From Staff Writer Robert Plotkin

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Robert Plotkin

Robert Plotkin

Roberto is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and author of 16 books on bartending and beverage management including Secrets Revealed of America’s Greatest Cocktails.

Posted by on in December 2014 Editions

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Tequila doesn’t circumscribe the entire range of Mexican spirits. Paralleling the growth of tequilas is the resurgence of artisanal mezcal, bacanora and sotol. As the points of distinction between the multitudes of tequila brands diminish, consumers are discovering the profound nuances in flavor and levels of complexity in these traditional agave spirits engaging.

“I think the ongoing renaissance of mezcals to be directly related to the phenomenal success of tequila,” says Barbara Sweetman, vice president of ultra-premium Scorpion Mezcal. “Certification has greatly helped to advance the reputation of mezcal by requiring that it be made from 100% agave and produced under strict quality guidelines. Mezcal is also protected under Denomination of Origin status. The spirit now can be consumed with confidence and complete enjoyment.”

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Where do you stand on the debate? Some contend that the best results are obtained by educating bartenders, not training them, that the days of training people stops at the potty. They suggest that what bartenders need is a steady diet of education. Others argue that while some aspects of the job require continuing education, technical proficiency is a strict matter of training and guidance.

Then there’s the third possibility, that being they’re all wrong. The practical reality is that bartenders require training, education and a healthy dose of something called applied leaning, or savvy.

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The appeal of premium spirits cuts across age and cultural demographic lines. The spirits industry has done a marvelous job positioning premium brands with contemporary consumers. Their allure is undeniable. They’re marketed in attention grabbing packages and offer people a lot of bang for the buck. That’s an unbeatable combination.

As with most high-ticket items, premium and super-premium spirits don’t sell themselves. Convincing a client that a $60 bottle of Russian vodka, a $200 American alembic brandy, or a 750ml of tequila retailing for $250 is a warranted and informed purchase requires technique and ready information. Considering that your staff will have little time to close the sale necessitates providing them with a viable strategy.

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While bourbon and Scotch get more press, Irish whiskeys have quietly become the fastest growing, barrel-aged spirit in America. So what’s the attraction?

It may be no more complicated than Irish whiskeys are exceptionally easy to drink. They’re accessible, highly aromatic and loaded with palate pleasing flavors. Equally tempting, years of steadily increasing popularity hasn’t significantly driven up their price making them relative bargains. For a category long existing with nary a pulse, these are heady days.

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Posted by on in January 2014 Editions

The 5 Trends Sending American Whiskeys Upward

As the adage goes, people drink in good economic times and bad. It seems especially true for the American whiskey category, which according to Beverage Information Group grew an impressive 3 percent to 15.7 million 9-liter cases. Prosperity will eventually return, but the question remains, will American whiskeys continue to successfully compete with elder statesmen Irish and Scotch on the world stage?

“We’re excited about the growth potential for the American whiskey category,” says Chris Bauder, GM of U.S. Whiskies at Beam Global. “Consumers continue looking to expand their spirits repertoire, and with all of the bourbon innovations we are seeing, they are discovering the fantastic quality, versatility and different tastes available within the category. There is a level of pride among the category’s pioneers, including Bill Samuels and Fred Noe, in the fact that their products stand up to Scotch and Irish whiskies in the minds of consumers and that this uniquely American spirit is getting unprecedented demand from whiskey drinkers across the world.”

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Posted by on in December 2013 Editions

ThPisco.jpg - 44.78 KBe ongoing cocktail renaissance has propelled pisco into the limelight and onto American backbars. Bartenders on both coasts have come to appreciate its unrivaled mixability and universally appealing character. All of our futures should be so bright.

Interestingly enough, this is not the first time that pisco has made it big in the States. During the California Gold Rush, miners from South America streamed into San Francisco bringing with them ample stock of Peru’s native spirit. Its popularity with the locals gave rise to such classics as the Pisco Sour and Pisco Punch. The brandy’s run came to an end with the onset of Prohibition when it all but disappeared in the States.

Celebrated mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler believes pisco stands a great chance of cracking into the American market. “I’ve been working with pisco for several years now and the thing I really enjoy most about using pisco in cocktails is the beautiful floral bouquet of the muscat grape. I often use pisco in variations of the traditional sour formula, but it also works beautifully in spirit-driven cocktails.”

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