When Roxane Mollichi, Darren Grenia, and Julian Mohamed rented a new space on Meserole Street three years ago, they had a vision: to transform the space into not only a place that makes bottled cocktails, but one that has a taproom too. This past month, the taproom, called Wandering Barman, celebrated its second year of doing that.
Before moving into the world of cocktails, Mohamed and Grenia were behind a small, quaint restaurant on Wilson Avenue called Dear Bushwick. From there, they served English fare, a nod to Mohamed’s own English upbringing. Despite maintaining a Yelp average of 4.2 stars, the pair struggled to keep afloat. The place shuttered in 2016.
The pair then turned to making cocktails, starting in Grenia’s basement. Huge batches of libations, siphoned through a tap straight into a glass. Without having to pour, shake, and stir each drink individually, they discovered they were saving both time and money. Through trial-and-error, he was able to solve bigger problems like separation, dilution, temperature differences, and sediment.
“A lot of failing,” Grenia tells me now. “Tons and tons of making mistakes.”
In traditional, made-to-order cocktails, acidity is crucial. What would a margarita be without lime? But the same qualities that make citrus so delicious in made-to-order cocktails create enormous problems when those recipes are created for a tap. Fresh fruit goes bad. Citrus turns bitter. The pulp eventually separates.
Instead of using fresh citrus, Grenia started integrating acids, like citric acid from oranges and malic acid, which is naturally found in apples.
“When you have ingredients that go bad, you want to have those not be in your drink,” says Grenia. “We go the more organic science route.”
They first kicked this idea off with a bar they opened called Yours Sincerely, which opened later in 2016, over on Wilson Avenue. Around this time, they picked up Roxane Mollichi, who was hired as a busser but was later promoted to general manager.
In early 2020, the trio sold Yours Sincerely and decided to use that bar as a kind of “proof of concept” for their next business venture: bottling.
“Every element of the business development was a headache at some point. We’ve just, for sanity, probably forgotten most of them,” recalls Mollichi now.
Now, they say their bottled cocktails can be found in at least twelve states.
Over at Meserole Street, they’ve been selling these cocktails too, on tap, where during happy hour they go for $5 a drink. (Happy hour runs during the week from 5-7pm; during regular business hours, the pre-made cocktails go for around $11.)
“Our entire brand is about accessibility,” Grenia told me.
During an ordinary night at Wandering Barban, a wall of pink light casts a warm glow over the space and transparent pink dividers parcel the concrete room into intimate coves. The drinks mirror this aesthetic—all of them are minimalist and beautiful in a way that echoes the warm tones of the space. The drinks are startlingly and literally transparent, a product of the intense filtration each ingredient undergoes before running through their tap. Despite having the appearance of a glass of tinted water, each cocktail packs a punch.
The “Iron Lady,” one of the brand’s signature drinks and it’s made with rose gin and hops. At first sip, it tastes floral and sweet; the rose flavor adds a certain perfume to this, while the hops work to balance it. Their bottled spritz resembles nothing of the scarlet colored Italian staple, but it’s delicious nonetheless thanks to its use of apricot-flavored sweet vermouth and bianco amaro, which makes the drink completely clear. The apricot-flavored stone fruit flavor comes through neat, with a light, bitter aftertaste.
My favorite drink there, however, might just be their “Blue Note,” a branded-collaboration with the owners of the record label made famous by jazz names like Thelonious Monk and Eric Dolphy. The drink is a melody of tamarind, apricot, and citrus that comes off balanced and refreshing, pleasantly heavy and full of flavor.
Wandering Barman’s taproom is located at 315 Meserole Street. Check out of their hours here.
Photos taken by Katey St. John for Bushwick Daily.
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