We had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Tommy Tardie from The Morning Dram to chat about coffee, spirits, music, and bikes. Since first finding out about The Morning Dram, we’ve been big supporters of their unique take in the coffee world. If there is anything that we’ve learned here at CYTIES, it’s that there is creativity in coffee, aging anything in whiskey barrels is good, and just about everyone has a story. Hold on tight and get your coffee mugs ready, we can guarantee you’ll be yearning for some caffeine after this one.
CYTIES: In your opinion, where does coffee fit within the hospitality world today?
Tommy: Throughout my career in the hospitality industry, I’ve talked to thousands of patrons and can tell you that there is a commonality among spirit aficionados and coffee lovers. Like a good whiskey, they drink it slowly and appreciate each sip.
Many people start their day with a nice cup of coffee so I wanted to create a quality product that you can enjoy with the same enthusiasm as an aged whiskey. Good coffee and fine spirits have so much in common and The Morning Dram merges both worlds by offering a balance of complex notes and simple joy, robust flavors of coffee beans aged in a variety of spirits barrels.
CYTIES: What type of individual is the Morning Dram crafted for?
Tommy: Coffee, much like spirits, is a very personal preference, so I initially focused on creating something I enjoy and appealed to my palette. However, I was confident that others would enjoy it too, so I sent samples to some of my friends in the whiskey industry who I admired and received amazing feedback – then I knew I was on to something.
The Morning Dram is crafted with the spirits drinker in mind, but our coffee is for any individual who enjoys the finer aspects of what they consume. Those that take pride in what they drink and savor each note and layer.
Drinking coffee is a morning ritual for many, as sipping a dram (a small pour of whiskey) in the evening is for others. That’s the very reason I created the tagline, “It’s 8 am somewhere,” to reflect this mentality.
CYTIES: Talk to us about the unique roasting process of Morning Dram, and how those influence tasting notes and flavors?
Tommy: We start off with green (unroasted) coffee beans and place them in freshly emptied barrels from top distilleries. The freshness of the barrel and the moisture content has a major effect on the flavor it imparts in the beans. Since this varies from barrel to barrel, each batch requires frequent test roasts to determine the perfect time to pull them out. I use my own instincts, familiarity with spirits, and intuition to indicate when I should pull the beans. Surface contact is also critical while aging the beans, so we rotate the barrels often to ensure flavor consistency.
CYTIES: How do you take/make your coffee every morning?
Tommy: I am a purist and drink my coffee black. Since I don’t use cream or sugar, my coffee must taste great on its own. That’s why I created The Morning Dram- I wanted a coffee that is balanced, smooth, and complex, with a robust flavor, that I can drink all the time, whether that’s at home in the city, on a camping trip, or riding my motorcycle through Scotland.
The Morning Dram has no alcohol in it and no flavoring or additives. The only ingredient is coffee beans, and the distinctive flavor of each blend is a result of the beans’ time in the barrel.
CYTIES: When you leave Manhattan, where are you traveling to? We have heard things about a motorcycle…?
Tommy: I’ve lived in New York City for 20 years and I love it, but in order for me to maintain my sanity, I need to escape the city on a regular basis. My motorcycle provides an easy way to do that. I think it’s the best way to travel and be in touch with nature; you can really smell the fresh air instead of being stuck in a fishbowl, seeing things through a thick piece of glass. I enjoy small stints to fish or take a nice motorcycle ride outside of the city whenever I can.
Pre-covid, I enjoyed traveling to remote areas of Colombia and Scotland, which I’ve visited several times. I’m hoping that my adventures will continue to take me to more exotic locations soon. In the meantime, I love riding down to Kentucky and experiencing all the small craft distilleries that the U.S. has to offer.
CYTIES: Spirit question, as you mentioned, there is a special connection to certain spirits we drink, and when we drink them. We’d love to know one of your highlight moments. Where were you and what delicious whiskey was in your dram?
Tommy: My highlight moment would be when I visited Bunnahabhain Distillery on the small island of Islay in Scotland. I was in one of their warehouses with the master distiller and they were drawing whiskey straight out of the casks. It was a cold January day, and I can still remember the smell of the barrels, the frost in the air, and the smooth taste of the whiskey.
I’m a strong believer that location plays a big part in the experience of whiskey and am convinced that the taste is enhanced by the environment. It was a magical moment.
CYTIES: Music question. What’s playing through the soundwaves when you’re making coffee? Does music influence the brand?
Tommy: My music taste goes across the spectrum- I enjoy anything from Dizzy Gillespie to The Rolling Stones, depending on my mood. My approach to making coffee is very similar to my diverse taste in music. There’s a variety of tasting notes in our coffee because sometimes you’re in the mood for a certain flavor or song.
CYTIES: Talk to us about the beans. Where are you getting sourcing from?
Tommy: The Morning Dram currently carries four blends with beans sourced from Honduras, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ethiopia.
I am working closely with an experienced coffee roaster that understands my concept and how to develop the flavor profiles that I am looking for. We first consider each barrel and then decide which bean variety would compliment it best. I then do a small test run (usually in a smaller barrel) to ensure the flavors work in harmony and don’t overpower the other.
CYTIES: We love the animals on the coffee bags and mugs. Where did the inspiration come from?
Tommy: Although I live in Manhattan, I love being out in nature. I balance my city life with frequent escapes to the countryside, so it was important to me that the packaging incorporated some element of nature on it. I also thought it would be fun to portray the animals in a human form that do things I enjoy in my everyday life, like riding motorcycles and sipping a dram of whiskey. I see them as a sort of ‘brand ambassador’ and we’ll be developing this concept a bit more down the line.
CYTIES: What’s next for The Morning Dram? We’re sure you’re already cooking up some cool ideas.
Tommy: I’ve been experimenting with new types of casks and playing around with different blends. I also plan to incorporate more single-origin coffee into the line. People also love the animals, so we will continue to introduce new characters on our packaging and mugs!
CYTIES: Can you share how this difficult last year and a half has affected how you view the modern world of hospitality, food, and beverage?
Tommy: The last year and a half have been a struggle for everyone in our industry, but we’re staying on the pulse of what’s happening and constantly evolving to meet the needs of our audience. Hospitality is all about adapting and understanding what our customers want and expect in a venue, so we work closely to achieve just that. I’m lucky to have such a fantastic team that is passionate about creating an amazing experience for our patrons.
CYTIES: Final question: Airplane coffee or no coffee at all?
Tommy: As much as I’ve become a coffee snob, sometimes you just need a kick of caffeine! I won’t cast judgment on anyone who has airplane coffee, so don’t judge me too hard either if you see me drinking it.
Order The Morning Dram Coffee now, and get ready to sit back with your new coffee routine. Thanks for taking the time Tommy, and to our readers, may all your ideas and cups of coffee be bold as can be.