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Kicking Up Cocktails

The Cup Bearer Caters a Bar Experience for Exceptional Events

“There’s nothing sadder than a Great Gatsby party on a budget,” shrugs Justin Pasha, owner and founder of The Cup Bearer (TCB). “Great Gatsby’s supposed to be extravagant, not something you do with a Party City costume or streamers.”

Justin sits in his warehouse, hundreds of liquor bottles gleaming on metal shelves behind him. Our talk about his craft cocktail catering company soon turns to party talk. His team is hired for all sizes of parties and events, but it’s the over-the-top soirées that are the most fun to discuss. Because his elevated cocktail service isn’t cheap, and neither are his customers.

The catered-cocktail business came to him eight years ago while at a party on 5th Avenue, at the home of a very wealthy acquaintance. For 24-year-old Justin, as for pretty much everyone else on the planet, her home is one that requires a moment of gathering oneself upon entering, that makes one realize these homes exist beyond Architectural Digest and urban legend.

The furniture and lighting was “insane,” and blue chip art encrusted the walls.

Of course, the catered fare was nothing less than jaw-dropping: Spanish ham gilded with gold leaf and served by a cuisinier, a cascading raw bar. “It was amazing food not just for a party but for anything,” Justin recalls.

Then he strolled into the adjoining room and saw “a middle-aged deadbeat making screwdrivers on a folding table covered with a linen.”

Uhh…

How much did she pay for this guy? Was he the best her money could buy?

From Southport, Justin grew up working in the service industry: bussing in delis, shucking oysters in Wellfleet, then waitering during college in Boston.

While working at the celebrated Sonsie’s on Newbury Street, he noticed the bartenders’ vibe and thought, “They have it all. They have the girls, they’re making six figures.” Plus they were “creating the experience.” Which is what Justin wanted to do.

So he became a bartender, then a bartender instructor, then he moved to Manhattan and wanted his own place. But the steep cost of starting a business in the Big Apple proved a gating factor.

Which brings us to the fateful night at the wealthy acquaintance's fancy meal and meh bar.

The next day he shelled out roughly $1,000 to start TCB.

Craft cocktails were starting to shake up the bar scene - why not the party scene? Instead of prosaically poured potables, stir up some drama: smoke, bubbles, quick impactful moments that captivate and delight guests.

He bought high-end booze and clear ice, modified an Ikea bar, and created his own syrups using fresh ingredients - no Rose’s lime juice or bottled sour mix for this ur-cocktail catering.

Next, he gleaned talent who checked three boxes:

Skill: “They need a great breadth of experience; we don’t have time to train you for the 5 million dollar wedding. It’s game-day.”

Good Looks: “We don’t talk about it publicly, but aesthetics are important. It’s what customers want.”

Like-ability: “We’re a close-knit team so you need chemistry with rest of crew”

Oh, and extra talent is a bonus: “Olya and Ivan - they’re Russian and they’re married. They’re expert flair bartenders, two of maybe ten in the country.”

Then he threw a free tailgate at the Hunt Club. Word of TCB flew through Fairfield County and they were immediately “slammed.”

And, holy cocktail, the parties they’ve seen.

A couple in San Antonio flew 15 of Justin’s crew to bartend their daughter’s debutante ball. 1,000 guests enjoyed TBC libations served from a 20’ pink circular bar custom-made for the celebration. There were fireworks, llamas, tuxedos and ball-gowns. Mixers were pouring shots and guests danced on the bar.

He estimates this ball, were it to be thrown in the Northeast, would command six million dollars. “The clients were so sweet,” he adds. “It’s was the kind of event you live for.”

Closer to home, a hedge fund hired TCB for an IPO fête at Cipriani. At the scheduled end of the party, 10 p.m., all of the guests had gone home… except the CFO. He was having the time of his life, dancing on the dance floor.

Unwilling to have the bash abate, he asked how much he’d have to pay to keep everyone there - the band, TCB, the catering staff - for an extra hour. The response? $60,000.

So he kept his party of one hopping for another hour.

Then 30 minutes longer after that.

Extravagant? Yes. Excessive? Perhaps.

But here’s the thing: it’s all money well-spent. “Saving your money is the worst thing you can do as a rich person,” Justin insists. “That money immediately went to small businesses and musicians.”

Further, he adds, “People want to know that out there, somewhere, is a fairytale event.”

Smokey Pineapple Mezcalita

▪ 1.5 oz  MEZCAL 

▪ 0.75 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge 

▪ 1  part pineapple juice

▪ 0.5 part fresh lime juice

▪ 0.25 part cinnamon syrup 

Combine all ingredients and shake, serve up.

(These instructions are for folks at home. The Cup Bearer mixologists make the preparation a bit more exciting.)

TheCupBearer.com

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