If you’ve always dreamed about making the perfect party cocktail, one South San Francisco startup has got you covered.
Bitters + Bottles, launched by Meredith Lantz and Joe Barwin this past fall, allows customers to create their own perfect home bars with the proper spirits, mixers, glassware and barware through their brick-and-mortar shop and their monthly subscription delivery service that’s similar to Birchbox, a monthly beauty product samples service. Their shop, at 240 Grand Ave., opened in October.
“The store now is everything you need to build your home bar,” co-founder and co-CEO Lantz said. “It’s a one-stop shop for everything you need to create the best cocktail.”
Lantz and Barwin, who met while both working at Levi’s corporate office in San Francisco, have a passion for home bartending.
“He (Barwin) wanted to make the perfect martini to ship to his brother, but it was so hard to put all the ingredients in one box,” Lantz said. “By June, his brother still hadn’t gotten a Christmas present.”
Barwin and Lantz worked quietly on the idea for the company for two and half years, both going full time on the startup in 2013. Now, the shop offers more than 500 spirits, plus all the bitters, mixers, glassware and barware needed to build any classic cocktail.
Finding a location for the physical business was another challenge for the first-time business owners.
“What we wanted was something with a lot of character,” she said. “We spent a year looking for the right location — with the rent we wanted and had liquor license we could afford. ... It took a while to get the liquor license.”
What the two found was space that had some history and character. The location was a 100-year-old general store of sorts — part hardware store, deli and liquor store. It closed its doors a decade ago and was like a dusty time capsule, Lantz said.
“It was one of those unicorn moments where we walked in and fell in love with it,” she said. “It was less construction and more deconstruction of the space. We’ve done our best to maintain the feel of the space.”
After sanding and painting, the two business partners managed to revitalize the original redwood floors, restore the old deli banquettes and refresh the mid-century cold box. Lantz said the two are honored to be a part of the South San Francisco revitalization.
In terms of the monthly service, each home delivery builds on the previous shipments to create the complete home bar, while bottles are full sized. For the cocktail subscription, each delivery adds new bottles to your bar — primarily 750 milliliter — and five new recipes to your repertoire. The two co-founders currently have 60 classic cocktail recipes. The shipping also include tips, tricks and history each month to impress friends at that next cocktail party, she said.
So far, Lantz is loving running Bitters + Bottles.
“It’s been really rewarding and very challenging and humbling,” she said. “My favorite part is being able to build something and be part of the community. ... The easiest thing we have done is fall in love with our customers and the community. We have been blown away how supportive South San Francisco has been and how encouraging and supportive other local businesses have been.”
There have been challenges for the company.
“Everyone warns you about how exhilarating the highs can be and how exhausting the lows can be,” she said. “That is true. However, we think one of our biggest challenges is appreciating how much work everything is. ... We are humbled every day by the small and large challenges. We are a two-person operation and we literally do everything from building the furniture in the store ourselves, to helping the FedEx driver load the truck with our boxes, to checking in inventory, to selling to customer in the store, to building a website, to running photo shoots, to chasing down rare and special products for our clients, to managing our social media.”
There are exciting upcoming additions to the company as well, Lantz said. She and Barwin are working on getting a license to do tasting and drink flights and expect to receive the license sometime this year. Lantz said she’d love for the company to grow into other shops, but right now the business is really focused on the South San Francisco location. They’d also like to add employees as they grow.
It’s $75 a month to sign up for the spirits shipments and $95 a month for the cocktails subscription. Some examples of Bitters + Bottles products include Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters for $17.50, White Whale Filthy Liar cocktail mixer for $10, Eagle Rare Whiskey for $26.50, a citrus squeezer for $25 and a Nic and Nora Cocktail glass for $7.
To sign up for the service or to find out more about the business, go to bittersandbottles.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105