Ruby Honerkamp grew up in East Hampton, but to hear her tell it, she “grew up in a dive bar.”
And not just any bar. We’re talking the legendary Stephen Talkhouse, the music venue that is known (and loved) because it treats everyone the same, even if countless, world-famous acts like Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Paul Simon and Roger Waters have played there.
Honerkamp’s family has owned The Talkhouse for over 34 years — her father Peter Honerkamp, her brother Max Honerkamp and Nick Kraus are the “trifecta” partners who run and manage the place. And now Ruby, inspired by the venue’s legacy and the fact that The Talkhouse is “in her DNA” has leveraged The Talkhouse name and created a ready-to-drink cocktail that she launched this summer called Talkhouse Encore. The canned cocktail comes in four flavors (two vodka, two tequila) and is carried “at various watering holes and liquor stores from Montauk to Southampton.”
Honerkamp has big dreams and plans for Talkhouse Encore, which is a separate business from The Stephen Talkhouse, yet is, of course, inextricably tied to it.
“Everyone is loving it; it’s flying off the shelves,” says Honerkamp. “People have been really receptive to it in terms of the packaging and loving the visual identity and understanding there’s a brand affinity.”
We caught up with Honerkamp from her house in Springs to talk about the evolution of Talkhouse Encore, the rich Talkhouse history and her plans for building the new business.
What inspired this decision to launch Talkhouse Encore?
The Talkhouse was always really important to me … but I didn’t really realize how much it was ingrained in who I was and how much it really meant to me until the pandemic hit. … When the pandemic hit, we obviously had to close our doors and turn the lights out. … It was a very depressing, bad, sorrowful environment. It’s the energy of the people and the musicians and the staff that add that vibrancy.
About a year ago last August, my dad sat my brother and I down and said “You know, the future of The Talkhouse legacy is in your hands — you guys need to figure out what that means.”
Basically, I talked to my brother and Nick and I started this. … I’m no longer an owner in the bar; I created a licensing deal for the word “Talkhouse” and then I created this ready-to-drink cocktail. I spent the past 10 months on research and development and testing and getting really scrappy and rolling my sleeves up to figure out how to get a product out in time for summer.
What was the goal in launching?
Ready-made cocktails are very hot right now and I wanted to make sure we weren’t late to the party but obviously also wanted to be mindful in quality and preserving The Talkhouse legacy and really being mindful that this was crafted thoughtfully, but socially I still have my full-time job which I’m going to be putting my notice in on October 1 so I can run with this full time.
What is your current job and how do you feel making this move?
I work at Away, a luggage company. I manage the creative team; I’m really embedded in building brands and marketing and creative excellence in advertising. Taking (Talkhouse Encore) on full-time … I’m terrified and incredibly excited.
You launched in late July. How is it going?
Everyone keeps saying this is the best tasting product on the market — but you can’t just talk the talk, you got to walk the walk, as well — quality is definitely important. …
Both Nick and my brother have been incredible advisors to ensure that this is authentic to The Talkhouse. …
And the local community has been so receptive and so wonderful in supporting this new endeavor … and we are so excited to keep adding new locations to our rolodex.
What are your dreams and plans for Talkhouse Encore?
My dream is to find either one or a handful of musicians to partner with to foster the next generation of music or do deals with them where we create festivals, and maybe Encore is to musicians as Red Bull was to trained athletes. How do we become the drink of the audience, the drink of the dance floor and the drink that pairs well with entertainment and put that at the forefront? …
We’ve been able to foster icons on our stage and local heroes as well … Coldplay the year they played the Super Bowl, Mumford and Sons, The Killers recently this summer, Dave Matthews and Brandi Carlile, and we’ve also had so many local legends like Nancy Atlas, my cousin Klyph Black — and no matter who’s playing, you know it’s always an incredible experience, a consistently good time.
How do you see the business expanding; what matters to you?
I think one thing that is so important is that community is still at the forefront. … Soldier Ride was started at The Talkhouse, my dad opens up The Talkhouse to so many local nonprofits and charity events. So how do we give back to the community which has inspired us from the beginning?
And the same way the same bartenders have worked at The Talkhouse for over 30 years — what service industry are you able to maintain — part of what I want to do is find those long-term partners. I don’t see them as vendors, I see them as partners; that can help bring and grow this brand authentically.
I think part of a successful business comes from the trust and the retention and building your foundation with people.
What is the ultimate challenge and goal?
How do we carry that legacy year -round, seasonally, around the country and around the world? How do we carry this sentimental place that has been a watering hole for generations through new markets and through new customers?
The most important thing is that we stay true to who The Talkhouse is … this dive bar classic … because it’s grounded and seated in a real history and a real story. … (In other words) I’ll never have a lavender lemonade spritz drink on the menu. [laughs]
For more information on Talkhouse Encore, visit talkencore.com.