Business Drink Food Lifestyle

Drink Mechanics: Like the Ice Cream Truck but Offering Craft Cocktails and Cookies

Aaron Stepka (right) and Taylor Gillaspie (in window) have teamed up to launch the craft cocktail delivery truck Drinks Mechanics, pictured here onsite at Hartford Baking Company's New Park Avenue location. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Drink Mechanics is now delivering cocktails and cookies to your door in West Hartford and the surrounding area.

Aaron Stepka holds a delivery of Drink Mechanics cocktails and Coco’s Cookies. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Think back to how you felt as a young child when you heard the ice cream truck driving down your street.

And maybe when you were a little bit older, you joked with your friends that it would be so much fun to have an “adult” version of an ice cream truck that delivers cocktails.

The craft cocktail – and cookie – delivery truck is here.

That’s the experience Aaron Stepka and Taylor Gillaspie have created with Drink Mechanics.

Longtime friends who both grew up in New England but met in LA, between them they have opened more than a dozen cocktail bars across the country and worked with dozens of top chefs. They have now partnered with renowned chef and restaurateur Tyler Anderson, a West Hartford resident and owner of Millwright’s and several other Connecticut restaurants and food businesses, and launched Drink Mechanics this summer.

“I had noticed in the last couple of years that they category of ready-to-drink cocktails has been growing, and it’s one of the fastest growing sectors in the alcoholic beverage industry,” said Stepka. He and Gillaspie had been tossing around some ideas.

As soon as Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order permitting the delivery of cocktails, “I said now is the time to do it,” Stepka said.

“We thought we could create an experience as good as at any cocktail bar,” they said, with specialty cocktails that can be enjoyed safely at your own home.

The timing for the launch – while cocktail bars remain closed in Connecticut due to the COVID-19 pandemic – was perfect.

Stepka and Gillaspie are not only involved in the delivery, but do all the production themselves to create the cocktails – juicing, clarifying, and mixing.

Stepka’s parents have an extra kitchen at their Bristol home, and he and Gillaspie used that as a laboratory for a few months, testing out recipes.

While the drinks are canned, they didn’t cut corners at all. The juices are fresh, the sweeteners are all natural, the spirits are far from bottom-shelf. The end result is a shelf-stable product with a complex taste that rivals drinks you could get at a rooftop bar in a major city – not a place most people are likely to go right now.

“There were definitely some roadblocks,” Stepka said. Getting the carbonation right was one of the first obstacles, and they tested formulas using whipped cream dispensers with CO2 cartridges to make single cocktails, and then figured out how to expand the recipes for larger production runs.

Drink Mechanics even does its own canning.

“We just got a nice seamer from Oktober Design in Michigan,” Stepka said. He said he flew out there to pick it up, since delivery during the pandemic would have resulted in further delays of the launch.

Drink Mechanics cocktails can be served in the can, or poured over ice. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“I met Aaron [Stepka] when he was at Cook and The Bear, and he made such great cocktails. He’s one of the most talented mixologists I know,” said Kat Kluger, who runs a social media/marketing/public relations business.

She said she always really enjoyed talking to Stepka, and he was always so passionate in talking about the cocktails.

When she came across Drink Mechanics on Instagram, Kluger said she reached out, and Drink Mechanics delivered to her West Hartford home.

“I was so impressed. He was able to take his talent and mobilize it,” said Kluger. “What’s special is not just that this is a cocktail in a can but it’s an experience – and one you can have safely during this time.”

Kluger posted on Facebook that Drink Mechanics is a “dream come true,” and the nearly 900 people who liked or loved the post agreed. Among the 187 comments were: “this is brilliant,” “best thing to happen in 2020 by far,” and “what a phenomenal idea.” Someone else noted that they were waiting for a great and creative idea to come out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Knowing that Anderson is also involved in Drink Mechanics is another plus, Kluger said. “Tyler’s commitment to taste and quality is so well known. Any time he aligns himself with an idea, you know it’s going to be good.”

The Drink Mechanics menu includes eight canned cocktails, bearing plays on names as fun as the multi-layered tastes of the drinks – like The Green Monstah (“Mezcal fresh juices of pineapple, celery, poblano pepper, and lime”), The Downshift (“A lighter, bubbly version of a Siesta cocktail utilizing fresh watermelon, tequila, Aperol, and lime”), and (this is really the name) Apricot With Your Pants Down (“A light and floral blend of clarified apricot juice, gin, cocchi americano, lemon, local honey, and bubbles).

Ingredients are listed on the back of all cans, along with the “born on” date for the freshly-made canned cocktail. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Kickstand has an entire peach – procured locally from Rogers Orchards in Southington – in every can, along with bourbon, aged rum, fresh ginger, lemon, and a touch of cane sugar.

The other offerings are Cynar Pop (“bubbly and boozy,” starts off sweet and citrusy but with a dry finish), Cranmission (a more fun cranberry and vodka), El Guapo (“sleeker, sexier version of a paloma”), and Spa Water – which is sugar free and goes down as smoothly as … spa water. You don’t taste the vodka.

Cans are $8 each, or available in multi-packs at a discount.

You can drink them straight from the can, or serve them over ice.

There is also the large-format Barrel-aged Manhattan, served in a 750ml wine bottle ($75).

The license that allows Drink Mechanics to deliver alcohol also requires them to sell food, so the first item chosen when ordering online must be at least one of Coco’s Cookies ($1.50 each), in flavors such as Spiced Double Chocolate Chip, Lemon Butter, Cherry Bomb, or Cinnamon Brown Sugar Bacon Twist. For those who prefer savory, there’s “Tyler’s Jerky” – which is 100% all-natural brisket (no preservatives) in original or teriyaki flavor.

Coco’s cookies include (clockwise, from top left): Cinnamon Brown Sugar Bacon Twist, Cherry Bomb, Spiced Double Chocolate Chip, and Lemon Butter. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Orders must be placed and paid for online, in advance, so unlike when you see the ice cream truck coming down your street you can’t run out waving your sticky dollar bills.

You can, however, politely and safely flag down the Drink Mechanics truck if you see it on your street, and quickly order from the website or even scan the QR code on the side of the truck to place your order.

Delivery is as contactless as possible, but you must show your ID to prove you are over 21 to accept the order.

When not in use, the Drink Mechanics truck is parked at Millwright’s in Simsbury. They use Millwright’s as the production headquarters as well.

Even when the truck is “on call” elsewhere, Drink Mechanics has a presence at Millwright’s, where the new TA-Que street taco truck has set up a carryout/picnic/tailgate experience in the parking lot that’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 5-8 p.m.

Drink Mechanics has produced a special margarita for TA-Que, and the and El Guapo and Spa Water are also good accompaniments to the food, Stepka said.

Four weeks after the launch, Stepka said the truck has already been called into service as a mobile bar at multiple Sunday brunches, augmenting the catering at private gatherings as well as places that are BYOB.

On Sept. 6, Drink Mechanics will be at Toasted Oats in Canton with brunch cocktails that include a Nitro Coldbrew and Aperol Spritz.

Stepka said they are working on a formula for a Bloody Mary that will work as a canned cocktail. “It will be the hardest thing we’ve done so far,” he said, but he and Gillaspie are determined to put their mechanics skills to work to find the solution.

“Until bars and restaurants are allowed to operate normally, they’re going to be hurting,” Stepka said, and Drink Mechanics is able to fill a niche.

“It’s a tough industry, but it will bounce back,” said Stepka, even though COVID-19 has seemed like an “extinction event.”

Orders must be made online in advance and Drink Mechanics makes deliveries on Fridays from 3-10 p.m., Saturdays from noon-10 p.m., and Sundays from noon-8 p.m. A $25 minimum applies (three cans and a cookie will satisfy that), and the normal delivery radius is the Greater Hartford area, including West Hartford, Hartford, Avon, Simsbury, Farmington, Wethersfield, Newington, and Bloomfield.

To order, visit the Drink Mechanics website.

For more information, or to request Drink Mechanics for private events or out-of-radius deliveries, contact [email protected].

You can also follow Drink Mechanics on Facebook or Instagram (@drinkmechanics).

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Aaron Stepka (left) and Taylor Gillaspie of Drink Mechanics will deliver craft cocktails and cookies to your home in the Greater Hartford area. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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