Two Schmucks’ Moe Aljaff launches pop-up Miami bar in South Beach
Moe Aljaff quit his world-renowned Barcelona-based hotel group Schmuck or Die in early October, just days after his award-winning ‘five-star dive bar’. Two Schmucks ranked number seven on the 50 Best Bars in the World 2022. It’s a bold decision that was made by clashes and irreconcilable disputes with Aljaff’s venture capitalistsand all but one of his seven team members left with him.
But despite the shakeup, Aljaff (who still holds the brand for Two Schmucks and Schmucks in the US) remains optimistic. And how could he not? Now armed with a notoriously difficult to obtain O-1 work visa, he is officially an “alien of extraordinary ability or achievement” with the right to explore his many career options in the United States. And with that, he brings the whole gang together. to open a pop-up in Miami’s trendy Moxy South Beach neighborhood.
well called The Schmucks, the residency will take place over two months, from February 4 to April 1 in the hotel’s Mezcalista space, and will feature ten new cocktails, all developed with Aljaff’s team in the Wynwood Airbnb they all share. And while that’s all exciting news for everyone in the bar and cocktail communities, that’s just the beginning: Aljaff has plans to explore other US markets. Here, he talks about Miami, his new concoctions, and what to expect for the future.
Moe Aljaff of Two Schmucks talks Miami, cocktails and
Karla Alindahao: Can you explain why you left Two Schmucks and the issues with your investors, and can you talk about your new investors in Miami? Or is it largely self-funded?
Moe Aljaff: During the pandemic, we engaged with venture capitalists to provide financial support to Two Schmucks at a devastating time for the hospitality industry. They provided us with additional funds to help grow the business even further across three locations, but at some point during this process I (very) naively and foolishly gave up my veto power over the brand. Over the past year, the VCs and my ex-business partner have begun to become more involved in major business practices and decisions – which I personally didn’t believe in for the most part – so for both parties an exit was the only solution. The majority of our team of bartenders at Two Schmucks left in October just after we ranked number seven in the World’s 50 Best Bars awards. I don’t want to dwell on what happened, though. I made a lot of mistakes for which I paid the price, but I learned a lot and I’m ready for what’s next! Before all of this happened, I had already started looking at the United States as a market I really wanted to move into and operate in, because so much here resonates with my approach and philosophy – and I love that. Myself, Julietand Heena (part of the original team I’m currently working with on our new project) did a five week tour across the US last year which was so much fun and really inspiring. This new project is the start of our new adventure in the United States and we are more than delighted. This residence is self-financed in collaboration with our partner Moxy South Beach and brand partners.
K.A.: Will the pop-up also be called Two Schmucks or will it have a different name?
MY: it will be called “The Schmucks.” We have the Two Schmucks and Schmucks brand in the United States and I feel like that’s still my brand, but I’d like to change from what we did in Barcelona. I want to do something that’s about us, but that’s simplified and more inclusive, which I think The Schmucks is. Keeping it understated is the way to go and will also allow us to evolve into other branches of the brand, because the next market we are looking at is very exciting. Here in the United States, I see the possibility of scaling this brand into an area that is a bit outside of this industry.
K.A.: What made you decide to host a pop-up in the United States? And when was this decision made?
MY: After the release, there were offers that immediately came to us, but we decided to take some time, filter it all out, and just breathe. After a while, some very good friends approached us to temporarily take over a space as consultants, and the idea for this residency was born. We looked at different locations and Moxy South Beach made the most sense. They have been great in supporting what we want to do and allowing us to have complete creative freedom.
K.A.: Is the pop-up a trial for a permanent US launch?
MY: We are looking at physical spaces and will be visiting more soon. Personally, I feel like I’d like to spend a month or two in different markets before committing, so I guess a residency like this is the perfect market research.
K.A.: Given your excellent reputation in the industry, you have a multitude of options when it comes to choosing a location/destination. What made you decide to choose Miami?
MY: Weather! Nah, the timing especially. We have been ready to do something since the beginning of this year and Miami in February and March is great. A ton of events, people and artists from all over the world are here, and with that the potential for many collaborations. We also have a lot of good friends here who could help us out and so it made sense. Time is for sure a big bonus though.
K.A.: Are the drinks going to be brand new drinks? Or will there be Two Schmucks classics/favorites on the menu?
MY: All drinks are going to be new and we are so excited about it. The majority of the R&D for this menu was done in a kitchenette at our Airbnb in Wynwood and we truly believe this is one of the best menus we’ve ever created. The setting is certainly more romantic than practical, but when it comes to the creativity behind the drinks, it’s almost been a plus for us to have been in this apartment working closely on these new flavors day and night. On the menu, people can expect 10 cocktails inspired by our own cultures and flavors blended with a hint of Miami Flair.
K.A.: Are there more plans for America, like Las Vegas?
MY: I hope to explore the United States. I worked a bit in LA for a while. And then after Miami, I want to spend some time in New York and Austin and then maybe Las Vegas before deciding what to call home.
K.A.: Do you see a difference between the American consumer and the Spanish consumer?
MY: Yes, 1000%! Drinking habits, hours, the speed at which a drink is consumed, I mean almost everything is different. That said, our venues in Barcelona had a good US clientele, so we’re a bit used to that.
K.A.: Are you adapting your new drinks to meet certain expectations, given the new venue?
MY: We wondered when we approached this menu. When we thought about it, we felt that what we had done in the past had been very appreciated all over the world. So we believe that by staying true to our guns and making the same style of cocktails, we can’t go wrong!