Bittercube starts online drink mixing classes to generate income during COVID-19

Since Friday of last week, Bittercube in Milwaukee has received three orders for its cocktail bitters. In pre-pandemic days, bars, restaurants and stores would place 75 to 80 orders in that amount of time.

Bittercube is among the U.S. businesses forced to create new services on the fly to make money after the shutdown of the sit-down restaurant industry and enforcement of social distancing for the foreseeable future. Co-owner Ira Koplowitz said Bittercube on Saturday will hold its first online cocktail-mixing courses, and will sell and deliver to homes kits and pre-made sample cocktails for participants.

“It’s pivoting to what makes sense for consumers right now, within the parameters of what is socially acceptable,” Koplowitz said.

The company has largely shut down operations and was forced to lay off the majority of its staff, Koplowitz said. Bittercube used to hold in-person classes in its West Lisbon Avenue tasting room in Milwaukee, so offering a similar service online is its first strategy to bring in money while COVID-19 closes down its main line of business. 

“We can keep a couple of people, if this goes really well,” he said. “The goal would be to bring everyone back as soon as we can.”

Koplowitz said the first classes will be on Saturday and will teach a few varieties of the Milwaukee favorite Old Fashioned cocktail and The Sour.

“This is kind of a first experiment,” Koplowitz said Thursday. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll do a couple of trial runs today.”

The online class costs $10, plus about $12 for kits with ingredients and pre-made bottled sample cocktails. Those kits can be picked up at Bittercube’s building, or Koplowitz and remaining employees are working on a system to deliver them to homes while sticking to state laws for checking buyers’ ages.

The classes are a first new strategy to create work and income for the company and its employees. Bittercube continues to sell its products online.

Koplowitz said they considered making hand sanitizer with the high-proof alcohol Bittercube has in inventory, but couldn’t procure enough aloe or turn its limited cash flow to invest in a new line of production.

Meanwhile, Koplowitz is trying to collect money from the company’s receivables log to bring in more money.

“It’s very hard to collect on those right now given a lot of our customers, their businesses are closed,” he said.

Sean Ryan, Milwaukee Business Journal

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