L-r: Heena Kewalramani, Juliette Larrouy, Floriane Groux and Moe Aljaff
For those of you who don’t know what went down or why it’s such big news that Moe Aljaff, Juliette Larrouy and their team are back doing what they do so goddamned well, then check the full details on the Bartender at Large podcast here. FYI: this isn’t about the past, it’s about the future; it’s about learning from mistakes, taking some very deep breaths and forging new paths for what we know will be an even more incredible road ahead.
So, first things first, Moe is in great spirits. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s the proud holder of an US O-1 work visa, aka an Alien with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (their words, not ours although we couldn’t possibly disagree!), which means America is his proverbial oyster for the next three years. And he couldn’t be happier.
Currently, he’s in Miami together with his team, Juliette Larrouy, Heena Kewalramani, Floriane Groux and awaiting the arrival of Eliane Naeger. Then it will be full steam ahead on their next project – a super cool, destined to be fabulous, two-month residency at Moxy South Beach.
So, Moe what’s the story?
“We’re bringing the team back together again for a two-month residency here in Miami. I know that I got screwed over massivelyby everything that happened, but they also took a hit when they walked out with me and that’s something that’s really been weighing on my mind. So this is going to be a fun thing we do together one more time and hopefully, we’ll all come out of it on a better note.
“It kicks off at the beginning of February and runs through to March, which is usually the busiest time here in Miami. The temperature is around 22-26ºC, which means everyone in north America wants to come here. We’ll be in the heart of South Beach, taking over a location that’s part of Moxy South Beach. The venue has its own entrance, so people can walk in off the street – something that was really important for us. It’s a newly-built place which I got to see for the first time a few days ago and it really got me excited! It kicked me into gear and got my juices flowing. It feels really good to be back.”
What’s in store?
“We’re bringing all the energy, all the atmosphere that got us to where we were. The two months are going to be stacked with events featuring guests from around the world [keep your eyes peeled on Instagram for updates]. We’ll ramp these up even more during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (23-26 February), when we’re planning back-to-back events with some great people we admire in this industry. The idea is to stack the hell out of those dates and go absolutely balls to the wall with events. We’ve got two months here, so we may as well have fun!
“I have to thank Jenn Kalil, Tim Cooper and Simon Ford from Fords Gin who believe in what we do and always support dope shit.”
What about the look and feel of the place?
“We’ve got some really cool ideas for the interior and overall vibe. One of which takes in our own artwork. We’ve always featured lots of photography in our bars but for this I thought, ‘what if it’s all our own work?’ It’s another way for us to express our creativity within the space – we’re super, super excited for what’s to come.”
And the drinks?
“We’re basically working on bringing who we are and where we’re from into the cocktails, in the same way we did with the Flavour of Schmucks menu, but we’ll be adding a bit of Miami flair to it. For example, Heena is from India and Thailand, so it will be really cool if we take those flavours and mix them in with some local produce. We’re already doing our R&D and it’s exciting!”
Nitty-gritty time: why America?
“This is something that I wanted to do a long time ago – I’ve always thought that our brand is a better fit in the US, and that got backed up by the numbers and facts: the sales of our merchandise, the attendance at our events and the support we get from the American market is unreal. The most traffic we have on social media comes from the States, so for me it always made sense. Plus, since my video came out [Moe released a heartfelt video explaining why he left Schmuck Street with Two Schmucks, Fat Schmuck and Lucky Schmuck, the three venues he built to cult status in under five years] we’ve had a ton of offers from people who want to team up and create. I wasn’t really ready at the beginning but since then, we’ve filtered through and there are some really exciting projects in the pipeline, so I’m excited to finally be here.
“There’s also the fact that I’m really into the way America celebrates the hustle and success. If you come here and put the work in, they love that, particularly if you’re entrepreneurial and want to make something of your own.
“That’s the professional side of things. On a personal level, I’ve been an immigrant for most of my life, from four-years-old when my family arrived in Sweden from Iraq and I’ve done it a few times in my 20s: living in Amsterdam, Norway, Thailand and Spain. This is the first time that I’ve migrated somewhere where English is the first language and it’s really great!”
What about the name? Will you still be trading under Two Schmucks?
“We do own the trademark for Two Schmucks and Schmucks in the US and I feel that’s still very much my brand but I just need to move on from what we did in Barcelona. I want to do something that’s about us but kinda simple and more inclusive. Like The Schmucks…
“Keeping it understated is the way forward and will also allow us to evolve more branches from the brand because, the next market we’re looking at is very exciting and here in the States, I see the possibility of evolving this brand to a field that’s a little outside this industry. But in order to do that, I believe we have to make it a bit more low key, a bit more ‘malleable’ not to mention more inclusive. That way we can apply The Schmucks to lots of things which will be favourable and I think we’ll benefit from it in the long run.”
What’s the best thing that’s come out of the events of last year?
“I had time to find out what I like, to find out if what I do is something I enjoy doing for everyone or myself. I took on some paid media work for the first time, worked on some events in LA for around 1,500-2,000 people – it was interesting to see the logistics and how it goes down on a large scale. But most importantly, what I realised about myself is a good week for me is creating cocktails on a Monday, planning an event on a Tuesday, working on a video on Wednesday and planning a new thing with the team on Thursday. I realised that what I really want to do is to create, whether on a big project or multiple, something like this, where we have a full-on residency and we’re talking about a lot of new things for the menu, I’m working with the PR for the hotel as well as thinking about the interior, it’s got me back to that place that I find really stimulating.”
What’s coming next?
“I want to spend more long form time in places. I’ve already spent a month in Los Angeles, now I’m in Miami. Hopefully I’ll also get to do Austin and New York before committing to specific markets.
“What I do know is, the next market we choose, we’ll definitely want to become part of that community. We did it in Raval and we want to find that again. The next place will definitely be a decade or so of my life and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.”