Before the words “takeout cocktail” became a lifeline for restaurants across the city, Wandering Barman was already ahead of the curve. The three-year-old bottled cocktail brand from Roxane Mollicchi, Darren Grenia, and Julian Mohamed launched at the height of the city’s made-to-order, craft cocktail obsession, but despite the odds, the team has managed to make an impression with its eye-catching labels and modestly priced batched beverages.
Now, the batched cocktail champions at Wandering Barman are preparing to settle down in Williamsburg. On October 8, the team will open the doors on a high-ceilinged space at 315 Meserole Street, near Bogart Street, which includes a first of its kind cocktail “brewery” and 40-seat taproom. Expect $10 cocktails, a heavily discounted happy hour, and roughly the same number of drinks on tap as seats in its bar.
Wandering Barman sells seven bottled cocktails, and these riffs on classic mixed drinks will anchor the taproom’s menu. There’s the FOMO, a vodka cocktail emboldened by Hatch green chiles, a nod to Grenia’s upbringing in Denver, Colorado; the Iron Lady, a hops and rose petal-infused drink that the team likens to a mildly bitter “IPA cocktail”; and the Boomerang, a smokier old fashioned made with bourbon, maple syrup, and hickory smoke concentrate.
The bar will eventually have 40 drinks on draft, including ten beers, three wines, a few spirits, and four non-alcoholic cocktails. Remarkably, none of them will cost more than $11. According to Mollicchi, purchasing ingredients at wholesale prices and pre-batching drinks in bulk helps the company reduce waste and keep its prices down. All of its cocktails are priced at $10 each, and can be ordered for half that price during a daily happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m.
Pre-batched beverages are sometimes viewed with a raised eyebrow by cocktail devotees, but the team at Wandering Barman wanted to create a lineup of drinks that could compete with mixed-to-order bar programs. By batching their cocktails ahead of time, the team can focus more on getting drinks into customers’ hands than the “show behind the bar,” Mollicchi says.
Despite the brewery comparisons, Wandering Barman won’t include a to-go retail component on the premises. The team makes its bitters and liqueurs in-house, but purchases its spirits in bulk, classifying it as a rectifier, which can’t sell liquor to-go under New York liquor laws. The bar had a brief shot at takeout liquor sales earlier in the pandemic, but those plans were ultimately dashed by the State Liquor Authority. “That was a blow for us,” Mollicchi says. “It seems crazy to me that New York wouldn’t go with making it more permanent.”
For now, customers can find the taproom’s bottled beverages at a range of wine and liquor stores in the neighborhood, including Starr Wines, Irving Bottle, the Bottle Shoppe, and Bedford Wines and Spirits nearby.
The Williamsburg brewpub is the culmination of a multi-year effort from Mollicchi, Mohamed, and Grenia. The trio first started developing the recipes for their batched beverages at Bushwick cocktail bar Yours Sincerely, which they sold to focus on their new business full-time. Prior to opening in Williamsburg, they bottled their cocktails at a production facility in Ridgewood, Queens.
The team started Wandering Barman in 2018, at a time when canned and bottled cocktails were still viewed with something of a raised eyebrow, but they have developed a fast following over the last three years. The company’s cocktails can now be found at close to 200 locations across the city, including at reputable venues like Roberta’s, Chez Oskar, and the Blue Note Jazz Club.
Wandering Barman is open Sunday to Thursday from 5 to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.