In late 2019, even before the pandemic hit, the online food delivery industry was experiencing explosive growth, estimated to hit $200 billion by 2025. But despite the fact you could get your favorite dumplings from Chinatown, fried chicken sandwiches, even matcha lattes and more—one thing remained unavailable by way of delivery from your favorite neighborhood spot: a perfectly crafted cocktail.
The reason? A legal web of complex regulations prohibiting venues from being allowed to produce their own mixed drinks for carryout or delivery. And even with Chicago’s new temporary legislation—which will permit the sale of some mixed cocktails to-go as a means of regulatory relief—this new frontier will present a costly new set of challenges for operators.
Enter Blue Blazer, a brand-new, ready-to-drink (RTD) craft cocktail service created by a team of Chicago hospitality attorneys who’ve spent nearly two decades representing the most beloved cocktail havens in the city. This summer, Blue Blazer will use their expertise to help an all-star list of partners like Heisler Hospitality (Pub Royale, Lone Wolf), Four Corners (Federales, Benchmark) Folkart (Billy Sunday, Mordecai) and Fujimura Hospitality (Arami, Entente) and more debut a line of to-go cocktails that can be delivered right to your door.
INTRODUCING, BLUE BLAZER:
Chicago’s First Authentically Bar-Branded, Ready-To-Drink Craft Cocktail Service
Born Out of Industry Demand for Customized Cocktails for Retail and Delivery, Blue Blazer’s Debut Helps Hospitality Operators Navigate the Complexities of Cocktails To-Go
Blue Blazer, a new type of beverage portfolio specializing in white-label and co-branded bottled cocktails, allows Chicago’s restaurants and bars to serve their own mixed drinks for carryout, delivery and through off-premise retailers, including local grocery and liquor stores. Founded by a trio of Chicago’s preeminent hospitality attorneys at Troglia Kaplan, who’ve spent nearly two decades representing beloved establishments like Lula Cafe, Billy Sunday and Sportsman’s Club, this totally unique service was created to help these venues fill a unique void and meet the demand for ready-to-drink (RTD) craft cocktails.
“As Millennials shift from beer to a preference for spirits and cocktails, they are also drinking at home more. The result we’re seeing is a growth within the RTD cocktail category, which grew by about 41% last year, making the demand for these products more prevalent than ever,” says Blue Blazer Partner Brian Troglia.
The company’s name is derived from the story of Jerry Thomas, “the father of American mixology”, who along with developing many famous cocktails, including the Martinez (the precursor to the martini), published the recipe for the Blue Blazer in 1862, the world’s first flaming cocktail and his signature drink. Just as Jerry Thomas revolutionized high-quality craft cocktails in early American restaurants, Blue Blazer is honoring the same pioneering spirit to bring the nation’s best bartenders to people’s homes, backyards, boats and barbeques for the first time.
Blue Blazer’s partnerships prioritize premium ingredients and independent distilleries such as Letherbee, Beppe & Architect, Driftless Glen, Detroit City Distillery and more. Featuring fresh squeezed juice made daily, house-made syrups and flavorings, some created directly by their restaurant partners, the bottled cocktails are precisely crafted in small batches at Blue Blazer’s Skokie-based production facility and regularly taste-tested by the mixologists who serve them daily at their bars. To manage production, Blue Blazer has tapped one of Chicago’s bartending elite,Michael Rubel (Estereo, The Violet Hour, Longman & Eagle, Lone Wolf, Big Star), as their Beverage Partner to further ensure the company’s mission to provide the very same quality cocktail experience one would have at their favorite watering hole.
+ THE OPPORTUNITY | STORY BEHIND THE BRAND:
Troglia Kaplan partnersBrian Troglia, Josh Kaplan and Joe Kreeger have worked closely with some of Chicago’s most respected restaurants, bars, distillers, brewers and distributors. Their “a-ha moment” first came to light while listening to a speech on food and alcohol delivery trends in 2019. While growing at a rapid pace, the category had yet to see the introduction of custom world-class cocktails with no explanation as to why or, more importantly, the legalities underlying the process.
Having acquired decades of experience in liquor licensing from manufacturer, distributor and retailer perspectives, as well as the practical experience of being operators and advisors of hospitality companies, Troglia’s team was uniquely positioned to develop the first white-label rectifier. Met with resoundingly positive feedback from their A-list hospitality industry clientele, the trio teamed up with Rubelto form Blue Blazer and set out to change the cocktail world.
The team moved into high gear when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, recognizing that quality cocktails were unlikely if in-person dining was shut down. The partners also resolved to support their client’s community through Blue Blazer’s initial launch by pledging 51% of all profits made during Illinois’ restrictions on bars and restaurants to Pilot Light, assisting their Family Meal and Support Staff programs to provide free meals and financial aid to hospitality workers. “We hope that during this pandemic we can help replicate, in some way, the consumer’s local bar experience which they can’t have,” said Blue Blazer partner Joe Kreeger. “But we also want to recognize that a big reason people need our product is because those bartenders are out of work. We hope customers feel good knowing a part of the sale of each bottle of Blue Blazer is going back toward helping hospitality workers affected by the crisis.”
+ THE LONG-TERM SOLUTION | INDUSTRY INNOVATION:
Thanks to the comradery of the restaurant industry and campaigns like Cocktails for Hope, legislation has shifted the laws regarding the sale of to-go cocktails by bars/restaurants in Chicago. While the current bill offers a short-term resolution and revenue stream by temporarily allowing these establishments to bottle and sell cocktails from their brick-and-mortar locations for the next year—it also comes with an abundance of challenges and costly disadvantages for proprietors in the areas of production, packaging and distribution. The most notable in that it prohibits the sale of RTD cocktails through third-party providers like GrubHub and DoorDash—which accounts for the majority of delivery sales in independent restaurants.
As a result, Blue Blazer is helping independent bars and restaurants navigate the complexities of manufacturing, packaging, and delivering their RTD cocktails to-go, while also setting them up for success with a viable solution for long-term profit once the off-premise liquor restrictions are back in place. Blue Blazer’s white-label and co-branded bottled cocktails afford restaurants the ability to immediately—and profitably—enhance delivery sales, as well as the delivery experience, by bringing cocktails designed to be enjoyed with a restaurant’s food into the guest’s home.
Stayed tuned for further updates on Blue Blazer’s debut line of RTD cocktails coming summer 2020.