Party in a can
Event planner to the social set Bronson Van Wyck turns his hand to ready-made mixology.
Bronson Van Wyck is calling from summer school.
“I took a couple of weeks off,” he says, chatting between classes, perched on a wall on the Cambridge University campus. He’s signed up for lectures on artificial intelligence, Dante’s inferno, and the reign of King Charles I. “It’s an odd little group,” he says, of his classes, “and very different from throwing parties.”
After a punishing year where the pent-up desire for parties meant his New York events company, Van Wyck & Van Wyck, did more business with less staff than at any other time in its 24 years (staging events at the Superbowl and the Apollo Theater, along with a destination wedding in Jamaica featured in Vogue), Bronson was taking a moment to recharge. “I really wanted to use a different part of my brain that I haven’t been using,” he says. The part, say, that worried more about Renaissance poets and less about Madonna and Hilary Clinton, who had been two of his pre-pandemic clients, along with fashion mainstays like Chanel and Pirelli.
When the pandemic hit, “it was a professional apocalypse” Van Wyck said. But the standstill had an upside too.
The slowdown gave Van Wyck time to bring a long gestating idea to fruition, transferring a bit of his maximalist party sensibility into a new line of pre-packaged mixed drinks. “We have made so many unique cocktails, come up with so many original recipes for drinks over the years, sometimes we think, wow, we’ve really hit the nail on the head with that, and sometimes a client will think that and say, ‘give me the recipe, I want to make that at home,’” he says. “And sometimes we’ll even make up a huge batch and send it to them on an anniversary or some big milestone.”
That notion gave rise to the elegant line of canned cocktails he introduced last summer under the Dio label—short for Dionysius—developed in partnership with entrepreneur Nick Bradley. The slim cans of “mixologist level concoctions,” as Van Wyck describes them, are designed for entertaining, delivering two drinks apiece, and intended to be poured over ice. The four variations include an exceptionally smooth vanilla-kissed espresso martini, a pineapple margarita with a serrano pepper kick, a very bracing ginger-turmeric mule, and a dangerously smooth French 75, infused with rose and hibiscus. “You have to be very careful with that drink,” says Van Wyck, of the latter. “It’s silent but deadly.”
Van Wyck, who grew up on a farm in rural Arkansas and studied politics at Yale, never intended to throw parties for a living. “We were entertaining by necessity,” he says, of his family, “because if anyone came to visit there was nowhere to take them except the kitchen.”
A State Department internship after college, assigned to the American embassy in Paris, introduced him to the world of high-powered entertaining. Working in the protocol office, he helped organize parties and dinners for Ambassador Pamela Harriman.
In 1999, he partnered with his mom, Mary Lynn, to launch the Van Wyck family events company. Their Arkansas roots brought them political clients early on, working with the Clintons and Gores (their plans for Al Gore’s presidential inauguration were eventually scrapped).
Today mom runs the Arkansas office of Van Wyck & Van Wyck, while Bronson oversees the New York headquarters. His sister, Mimi, based in Charleston, is also with the family firm.
“I do believe I won the jackpot by finding something that I love to do,” says Bronson, whose lavish book, Born to Party, Forced to Work, was published by Phaidon in 2019. “I will be waking up in the middle of the night thinking about work, but it doesn’t feel like work, and somehow there is a market of people that will pay for this.” Or, to take a lesson from Dante Alighieri: If you give people light—and perhaps a few tasty cocktails—they will find their own way.
Hero photo of Bronson van Wyck by Rommel Demano via BFA Images