The Creation of Dr. Thelonious’ Zombie Elixir Brachetto Wine
I never met a Zombie I didn’t like, and the world obviously feels the same. With nine hundred and twenty six Zombie related movies and TV shows released for our rabid viewing pleasure (according to IMDB), it is clear we are a society obsessed with the living dead. Every Sunday night my apartment complex itself is reanimated with the grunts, groans and snarls of the infected creatures that threaten and sometimes kill our favorite characters (they better not kill off Daryl!) on The Walking Dead. So, when Jamme Chantler, my brother and marketing soul-mate, asked me to help him come up with a concept and name for Thelonious Monkfish’s first wine label, I suggested early on in our brain-storming binge that the wine have something to do with zombies.
Our first concern with the idea was that the market was saturated already with Zombie-mania. We obviously weren’t the first people to recognize that the world was a little cray-cray for the undead. In fact, there were already a few wines that had jumped on the zombie train – Return of the Living Red and Zombie Zin. We weren’t convinced we should do another one. Besides, Jamme felt that his house wine should have something to do with Thelonious Monk, as he wanted to give homage to the musical genius who had inspired the name of his restaurant. So, we began the creative process of naming his first wine label.
The first thing to understand about our creative process is that editing our minds isn’t allowed. For the hour or two we brainstorm, it is like our brain throws up everything it’s chewed in the last month or two. We threw out names to each other like: Porcupine Quill Chardonnay (porcupine is my brother’s crutch word), Cerberus’ Revenge (Cerberus is our nickname for a distant family member we can’t stand), Bitches Brew (which is unfortunately already the name of a Dogfish Head Ale! Damn it!), and This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Wine. During that first brain-storming session, we compiled a list of about one hundred possible names for the wine, many of which I better not put in print as they are not consumable for the general public (unless you consider Bitch you Better Scratch my Itch Cabernet palatable).
We went through about a month or two of turrets wine-naming during which we would place sudden and unexpected phone calls to each other and would shout a new name into the phone before we ever said hello. My favorite was Lollipoptastic Brachetto because of how it felt rolling off the tongue, but Jamme decided it wouldn’t connect with his MIT / Harvard customer base.
Jamme’s favorite, however, was “Blue Monk,” the name of Thelonious Monk’s favorite self-composed song. He felt it captured a mood and would elicit an emotion his customers could relate to. I agreed and from a graphics stand point felt that there were many possibilities I could go with in designing the label. Unfortunately, after a little research, we discovered that Blue Monk had already been taken for a barley wine.
Another goodie that came from our brainstorming was Zombie Apocalypse, and there we were considering a zombie theme for the wine again! It was like the idea couldn’t stay dead. The Zombie Apocalypse in a deep red Cabernet would be a sure hit with the brilliant kids running around Cambridge and their professors alike. It would be fuel for their brilliant minds, feeding them liquid inspiration for saving the world one mathematical formula at a time. After all, we are as obsessed with the end of the world as we are with zombies. The idea, however, though great, was already taken. The world was already drinking Zombie Apocolypse Vodka.
Was their an original thought in our heads? We were getting frustrated, so we left the naming alone for a few days. Then, the idea hit us. Zombie Elixir. We loved this name because it elicited a visual response in us. We could imagine the Brachetto Sparkling Wine bubbling from a wine glass in the hands of the infected. It would be marketed like a medicine for the afflicted. Jamme felt like he could play with the idea of what it means to be a Zombie. We could take the literal translation of a flesh eating monster, but we could also spin the meaning to refer to anyone who was just getting by in their life or just going through life’s motions without being completely present in it. It could be an opportunity to make a statement about lifeless living.
Marketing wise, I loved the idea of wine being like a medicine, but realized we would have to be careful so it didn’t seem like we were pushing alcohol as a viable means to deal with an unhappy life. I thought that we could achieve this by making the label look like an old time medicine label from the 1800s. Coca-Cola was marketed as a medicine during the 19th century, but people now understand that it was a gimmick or marketing con. (Though, with cocaine as an ingredient, one imagines that it made people feel pretty good.) I hoped that if we used the label in this way that people would viscerally understand the connection and not take our marketing approach seriously.
Although we both loved this idea, I think we felt that something was lacking in the concept. We felt that we were just jumping on the Zombie bandwagon without a real connection to the restaurant or Thelonious Monk. We began researching old-time medicine bottle labels and realized that so many of the old medicines used the names of Doctors in their title, like Dr Guertin’s Nerve Syrup or Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root. Jamme thought, “Why not use Dr. Thelonious’ Zombie Elixir”?
The more we thought of the idea, the more we liked it. We knew it was an original concept, and the more we thought about it the more we realized that Dr. Thelonious’ Zombie Elixir was really a metaphor for the restorative effect of Thelonious Monk’s music on a withered soul. We dare you to listen to Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream” and not feel revivified. If we could take Thelonious Monk’s music, put it in a bottle for mass consumption, the result would be Dr. Thelonious’ Zombie Elixir. Great for resuscitating Zombies of all types!
Thelonious Monkfish donates to The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz $2 for every bottle sold.