Los Angeles bartender Aaron Polsky is celebrated as a rock star of the industry. Now, Polsky is taking that description literally with his new venture, LiveWire. Borrowing a cue from the music industry, LiveWire will promote and represent the bar world’s stars through a talent agency as well as merchandise such as an inaugural line of canned cocktails.
“I am marketing people via the medium of canned cocktails,” Polsky told Neat Pour.
Of course, this endeavor is not relying on blind faith. The initial roster of ‘people’ is a virtual super group list of the craft cocktail world. Moe Aljaff of Two Schmucks, Joey Bernardo of Harvard & Stone, Yael Vengroff of The Spare Room, Chris Amirault of Otium, Christine Wiseman of Broken Shaker, Travis Tober of Nickel CIty, Erin Hayes of Westward Whiskey, and Sother Teague of Amor y Amargo will all have drinks in the lineup.
The cans will prominently feature each bartender on the label. Polsky said that he encouraged each contributor to work closely with artists to create the packaging. “I see the design as a record covers… as art.”
However, LiveWire is not an abstract exercise in creative expression. The bartenders will all receive royalties on the sales of their drink as well as an opportunity to reach a larger audience than locals or the closed circuit of the travel-tending scene. And, that increased empowerment to the creator is the point.
“Our aim is to close the gap between bartenders and their future fans worldwide,” said Polsky. “For the better part of two decades, drinkers have read about bartenders in newspapers and magazines and have had limited opportunity to connect with them. At the same time, liquor companies and bar owners have been splashing bartenders’ faces on social media and press releases while paying them bottom dollar. LiveWire will ensure that these bartenders are getting compensated fairly for their hard work and intellectual property.”
LiveWire’s Ready-To-Drink (RTD) range will roll out on March 3 with a couple inaugural offerings of Polsky’s own creation. Suitably rock referential, the first customers will have their choice of a “Heartbreaker” (vodka, oroblanco grapefruit, kumquat, Jasmine, and ginger) or a “Golden God” (rye whiskey, brandy, apricot, elderflower, and green tea).
The initial launch will be limited to California. More cocktails and more states will follow later in the month with New York, New Jersey, and Florida all in the queue.
At first, the RTD beverages will only be sold in 12 oz cans for an MSRP of $5.50 a pop. 750ml bottles are slated to follow in the future.
The second side of LiveWire is aimed at building both agency and an agency. Talking to Neat Pour Polsky stressed that one pitfall of the industry is the relative plateau experienced by elite bartenders. Apart for the option of moving to the brand side, there is little room for advancement at the top end.
“Many bartenders spend years working long hours driven by an oral promise of equity or a beverage director job—and often, those promises are not filled,” he mused.
LiveWire hopes to counteract those situations as well as provide bartenders with the chance to reap a higher percentage from use of their names To do so, the fledgeling company looked again to the music industry as well as their surroundings in entertainment driven LA.
Enter LiveWire’s agency arm. The team also includes lawyers who will help their clients negotiate deservedly higher fees for appearances, media, and consultations.
The representation will not be exclusive; many clients will continue to arrange deals with existing relations. However, Polsky envisions the hype from the cans positioning LiveWire as a de facto contract for parties interested in contracting his roster.
At that point, he plans to build new deals with all the professionalism and compensation common in commensurate industries.
(If LiveWire arranges a deal, the company will take a larger percentage than if a client brings them a deal to negotiate.)
But, the project is not just focused on “bar stars.” To the contrary, Polsky noted that he is excited to use the platform as a vehicle for identifying and promoting up-and-coming talent.
Regardless of status or vehicle, LiveWire’s goal remains consistent: to elevate and empower bartenders professionally. And with this gig, Polsky is turning his amp up to eleven.