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Up-and-comers: The 86 Co.

A booze-marketing visionary and a cocktailing boss strike out on their own with a bartender-inspired spirits line.

 (Photograph: Krista Schlueter)
Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Simon Ford and Dushan Zaric of the 86 Co.

 (Photograph: Jessica Lin)
Photograph: Jessica Lin

Caña Brava Rum

 (Photograph: Jessica Lin)
Photograph: Jessica Lin

Fords Gin

 (Photograph: Jessica Lin)
Photograph: Jessica Lin

Tequila Cabeza

 (Photograph: Jessica Lin)
Photograph: Jessica Lin

Aylesbury Duck Vodka

What does a drinks slinger want out of a liquor? That’s the question Simon Ford, formerly charismatic brand ambassador for bigwigs like Absolut, and Dushan Zaric, paterfamilias behind Employees Only, asked when mapping out their new venture, the 86 Company. “Brands already exist by the truckload,” says Ford. “But the bottles are just so unfriendly for the bartender, and the spirits are made as spirits [not mixing ingredients].” After surveying dozens of bartender friends, Ford and Zaric designed their bottles with über-functionality in mind, using long necks for consistent pouring, tapered bases that fit into speed rails, and fluid measurements on the side to ease inventory and batching drinks. In the past couple of months, the pair started rolling out four products: Caña Brava Rum, Fords Gin, Tequila Cabeza and Aylesbury Duck Vodka. Each has its unique aspects: The 1920s-style rum is made by the former Cuban Ambassador of Rum, once a legendary Havana Club distiller, and the gin has an amped-up juniper profile, balanced with sweet botanicals, and thick viscosity engineered for an exceptionally silky martini. But across the board, the spirits were formulated for mixing in cocktails—drier, boldly flavored, priced to move and highly versatile to work in a range of classics. In New York City, you can find them served at 88 bars, including vaunted dens of mixology Pegu Club, PDT and Clover Club, as well as stocked in shops like Union Square Wines ($30–$43). And while they were created with barkeeps in mind, their charms—affordable, expertly distilled, jack-of-all-trades hooch—easily translate for the home tippler.