TRANSLATION | Eugenia Yang
This is a conversation across time and space with someone who sees the world through the eyes of an artisan. He is Royal Chao, the founder of WAT Cocktail. Through our virtual interview, he unravels the story of his brand that was established in 2019. Seeking high-end luxury through normal goods and finding the oriental flavors in cocktails, Royal’s motive is clear: to introduce WAT to the global market and establish the leading fashion of cocktails.
都說創業是0到1的突破，很難想像蘇東波這一句「醉飽高眠真事業，此生有味在三餘」著名的詩詞，竟是從一口流利的ABC講出來的，也是他將興趣延伸成事業最佳的詮釋。初聽WAT品牌宣言，很多人會覺得這酒真文藝，仔細一品瓶裝雞尾酒開始，你會發現兩年時間裡，WAT迅速走入大眾視野，其品牌標榜的新世代精神「So WAT，Be Yourself 不再需要墨守成規，你可以做自己」，它販賣更多是一種飲酒體驗與個性化自我，年輕不再是數字，而是一種生活態度。
Art of Bartending
Going from whiskey to cocktails through his 20 years of drinking, Royal’s inspiration to start WAT is simple. Since he likes to drink and understands the art of cocktails, how can he popularize the cocktail market? Arriving at the age of 40 this year, he studied business back in college and did venture capital and financial investments after graduation. The turning point was three years ago when he sold his company and gathered his resources and network in combination with a business model that offered a platform for bartenders to use their talents. Royal saw each artisan as Picasso, while he simply provided a studio for them to create freely. Speaking of “bar” as being the social connection between people and alcohol, he aspires for WAT to break convention and create a venue that is multifunctional. It is a place that mixes trends with drinks, satisfies every customer’s needs and allows them to customize their own go-to drinks. Through conversations with different professional bartenders, Royal is able to be innovative and creative. In the end, by bringing all the aspects together, he sees his customer’s happiness as his motivation and the key to maintaining a youthful mindset.
Some say entrepreneurship is about taking that small step to go from zero to one. Chinese poet Su Dongpo once wrote a poem about turning life’s fun and indulgences into a business. While it was surprising that Royal quoted from a classic Song poem, considering that he spent most of his time abroad, the poem perfectly describes how he turned his own interests into a business. A lot of people’s first impression of WAT is that it’s a brand with distinctive aesthetic. As you look closely at these bottled cocktails, you’ll realize WAT had quickly entered the public’s eye in just two years. With the motto “So WAT, Be Yourself,” the brand sells a drinking experience that is personalized. Youth is no longer just about the numbers, but a lifestyle. Recently opened a new location at Parklane in Taichung, WAT’s creative director Jun decides to incorporate local ingredients into the cocktail and introduces a Taichung-exclusive, chili-based Chili Mango Cocktail. Meanwhile, at another new location, the Shanghai store not only has a rotating bar, but also serves the Maotai-based Chrysanthemum Smoked Plum Cocktail. Actively promoting Asian flavored cocktails, Royal understands WAT is a brand that seems easily duplicable. However, it is special because it comes up with new flavors according to the location. By designing the store and the drinks geographically, the physical experience becomes invaluable.
A Global Vision
When asked about his ideal life, Royal admits that one of the best things that happened in the past few years is establishing this new drinking culture of WAT. “My life had always been well-planned, so I’m glad I was able to break the routine in this process of self-reflection.” He is still trying to find the balance between work and life. As the founder of the brand, he finds himself constantly thinking about his career. At the same time, he delegates his time for his family, friends and workouts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “You don’t do entrepreneurship half-heartedly. You have to go all-in.” Given the time to think about the future, Royal aspires to continue on this journey in order to make WAT the brand that defines Asian culinary trend and really expand it to a global scale. With another new location opening—the Nanjing West Road one—WAT will soon be announcing its brand ambassador for the Taiwan area at the end of July and introduce new flavors for its tea cocktails. An establishment of the ideal lifestyle, WAT is becoming a brand that is tasteful, fun and fashionable. Just like how Royal reiterates throughout the interview— “It is a beverage store for adults, a carnival for drinking”—perhaps this is the perfect manifestation of the story of WAT.