As a qualified and trained social worker, Sule Dyer, 38, is an advocate for mental health. So when the pandemic began in TT in March 2020, he knew he needed to do something for himself, as well as to help others.
Dyer created a series of virgin, alcoholic and CBD (cannabidiol)-infused cocktails which he called HybridTT.
He explained that when the borders closed last year and movement was restricted, he could not travel, visit family and friends, go to the gym, watch sports or do anything else he used to do to relax and care for his mental health.
“With that being taken away almost immediately, how I functioned changed considerably. I felt like I had to find an outlet to aid with keeping myself together.”
Before the pandemic, he would be the one to make cocktails at family limes, as he had done a bartending course, and he likes to drink. The plan was to package a few cocktails so friends and family could have something to drink if they wanted.
Since he has a background in media and advertising, he came up with the idea of merging marketing with the drinks. He said both marketing and social work are about anticipating and satisfying people's needs.
He believes one of those needs is CBD, an ingredient of cannabis which is known to have health benefits.
Dyer learned about the benefits of CBD from a friend who makes medicinal CBD products. He also knows several people who use it to manage their anxiety, and so he decided to try it in his drinks.
“I know a lot of people were experiencing challenges with the pandemic and beyond. CBD is about the medicinal. I have customers who purchase Hybrid
for their anxiety, who suffer with bad insomnia, who purchase it for pain management, for PMS. That’s what made me add it and that’s what made Hybrid what it is.”
After some help from friends, looking at tutorial videos on the internet, doing online research, and a lot of trial and error, he found the right extraction process.
“It was about trying to get the right extraction method that would blend well with cocktails and not just add an oil, because it would just be an oily drink, and oil and water don’t mix.”
When he decided to make it a business, he also he wanted it to be accessible and so he made the CBD drinks a reasonable price so more people could benefit.
“A lot of people are still fearful of the herb because of what they hear. I am trying to change that whole perspective and narrative and let people see it can be enjoyed once done properly.”
Dyer stressed that when he started HybridTT in May 2020 he had no intention of turning it into a business. However, bartending for a friend’s birthday party in June 2020 changed his plans.
“I’m big on packaging and imaging because generally I like nice stuff. And a few of my friends posted the drinks on social media while some went live. I went to sleep the night cause we were drinking, and when I got up in the morning I literally had over 100 messages with people asking what the drinks were and where they could get them.”
When he saw the interest in his creations, he decided to open a separate avenue for people to access his products. He set up social media accounts so people could order them, and launched the business in July with the aim to bring something different and diverse to the TT market.
Since then, orders have increased from around ten drinks per week to about 80-100, to be delivered to people’s homes or offices. He also provides bartending services for small-scale events including birthday parties, baby and bridal showers, brunches, and small weddings.
In addition, about two months after launching HybridTT, a leading supermarket chain engaged him to use the brands of alcohol it sells and to create new recipes specific to the brands.
To Dyer, quality control is very important. Not only do his drinks have to taste good, but the taste has to be consistent. One batch cannot taste different from the next, which is why he works alone except for the times he needs help at an event,
HybridTT creates a lot of fruit-based cocktails with mostly local, fresh fruits. He also does a series of limited-edition cocktails, making a certain amount of a particular flavour. He changes this flavour whenever the batch is finished.
Sorrel, tamarind, watermelon, and portugal are some of the biggest sellers, and he uses several types of alcohol including gin, tequila, rum, whisky, and bourbon. Then, to make the drinks aesthetically pleasing, he garnishes them with gummy bears, fruits, mint and more.
“I’m not doing anything drastically different to what other people have been doing in the market. So while I’m big on taste and quality control, I feel people could go in the grocery and pick up a sorrel drink.
"But since I don’t have a storefront, I have to always be on point when it comes to branding, especially in a pandemic when people can’t walk in to a store and sample things. People are loving the way I present the drinks to them.”
Dyer told Sunday Newsday he has been enjoying HybridTT. He said he wants to continue making drinks people will enjoy and to ensure his customers are satisfied. He added that, since the pandemic he works from home a lot, so he
is open to where HybridTT takes him.
“I want Hybrid to be a holistic brand. I’m all about lifestyle and family. It’s not just products. What I try to sell is an experience. Just offering that range gives everyone in the family the opportunity to indulge and enjoy.”