When the world shut down in March, Crystal Sagan, owner of catering company Cocktail Caravan, looked for inspiration to keep her business going — and she quickly found it in her own community.
Cocktail Caravan has traditionally offered full-service beverage catering and mobile bartending, but in light of pandemic-related restrictions, Sagan has pivoted her business model to prioritize customized bottled mixers. She looked to local farms as a source of ingredients and to their Community Supported Agriculture programs as a way to jump-start her own CSC (Community Supported Cocktail) distribution model. But Sagan didn’t stop there: She says she has found that supporting others has been key to bringing positivity to a dark time.
Cocktail Caravan’s CSC allows members to receive fresh-pressed cocktail and mocktail mixers once a week for six weeks. Members sign up for shares at the beginning of each session and get to look forward to a unique blend of flavors from locally sourced ingredients. The fall session started on August 26 but remains open for sign-ups at prorated pricing until September 9.
This is the third session that Cocktail Caravan has offered since April, and Sagan is excited about the ingredients fall provides. This past week, the CSC featured Hotch Kiss Hustle, a mixture of blackberries, basil and black tea; and Rejuvenation, made with grapefruit, ginger and cilantro. Neither includes alcohol, but Sagan often includes suggestions for the best pairing, including sparkling water for those who prefer mocktails. Sagan is particularly excited about the mixers that will be created from Colorado apples, peaches and pears.
“I like making cocktails for people because I think people drink a lot of really bad cocktails,” Sagan says. “So it’s really fun when you hand people a really good cocktail and it changes their world.”
Before COVID-19, Cocktail Caravan only catered events. “Basically any excuse you can think of to consume alcohol, we’ve done that,” says Sagan, listing “weddings, funerals, baby showers [and] festivals with thousands of people,” to name a few. That catering process often involves working with customers to create special versions of their favorite cocktails. Her new CSC mixtures are created in-house based solely on what the available ingredients inspire.
But, Sagan says, Cocktail Caravan's new strategy is about more than just the drinks. “The idea behind the CSC was that we wanted it to come full circle,” she says. “it was really important to support local farmers.”
Giving back to the community that has helped grow her business and has continued to support it through these difficult times has become central to Sagan’s philosophy. “Times are tough for everybody, and I’m just grateful that we can do anything for anyone else,” she says. “It feels good, and that’s nice even though we’re just getting by without our normal business.”
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To further involve the community, Sagan began a pay-it-forward program in March to honor local heroes. During the spring, Denver and Boulder patrons were able to nominate doctors, nurses and front-line workers directly impacted by COVID, and the winners received gift baskets stuffed with bottled mixers from Cocktail Caravan along with products from JLounge Spa, Fiori Flowers, Fortuna Chocolate, Ozo Coffee and Pastificio Boulder.
Sagan has opened th nomination process to include any inspiring heroes, “whether they’re leading the efforts toward positive change and impact in our communities, on the front lines of COVID-19, paying it forward themselves, or have overcome obstacles to thrive,” she says. “It’s the least we can do to generate and recognize love within our community.”
It’s an avenue in which Sagan has taken solace. “Everything’s so unpredictable,” she says. “I’m just looking for something positive to hold on to.”
You can sign up for a CSC or nominate a hero of your own on Cocktail Caravan’s website.