There can be no doubt that the rebirth of the cocktail in America could not have happened so quickly without the Internet. The number of ways in which the cocktail has benefited from digital life are almost too numerous to list; online forums have helped connect mixologists with each other, with old and rare books, with equipment and rare spirits. But one new bar in Los Angeles has taken the concept a step further, owing its entire existence to the virtual world. Ready2Pour a cocktail catering business-bar is, as described by founder Steve Fowler, “as much a social media experiment as it is a mixology project.”
Creating a ‘bar for hire’
The grass-roots Ready2Pour — composed of Fowler John Carlo and Peter Birmingham — is, in their own words, a “bar for hire” based in Venice, Calif. The concept and execution defies a simple explanation. In short, there are a few pieces to the puzzle. One is modern-day creative, gourmet mixology. Another is the bar catering concept, as exemplified by such outfits as Cuff and Buttons in New York and Rye on the Road in San Francisco. And, finally, the virtual Ready2Pour becomes reality when it takes over the Santa Monica bar Main on Main on Monday and Tuesday nights, where the group sells its wares to the tune of hundreds of guests a week.
And the team has done this with no investment, using only free services on the Internet. The idea came to Fowler, who works as a social media consultant, after a conversation with three chef friends who wanted to open a restaurant together, but were despairing because they had no backers, no space, no capital. “Why don’t you open a restaurant on the Internet?” Fowler told them.
He suggested they start throwing dinners in other restaurants on nights when those places were closed and developing a base of interested potential clients online. The chefs followed his advice, starting the Supper Liberation Front, which, according to Fowler, has been “wildly successful.” He believes that within another year, that group will have “the revenue, the restaurant data, a built-in customer base and all the other things that would bear on a finance discussion.” Then the idea occurred to him: Why not start a bar?
Harnissing the power of the web
Using sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, Ready2Pour has created an identity and amassed a following (their Facebook group numbers almost 500 people). “I started saying to myself,” recalls Fowler, ” ‘well, I’m going to do it. I’m going to create a bar without a bar on the Internet.’ We’re not professional chefs, we’re not mixologists. We don’t pose as that. We’re just food and wine lovers who love a good cocktail and thought we’d share what we do at home.”
Though Fowler and his compadres deny they’re mixologists, the quality and style of their cocktails belies that claim. Consider the Duero Gringo, a Bourbon-based drink featuring homemade ginger-orange jelly, lemon juice and cava, and Maker’s Mark. Or the Anastasia, a farmers market-driven spin on the margarita with fresh pineapple, red Fresno peppers and sage. The guys also try to keep up a local and national conversation about what’s going on in the world of drink, linking to articles and events all over. “We’re an aggregator of information that we would imagine people coming into our world would appreciate knowing. It’s all there for people, so they don’t have to search — they can just go to our wall.”
At Main on Main, they use a laptop to project their cocktail menu, pictures of past events, wines by the glass as well as some stylish video “recipes” they’ve shot for their individual cocktails onto a big television screen. Live music is being incorporated once a week too. “We’re just now becoming popular,” says Fowler. “More and more people from the neighborhood are cluing into what we’re doing.” He believes that Ready2Pour’s events will continue to expand, turning what was once solely made of bits and bytes into audible, tastable sips and slurps.
Jordan Mackayis the wine and spirits editor for San Francisco’s metropolitan magazine 7×7 and writes The Juice column for Chow. In addition, he’s a contributing writer for Wine and Spirits magazine and a regular contributor to Decanter and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Photo: Ready2Pour founder Steve Fowler. Credit: Kari Miller.