These days, it’s downright impossible to go more than a block in Broward or Palm Beach counties without bumping into a food truck or ten. More and more, it's becoming the norm to frequent these mobile kitchens for a quick meal or handy snack while on the move.
Cocktails, though? That’s a different story. But not if bartender Kyle Mercado has his way.
"I'm raising money to start spreading much needed cocktail culture through South Florida — and beyond," says Mercado. "No more snobby bartenders and dress codes. Instead, it's speakeasy- and mixology-inspired cocktails with a food truck vibe."
Specifically, the Broward-based bartender is talking about Booze Traveler, a cocktail-slinging food truck concept he recently posted to the GoFundMe crowd funding platform.
Mercado says the idea to offer a mobile mixology program has been on his mind for the past three years. Inspiration hit while dining at a restaurant that had a cocktail cart where bartenders were able to make creative craft concoctions tableside.
Currently the bar manager and head bartender for Apothecary 330 in Fort Lauderdale, the hospitality professional appeared on Food Network in 2013 as a featured mixologist as well as on Season 4 of Bar Rescue for Bonny and Read's (Toucan's Oceanside Bar & Grill) in Hollywood Beach. In the past few years he's also been featured in several local and industry publications for his cocktail recipes, including In the Biz , Chilled, and Imbibe.
To get his concept up and running, Mercado says he's modeling Booze Traveler on other industry professionals leading the charge in the mobile bar scene, including New York-based Road Soda and London-based Beetle Juice. Locally, it's reminiscent of Sweetwater's Craft Cartel, the bartender catering service that launched in Palm Beach County last year.
Like any good craft cocktail bar, Mercado says his bar program will focus on offering a number of innovative, chef-driven techniques — everything from sous-vide and fat washing to infused spirits, syrups, and emulsions (foams).
However, he adds, unlike most area cocktail bars, the Booze Traveler atmosphere would be decidedly more casual and comfortable, the type of watering hole where everyone would be encouraged to leave their egos, attitudes, and pretensions at the nonexistent door.
"A mobile bar with a food-truck-type setup would obviously allow the novice drinker to feel a lot more welcome," says Mercado. "No snobby, know-it-all bartenders. No dress code. We'll still be offering high-end drinks with a lot of cool techniques you don't get to see a lot of around here, but with a backyard feel."
Using GoFundMe, Mercado hopes to raise $10,000; the money would supply him with the necessary funding to purchase and refurbish a mobile truck for use as a bar and — down the road — kitchen.
Due to strict licensing and open container laws, cocktail pop-ups haven't gained much traction in South Florida — or most cities, for that matter. If you're wondering how a mobile bar works, there are a few technicalities that make it legal.
Because a liquor license is assigned to a geographical location, anyone serving alcohol from a mobile truck would need to obtain a series of permits and licenses — including a temporary vendor catering license — that would allow the truck access to local food truck round-ups. These permits and licenses would also make it possible for the truck to host regular pop-up events at specific or approved locations across the tri-county area.
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Mercado is interested in servicing more than just South Florida, however. He'd also like to bring Booze Traveler on a cross-country tour, while using the truck to cater private events both locally and state-wide.
"We could use more [good cocktail bars] in the area, but rather than drive there — or worse — wait for a seat at a crowded bar, now you can have them available in your own driveway or local street corner."
Visit Mercado's GoFundMe page for Booze Traveler mobile cocktail truck at gofundme.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.