Rhonda Cammon wears many hats. She’s played a defining role in Nashville’s beverage scene, founding Barseat in 2015, a pop-up bar service for clients in the area, offering programs from private events to educational tastings. She served on the board of the United States Bartender Guild’s Nashville chapter and helped found the Nashville Bartenders Foundation. She’s also a mom of two and, until May of 2021, a full-time nurse.
If that wasn’t enough, Cammon launched her own line of fresh fruit cordials along the way. Perfectly Cordial, characterized by tropical fruits and global spices, came about to fill a void that Cammon noticed among the drinking community: At the events Cammon worked with Barseat, nearly half of the drinks people ordered were nonalcoholic.
“People were looking for alcohol-free cocktails, and I didn’t want to keep giving people ginger ale or Coke,” she says. “This was pre-the-better-for-you-beverage renaissance, but I wanted to give them something equally delicious.”
She started playing around with recipes for syrups and juices, looking for a mixer that could double in both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Years of working in the hospitality industry taught her that people gravitate toward fresh, homemade products, such as juices and syrups. This resonated with Cammon, and she turned to flavors from her childhood.
“I’m Miami born and raised.” Cammon says. “We grew up with mango trees, avocado trees, and grapefruit trees in our yards. These were our snacks.” The city’s multicultural diversity also lent inspiration for spices and herbs, and flavors of cinnamon, anise, fennel, peppercorn, and others surfaced her cordials.
Perfectly Cordial—aside from its whimsical flavors, like hibiscus, cassis, or peppercorn—differentiates itself from other mixers by having no added sugars, getting all of its sweetness from fresh fruit. Remember, Cammon was a nurse—of course she took a healthy approach.
She tested her first cordial, Caramelized Pineapple Coconut Water, through Barseat. When they served more cordial spritzers than alcohol, Cammon felt compelled to continue, creating other signature flavors, like Pear, Rose, and Pink Peppercorn and Tropical Sour Mix. Cammon started distributing cordial samples at markets around Nashville.
At the beginning of 2020, she had hopes of growing Perfectly Cordial’s e-commerce presence. “Then the world shut down.” Online sales took off as people sought to create bar-level cocktails at home.
In May of 2021, Cammon made a life-changing decision to leave nursing and work on Perfectly Cordial full-time.
“It’s hard, it’s scary, it’s a lot,” she says. She acknowledges that many nurses experience a lot of pressure to stay in the field until they reach retirement, not switch courses in pursuit of a passion project.
Changing her path, though, allowed Cammon to throw herself into connecting more people with her product. “When I left nursing, I said I was going to go out there and be with my people,” and she did that, manning tasting stations at markets and brick-and-mortar stores, selling Perfectly Cordial bottles, and testing new recipes. “I’m a people person,” she says, and the past months have inundated her with opportunities to connect with her people.
Perfectly Cordial’s presence is growing throughout the South at markets and in retail locations, and it’s gaining national attention, too. Cammon participated in the Renegade Craft Fest in Chicago with thirty cases of Perfectly Cordial. Within a matter of hours, every bottle sold. This summer’s most popular products include the Jalapeño Mint Sour and Pear, Rose, and Pink Peppercorn, which Cammon swears works with everything—tonic, gin, bourbon, hot tea . . . (and TLP editor in chief agrees!)
Cammon’s next step for Perfectly Cordial focuses on mindful product sourcing, particularly from women vendors. She hopes that she can use Perfectly Cordial to help other women take their businesses to the next level.
“If you’re intentional with what you’re doing, it comes back around,” she says.