NEW YORK - From a small warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Jack Summers is following a big dream. Jack -- known as Jack from Brooklyn -- is the creator of Sorel liqueur. He is shaking things up by packaging a drink that's been made for centuries.
"My friends and family think I've lost my mind. And they're absolutely right. And the joke I tell people is going crazy is easy. Staying crazy takes commitment," Jack said. "The basic recipe for what became Sorel has been in the Caribbean for 400 years. I'm simply the first person to create a shelf-stable version of it and put it in the bottle."
Jack learned how to make it from his grandparents.
"My grandparents came to America from Barbados in the 1920s and like every other immigrant, they made things reminding themselves of home in their kitchen," he said.
Sorel is made from a mix of spices that together create a unique flavor. It is made from Moroccan hibiscus, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian cinnamon, Indonesian nutmeg, Brazilian clove and organic grain alcohol, he said.
"It starts off in here. Her name is Delilah. She's the biggest teapot you've ever seen," Jack said. "I make a gigantic pot of tea with my spices."
Before launching Sorel, Jack spent 20 years in the business world. But then, he had a life-changing moment.
"Five years ago I had a cancer scare," he said. "My doctor found a golf ball-sized tumor inside my spine and he said: 'You are probably going to die. And if you live you're probably going to be paralyzed. You should get your affairs in order.'"
Jack defied the odds and beat cancer, and said the experience was a sign that he should pursue his passion.
"It will make you face the question," he said. "And the question is: 'If it's the last day on earth and you know that tomorrow's not going to come, what do you want to do?'"
The company launched in 2012 and immediately jack faced another challenge.
"I was six months into having launching the business when Hurricane Sandy hit," he said. "And like all of Red Hook we were devastated. We took five feet of sea water on the first floor and six feet in the basement. All of the commodities, all of the product, all of the equipment was destroyed."
Luckily, Jack was able to save some of his equipment and keep his business alive. Sorel is now sold at liquor stores in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
"It makes me feel good to see lots of other cultures embracing something I've known all my life," Jack said.