When San Diego’s bars were closed on March 16, leaving Seth Marquez of Oceanside’s Carte Blanche and his two fellow bartending roommates, Karen Cheng of Convoy’s Realm of the 52 Remedies and Nick Sinutko of Carlsbad’s Campfire, suddenly out of work, the three immediately got to work. “We were thinking about all of the produce that was going to be sitting in restaurant walk-ins and how we could still make people drinks,” Marquez explains. “I’ve always wanted to work in a commissary. They have one in Portland. There are a couple in New York. I was inspired to try to accomplish the same idea but with pre-mixed cocktails, sans booze, to get them to people’s doorsteps.”
From this brainstorming idea came Lockdown Liquor, the trio’s top-quality cocktail mixer delivery company. It goes like this: once a week, customers complete a Google sheet, which is available on Lockdown Liquor’s Instagram account (@lockdownliquor), that asks questions about the drinker’s liquor and flavor preferences. After returning the worksheet and sending a suggested “donation” of at least $30 to the company’s Venmo or PayPal, customers then sit back and await contactless delivery for the following Monday in Oceanside or contactless pick-up on Tuesdays at Home & Away in Encinitas and Bottlecraft in North Park.
Four options are available and sold as 32 oz. mixers: East Side Mix is “minty, refreshing, with spa vibes,” and is comprised of cucumber, mint, lime, and sugar; the Firing Squad Mix is “risky, frisky, and tart,” with pomegranate, orange blossom, lime, and sugar; the Paloma mix is “crunchy, zesty, [and reminiscent] of a beach day,” with ruby red grapefruit zest and juice, lime, and sugar; and the Gold Rush Mix is “robust, sultry, and crunchy,” with organic honey and lemon. There is also a Mix-n-Match variety pack of all four.
Since Lockdown Liquor started at the end of March, it’s been an exercise in navigating a steep learning curve. “We started off with a very basic ordering system, taking orders through our Instagram messages, which proved to be inefficient,” Marquez says. “We then moved over to an order survey format and that worked way better for us — we received double the orders.”
“The original idea was to have a guest bartender come in and help us prep so they could also deliver and make some money every week, but the rules and regulations keep changing regarding the virus so we decided to keep the operation to just the three of us for now,” Marquez continues. He also adds that, in his personal opinion, he doesn’t think we’re going to go back to normal society any time soon. So, they are planning on incorporating and he is making it his full-time job, rather than waiting to see what happens to the restaurant industry.
It seems he’ll be successful. Since starting, they have seen exponential growth week over week, beginning with 20 customers the first week and now clocking in at well over 40 a week. “I figured out multiple ways to upcycle ingredients from other mixers we made and turn them into tasty, more creative mixers,” explains Marquez. “So, we become more profitable from a business standpoint without diluting our product. If anything, we are fortifying it and adding more value.”
Another important lesson he and his team have discovered? That their community is solidly behind them. “We have learned that our customers genuinely want to support the bar community and keep us alive,” Marquez beams. “They don’t just want cocktails. We’ve only had two industry people purchase — the rest have been our guests at the bars. It’s a beautiful thing.”