Bottled cocktails are by no means the height of sophistication, as far as their craft cocktail reputation goes. Over the last year few years however, they’ve been steadily carving a respectable niche in the market with eye-catching illustrations on bottles and a growing presence in bars and restaurants in New York City and beyond.
One of the companies leading that charge is Wandering Barman. The Brooklyn-based bottled cocktail brand — with its colorful, playful branding — launched in 2018 and has quickly developed a solid following in the last two years. It’s now available in more than 123 locations in city, including reputable venues like Roberta’s, Marlow and Sons, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Buoyed by that success, the team behind Wandering Barman is set to debut a first of its kind cocktail brewpub in Williamsburg this summer called the Wandering Barman Cocktail Laboratory and Tasting Room. And while there are plenty of bars in NYC selling cocktails on tap, this new brewpub at 315 Meserole Street, near Bogart Street, will go one step further by producing batch cocktails on site — making them available on tap.
Julian Mohamed, Roxane Mollicchi, and Darren Grenia, the trio behind Wandering Barman, developed their craft at the popular Bushwick cocktail bar Yours Sincerely, which they recently sold to focus on their new venture. “People said you can’t put cocktails on tap and make them good,” says Mohamed, “but we’re shifting perspectives on batched cocktails.”
Drinks at Wandering Barman include a date-infused old fashioned called Swipe Right; a spicy daiquiri called Miss Casanova; a pineapple, vodka, and turmeric creation called Fomo; and a margarita infused with makrut lime leaves called La Nina Margarita. All of the cocktails will be priced between $10 to $11, but people who took part in an ongoing fundraiser for the bar will get a discount ($8 cocktails). The brewpub will also have a rotating menu of to-be-determined small bites.
The bar and production facility are located on the ground floor of a large three-story office and retail development that’s currently under construction. When the cocktail spot opens on July 1 this year, it will seat between 50 to 60 people and have standing room for more. Customers visiting the bar will be able to sign up for tours to watch the cocktails being made by hand there, and everything made in the back will be available on tap in the front. Bar goers won’t, however, be able to purchase bottles on site — liquor license rules prevent that, and the owners prefer it that way.
“We really wouldn’t be around without the support of local business, and we really want to push our customers who are interested in buying bottles to go purchase them from those stores,” says Mollicchi.
The cocktail production facility and bar is a culmination of a multi-year effort. Following their success with batch cocktails at Yours Sincerely, the trio began bottling their cocktails out of a facility in Ridgewood, Queens. Soon, restaurants and liquor stores throughout the city were stocking their goods.
The cocktails are particularly popular at music venues like National Sawdust in Williamsburg and the Blue Note Jazz Club in the Greenwich Village; in fact, music venues account for the largest portion of their sales, presenting an option for people who don’t want a beer, says Mollicchi. They’re also popular at several bars where they’re often a way for bartenders to save time and serve more customers.
NYC — and the rest of the country — is home to plenty of bars selling batch cocktails, like East Village’s Amar y Amago and the Wayland. Bottled cocktails have been around for years, but with the rise of craft cocktails, the bottled versions became less romantic and took a backseat.
But bars like Yours Sincerely are part of a small group of bars in the city that have re-popularized them in recent years. Next month, Wandering Barman will begin selling its bottled cocktails in the nation’s capital and five different states: New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia. California and Colorado are set to follow in the second quarter of 2020, which is also around the time the cocktail brewpub will open in Williamsburg.