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When two North Carolina-based friends decided to do a cocktail tasting on YouTube three years ago, their brand, JonesnMann, was born. There, Jones and Mann, the best friends in question, consider themselves “spirit guides” who provide reviews and history lessons on a full range of spirits, with the aim to make drink culture more relatable to all people. Today, Mann has ventured solo onto TikTok (save for the occasional Jones appearance), bringing the same experience and affability to the ultra-popular video sharing app.
Mann first fell in love with spirits in college, where he and his friends would buy a new bottle and try to find a recipe to make with it. “I am from the era when albums would drop on Tuesdays and we would drink and review new music,” he shared with VinePair in a recent interview. Which is to say that drinking and music are two things Mann holds dear. And in addition to the hundreds of drinks he’s made for his many followers, that love of music has made its way to the platform as well (his video for how to make a Lemon Ginger Drop plays to the tune of “Lemon” by N.E.R.D. and Rihanna).
While Mann considers himself an introvert, that fact might come as a surprise to anyone who’s following along. Because to watch him is to know him — or at least that’s how it feels — and his magnetic presence makes it easy for his nearly 200,000 followers to keep tuning in.
Fittingly, we caught up with Mann over video and chatted about growing his audience, overcoming challenges, and the controversial vodka that scored him over 1 million views.
When did you first decide to get on TikTok and why?
I joined Tiktok in late December 2019 as an observer. I really wasn’t sure if the platform was for me initially. I thought it was really a dancing app at first. But I decided to dive in and started posting regularly around March because I saw TikTok as a way to broaden my audience and drive traffic back to YouTube. My original hope was to introduce a new group of drinkers to the world of JonesnMann. Now I really see TikTok completely different and as an opportunity for growth of the brand.
Why did you decide to explore cocktail making?
On this journey to explore ALL of the spirits, I actually moved away from the art of a good cocktail. I developed such an appreciation for the spirit itself that I was rarely mixing it with much other than ice. Once I started sampling my audience suggestions — what I call #drinkingthecomments — I rediscovered the beauty for a great cocktail. Granted, many of the ones that I try are not the beautiful craft cocktails that you find in restaurants. I think of it like dropping by your best friend’s and they say, “You have to try this new drink!” These personal favorites that people suggest are special to them. Occasionally, I get something that is completely made up, but most of the time it’s their favorite drink or what they have with friends. Personally, some of the best times of my life have been with good friends and a few drinks. They are sharing that experience with me and I think it’s amazing.
What benefits does cocktail-making on TikTok provide versus other platforms?
Let’s take YouTube, for example: I would have to search for my favorite channel for a particular topic. I think some people watch back-to-back YouTube videos but it feels more single-serve now, as in, I need to see this, I search and find my answer and I’m done. TikTok, on the other hand, is awesome for content creators because the audience is dialed in and engaged. I think I heard 500 million people spend an hour a day on it. Now a big part of that content is simply what the algorithm chooses to push. You might see dancing, art, drinks, music, and a host of other things in that browsing session. So while I wanted to see dancing, now I’m in the mood for a cocktail or some comedy. Your chances to be seen by a bigger audience increase exponentially.
What’s your most popular drink on TikTok?
I think Hpnotiq and Blue Shark Vodka is my most watched video with 1.3 million views. It created a little stir because I said I preferred Blue Shark Vodka (out of North Carolina) over Grey Goose.
How did you grow your following on TikTok?
I heard that you should post three to four times a day, so I started posting bottles from my bar and giving snippets of information about them. I think that took me from a couple hundred followers to 10,000 to 15,000. The next big lift came when I watched someone mix rum and root beer together and I thought, I have never tried it, so I grabbed a bottle on the way home and shot the video. From there, people started to suggest all sorts of things to try. One night I said, I guess I am going to be “drinking the comments,” and #drinkingthecomments was born. It took no time from there before I was at 100,000 followers. So I’ll say it was a bit of luck. But here are the things I feel I did right: I knew my niche from the beginning. I think it is OK if you are figuring it out but the quicker you know the faster you can focus on growing it. Next, I am doing what I love and I am authentic about it. I love the history and experience of spirits and I think people can connect and relate to it. It also made it easy for me to keep doing it when no one was watching because I loved it. Lastly, I think people like to engage and connect and I always make it a point to interact with as many people as I can regardless of the size of their platform. I spend more time connecting with the people who are into my content than trying to connect with those who aren’t.
Have there been any challenges on TikTok?
I definitely think I am going against the odds with TikTok. I am old, out of shape, and Black. I don’t really fit the mold for this app. I think the algorithm is a fickle beast that I don’t fully understand. I still have not made it to the creator marketplace. I think it takes a lot to work a day job and create content. I could go on, but without challenge there can be no strength. I am building a brand that I hope one day will be a household name and I need that brand and myself to be prepared. Some videos flop, so I continue to innovate. I need to remind myself of how badly I want this to happen. So all in all, I am grateful for the opportunity and the audience.
Are there any new themes or approaches to cocktail-making you hope to explore in the future?
I think there will be more themed drinks, sports, movies, and candies. Cocktail makers like bartesians, and new spirits like Cristalino tequilas and flavored whiskeys will also grow. And we will also see more RTDs — ready to drink cocktails — emerge on the scene, like seltzers, Jack Daniel’s, and Crown Royal cans.
What is your favorite cocktail?
Honesty, I have a true love for spirits, so even when I mix drinks, I still like to make the spirit the star of the show. When the cameras are not rolling I love a nice, simple Cuba Libre. It says to me relax, unwind, and it transports me to somewhere tropical where the dress code is linen and flip-flops.