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Cocktail Courier: Better Drinks, Delivered

by Seanan Forbes on Jan 26, 2015 in Culture

Life is easy for people who want to enjoy fine dining at home. They get in touch with Blue Apron, and recipes and ingredients are delivered to their door. Ingredients are of the varieties only professionals and insiders can find, with an accent on the artisanal and sustainable. Great news, if you’re looking for the chance to eat fabulous chow in the comfort of your apartment and your pajamas.

If what you want is a cocktail that elegantly composed of craft components, and you don’t want to get dressed up, go out in the cold or pay a fortune for the privilege of drinking in a crowded see-and-be-seen scene, and you’re lucky enough to be based in New York City, then Scott Goldman has created a service for you. In more than one sense, Cocktail Courier delivers. Its cocktail recipes come from ShakeStir (a networking site for professional bartenders) competitions. Only the winners make it to the menu, so you’re getting the best from New York’s best.

Goldman, the cofounder of Cocktail Courier, remembers the inception of ShakeStir, three years ago: “a few bartenders . . . talking about enthusiasm and the direction of cocktails.” There was no site where bartenders could connect, “exchange ideas and build their careers”. ShakeStir has grown to nearly 15,000 bartenders. Goldman describes it as “the ecosystem of bartenders.” Cocktail-smart consumers have always shown interest, but ShakeStir is purely for industry members. “About eight months ago, we decided, ‘Let’s give the cocktail enthusiasts what they want.’” That meant on-demand delivery, with top quality ingredients and easy-to-follow recipe cards. “We have thousands of the most passionate bartenders in the US,” Goldman says simply. “We work with them to come up with recipes, which we then package: your booze, your mixers, garnishes are all fresh.”

Ordering from Cocktail Courier can be like bringing your bar-away-from-home into your apartment. The present roster of bartenders includes Tim Cooper, of Sweetwater Social; Micaela Piccolo, of Distilled; Sofia Present, of End of the Century and Middle Branch; and Enzo Cangemi, of Ovest Pizzoteca. The bars and their tenders are different enough that you’re guaranteed a cocktail to fit your mood and your tastes, at the caliber you demand when you’re out on the town. “It’s a chance for the consumer to make cocktail-bar-worthy cocktails at home.”

As Goldman sees it, the liquor industry has done a great job of educating patrons about spirits, craft and brands. “Where we’ve failed the consumer is on how to implement those brands into a cocktail.” Patrons know a great cocktail from an adequate or bad one, but few can produce that excellence at home. “Even something as simple as a vodka tonic. The consumer might pour too much vodka, or the tonic he uses might be flat.” All tonics are not created equal, and neither are all spirits. Bartenders know the best, and Goldman wants to put that quality, with information to match, in home-drinker’s hands. “We are raising awareness and demystifying craft cocktails.” Drink and learn. There are worse ways to spend a weekend.

“It allows the consumer to experiment with different cocktails and different craft spirits.” If you try a new gin or bourbon and you like it, then you’re safe in spending a chunk of cash on that expensive bottle of liquor. Cocktail Courier gives you a chance to test the unknown – in skills and spirits – without risking a lot of cash or spending shelf space on booze you’ll never use.

It isn’t always easy, deciding which recipes to put on the site. “We’re learning,” Goldman says. “You want to open the consumer’s eyes, and certainly their palate, to new cocktails. At the same time, consumers don’t want to be presented with too-obscure products. They do enjoy drinking their classic cocktails or a riff on a classic cocktail.”

Are there Milk and Honey complicated recipes on Cocktail Courier? Yes and no. “We have some crazy ones in here,” Goldman admits, “but we have the basics.” Even if you’ve never wielded a stirrer, you can manage a Moscow Mule – and it will taste much better with Pickett Brothers’ ginger syrup and Fever Tree soda than with any mixer you’ll find in the a supermarket or corner liquor store.

Juices are freshly squeezed. In a high-end bar, juices are dumped at the end of the shift; they are neither good nor used the second day. That doesn’t mean you can’t order a box of cocktail fixings and make them last a few days. It does mean choosing a drink that’s spirit-forward, with no juices that will spoil – something like the Old Ironsides, by the Mulberry Project’s Aaron Polsky. It has Evan Williams Black Label bourbon, Jerry Thomas’ Bitters by Bitter Truth, Lapsang Souchong syrup and two whole oranges. These oranges exist to give you garnish. If you blow through them on Night One, then you can pick up a couple more the next day.

Cocktail Courier moves faster than the seasons – but that’s what you’d expect in New York City. Every month, there are new recipes. Bar accessories, from $5.00 muddlers to $36.00 mixing beakers, are also available for cheerful delivery.

Cocktail Courier delivers boozy bliss to all five boroughs. Depending on the lineup, drinks may cost as little as $9.99 apiece. Prices vary, depending on the cost of ingredients. The price, Goldman says, “includes delivery, taxes, and a tip to the bartender who created the cocktail.” There are minimum orders (usually four or six cocktails), so you can share – and show off. The drinks are that good.

Members of ShakeStir, take note: You qualify for an industry discount. For you, Cocktail Courier is an excellent chance to taste what other bartenders are making, in a space where you have room and time to think.

Cocktail Courier’s gift cards make charming presents for friends, colleagues, out-of-town visitors (Have the drinks delivered to their hotel.), newcomers to New York, or dry – but flawlessly balanced – farewell drinks for people who are moving out of the city. This is exactly what you need when you’re packing, unpacking, working late, studying, unwinding or simply breathing: a cocktail recipe and all of the ingredients, brought to your door.

If you want dinner to go with your drinks, then pair Blue Apron with Cocktail Courier. (Those teams should talk about collaborating.) Cocktail aficionados who are suffering from New York envy should know this: Cocktail Courier has expansionist tendencies. Give Goldman time, and there will be couriered craft cocktails East, West, North, South and Center, with local recipes, regional products, fresh juices, craft mixers and the knowledge every consumer needs in order to make cocktails better than right. That’s the way to celebrate a post-Prohibition country.

In some cities, the drinks-brought-to-your-doorstep future will come soon. Next week, Cocktail Courier will open for business in Chicago – news sure to take the edge off that lakeside wind. San Francisco is high in the list, as is a city closer to the Heartland of the States.

For New Yorkers, the time is now. Put down that book, step away from the television, and start browsing through drinks. Order by 9 PM, and your tomorrow will be a cooler, more spirited place.

Photos via Cocktail Courier


Tags: Cocktails, Spirits
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