPROV Lauren Butler and Brandon Alpert of Atascadero are the masterminds behind Yes Cocktail Co. in Paso Robles. Their bottle shop, tasting room, and future bar and restaurant will be part of the new Union Road Collective.

Among their numerous accolades to date are multiple nods for America's 10 best mixers by USA Today, recognition for best mocktail gift set by Oprah Daily, and product features in a slew of national publications.

This year, however, is proving to be their most successful yet, with dual awards from the Good Food Foundation; new releases, including its first nonalcoholic spirit; and expansion of its Paso facility.

click to enlarge SUMMER FAVORITE Proceeds from Yes Cocktail's Key Lime Sour mixer benefit LGBTQ-plus charities. Featuring edible gold dust and citrus zest, the mixer runs $20 for a 16-ounce bottle. Tip: Freeze into ice cubes for perfect portions and indefinite storage. - COURTESY PHOTO BY MARY LAGIER
  • Courtesy Photo By Mary Lagier
  • SUMMER FAVORITE Proceeds from Yes Cocktail's Key Lime Sour mixer benefit LGBTQ-plus charities. Featuring edible gold dust and citrus zest, the mixer runs $20 for a 16-ounce bottle. Tip: Freeze into ice cubes for perfect portions and indefinite storage.

Most exciting of all, however, is the impending birth of Baby Alpert, adding "new glassware to (their) bar cart," and establishing Yes Cocktail Co., or YCC, as an official mom-and-pop business, the married couple said.

Butler, originally from New York, and Alpert, a California native, are actors, directors, and theater educators with respective degrees from the University of Central Florida and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles.

"We moved to the Central Coast in 2015 following an international theater tour with the Missoula Children's Theatre as actor-directors," Alpert said. "That tour took us to nearly all 50 states, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Middle East."

During their travels, "they made it a personal mission to enjoy the world's best bars and cocktails," according to their website. "The pair was always thirsty for a bit of the local flavor, from bourbon in Kentucky to aquavit in Denmark."

When they returned from their journey, they were disappointed to find that it was difficult to craft quality libations at home. Most mixers and bar syrups they purchased were full of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and high-fructose corn syrup.

The couple embarked on a new professional journey, with the goal to create bar products made of natural fruit, herbs, spices, and botanicals.

YCC currently offers mixers, syrups, bitters, bitters-infused sugar cubes, and more. The bitters are made in collaboration with KROBAR Distillery in San Luis Obispo.

click to enlarge TOASTY AND OAKY Yes Cocktail Co.'s award-winning Charred Oak and Maple Syrup adds complexity to classic cocktails and can also be drizzled over desserts, yogurt, or pancakes. The company's wide selection of 8-ounce syrups retail for $15. - COURTESY PHOTO BY MARY LAGIER
  • Courtesy Photo By Mary Lagier
  • TOASTY AND OAKY Yes Cocktail Co.'s award-winning Charred Oak and Maple Syrup adds complexity to classic cocktails and can also be drizzled over desserts, yogurt, or pancakes. The company's wide selection of 8-ounce syrups retail for $15.

The company's Charred Oak and Maple Syrup and Cucumber Jalapeño Cocktail Mixer won their categories in the 2024 Good Food Awards. YCC was one of only two SLO County businesses to earn the honor, the other being SLO's Two Broads Ciderworks and its I Feel Pretty wine and cider hybrid.

click to enlarge COOL KICK For a refreshing yet spicy concoction, combine Yes Cocktail's award-winning Cucumber Jalapeño mixer with whisky, tequila, gin, or even lemonade. For a sweeter sensation, check out YCC's Blood Orange and Chili Pepper mixer. - COURTESY PHOTO BY MARY LAGIER
  • Courtesy Photo By Mary Lagier
  • COOL KICK For a refreshing yet spicy concoction, combine Yes Cocktail's award-winning Cucumber Jalapeño mixer with whisky, tequila, gin, or even lemonade. For a sweeter sensation, check out YCC's Blood Orange and Chili Pepper mixer.

The San Francisco-based Good Food Foundation recognizes exceptional food and drink crafters in 18 categories from across the country. Finalists from more than 2,000 entries undergo a blind tasting and sustainability vetting.

"We are so thrilled to have won the award," Alpert said. "The competition is extremely stiff, with thousands of yearly entrants. To win two awards is even more special. We've always known our products are of the highest quality, but to be recognized for both our taste and way of doing business is really awesome for our small team [of] only four full-time employees, including us."

The team is also pouring their hearts into the seasonal return of Key Lime Sour Cocktail Mixer and Prickly Pear Syrup, and the inaugural release of Pineapple Mojito, "a brand new tropical and herbaceous mixer perfect for hot summer days," Alpert said.

click to enlarge BRIGHT AND BITTER The introduction of alcohol-free Amarø to Yes Cocktail's repertoire in May marks its entry into the zero-alcohol spirits market. Try the Italian aperitif alternative as is, with a splash of soda water, or add sparkling wine for a low-alcohol spritz. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • BRIGHT AND BITTER The introduction of alcohol-free Amarø to Yes Cocktail's repertoire in May marks its entry into the zero-alcohol spirits market. Try the Italian aperitif alternative as is, with a splash of soda water, or add sparkling wine for a low-alcohol spritz.

The couple also just launched Amarø, an alternative aperitif for YCC's sober and sober-curious customers.

"This marks our debut as Paso Robles' first nonalcoholic distillery," Alpert said. "More items from our line of zero-proof liqueurs and spirits will be announced later this year."

Capping the couple's latest ventures is the soon-to-be-unveiled Union Road Collective.

"It's a bar, food, and event space featuring session [low-alcohol] cocktails and zero-proof options [in partnership with] Colony Culture, Colony Mash Brewing, and Ulloa Cellars—some of our favorite local purveyors," Alpert said. Ulloa's wine-tasting room adjoins YCC.

Guests will enjoy seating both indoors and on a large exterior space highlighted by artwork. The couple commissioned San Francisco's Ayca Kilicoglu to create a huge mural fronting the collective. Kilicoglu is best known for designing the scarves worn by actress Ayo Edebiri in Hulu's cooking drama The Bear.

Reflecting on their swelling list of accomplishments, Butler said it's all about "showing up, working hard, and truly caring about what we do."

"I believe success is where preparation meets opportunity," she continued. "We were fortunate to have built our business at a time when home mixology was a rapidly growing market with very few players in the game.

"Add to that a global pandemic—with millions drinking at home—and our opportunity found us. We had a product ready for market and a captive audience.

"In the theater, it's taught that 80 percent of success is simply showing up. Since the beginning, we've shown up every day, and in the early years we showed up nearly every waking minute. But because of all the time we spent, we learned to do a lot of things. In fact, we do it all ourselves: recipe development, sourcing of materials, design, manufacturing, marketing, and shipping.

"Learning all these skills from the ground up has not just saved us money," Butler continued, "it has made us capable of running all facets of our business and able to hire and train an awesome team. Having the skills means we can ensure Yes Cocktail Co. is always running at the highest standards.

"And last, but not least, we care. We truly love what we do and believe there is value in making the best product possible. We don't cut corners or cheap out on ingredients."

Butler added that she is excited to focus on growing both her family and YCC for the foreseeable future.

"We plan to continue to nurture our incredible team and, hopefully, add a few more members," she said. "It is absolutely living a dream to have built and run a business that brings so much joy to its customers."

Yes Cocktail Creations

Recipes for pictured drinks; peruse more at yescocktailco.com

LEAF PEEPER

1/2 ounce YCC Charred Oak and Maple Syrup

2 ounces rye whiskey

2 dashes YCC Bangin' Bitters: Toasted Walnut

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 45 seconds. Pour into an old-fashioned glass with an ice sphere. Garnish with an orange slice.

SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT

1 ounce YCC Cucumber Jalapeño mixer

1 ounce rye whiskey

3/4 ounce mezcal

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker on ice. Shake and strain into a chilled rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lime peel and jalapeño.

KEY LIME DAIQUIRI

1 ounce YCC Key Lime Sour mixer

2 ounces white rum

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

In a shaker with ice, combine all ingredients and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish to your heart's content. Δ

This summer Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte will be sipping sparkling water (or wine) with a dash of Key Lime Sour at [email protected].

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