Alcohol delivery in the time of corona

Jared Schubert is humble. When you ask him to describe himself and his specialties, he says, “I don’t take it too seriously,” and laughs off what I know is extraordinary talent. He’s a well-known bartender, spirits specialist, certified master of his craft in a myriad of ways, founder of beverage programs, educational content and curator of methodology that has been replicated and taught in bars across the nation. I know all of these things, and I’m sure many of you do, too, but when you ask him, he simply claims to be a “‘bon vivant,’” a French term meaning one who takes pleasure in living life (especially of food and drink), or, quite literally, “good liver.” I’m lucky enough to work with Jared (and be his friend), and as we’ve been coming up with alternative ways to get cocktails to the masses from our little karaoke bar that could, he’s taken to alcohol delivery on the side. 

It’s not “Love In The Time Of Cholera” — it’s Alcohol In The Time Of Corona, and it’s shaping our quarantine culture and perhaps the foreseeable future. 

Beyond the health crisis, many of us still want a hint of normalcy with delicious cocktails at dinner, a bottle of wine for food pairings and simply a social hour with beverages even whilst sequestered in our own homes. So, sure, we can still leave our homes and head to the store, but to keep travel to essentials and minimize our exposure, enter third-party delivery services. Just like the Postmates and Uber Eats and Grubhubs of the world, various alcohol delivery services such as Drizly, Instacart, Minibar, Swill and more are capitalizing on this time to bring you your boozy necessities. Schubert has driven for two of these services now, and his thoughts on the experience are valuable to our community now more than ever. 

“Alcohol delivery from stores is super freaking important,” he said. “Anything we can do to keep people from drinking and driving, and right now they aren’t getting in their cars and getting out into the world.” 

Schubert described his experience with the two companies, Instacart and Drizly. 

“With Instacart, you pick up from Total Wine and a lot of the massive stores and multiple state chains. I liked it but also didn’t like it, because you felt like the small guys weren’t really benefiting from it. The other company was super interesting — you shop on their app, and the closest liquor store that’s to you is where you pick it up from.” 

So, that could be a smaller bottle shop or a larger, corporate store. 

We discussed our relationships with our favorite bottle shops and how as consumers we like to choose who we support. If we visit a certain wine store often, the person working typically begins to know what we like, to suggest product, to discuss food pairings. With Postmates, you have full control of which businesses you’re supporting, but with alcohol delivery, it’s limited to larger chains and proximity. 

Where do the bottle shops fit in? Additionally, where do the bartenders find their role in all of this? “One thing I have noticed is there’s a level of hospitality that has to come along (with alcohol delivery) because so many people are not educated about what they drink. With alcohol, people are so used to choosing a specific brand — they don’t know that they can try varietals,” he said. Just like with Postmates, if a proprietor is out of something, you have to call the customer and talk them through other suggestions. 

This is where bartender education comes into play. “You really have to know your booze to do this well, discuss flavor profiles, one lady — I saved her $15 and introduced her to something new,” Schubert said.

It seems that delivery could be a viable option for out-of-work bartenders. 

“We can’t let people’s education and talent languish during this time — I’m  seeing bartenders teach people how to make drinks online, all they want to do is educate people,” Schubert said. “If this is where tech is going, if this is where the world is moving, why not make sure that your delivery driver is as educated as your sales associate? 

“We go to restaurants and bars for human connection. Even at six feet, it’s something better than a cold exchange — especially now, we need less cold exchanges. Out-of-work bartenders, and you have a working vehicle, sign up immediately. It will benefit everyone when people with the right knowledge and skill set enter an emerging field and help refine it to where it needs to be.”

Take it from an industry professional we can all learn something from, when the world is changing, we evolve. 

Cheers! •