It didn't take long for Frank Antonetti to figure out he was onto something. When COVID-19 shuttered his Long Island pub the Rust & Gold in March, he retrofitted a 1963 Chevrolet delivery truck with keg refrigeration and external taps, then began selling local craft beer and canned cocktails as he rolled down the streets of Huntington, New York.
"It was hysterical because we'd see all of these adults looking at the truck the same way a kid would look at Mister Softee,” says Antonetti. “Their faces would light up. Some of them would just stand there and mouth the words, beer delivery. That's when we knew we had something special.”
He's not the only one. As entrepreneurs across the country have been forced to reinvent their businesses due to the ongoing global pandemic, mobile booze trucks are on the rise. Here are a few of our faves.
Antonetti's vintage truck delivers Long Island beers and cocktails like a Woodford Reserve old fashioned to thirsty patrons from Manhattan to Montauk. And, thanks to revised New York State liquor laws that require trucks like his to provide food alongside the booze, you can also grab high-end pub grub: top burgers, shaved ribeye sandwiches, and platters of jumbo Buffalo wings.
“When the pandemic began, our sales went up sixty percent,” says Woody Norris, an Army veteran whose fleet of Booze Pops trucks sells alcoholic frozen treats around Charleston, South Carolina. “We’re just trying to give people a moment of happiness during these crazy times.” In addition to low-proof wine pops in flavors like strawberry mimosa and pomegranate sangria, Norris also sells stronger 15 percent ABV ices like the Southern Belle, with sweet tea, fresh peaches, and top-shelf bourbon.
Bovine & Barley
When Luis Villegas was forced to close two of his four Houston restaurants in March, he bought four trucks to canvass the city with frozen drinks and classic cocktails. “It was a way to retain one hundred percent of our staff,” the restaurateur says. "We didn't lay anyone off." Today, his Bovine & Barley “adult ice cream trucks” provide the whole Houston area with smoky mezcal margaritas, creamy piña coladas, and original creations like the Ranch Water, a Tex-Mex cocktail with tequila, Topo Chico, lime, and Tajín.
Sara’s Market on the Go
Out west, Sara’s Market on the Go, a truck from the East L.A. gourmet grocery, is one of the first in California, selling local beers and West Coast wines alongside small-batch salsas and artisanal chorizo. “We’re trying to cross-promote with other businesses that might be struggling as well,” says owner Sara Veldes, who drives around the city with her husband, Steven. The result: cans of Highland Park Brewery IPA and bottles of Fossil & Fawn Oregon rosé delivered right to your door.
A version of this story first appeared in the October 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Let the Good Times Roll."
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