Joe Santos

Co-founder, Brooklyn Gin, Brooklyn Craft Works

For two years, Joe Santos D'95, T’00 chopped 40 pounds of citrus fruit in one sitting, hand cracked juniper berries, and, in the name of research, tasted countless cocktails in the five boroughs of New York City.

Santos acquired this unusual résumé experience in preparation for the launch of Brooklyn Craft Works, a New York-based craft distillery that debuted its first offering, Brooklyn Gin, in October 2010. The project was born two years ago during a conversation with another like-minded Tuck alum over—you guessed it—cocktails. The entrepreneurs discovered they shared a dream: to found a microdistillery that would handcraft spirits from locally sourced ingredients.
Santos is uniquely suited to the calling, having spent eight years at spirits giant Bacardi, where he worked in marketing and product development, fine-tuning recipes for Corzo tequila, Cazadores tequila, Dewar’s Signature Scotch whisky, and Seven Tiki Spiced Rum.
“When I looked back at what I loved doing at the company, it was tinkering around,” says Santos, 37. “I became known as the new-product guy.” Brooklyn Gin, which retails for $39.99, reflects Santos’ love of experimentation and innovation. Unlike London dry gins, which “are like pine sap,” says Santos, Brooklyn Gin is scented with 11 botanicals, including hand-cracked juniper berries, cocoa nibs, lavender, and kumquat zest. Its delicate, nontraditional flavor appeals to cocktail connoisseurs with discerning palates and consumers with what Santos calls “vodka fatigue.”
His timing couldn’t be better. In the last 10 years, consolidation in the industry and changes in state laws have created more opportunities for smaller producers. Meanwhile, bartenders have evolved into “mixologists” and are increasingly experimenting with inventive cocktail recipes, bringing back classic cocktails, and renewing interest in small-batch spirits.
With Brooklyn Gin now available in bars and liquor stores across New York City (alums had a chance to sample it at Reunion 2010), Santos plans to knock on investors’ doors—with gin in hand, naturally. He’d like to expand Brooklyn Distilling Company into a strong regional brand, such as craft brewer Sierra Nevada, and replicate the model in other parts of the country. “As serious as we try to make our job sound, everyone’s like, ‘So you just drink for a living, right?’” Santos jokes. Cheers to that. 

Continue Reading

Related Stories

Sweet Success: Meet Entrepreneur Sarah Bell T’14

A conversation with Sarah Bell T’14, cofounder of Spring & Mulberry, a plant-based, naturally-sweetened chocolate brand.

Read More

Alex Jenny

It’s mind-boggling to think about how much work goes into making and shipping a pair of sneakers, even to Alex Jenny D’10, T’16, who’s been at Allbirds for several years.

Read More

Liz Nordlie

Nordlie has had a successful career that’s spanned the course of three decades, the majority of which she spent at General Mills, managing and integrating large acquisitions and spearheading turnarounds for well-known brands.

Read More

Hope Waldron

"When I moved from brand strategy to my current role at VF Corp., I had no supply chain experience, but the fact that I was able to make that move is a testament to the breadth of the knowledge I gained at Tuck." 

Read More

Sandy Chen Fedor

Fedor enrolled at Tuck with a keen interest in entrepreneurship, and she’s still using what she learned in her courses to this day, from negotiating with stakeholders to using competitive strategy when building a product.

Read More

Pandemic Lessons in Fashion

Fabletics COO Meera Bhatia T’04 on how technology and teamwork helped her address an increase in product demand and supply chain challenges during the pandemic.

Read More

Meet Peloton’s Chief Operating Officer Mariana Garavaglia T’08

At Peloton, Mariana Garavaglia T’08 is putting people, and culture, first.

Read More

Lincoln Spoor

Every December, Lincoln Spoor T’84, CEO of Feel Good Brands Corp, delivers a truckload of Popcornopolis popcorn to first-year students during final exams.

Read More

The Guru’s Wisdom

CarGurus founder Langley Steinert T’91 has plenty of good advice for budding entrepreneurs, but nothing is more important than loving what you do. 

Read More

Katrina Veerman

With PK Coffee in Stowe, Vermont, Katrina Veerman T’01 turned a passion into a livelihood.

Read More

Kristiana Helmick

Kristiana Helmick T’98 has had three very different jobs in the last decade. And all at a single company: Amazon.

Read More

Tom Slosberg

Very few people can say that the shoe business is in their blood. Tom Slosberg D’90, T’99 is one of them.

Read More

Steve Voigt

How to breathe new life into one of the country’s oldest companies? During his twenty years at King Arthur Flour Company, former president Steve Voigt T'86 did it by embracing people’s love of something timeless: baking.

Read More

Bill McLaughlin

Bill McLaughlin D'78, T’81 is leading America’s oldest mail-order company into the digital future, while mentoring its next generation of leaders.

Read More

Michelle Mooradian

Fluent in four languages and passionate about entrepreneurship, Michelle Mooradian D’95, T’04 went from her post-Tuck consulting job at Opera Solutions to spend almost five years working for McKinsey’s Rio de Janeiro office.

Read More

Carly Rosenberg

Digital marketing was practically in the stone ages when Carly Rosenberg T'05 graduated from Tuck and went to work as a marketing manager at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Read More

Jeff Coleman

T’87 Jeff Coleman’s quest for better nutrition led him to a new, whole-food fuel for athletes and a surprising second act.

Read More

Leslie Hampel

Vice president of store operations, Leslie Hampel T’07 is helping chart a bold future for the coffee retailer.

Read More

Jim Weber

CEO Jim Weber T’86 transformed Brooks Running Company from a dying shoe manufacturer into a premium running brand, and he’s not done yet.

Read More

Jeff Swartz

Former Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz T’84 won people over—one eco-friendly piece of gear at a time—with a deeply held belief that doing good in the world is also good for the bottom line.

Read More