Cocktails with ice from a bottle – who could want something like that? That is just what Josef Klemm had to hear when he told friends and acquaintances about his idea for kukki Cocktails. “Yes, at the beginning, everyone thought we were mad,” remembers “Sepp”. Even the traders didn’t take him seriously. “So we just went off and did it by ourselves, and presented our idea at trade fairs.” The founders of the cocktail start-up now know: “Everyone wants our kukki Cocktails!”
Sepp comes from Bavaria originally and doesn’t like beer. An unusual combination. So he started looking for alternatives and came up with the idea of making his own cocktails to take with him. So: the ice had to be in the bottle already. The idea was born. But how could he put it into practice?
In 2013, Sepp met the second founder, Saif Hamed, during his second degree course, in engineering. Together, they built devices and machines for other companies, but soon got bored of it. They decided to work on Sepp’s cocktail idea and in 2014 finally founded the start-up “kukki Cocktail” together with the third man in the team, Andreas Romanowski. By 2016 they were ready: to drink the first kukki Cocktail.
What is special about kukki Cocktails: it is the first ready-made cocktail with ice and fresh fruit right out of a bottle. “We wanted the cocktails to be enjoyed at any time and in any place – not just at a cocktail bar,” explains Sepp. At kukki, the cocktails come from the freezer. When the frozen cocktail thaws, it turns to liquid, but the ice doesn’t melt because of its high density level. “This technology fascinates our customers. Even when we explain it to them, they still look surprised when they have the cocktail in their hands,” says Sepp. “The ice is also our preservative; we don’t need any chemicals at all,” says Andreas. “We can guarantee this – as we make everything ourselves: we start every morning at 5.30 with production – and make our juices, syrups and alcohol.” Even the bottles are delivered as a raw material, “so that we can print them ourselves,” explains Andreas. “Next, we fill the freshly printed bottles, everything based on our own developed recipes. We add the ice and then put the bottles into the freezer.”
And the recipes? Saif is the man behind them. It all began with unusual cocktail creations, which didn’t always worked out. But, with a little trial and error, Saif thought up more and more new mixes, until he finally found the right taste for the others too. Classic cocktails like “Moscow Mule” are also in the kukki range.
The path to a perfect cocktail is not always easy. “What can we start with? There were so many difficulties at the beginning,” all three say, and laugh. The biggest challenge: the logistics. Originally the entire logistics process was supposed to take place between minus five and minus seven degrees – as at this temperature the alcohol is liquid and the ice cubes are not. A challenge they couldn’t tackle. So how did the three solve the problem? The cocktails are now frozen entirely at minus 18 degrees. And without further ado, Sepp invented the so-called “toaster”: a small, rentable machine that defrosts the cocktails by infrared to the perfect temperature. The next hurdle the founding three had to face was to determine the full internal manufacturing process. A special machine was required for the ice, which Sepp also designed.
When faced with difficulties, the three founders from Berlin always trusted their instincts. “We don’t have a master plan, pinpointing where we want to be in 30 days. We are also not the classic managers or finance experts. We find things out ourselves; we make a lot of mistakes and then try to smooth them out as quickly as possible,” says Andreas. And that works: “Our single idea was to offer an alternative to beer, wine or rum and coke. Today you’ll find kukki Cocktails even on the sun terrace of a Ritz Carlton.” Starting in Berlin, kukki Cocktails are now available throughout Germany. And the company continues to grow.
The start-up is currently based in Berlin. Office and production site are in one location. “Proximity is important,” says Saif. “kukki lives from production. There is a lot of passion in our company. The product we make doesn’t come from some factory. We are behind everything that is in our product and are there throughout the entire process. That is why we want everyone to be able to see production.” Next to the office, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is an integral part of the company: the so-called “kukki-mobile”. Always at the wheel: Bernd.
Bernd used to work for another delivery services. Thanks to Sepp, today he is part of the kukki family and driver of his beloved kukki-mobile. “The kukki-mobile is his baby,” laughs Saif. “Before we return the Sprinter to him we have to clean it. Otherwise Bernd gets mad.” Andreas adds, laughing: “You have to know that Bernd and his Sprinter are one. They wake up together in the morning and go to bed together in the evening.” The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter supports the start-up with all of its transport routes. In addition to deliveries, they use the Sprinter to go to trade fairs.
In addition to Bernd, the three founders now have more support: 15 people now work for kukki Cocktail in development, production, logistics, marketing and in the back office. What’s special about working at kukki is that they are not a classic company, with a limited range of tasks. “Everyone has the opportunity to introduce their ideas. We are innovative, not just with the product, but with respect to our employees,” explains Andreas. “Our kukki family gets founded by accident: we talk to the people we meet, who we think fit our start-up. And once they are in the kukki family, they stay,” explains Saif.
With so much success, what can come next. “We have only one goal: everything that tastes good and that has ice in the bottle, should be from kukki,” explains Sepp. “Our new ice technology is just the beginning,” says Andreas. “But as people thought we were mad when we told them about our first idea, we are taking things slowly with our other ideas. Step by step.”