A Q&A with Girlboss Nicole Williams of Made Real Vodka
Made Real Vodka proclaims that it’s for the “the makers, the moonlighters, and the hustlers.” If their events are any barometer, Made Real gets that life — the life of the freelancer, the wanderluster, the foodie, the free-spirited fashionista.
The vodka company’s recent events include a superfun cheesemaking class with the chef of Humboldt & Jackson, a cocktail-making class with talented mixologist Rachel Kim of the NoMad, and an upcoming Thursday, March 24th Made Real Connections open bar, shopping event and fashion panel with Hannah Dilworth, the owner of Williamsburg store Concrete + Water.
We got to attend a Made Real event and taste-test the vodka, which is warm, spicy and a touch sweet from its honey distillation, rather than cool and aloof like some vodkas (we’re not naming any names here). It was smooth and didn’t bite when consumed neat, and fun and easy to mix with. After the event, we got to chat with Nicole Williams, Made Real’s Head of Brand (and formerly a marketing girlboss at big names like Nastygal and NYLON), to get the scoop on what’s behind this beautiful bottle.
GP: How did Made Real start, and what was the inspiration?
Nicole: Looking at the industry, there really weren’t brands that truly reflected the strength of women today. We collaborated with The Absolut Company and a group of entrepreneurial-minded women. From the onset, the goal has always been to inspire other women to make their dreams real.
GP: What distillery do you use? Who oversees and does the distilling?
Nicole: In the creation of Made Real, we had the opportunity to partner with Ed and Laura Tiege, of Still the One Distillery in Port Chester, New York. It’s a family-run local distillery, and we work hand-in-hand with their team from the distillation through to the bottling.
GP: It was so easy to mix with Made Real, with its touch of sweetness from being distilled with honey. What are your personal favorite cocktails to make with it?
Nicole: I have two go-to Made Real cocktails. One is the New Suit: Made Real Vodka, fresh lemon, Dolin Blanc, and simple syrup, shaken with ice and served in a chilled champagne coupe, then topped off with a float of dry sparkling wine and a lemon twist for garnish.
I also like playing up the honey in Made Real by mixing it with hot honey syrup and fresh lemon juice. You add ice and give a quick stir; then top with elderflower soda. Garnish it with a cayenne-dipped half lemon wheel.
GP: That sounds delicious. Mixologist Rachel Kim was a really fun guide to making cocktails. She kept us laughing while teaching us how to keep it simple — at least, until we got some expertise in measuring, muddling, shaking and pouring. She also taught us how to find a balance in our sweetness, alcohol and tartness. How did you begin to collaborate with her?
Nicole: I had the opportunity to meet Rachel last fall after taking another one of her cocktail courses. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as we had just wrapped our our first ever #MoversMeetShakers a few weeks before and were excited to make it a regular event series. So, when we finalized the details for the February event, she was the first person I called.
GP: How did you end up partnering with the event space, Williamsburg’s Humboldt & Jackson, and what has that experience been like?
Nicole: #MoversMeetShakers was our first time partnering with the team behind Humboldt & Jackson, and it was a great experience. Since meeting them last month, they have been nothing but supportive and helpful in helping to create the experience for the evening. We look forward to working with Bill and Pam again in the future.
GP: So what’s the connection with fashion, and what are you looking to do in terms of events that involve those things?
Nicole: Fashion isn’t a true focus of the brand. Our mission is to really support all dreams #MadeReal. However, there is probably an unintentional slant towards fashion given my own background in the industry and the background of several of our co-creators who include a style blogger, a mobile boutique owner, and a stylist.
GP: Where do you like to hang when you’re in Greenpoint?
Nicole: I’ve been shopping at In God We Trust for almost a decade now, since their Lower East Side store, and I love that they have a Greenpoint location. Also, I like stopping by Wolves Within from time to time for gifts and great additions to my apartment.
GP: What can folks attending your upcoming Concrete + Water event expect?
Nicole: Our Made Real Connections events are designed to bring likeminded women together over conversation and delicious cocktails. This event features a panel conversation with three badass fashion-world entrepreneurs, including Concrete + Water’s owner Hannah Dilworth, and guests will have plenty of time to listen, ask questions, network, drink cocktails and shop. Our events are designed to be educational but also casual and, above all, fun.
Made Real can be ordered online or ordered at the bars of McCarren Hotel at 160 N. 12th Street and Have & Meyer at 103 Havemeyer Street.
Here’s the recipe for Rachel Kim’s Garden Maid, which takes you on a walk in a summer garden full of limes, mint, cucumber and elderflowers.