Nicole Craven and Alexis Smith waited for their favorite drink, the espresso martini, to be packaged in a convenient, ready-to-drink format despite the proliferation of canned cocktail options in recent years. After months of hoping that someone else would realize their vision, the two publicists quit their agency jobs and founded Après Hours to fill a lucrative void in an already thriving market.
Après Hours is a new line of gluten-free and dairy-free ready-to-drink espresso martinis packaged in cans. On August 1, the brand made its official debut in Dallas, and is now available in select liquor stores throughout the city and online with nationwide shipping to 39 states.
Nicole Craven, co-founder, explains, “We’ve always preferred our espresso martinis with tequila instead of vodka, which is where we got the idea to use agave-wine as our base.” It gives the entire cocktail a smoother, more rounded flavor and enables us to be sold in grocery stores in addition to liquor stores.
There are three gluten-free and dairy-free flavors of Après Hours: Salted Caramel, Classic, and Vanilla. Each 12-ounce can contains 10% alcohol by volume and 40 mg of Colombian caffeine, which is slightly less than a standard espresso shot.
According to co-founder Alexis Smith, one fluid ounce of espresso contains about 64 mg of caffeine. “We’ve always been aware that combining coffee and alcohol is a delicate balancing act, and we wanted Après Hours to leave us feeling refreshed rather than jittery. We conducted research and conducted taste tests until we achieved the ideal balance we had envisioned from the beginning.”
However, establishing a business was not as simple as balancing a drink. Craven and Smith encountered numerous obstacles along the way, particularly with funding.
“Raising funds to launch this idea was not what we anticipated,” says Craven. “We are two young female entrepreneurs attempting to disrupt the male-dominated alcohol industry, and many doubted we would reach the production phase. It was both discouraging and encouraging, but we believed in our product and mission, so we persisted until we found the ideal financial partners.”