The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Gwizdowski has long slung cocktails at some of Providence’s most popular bars, like the Hot Club and the East End. But in 2019, she decided to take her talents of crafting cocktails on the road, got ahold of two retro, 1961 Shasta trailers that she calls “Marigold” and “Rosie,” and founded Rhode Island Cruisin’ Cocktails.
From weddings, holiday markets, and corporate parties, Gwizdowski travels to you for all of your cocktail needs.
Q: What kinds of events are you working?
Gwizdowski: Everything from weddings to corporate events and holiday parties at this point. Also, each Saturday in December, I was at the “Sip ‘n Shop” at the Providence Flea. [where Rhode Island-based makers and artisans were selling items like vintage ornaments, oversized custom charcuterie boards, hand-poured soy wax candles while purchasing cocktails to-go from Gwizdowski]. I’ve also been stationed at Moniker Brewery and Revival Brewing Company for a number of their beer gardens and outdoor events.
Q: Do you have a set menu, or does it change from one event to the next?
Gwizdowski: Every event is different, and so are the cocktails. I love when there’s some sort of theme that I can work with and really build cocktails around. If someone is going to hire us for a party or wedding, everyone has different tastes and preferences so you want that reflected in the cocktails I design for them. I do share a list of local breweries and wineries in case they want products that are from Rhode Island, but there’s no set list of alcoholic products that they have to use.
Q: What’s an example of your favorite menu?
Gwizdowski: For one wedding this past summer, I served a “Forest” cocktail (which is Bombay Gin, rosemary syrup, blackberry liqueur, lime, and soda) and the “Full Moon” (which is Bulleit Bourbon, homemade jasmine syrup, and herbal bitters consisting of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The “Wild Moon Lavender Lemonade” was a lower-proof cocktail option with a lavender liqueur and fresh lemonade.
Another menu I did featured an array of cocktails and mocktails. The mocktail was a mix of spiced hibiscus, lemon, and sparkling “wine.” Then I also served blood orange mimosas, a vodka drink with a “Taste of Autumn” tea syrup, and a pear cider punch, which had Prosecco, pear cider, cognac, spiced pear liqueur, and fresh lemon.
Q: About how much do your services cost?
Gwizdowski: It really ranges, and depends on the event; if it’s a full bar, if there’s signature cocktails, and what kind of beer and wine the organizer or couple wants. But typically, it ranges from about $16 to $35 per person.
Q: What kinds of quick bites are you serving?
Gwizdowski: I’ve mostly paired up with other caterers or food trucks. Then we offer light snacks such as cheese and charcuterie boards, pickle plates, among other things.
Q: Where could people find out more about your wedding or event offerings?
Gwizdowski: We are a sponsor for the Newport Wedding Show in February, where people will be able to check out my work. I also partner with the Mosaic Table, which offers intimate dining experiences with wine pairings, that hosts their “Dinner with Neighbors,” which is a three-course tasting menu each month with wine pairings, and I always make cocktails for the events.
Q: Do you do all of your work inside the trailers?
Gwizdowski: My kitchen is inside Hope and Main (a food product business incubator in Warren, Rhode Island), where I make all my own syrups and juicing. They also helped me get started, pointing me in the right direction, because starting a business in Rhode Island is incredibly challenging and confusing. I didn’t even know where to start.
Q: What challenges did you face in the regulatory space while starting?
Gwizdowski: Getting all the pieces in place to get the final approval for a liquor license was difficult. But the most difficult task was getting insurance. There are so many variables involved because I’m essentially a traveling bar. It’s not like I can just pull over on the side of the road and start serving cocktails. I have to serve at a contracted event. It took a few months to actually get a company to insure me because this was a new business.
Q: How has business been during the pandemic?
Gwizdowski: The plus side is that I mostly operate outdoors. People come outside in the fresh air to order cocktails, even in the cold weather. Obviously, after the holidays, it gets slower so it’s something you have to prepare for. But that’s no different from when I was bartending in an actual bar or restaurant.