Cocktails and dreams: how to turn a negative situation into a creative opportunity

Ever since he graduated from Hotelschool The Hague, Jan Dirk Heijser van Reenen has worked in the hospitality industry as a restaurant and operational manager. However, when his last employer ended his contract as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, he knew this was a chance to turn a negative experience into a positive one. In his own words, it was time to “put your money where your mouth is and chase your dream."

Combining a talent for creativity and a passion for flavours

In Jan Dirk's case, the dream was a full-service cocktail creative agency. During his student days at Hotelschool The Hague, Jan Dirk met a fellow student who was working with cocktails. This was his first step in the journey of stunning spirits, flavours, beautiful products, and the world of cocktails and bartending. “Bartending gave me the way to bring together my creativity and passion for flavour combinations at the same time. The result is creating visually appealing, awesome tasting, and conceptual drinks."

When COVID-19 started, Jan Dirk observed how bars and restaurants were dealing with the loss of income by selling pre-mixed cocktails in a bottle. His own interpretation on this went a bit further, and was based on the concept of a meal box which includes fresh ingredients and a recipe, all delivered right to your door. Jan Dirk went for the full experience rather than just the cocktail itself. In his J.D. Cocktailbox, every product is vacuum-packed and includes homemade syrups, a cocktail shaker and professional instruction videos on how to prepare the cocktails.

“At the beginning, I thought I'd make a couple of boxes on a Friday and deliver them on a Saturday. But when I launched the “Experience” a.k.a. J.D. Cocktailbox, it was sold out within 24 hours!”

Guests' reactions have been extremely positive. Seeing people's excitement and pride in the cocktails they make is what drives Jan Dirk to keep going. His goal is to get people (more) in touch with quality cocktails and the whole experience that comes with it. If they also have a nice evening and activity together (online) as well, that’s even better.

Staying focused and selling your expertise

Working on future plans is difficult because of the uncertainty of the current situation. Additionally, government measures have a huge influence on the hospitality sector. However, this doesn’t deter JD Hospitality from considering other avenues for exploration. As soon as the situation allows it, Jan Dirk intends to continue catering at events and parties, and organising workshops (for example at bachelor parties). Most importantly though, he intends to continue adding value and facilitating experiences at these events. JD Hospitality will also continue offering services to bars and restaurants, training personnel, and developing cocktail menus for businesses. Among their more immediate plans is the Cocktail Box for Christmas (check out the video! – in Dutch only). You can have a look at the JD Hospitality website and follow Jan Dirk on Instagram and Facebook.

Does Jan Dirk have any advice for students who are just beginning their professional career?

“It is better to regret the things you did, rather than the things you did not do. Go for it and seize your opportunity!”