By Angie Escalante
What started as an outlet on social media to show off making colorful cocktails has now become a small local business offering bartending services and mixology classes.
The mobile bar catering business, Kandy’s Cocktails, is owned by Riverside native Yolena Ramirez, better known as Kandy.
The business was formed shortly after the pandemic. Kandy’s Cocktails is a tight-knit group, everyone is either family or childhood friends. Every team member has known each other for years.
Most of the team had lost their jobs and the party business was starting to gain traction again.
The business’ social media account grew popularity after they catered a wedding and posted their photos from the event. Kandy and her team were hesitant because they didn’t have bartending experience but eventually agreed to show.
Their first bartending gig was a success and they decided shortly after to start mobile bartending. Kandy and her team meet at least three times a month to experiment with new flavors.
“I think a lot of the content that we produce markets (to) the Mexican community,” Kandy said.
She added that they like to use fruits she and the team grew up eating like mango, guayaba and tamarindo with tajin as one of their main garnishes.
By popular demand, mixology classes became available because many people wanted to have these drinks but didn’t want the bartending services. Kandy jumped at the opportunity to share the craft she and her team had spent time mastering.
“We pretty much teach them fundamentals and how to make three of our signature cocktails,” Kandy said. “Our cocktail menu changes every single month … It’s a good marketing tactic to bring people back to experiment with new liquors and different cocktail flavors.”
Kandy and her team were born and raised in Riverside, they are community-based and enjoy encouraging others to engage within the community as well.
She also describes the classes as a social experiment since many different people come in alone and leave with new friends.
Kandy’s account manager, Vivian Gonzalez, handles Kandy’s Cocktails’ designs and marketing. Being a woman-owned business, Gonzalez admits that their designs may come off a lot more feminine because they don’t have a dark aesthetic but she pushes to be all-inclusive.
She mentions she tries to find a balance between being modern and keeping a traditional-Mexican feel since they’re main clientele is the Latino community.
“I think we have more of a retro style. I think we do want to be a little bit more modern, but also trying to keep, like that retro feel,” Gonzalez said. “(Our style) is minimal but bold for sure.”
Kandy shares that their social media audience is about 80% women and frequently get asked if men are welcomed to their events.
“We try to be as inclusive as possible, of course, but because we are women, you know, it’s normal to gender base things,” Kandy said. “I think that our aesthetic tries to be as gender-fluid as possible, but it’s not always (viewed) like that.”
Karina Sanchez is another one of Kandy’s Cocktails managers. She loves trying new things and making drinks that everyone can enjoy.
“I feel like we change people’s opinions a lot like on the alcohol we use,” Sanchez said. “A lot of people come in and say, ‘Well I don’t like tequila but I’ll try it,’ ‘I don’t like mint but I’ll try it,’ … We make the drinks our style and we get a lot of (positive) feedback.”
Kandy’s Cocktails prides itself on its ability to balance flavors. They make their very own syrups using organic fruits which they say add more flavor than using artificial sugar. The mixologists said their cocktails are fruity but pack a nice kick.
“I feel like all of our cocktails have a perfect blend of alcohol and flavor,” Sanchez said. “There’s a balance, you can’t just taste more flavor, more alcohol, (it’s) just perfect.”
The team is self-taught, none of them having attended a bartending school. Everyone involved has taken experience from previous restaurant, manager and barista jobs and applied it to their craft. Each team member used resources that they already had to get permits and licenses to make Kandy’s Cocktails possible.
“We have a really positive environment, (we) bounce ideas back and forth really well,” Kandy said. “We’ve known each other for such a long time that it’s a really easy flow of communication for all of us working together.”