The two-foot-high jar of strawberry tequila is rapidly emptying, while harried looking Ethiopian waiters scurry from the bar with trays of colorful drinks.
For the Craft Cocktail Group, more accustomed to a slow Wednesday evening of mixing and shaking at the local jazz club, hosting a bar at an Addis Ababa hotel’s Ethiopian New Year celebration in September means a much busier night than normal.
But for the new cocktail business in the Ethiopian capital, the chance for further exposure and business – even with just a few days’ notice – was irresistible.
“The idea was a bar first, but we talked about it [and decided] to start and continue as a pop-up while getting a feel for Addis, the market and proof of concept,” says Hamere Taye, who spent 15 years working in Washington, D.C., before returning to Ethiopia this year to join fellow founders Effeson Hailemichael and Sam Rosmarin.
The first few months have seen some ups and downs: this summer the whole city ran out of gin for two months due to a delayed shipping container at the port in Djibouti. While Ethiopia has an abundance of fruits for mixers and infusions, these are generally only available when in season.
And the bath tub in Mr Rosmarin’s apartment is often filled with boiling water as he cleans mixer bottles to reuse them – Ethiopia does not have a factory making large bottles.
Given the challenges setting up a temporary pop-up bar felt more manageable.
While the catchy western terminology is new, this approach is part of a long-established tradition in Addis Ababa, from streetside vendors frying samosas to men hovering at traffic lights clutching wooden trays of merchandise. Pop-ups offer more legitimacy than roadside hawking but less commitment than a fully fledged business.
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