One of the best things about going out for both consumers and restaurants is a perfectly crafted cocktail. With all the syrups, bitters, juices and expert balance, they’re almost invariably better than one can make at home and carry a great profit margin for the business. Of course, since COVID hit, there are a lot fewer people buying those cocktails because they are either prevented through regulations, as in New York, or just unaccustomed to delivered cocktails.
Amelie Kang saw that as an opportunity to do two things, help a local restaurant and deliver craft cocktails to all those folks who are bored with their boozy home creations.
“You can only drink so many whiskeys on the rocks at home without wanting something more easygoing,” says Kang.
She and partner Yishu He recently launched Ghost Bar to deliver something a little more exciting with the expert treatment. Kang, a Culinary Institute of America grad who became a professional mixologist at a hot Tribeca bar, said she wanted to make something high quality but approachable. All 25 current cocktails run about $12 for a serving, $20 for a double, which is potentially cheaper than you’d see in a bar—and most of it is made fresh.
“Things like all-booze cocktails we can make ahead of time. They’ll just keep forever, like the mezcal negroni and a regular negroni, things with juice and sugar we make fresh,” said Kang.
As for the business of sending cocktails out via delivery, there are some complications. The company has a mantra “from somewhere” keeping things mysterious, but alcohol sales also require a liquor license. Kang partnered with The Little Alley restaurant, a small-format Shanghai restaurant that appreciated the help on rent and the extra sales. In New York, the rules around selling cocktails to go are temporarily relaxed during the pandemic, but it’s not a free-for-all. All alcohol sales require food along with it.
“It’s two extremes, sometimes people don’t want food at all and they’ll just get a bag of nuts. But if people do order food they’ll go with a couple of dishes. We have some larger entree dishes that people like; a crispy duck, fried rice. Some people get a whole spread,” said Kang.
Those entree items come from the host restaurant’s kitchens, piggybacking essential orders on top of the trendy cocktail delivery program. Most orders are four cocktails but range skyward in the first couple of weeks of delivery. Mostly, it’s folks nearby but Kang said a woman bought drinks for her daughter in law—a great way to make that family Zoom call a little more interesting.
As for what happens after regulations go back to normal, Kang has an open mind.
“We’re not sure about how they’ll change the regulations for alcohol to go. I think if everything goes as it is, we’d get another six months at least before they take it way to figure it out. If things are going well we’ll explore the opportunity of bottling and distributing,” said Kang.
For now, it’s a nice way to employ her mixology skills to meet the cocktail cravings and help a local restaurant make ends meet. The company plans to expand to all of Manhattan and other cocktail-friendly boroughs in the coming months.