Long before Mayor Eric Garcetti shut down all the bars in Los Angeles, Aaron Polsky was thinking about cocktails in a can.
This week, he launched LiveWire, a line of canned cocktails featuring his own recipes and ones from a slew of other local bartenders.
“Part of the reason I started LiveWire was to ensure financial stability for the bartenders involved,” Polsky said. “I’m letting them use their intellectual capital as opposed to their labor capital.”
All the drinks are made with Ventura Spirits, with the first being Polsky’s recipe for the Heartbreaker. The can is wrapped with an illustration that looks like it came from an angsty teenager’s sketchbook, drawn by tattoo artist Henry Lewis. It features the torso of a man in zebra-print skinny jeans with a studded belt and a devil’s head on his jacket. The cocktail inside is a punchy, refreshing banger of oroblanco, grapefruit, jasmine, ginger and kumquat with vodka. Polsky soon will follow it by releasing another of his recipes called the Golden God, made with apricot, elderflower, green tea, brandy and rye whiskey.
Polsky says he started with 8,000 cans. Although it’s impossible to know how the coronavirus outbreak will affect his sales, he was always planning to expand the business.
Even before the pandemic, data from the Nielsen Co. show that sales of ready-to-drink cocktails surged 40% last year from the year before.
Other drinks in the pipeline: recipes from Joey Bernardo of Harvard & Stone, Sother Teague of Amor y Amargo, Chrstine Wiseman of Broken Shaker, Yael Vengroff of the Spare Room and Chris Amirault of Otium.
“There are people setting up Venmos so you can tip your favorite bartender right now, which is cool, but it’s also just straight altruism,” Polsky said. “At some point everyone is feeling the squeeze and they are going to want something for their money.”
The drinks have a 7.5% ABV and suggested retail is $5.50 per can. They will be available at Liquor Fountain and Thunderbolt starting Monday.
While LiveWire cans are meant to be enjoyed soon after you open them, many bottled cocktails, once opened, can last as long as any average bottle of liquor. Because the drinks are all-in-one, you can feel free to Marie Kondo the rest of your liquor cabinet (but really, why would you do that, especially now?).
Cy Cain and Casey Richwine started their Portland, Ore.-based Straightaway Cocktails in 2018. They originally made batch cocktails at home for friends but, after numerous requests, the two opened a Portland tasting room and began selling bottles of premixed drinks and canned spritzers.
They make mostly classic drinks with an Oregon-inspired twist, like the Oregon Old Fashioned, infused with bitters made from Oregon fir needles and hazelnuts, the official state nut. They also created a take on the Lintik, Last Word, Paper Plane, Martini, Negroni and Cosmopolitan.
Straightaway has seen an uptick in online sales due to recent events.
“Right now it’s a small luxury to have during these crazy times,” Cain said of his cocktails. “And it’s a little bit of your normal life back.”
Each of the 750ml bottles is $49.95 and enough for 12 cocktails. Straightaway also sells 250 ml spritzers inspired by the Negroni and the Last Word, all available for delivery on the website and at select retailers.
For a bottled cocktail you can sort of mix yourself, Drnxmyth is a new company out of Torrance with bottled drinks that are part liquor, part fresh juice and other mixers. Co-founders Brandon Schwartz and Lawrence Cisneros spent three years developing a bottle that keeps ingredients separated until you twist the bottle, which breaks a seal that separates the two sides, and shake.
Unopened, the refrigerated drinks can last for five months. If opened, they should be good for a couple of days in the fridge.
They worked with local bartenders on the recipes, including a margarita from Charity Johnston of Taco Madera and a Bourbon Sour from Jason Yu of Employees Only. Other drinks available: rum punch from Amanda Colom of House of Machines, an Eastside from Saeed House of Ever Bar and a Ginger Drop from Richard Allison of Toca Madera.
Each bartender gets paid whenever their drink is sold . Drnxmyth also set up a bartender program to help bartenders commercialize their recipes and bring them to market.
And in light of the recent shutdown, Drnxmyth is trying to partner with local restaurants to sell the company’s bottled cocktails.
“Up until last week we didn’t know we could even do that,” Schwartz said. He plans to sell the drinks at cost to restaurants, who could in turn sell them for a profit.
Each 200 ml bottle is $9.99 and is meant for two cocktails. The drinks are available at select retail stores and online for one-hour delivery in L.A. and one-day delivery nationwide via the Drnxmyth website.
RESTAURANT COCKTAIL KITS/DELIVERY AND TAKEOUT COCKTAILS
The mayor recently made it possible for restaurants to sell booze for takeout and delivery.
Pasjoli in Santa Monica is selling 16-ounce batch cocktails to-go. It’s offering a ginger lemonade, Salty Dog and more, each meant for four cocktails. Prices range from $50 to $90. pasjoli.com
Elephante in Santa Monica is making batch Margaritas, Negronis and more for takeout and delivery. The 16-ounce mason jars start at $25. elephantela.com available via delivery
Father’s Office is offering its Old Fashioned, Office Martini, Rye Manhattan and Tequila Collins cocktails for takeout at its three locations. The drinks start at $10 and are also available via delivery from the Culver City restaurant. fathersoffice.com
Ronan in Hollywood is offering $10 5.5-ounce single-serve shaken cocktails and $17 7-ounce stirred cocktails for two, both available for takeout. ronanla.com for takeout.
Birdie G’s in Santa Monica is selling a small selection of takeout and delivery stirred and shaken cocktails. Pricing is $32 for three cocktails or $60 for six drinks. birdiegsla.com
Cassell’s Hamburgers in Koreatown and downtown is selling six of its classic cocktails for $5 each including the Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Margarita. The drinks are available for delivery via Chowhound. cassellshamburgers.com