Before the party, Crystal Sagan dresses up Lolita for the occasion. An ivy vine here. A cute white ceramic pineapple there.
Lolita is quirky and classy. She’s one-of-a-kind.
She’s also the biggest exercise of patience Sagan has ever experienced. Lolita has been through a lot. When Sagan got her, she was a total mess. But over the years and with a lot of work, Sagan turned Lolita into a beautiful mobile caravan bar — and the center of an only-in-Boulder business.
Sagan, of Boulder, runs the Cocktail Caravan. In its simplest form, it’s a bartending service.
“Obviously, you can tell at a pretty quick glance we’re not your average bartenders, though,” Sagan says. “We are trying to make it more fun and interesting than that generic experience where you have a bartender with a table and bottles of wine.”
“I looked at it as fun money on the side, and after a few years, I realized it wasn’t going away,” she says. So she quit her job to make drinks full time.
Sagan found Lolita, a 1969 Aljo, in 2015. Then, the vehicle was a “rickety, old, gutted, falling down, rusted trailer.” A construction team rebuilt it nearly from zero and customized it and recently began offering it for rent.
The trailer features an oversized, 9-foot window that serves as the service counter, with butcher-block countertops on three sides. On the fourth side is a little VIP bench; guests are welcome to come inside and sit down inside the trailer, which is different than a traditional food truck.
Lolita is not a food truck, in that it doesn’t have a commercial kitchen.
“It has a very clean aesthetic because the service window is so big, you can see everything,” Sagan says. “We’re cognizant of that in making sure everything is presentable and tidy and there are places to stash things that are not as pleasant to look at, like boxes of the product.”
Sagan tweaks Lolita’s appearance for special events, so the trailer blends with the aesthetic, she says. Ultimately, the caravan adds a special touch that helps make an event more memorable, she says.
“It’s all a huge creative outlet for me,” Sagan says. “Because of that, I think it makes it a little more of a special experience for people. I am extremely passionate about the presentation of everything because it’s my craft, whether that’s staging the bar or presenting a cocktail or the way a cocktail tastes.”
Lolita doesn’t fit the mood (or the space) for every event, and she can stay at home if needed. The Cocktail Caravan can set up on a tabletop indoors, too, and still create a memorable experience, Sagan says.
“I jokingly tell people this and the more I say it, the more it’s not a joke: ‘We know you don’t need our help to pour a glass of wine, so we’d better do something a little more interesting,’” Sagan says.
Her cocktails are as unique as her caravan, she says. They’re clean, fresh, vibrant and simple, with fresh-juiced everything, no liqueurs with added sugar. Imagine fresh-squeezed grapefruit, sage and lemon, with a local organic vodka or gin. Fresh ginger instead of ginger liqueur.
“People aren’t used to that, so when they take a sip, their eyes light up,” Sagan says.
The Cocktail Caravan visits parties, weddings, reunions, festivals, events, anything that involves drinking, including non-alcoholic. Sagan can make “mocktails,” too.