A Brooklyn-based craft cocktail brand is taking mixed drinks to the next level.
Wandering Barman is a cocktail brand that aims to make it so customers never have to wait for a cocktail ever again. Co-founded by Roxane Mollicchi, Julian Mohamed, and Darren Grenia, the trio has been a part of the food and beverage industry for several years and previously owned and operated the restaurant Dear Bushwick.
“In the running of these businesses, we always found that the cocktail program was a tough part for us, either from just constantly changing the menu or training staff on the menu. We had a great menu at Dear Bushwick, we got written up by the New York Times,” said Mohamed. “But we just couldn’t keep up with the speed of service on the weekend evenings. We were always slipping behind and ultimately we needed a solution to that if we were gonna like make money because often alcohol is the most profitable part of any restaurant business.”
After Dear Bushwick’s closure, the trio wanted to get into the business of batching cocktails. What came of that was Wandering Barman, a proof of concept in Bushwick that sells pre-made cocktails to cut down on wait times.
Inspired by bars in the U.K., Wandering Barman’s first taproom (located at 315 Meserole St.) officially opened for business in 2021, offering 20 of their pre-made cocktails ready to serve right from the tap, no mixing required. The bar has their staple eight cocktails, classic cocktails we all know and love and four non-alcoholic options as well.
“When we opened our cocktail bar, we wanted to do it in a way that was moving the cocktail industry forward, so we decided to put all of our cocktails on tap,” said Mohamed. “We figured that would solve the solution of training staff speed of service, consistency, all the issues that we had in a normal cocktail program. The speed of service is amazing, we would get crazy busy but we would have one bartender and they were able to clear a bar that was like three people deep in no time.”
Wandering Barman offers an array of classic spirits, such as vodka, tequila and rum, and cocktails that they put their own spin on, including the La Nina Margarita, a date-infused Old Fashioned (Swipe Right), a Rose Gin & Hops Sling (Iron Lady), and the Burnt Maple Old Fashioned (Boomerang).
“We really like to try to provide something for everyone,” said Grenia. “So we have plays on some of the classics, things that are familiar, but with sort of water environment twist. We like to keep things interesting.”
Of the cocktails that are available on tap, the margarita is one of the most popular with customers, but the Wandering Barman team notes that the favorites can change from season to season.
“Normally it’s sort of clear spirits in the hotter months and the darker spirits in the warmer months. But there are exceptions to that rule,” said Grenia. “Our margarita is our number one seller. We also have a smoked old-fashioned bourbon cocktail called the Boomerang that is surprisingly popular year-round.”
“If there was one really doing poorly, we would replace it and try to switch it up. But we’ve seen that throughout the year, they all kind of even out which is kind of fun,” said Mollicchi.
Given the success of the taproom, the next step for Wandering Barman was bottling their signature cocktails.
“We decided to bottle pre-made cocktails and send them to bars and restaurants, initially on a small scale. We just focused on the Bushwick area, which is where our restaurants and bars were, and just our friends just to see if this had legs,” said Mohamed. “Within a year, it was amazing. The response has been amazing. We had a friend that had a dive bar, he was taking the cocktails on as a favor for us. That night, he had ordered three cases, but by the end of that night he had told us to say look up already sold these.”
Given that the beginning operations of the Wandering Barman took place during the height of the pandemic, the team noted that they were able to use the time to really build out the business. Since they were considered an essential business, the Wandering Barman team could really sink their teeth into the operations while most of New York City was closed up.
“We were actually lucky to still be able to prepare ourselves and have a business. The supply chain was really hard and we got to a point where it was hard to get all our packaging and prices were quite inflated because of that. But beyond that, we were the lucky ones, we never really stopped working,” said Mollicchi.
What really sets Wandering Barman apart from other New York City cocktail brands is the homegrown aspect of it all. The team uses locally sourced materials and ingredients as often as they can, and produce and batch all of the cocktails in-house.
“We’re using fresh ingredients where we can and dried ingredients. It’s not the easy way but it does reflect through the quality of the product,” said Mollicchi.
The brand also takes immense pride in its packaging, making it stand out on shelves and in stores. But ultimately, the team says that Wandering Barman is trying to be a solution in the food and drink industry.
“As a bar, we’re focusing on being sustainable and efficient and profitable as much as possible. And then when we’re providing the service to other bars, it’s the same thing, right?” said Mollicchi. “We’re not just trying to be another product on the shelf, we’re really trying to bring ease to the bar manager or the bar owner and make sure that when they have our product, it’s helping them with profitability, speed of service and consistency.”
Wandering Barman products are currently available in eight states throughout the country, and currently the team is working on launching a virtual speakeasy app for New Yorkers. Going forward, Wandering Barman is looking to expand into the rest of the United States and is also eyeing the potential that the brand has internationally.
“We have a lot of prospects were working on new collaborations with different venues, we’re gonna be launching a new format this year. For our national growth, we’re in eight states, we’re hoping to double that quickly and then hopefully be available in all states very soon,” said Mollicchi. “We’re actually working on expanding to Japan. International in the very near future is something we didn’t think would happen right away, but they’re very into our product and it seems we could have a strong market out there.”
“Japan has a really strong renowned cocktail culture, so that’s quite an honor for us for them to approach us and want to bring our product,” said Mohamed.
For more information, visit wanderingbarman.com.