Latest blog entries - Beverage Journal, Maryland and Washington, DC Sat, 22 Oct 2016 14:01:35 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Ellicott City ... Staying Strong EllicottCityFloods.jpg

People often say they will always remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot, when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up, and when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  It's very safe to say that folks around Maryland and Howard County, specifically, will always remember where they were when the floodwaters hit Ellicott City's beloved Main Street district.

It was the evening of July 30, a swingin’ Saturday night where people had come to eat, drink, and be merry at many of the popular bars, taverns, and restaurants that have made that area of the Baltimore suburb such a popular destination for people young and old.  But six inches of rain in two hours changed everything. The ensuing flash flood caused severe damage in the historic district, particularly along Main Street.  Many businesses, sidewalks, vehicles, and more were destroyed by the rushing waters, including the town's landmark clock.  Two people lost their lives.


Most of those who worked at the eating and drinking establishments affected were, of course, on the job.  Owen Hanratty, owner of Cacao Lane, recalls, "I was most definitely there.  It was a pretty heavy rain that got really aggressive, but it was still fairly standard for the area.  We were all taking it lightly at first.  But the water rose so quickly. It was coming up through the floor and through the front door.  Then, as cars started bouncing off buildings, I escorted everybody up to our second floor!"


Timothy Kendzierski, co-owner of the Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. (pictured with co-owner Rick Winter), was also at his post.  "It was right toward the end of dinner rush," he remembers.  "I was in the basement, and the water started flowing down there first.  We got everybody, customers and staff, upstairs as quickly as we could.  Once we did that, I went back down to get my cellphone and keys, and there was already two or three feet of water.  It came in so quick.  It all lasted only about an hour, but it felt like four hours.  It kept coming and coming."


Mark Hemmis, owner of the Phoenix Emporium, was giving himself a rare diversion.  He had gone to the movies.  He still feels bad about it, stating, "I got down there about 30 minutes after the water rushed through.  I pulled up about a mile from the scene.  The sidewalk in front of the Phoenix was just gone.  There was an employee who literally reached out a rope to me to pull me across and into the Phoenix."


Also elsewhere when the tragedy hit was Evan Brown of Portalli's.  He had gone out to dinner, but headed back to his business immediately upon learning of the developing disaster.  He got as far as the corner of Old Columbia Pike and Main Street when he made the rest of the trek on foot in knee-deep water, avoiding sinkholes that had suddenly formed. 

"When I got to Portalli's," he laments, "water was spilling out of the front windows.  You just can't properly describe the level of destruction.  It was catastrophic.  You see the business you had built either destroyed or twisted apart.  I started to feel really sick, and I realized it was a gas leak.  And there were all of these people wandering everywhere with these blank faces.  We were all in shock."



The devastation was indeed catastrophic.  But in the hours and days that immediately followed, a new motto was born.  "Ellicott City Strong."  This was a community that came together, and the bar and restaurant owners almost immediately took a leadership role.  Cacao Lane's Owen Hanratty remarks, "I had people from other restaurants drive generators down.  They've loaned us tools, sent over staff to help.  Of course, everyone in town has been willing to help each other.  It's been no big deal to go across the street with tools and help a small shop owner or to share things people need."  


Hemmis added, "I had a bunch of supplies donated very early in the process before we could even get back into the place.  I had 20 pairs of boots!  When we were done with them, we put them in a wheelbarrow and walked them up to Portalli's.  We said, 'Now they're your boots.' As we no longer have a need for things, we just pass them up the street."  Hemmis and his staff got the boots and other supplies through Courtney Watson, a former Howard County councilwoman for the district that Ellicott City is in.  She's an insurance salesperson now and wanted to help the town and street she's always loved.

Brown of Portalli's was eager to accept the help. "We probably had about 100 people show up that first Saturday to assist us.  We were bumping into each other actually, so we tried to send groups of 10 to other businesses on the street.  Jailbreak Brewing Company was particularly phenomenal.  They put a fundraiser together within three or four days after the disaster and raised upwards of $60,000."  

Gina Mattera, event coordinator for Jailbreak Brewing in Laurel, made it a personal mission to help out.  "I woke up to e-mails the morning after the flood occurred from our founders, Kasey Turner and Justin Bonner.  They're really the ones who got the ball rolling so soon after hearing what had happened.  That was Sunday, and we had the fundraiser on Thursday."

Jailbreak was also able to rally some of the area companies it has good relationships with like Raytheon and Booz Allen Hamilton for monetary donations.  Before the actual event even happened, Mattera estimates she and her colleagues were able to raise around $20,000 just from business pledges.  "We're a local microbrewery.  So, local is very important to us.  As a young company, we said, 'Wow! That could have been us if we were located there.' All you want to do is be able to help in any way you can."

The Heavy Seas taproom in Halethorpe was another industry player that also answered the call almost immediately.  Fred Crudder, Director of Marketing and Hospitality, stated, "What we did was take our two busiest days where we offer public tours, because we knew we would have a crowd regardless, and we donated 50 percent of all of our sales to the Ellicott City Partnership.  Community involvement is important all year-round, but it's especially important for businesses in a time of crisis.  Without the community, we don't get to do what we do."

He continued, "We were also a collection point for clean-up materials.  When we went to deliver those materials, though, it turns out they had been overwhelmed with such donations.  So, we still have a lot of things, but we'll wait and see what the needs are and respond appropriately."


Perhaps the most remarkable thing that has happened since that fateful night is the way Maryland's entire hospitality industry has come together to help.  Years of intense competition, rivalry, and even grudges have seemingly been put aside.  The fundraisers have been many.  But what's been remarkable is how many suddenly out-of-work waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and kitchen staffers have been given work by bars, taverns, and eateries in Columbia, Ellicott City, Catonsville, Baltimore, and elsewhere.

"Some of my employees have obtained relatively full-time work with some area bars," noted Hemmis, "G.L. Shacks has given at least two of my employees relatively consistent shifts.  Another was hired by Southern Provisions in Canton.  Smaltimore, also in Canton, hired one of my people."  

Rick Shackelford, owner of G.L. Shacks Grill in Catonsville, confirms, "We indeed hired a couple of employees from the Phoenix Emporium. One's a bartender, and the other is a server.  They're both going to go back to the Phoenix when they're back up and running. I admire them.  They are showing a lot of loyalty to Mark, and Mark is showing them loyalty throughout all of this."

G.L. Shacks has also jumped on the United Way's popular "EC Strong" T-shirt drive.  Shackelford estimates his establishment alone has sold between $1,300 and $1,400 worth of the shirts as of early September.  "The best thing about that is 100 percent of the sales went to Ellicott City," he pointed out.

Brown of Portalli's added, "Nottingham's in Columbia, T-Bonz Grill & Taphouse in Ellicott City, and Bare Bones Grill and Brewery in Ellicott City have all helped our people find work.  I know a lot of my staff went downtown to the Atlas Restaurant Group.  They said, 'Send me your people, and we'll take them.'  I sent them everyone I could, and Atlas took every single one of them!  Don McCafferty and Alexander Smith are just amazing.  I couldn't believe they took everybody." 

It would be impossible to list all of the eating and drinking places that have helped out in this way.  But interviews with these and other affected Ellicott City operators made mention of Della Rose's Avenue Tavern in White Marsh, Bad Decisions in Fells Point, and Dock Street Bar & Grill in Annapolis all holding fundraisers and/or hiring employees in need.

Kendzierski chimes in, "It's not like they've said, 'Well, we'll give you a Monday night.'  No, they've sacrificed some of their busiest times for us.  Friday and Saturday evenings.  That's impressive.  We've also had bigger organizations like the Green Turtle and the Power Plant reach out and say, 'Hey, we can absorb some of your staff temporarily until you guys get back on your feet.'"   

Hemmis, who also set up a GoFundMe account to help his out-of-work employees, beamed, "I've never seen teamwork between bars and restaurants like this.  We're all friendly with each other.  But, when business is normal, we're all competing with each other.  That's all literally disappeared for now.  There's been a real unified front."


So, where does Ellicott City go from here?  What's the future?  Remarkably, some businesses -- notably ones like the Wine Bin and Judge's Bench Pub on the western end's higher ground -- have already managed to re-open.  But for a business like the Phoenix Emporium, which is at the very bottom of Main Street, it's a whole other story.  Hemmis in late August said, "If the rest of Ellicott City was 100 percent in the condition I'm in right now, it would take me about three months to get open."

Ellicott City Brewing was more fortunate.  "We could probably have our place open in a week," Kendzierski said.  "But we're on the upper end where we didn't get as much damage as on the bottom end.  But they have to rebuild gas lines and infrastructure.  Sidewalks have to be redone.  Right now, it's waiting for the public officials to get the town safe and ready so people can have places to park, walk, and get back to us.  It's a process."

The biggest frustration has been the change in lifestyle for these long-time industry pros.  Fortunately, most are keeping a good sense of humor.  Brown comments, "Social interaction is huge for people like me in the hospitality world.  Sitting in a quiet house each evening is NOT normal for people like us."

Hanratty added, "This was a huge destination spot, as far as food and beverage goes.  A lot of people would come to our businesses for special occasions or just to meet up after work.  That displacement has been hard.  I've heard from a lot of people who've basically said to me, 'Do the best you can … but hurry up!'"

He concluded, "You also have to realize that bar and restaurant people are used to working day and night.  These aren't office jobs.  Our people are geared towards pulling all-nighters.  When you remove those hours, it's really tough.  No one works harder than we do … and almost no one parties harder either.  You do NOT want to give these people an extra 12 hours a day for too long!"

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Nottingham's in Columbia hosted "OldECStrong JamFest." The all ages event featured live music, cook-out type food, drinks and much more.  The event was a fundraiser open to all, however it was obviously a great opportunity for the staffs of the affected establishments to get together away from the devestation (not just the structural, but the emotional as well) and enjoy eachother's company. Below (top to bottom) are the staffs of La Palapa, The Phoenix Emporium, and Cocao Lane at the OldECStrong JamFest.




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Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) October 2016 Editions Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:37:54 -0400
Scotch Whisky at a Cross Roads toc_scotchLR.jpg

From a distance, the tale of the Scotch whisky business has been much the same for some time: single malts keep climbing, up about 50 percent in the last five years, while blended volumes continue to sag, now accounting for only about 80 percent of the category here in the States.

But what’s beneath the macro data points? Like with all spirit categories, there are trends and issues on the horizon poised to impact the Scotch whisky business.

Click Here to check out our 6 Scotch trends and issues.

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) October 2016 Editions Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:30:41 -0400
Saké 101 ... Back to Basics Sake101_Oct16.jpg

Saké is hot! Perhaps not literally. While hot saké is still popular, much of the growth in the U.S. is in premium styles, typically consumed chilled. More than a third of Japan’s saké production comes to the U.S. these days, and that doesn’t even account for the majority of saké Americans are drinking (over 70% of which is domestic).

While most drinkers still probably have their saké experience at a sushi restaurant, saké is also finding a place in retail shops and Western restaurants, just as other Japanese ingredients like wasabi are finding new homes. Wine and beer importers are taking note, so saké is moving beyond specialist Japanese importers, who have traditionally focused on Japanese outlets. Wine and spirits importers have added saké to their books and are bringing it to all sorts of accounts. The recently signed Trans-Partnership agreement will also make it that much easier for sake to find it’s way here.

Click Here to check out Back To Basics: Saké 101

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) October 2016 Editions Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:13:35 -0400
Linganore Winecellars Celebrates 40th Anniversary Linganore Winecellars in Mt. Airy, Maryland, one of the oldest wineries on the East Coast, and in their second generation of wine making is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the start of the 2016 harvest from their 75-acre estate vineyard.  Committed to making excellent wines, dry and sweet, grape, fruit and artisanal wines, the celebration will kick off in late September at the winery.  Events are also planned for October, November and December 2016 (details at bottom). 


Started in 1971 as a hobby in hope of a dream, Jack and Lucille Aellen purchased the 230 acre farm and planted a few acres of vines on its rolling hills.  Wine making was a hobby then, having German-Swiss roots on Jack’s side and Italian roots on Lucille’s.  In 1974, Lucille’s father gifted the Aellen’s with his hand press and two hand-crank crushers, which the family used to open the winery in 1976.  Understanding that one-size-did-not-fit-all when it comes to taste in wine, Jack strove to produce many different (30+) wines, becoming a pioneer in the industry, denoted by the Maryland Wine Association’s “Jack Aellen Cup” for Fruit wines and Meade.  That tradition continues to this day, with the winery producing 38 different types of wine in 2016. 

1984 saw the passing on of the wine making to Anthony Aellen, now the Executive Winemaker and Eric followed later as Vineyard Manager.  With 75 acres of vineyards, the largest in Maryland, most Linganore wines are Estate Bottled (grown, produced and bottled on the Linganore property), and allows for excellence by careful tending and picking of grapes when conditions are optimal.  Originally begun in Hybrid grapes, the family added Vinifera a little over 10 years ago, which has expanded their dry wine offerings.  Crafting wines has become a wonderful pleasure to the family ... as Anthony says, "...each year I get [antoher] chance to make the perfect vintage."   This delight in their work has paid off, as their wines have won over 500 awards, with a double gold for their Reserve Cabernet and Reserve Chardonnay in the 2016 Maryland Governor’s Cup.

40 Years of Growth


While the focus was on wine making, the Aellen’s had to make revisions to the farm as their clientele grew.  Turning the 150 year old American Chestnut wood barn used to store hay and farm equipment in the 1970’s into a very popular wedding venue, and repurposing the wood to turn the inside of the dairy barn on the property into an elegant tasting room, the family “farm” has become a place where friends and families are able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and setting in a relaxing atmosphere.  Jack was also the pioneer of the first Wine Festivals in Maryland, started in 1978, which still continues on the property from May through October.  In 2014, Red Shedman Brewery was opened on the property, with Vic Aellen bringing his Michigan brewing expertise of hand-crafting excellent beers.  Having done so much good, Jack and Lucille Aellen’s hopes certainly did become a reality, but not only for their family, but also for others, as the winery, which began humbly as a family endeavor, now is able to employ 35, adding to the wonder of a dream come true.    

40th Anniversary Celebration Events

All events held at the Winery. 

September 23 – 25:  40th Anniversary Blow-Out Weekend: Free event.  Free birthday cake for wine tasting/paring participants.  Outside food and non-alcohol beverages permitted.  Food truck on site.  

October:  Free Birthday cake for wine tasting/pairing participants.

November:  Free wine tasting. Release of Estate bottled Petit Verdo.

December:  Champagne release.  Offered first to Linganore’s Wine Club members on Dec. 2nd.  Available by the glass and for purchase at our annual “Christmas in the Barn” event on Dec. 3rd and 4th.

Want to view the article as seen in the Journal? Click Here

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) October 2016 Editions Wed, 21 Sep 2016 21:03:25 -0400
New Vodka Answers the Belle Throughout history, there have been many famous Belles.  Belle Watling was the original hooker with a heart of gold in "Gone With the Wind."  The Memphis Belle was one of the great flying fortresses of World War II.  And 'twas Belle who captured the heart of the man-turned-monster in "Beauty and the Beast."


Well, there's a new Belle about to make history.  Local beverage history, that is.  Old Dominion Spirits' Belle Vodka has already taken Virginia by storm.  Next on its list?  Maryland and Washington, D.C.  Billy Reilly, the company's vice president of sales and marketing, has the lowdown.  When he started with Warrenton-based Old Dominion back in February, founder and President Townsend Lundsford and his partners had Belle in 40 ABC stores and about 20 bars, restaurants, and other venues.


"At that point," he remarked, "they needed a dude.  I was the dude!  I hit the ground running.  We're now in well over 100 ABC stores and more than 150 accounts -- restaurants, bars, golf courses, etc.  And we just signed a deal with RNDC for Maryland and D.C.  That rolled out Sept. 1."

So far, the response has been promising.  First and foremost, Belle Vodka has scored with its price point.  "A liter of Grey Goose, at least in Virginia, is going to run you $46," Lunsford stated.  "A liter of Ketel One is going to run you $36. They're both foreign brands.  Belle is $23 a liter, and we're American.  From the point of view of the on-premise guys, there are 22 pours in all three of those.  Where's your yield going to be?  We've taken a quality product, packaged it appropriately, positioned it as a domestic brand, and priced it right."

The taste profile has also positioned the product well against the bigger, better-known brands.  Reilly commented, "We're four times distilled, which puts us right in the wheelhouse with some of those upper-level brands."

"We are most often associated with the taste profile of Ketel One," Lundsford added, "and I'll take that compliment all day long. Ketel and Goose are the big dogs, for the most part, in this fight.  I've probably been part of 150 tastings over the last year and a half.  Very rarely do we lose against those two wonderful brands."

Packaging is, of course, important also. To that end, Belle Vodka has gotten high marks for its crystal-sloped bottle, which stands up well on the back shelf and also fits in the front rail. Lundsford marveled, "We've actually had people tell us, 'We hate to throw the bottle away!'  But just because it's in a pretty bottle doesn't make it any good.  A pretty bottle will make you buy it once.  But if there's horse piss in it, you ain't gonna buy it again no matter how pretty it is!  But the combination of being pretty and being quality, that's a home run."

Both men believe that, with RNDC's support, Belle Vodka is going to do exceedingly well in the Maryland and D.C. markets.  Reilly, who previously worked with country music star Kenny Chesney to promote his Blue Chair Bay Rum, observed, "First and foremost, D.C. is a destination location.  You have tourists, you have business travelers.  They want to try something local." 

Lundsford concurred.  "Both Maryland and Washington are going to be huge for us," he predicted.  "But we can't sell on just the local angle alone.  What's local to Warrenton, Va., ain't local to Baltimore.  We have our eyes set on being more than a regional brand.  We want to be a major brand.  But I have no illusions.  This is about planning.  This is about grinding.  It's one step at a time, one tasting at a time, one F&B director at a time, one bartender at a time, and so forth."

Perhaps Reilly summed up Old Dominion Spirits' game plan the best. "It all boils down to the same thing," he said.  "Relationships!  It comes down to treating everybody the same from the beginning.  The barbacks, the waiters, the waitresses are usually tomorrow's bartenders and managers.  If you get with them early, build relationships with them, and bring them a product they can work with, they'll take ownership of it. No one is going to take ownership of Absolut or Ketel One.  Belle Vodka is there for the taking.  And, hey, we're a fun brand!  We're the Belle Ringer.  Ring the Belle!  Answer the Belle!  Jingle Belles at the holidays!"

And with a little luck, a lot of hard work, and a good product, maybe even the Belle of the Ball.

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Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) October 2016 Editions Wed, 21 Sep 2016 20:41:57 -0400
Back to Basics: Bourbon 101


When people talk about the worldwide whiskey renaissance, the first word that comes to most minds is bourbon. Sure, other styles are on fire at the moment—Irish, American rye, even Canadian—but the one that’s got most of the globe talking is America’s native spirit. A couple of decades ago, producers could barely give the stuff away—it was “grandpa’s drink” after all—but today bars in the most far-flung corners of the world (even Scotland!) have multiple shelves dedicated to the U.S.-made, corn-based whiskey.

Where is it produced?

Federal law dictates that only bourbon whiskey produced in the U.S. can be called “bourbon.” And the U.S. has numerous trade agreements with other countries to enforce that restriction as well. It is most closely linked to Kentucky, where it originated, where about 95% of it is made and where the style’s most iconic brands hang their hats (and they’re the only ones that can claim the prestigious label, “Kentucky Straight Bourbon”).

Did you know?

Because bourbon is so closely associated with Kentucky, many had assumed it took its name from the Bluegrass State’s Bourbon
County. However, that notion has been challenged and largely debunked. Many historians assert that it’s more likely bourbon took its name from Bourbon Street in New Orleans. True, most of the distillers were in Kentucky, but in the 19th century, a large number of the spirit’s drinkers were in the Big Easy (sent there via the Mississippi River). Eventually people started referring to the whiskey as “that stuff they drink on Bourbon Street,” or so the story goes.

Download Back to Basics: Bourbon 101 Here

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) September 2016 Editions Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:59:59 -0400
2016 Bartenders to Watch


As bartending continues to grow as a career and attract the attention of aspirational achievers, the standards on display in the many and varied competitions held throughout the year have improved as well. A trip to a distillery or a hefty check are great prizes, but today, bartenders are just as keen for the accolades that an intense, multi-day competition can bring them.

Now in its seventh year internationally and fifth including U.S. participants, the lengthy test of skills produced in collaboration with the United States Bartenders’ Guild, USBG World Class Sponsored by Diageo, is a global training program and internationally recognized competition that aims to elevate the craft of the bartender and build careers in the drink industry.

The international nature of the competition and its rigorous process are why this year, Beverage Media decided that our annual survey of the field of men and women who stand behind the bar, our “Bartenders to Watch,” should focus on those competitors who made it through multiple regional heats to contend earlier this year in World Class North American finals in Washington, DC.

The prize? The right to represent the continent in the global finals, for the first time to be held in the U.S., (Miami specifically) in the last week in September.

Two years ago, the U.S. entrant, Charles Joly, won the competition, and this year, the mantle of America’s bartending hero is borne by Andrew Meltzer, assistant manager of 15 Romolo, one of San Francisco’s better-known cocktail watering holes.

“I’m so excited to be named the U.S. Best Bartender of the Year; it’s something I’ve been working towards for quite some time. This competition has given me so much—excellent knowledge, skills and industry camaraderie that will have such valuable impact on my career,” says Meltzer.

While Meltzer moves onto the finals, other contestants, some to whom have notched their third straight finals, have lots to offer as well. With backgrounds that might otherwise have pointed them toward careers in law, medicine, baseball or firefighting, these 15 bartenders represent a cross-section of where bartending is today in America.

As for World Class, the program is a six month education tour leading up to five Regional competitions and one North American Final; it drew thousands of applicants, with 75 finalists selected to compete regionally. With judges including past winners Joly, Tyson Buhler, Jeff Bell and Ricky Gomez, and bartenders and educators including Tony Abou-Ganim, Steve Olson, Julie Reiner, Anu Apte Elford, Jacques Bezuidenhout, and USBG National President David Nepove, the battle for the annual crown of “World’s Best” continues to grow in significance. Another reason these following 15 bartenders belong on the 2016 list of the ones to watch. 

Download Full Article Here

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) September 2016 Editions Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:56:01 -0400
Is Stress Killing Your Staff? Stree_Killing.jpg

KarashiIt’s the Japanese word for working oneself to death.  Whether you realize it or not, some of your bartenders may be committing karoshi on a nightly basis.

A nine-year study recently published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine cited bartenders as having a higher risk of heart attack due to job-related stress than the 243 other occupations reviewed. California Occupational Mortality, a report compiled at the University of California at Davis, found that the heaviest drinkers by occupation were bartenders for men and waitresses for women.

Stress is generated when challenge exceeds abilities — a regular occurrence behind the bar. Bartending is a job replete with stress. Bartenders work in a highly visible, pressure-packed environment. They must simultaneously meet management’s expectations and satisfy customers’ demands. When the operation gets busy, your bartenders are routinely hard pressed, given far more work than time to complete it.

The net effect of stress on your bartenders and the business is costly. It is a leading cause of burn-out, absenteeism, substance abuse, and internal theft. Stressed employees are less productive and increasingly more dissatisfied with their job and quality of performance. Stress can torque even the calmest of personality types into an edgy, ragged mass of nerves. Worse, stress increases heart rate, makes muscles tense and causes the physiology to work harder. Generally stress increases fatigue and emotional exhaustion. 

There are many ways to help alleviate the stress on your bartending staff:

Avoid under-scheduling and leaving bartenders to fend for themselves short-handed behind the bar. Sure, your staff may appear to be keeping up with demand, but at what cost? Look to schedule a bar back on busy shifts to allow bartenders to focus on productive use of their time. The slight increase in payroll should be more than offset by increased sales.

Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, don’t let bartenders work double shifts or too many consecutive shifts without time off. Whether they appreciate it or not, the cumulative effect of working long stints behind the bar can be debilitating. Stresses build like steam in a pressure-cooker until something gives. Usually at that point the result is harmful to their health, job stability, or both.

Solicit your bartenders’ input on decisions affecting the beverage operation and act upon them. One of the largest sources of stress is the sense of lack of control. In a recent USA Today poll, dignity rather than financial compensation was rated by employees as a more significant motivator for job satisfaction and performance. Dignity is the result of respect, accountability and empowerment.

Create a positive working environment. Do your bartenders feel that they have your support? Are you an effective communicator and make clear what you expect of your staff? Work to be flexible in your demands and deadlines, rather than creating “my way or the highway” relationships. Are you an effective listener? Catch your employees doing things right and acknowledge their efforts.

Providing your staff with challenges, and stimulating their motivation and drive is a means of increasing feelings of purpose and self-worth. Do you have an on-premise product and sales training program in place? Is advancement a viable source of motivation for your employees? Do you have any incentive programs or sales contests in place for servers? Do you work with your staff on how to maximize gratuities or better manage their cash income? 

Actively encourage your bartenders to foster outside interests or continue their education. A secure and stable individual is less apt to be ravaged by the effects of stress than someone in a more precarious situation or frame of mind. People who stay in good physical condition are less prone to be negatively affected by stress. They have better stamina and usually have a healthier and more positive self-image. Likewise, a sound diet, good eating habits and reduced caffeine intake are important stress-inhibiters.

Create a team attitude among bartenders. Competitiveness creates internal stress. Back-stabbing, bickering and gossip undermine the sense that everyone on the staff is looking to accomplish the same objective, what ever it takes to get the job done right. Look to quickly defuse conflict. Likely sources of friction are work schedules, division of tips, and who’s responsible for specific opening or closing procedures.

Training reduces stress by allowing the staff to be confident in their knowledge and skills. Make sure your staff is operating from the same page of the playbook and are confident in their abilities. Is everyone making drinks the same way and charging the same prices? Along with reducing collective stress, sales and service should also improve.

The last thing employees need is to be concerned about are the actions of management. Trust and respect are essential to both being an effective manager and creating a healthy working environment. Avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Make sure bartenders reconcile their own cash drawers at closing and stay clear of their tip jars.

Avoid the “teacher’s pet” syndrome. Managers who treat some employees preferentially heap loads of unnecessary stress on the others as it usually affects their pocketbooks. Inequitable or inconsistent discipline affects employees similarly. 

As most bartenders will attest, managing an income based primarily on cash is challenging, and finances are often a major cause of stress. Encourage your staff to put some of their earnings aside as savings and to develop a monthly budget to help them live within their means. By all means advise your employees to declare all of their tips to IRS. Not only will they be fulfilling their legal obligations, thereby alleviating a source of stress, declaring a higher gross income will help them when they attempt to qualify for a bank or auto loan, or a host of other income-related items. 

Help your bartenders keep hold of their sense of humor. The ability to laugh and not take things too seriously are time-proven stress-busters. Make light of the anxiety-producing aspects of the job and your bartenders will begin to follow suit. Make it mandatory for all employees to read Dave Barry or Gary Larson before each shift. It’s unlikely they’ll explode from stress if they’re too amused to be bothered.

Read More]]> (Robert Plotkin) September 2016 Editions Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:50:49 -0400
There's a Lot to Crow About With Kent County's First Winery Crow_Vineyard0002.jpg

"Sometimes we feel like cowboy pioneers out here!" exclaimed Judy Crow, who co-owns Crow Vineyard and Winery with her husband, Roy.  Located in Kennedyville, Md., just west of Middletown, the property has been a family-owned farm for three generations and began growing grapes and bottling New World-style wines about six years ago.

"It actually started eight years ago when Roy and I got married," she recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We were looking for a way to reinvent this 365-acre farm.  Phase one was to renovate the main 1847 farmhouse into a farm-stay bed and breakfast.  We did that.  And then we planted grapes.  We have five sons between us.  One son, Brandon, came back and became the vineyard manager.  Then, we went to a winemaking seminar with John Levenverge, and we eventually hired him to be our winemaker consultant.  Soon after, we took an equipment shed and made that into our 5,000-case production winery."

Levenverge helped the Crows understand the winemaking process.  Eventually, though, Judy and Roy felt like they needed a full-time winemaker.  So, they hired Catrina North.  "She's been our full-time winemaker for the past two years," said Crow.  "Hiring the best people are big investments for any business, but we really feel that the commitment to growing quality grapes -- not only here on our farm, but we have a few other local growers who work in tandem with us -- has helped us put our wines on the map."

And those wines are most definitely on the map.  At the 2016 Maryland’s Comptrollers Cup in early June, Crow Vineyard & Winery’s 2015 Rosé took "Best in Class" and a double gold medal at the competition in Timonium.  In addition to the recognition for the 2015 Rosé, Crow won silver for their 2014 Barbera, 2014 Chardonnay, 2014 Reserve Red Blend, 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, and the 2015 Vidal Blanc.  Bronze medals were awarded to the 2014 Merlot and the 2015 Vintner’s Select White Blend.

Additionally, Crow’s 2015 Rosé was awarded a gold medal, with a score of 92 out of 100, in the San Francisco International Wine Competition where it was judged against rosés from all around the globe.  Crow was also awarded medals for the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Chardonnay, 2014 Barbera, 2015 Vidal Blanc, and the 2015 Vintner’s Select White Blend.  This year, more than 4,600 entries were received.

"These honors help people in Maryland recognize that the Eastern Shore is indeed a contender," Crow remarked.  "This is not the first time we have won a gold medal with our Rosé at the Maryland Governors Cup.  It's really important for folks here to see that Maryland can produce some high-quality, sophisticated wines, and there are a number of wineries that are making a commitment to make sure that happens for our state.  I think awards help the general public understand that message we're trying to get out there.  I know that whatever we produce, it is of high quality."

It also helps that the Crows have been active members of the Maryland Grape Growers and the Maryland Winery Association ever since they started thinking about starting a vineyard and making wine.  "Those two organizations have provided a wealth of information for us," Crow stated.  "We like to stay open to a lot of different information."

She continued, "I grew up on a dairy farm, and I didn't think I'd ever marry a farmer.  Before I married Roy, I was in education.  I spent about three years in higher education.  Whatever we're doing, I've also tried to make it about transferring information to the public.  We believe people have a great desire and thirst to hear and learn more.  We give everyone who comes to our tasting room a tour of the winery.  If Roy and I are available, we personally do it ourselves.  We live here, so we're pretty much available most of the time.  If our winemaker is here or our vineyard manager son, Brandon, who is now a business partner with us, we all make sure to have educational and informational conversations with the general public about making the wine.  We really try and make ourselves available as much as possible."

Crow Vineyard & Winery holds the distinction of being Kent County’s first winery.  The Crows' wines embody the simple elegance of a working pastoral landscape in rural Maryland. In addition to operating the B&B, the family also sells all-natural grass-fed beef.

"My husband has been working the farm ever since he was born," Judy Crow marveled.  "In all of the transformation of this 365-acre working farm, we have tried our best to be authentic.  Our tasting room used to be my husband's milking house.  The winery used to be a dirt-floor equipment shed.  Our tanks are from South Africa.  We have a French press. We also built an addition, and we now have our own bottling line.  We're taking very seriously growing, producing, and putting products in the hands of the public that we are proud of."

And the public has responded by buying the Crows' wine and turning out for such special events as last year's Crow Fest.  Crow remembered the event fondly. "It was a day when we opened up the farm for farm tours and winery tours.  We explained how we grow our cattle.  We had vendors here and hayrides and grape stomping.  I think we had about 400 people last year.  And we liked that size, because it still allowed us to have many one-on-one interactions with the public.  It also gave people an opportunity to really see an authentic working farm."

She concluded, "It's challenging to keep things authentic because you're always feeling the pressure to become an event venue, to make things bigger, to host more events.  But we really want to stay who we are.  We're farmers!"

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) September 2016 Editions Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:47:25 -0400
Todd Collins: Evolving the Industry Todd_Collins.jpg

Todd Collins of Platinum Reputations doesn’t take “days off”. In fact most everything he does has a purpose and that purpose is the client. The company hashtag #educateevolvedefend lends itself to the idea that this industry is ever-changing and always improving. The strategy and theory behind every service offered proves exactly that concept.

Platinum Reputations is a reputation management company that helps restaurants and other hospitality industry members manage and maintain a positive online presence. The company offers a wide variety of services including videography, email marketing, website management, and social media reputation support.

Todd consistently attributes his success to the people he is supporting, “I learn from my customers.”

He continued, “They have a better understanding of who is coming in their door and who they want to come in. Its people like Nick [Lib’s Grill] who help me stay in tune with what it takes to acquire the business of a younger generation.”

Todd worked as a waiter and bartender so he has restaurant knowledge of his own to draw on, but that’s not what he thinks is his most advantageous asset. Todd explained, “Sales training is probably most important. Being able to teach from a sales perspective.”

Using a sales oriented perspective, Todd uses staff meetings and other means to help educate and motivate servers to employ sales techniques to their everyday action at the table. 

By taking the time to visit each of the restaurants he serves and educate servers Todd provides a level of training that is more directly geared toward a sales mindset.

“Most people don’t have the time to properly train staff so you find that it slips through the cracks.” Todd continued, “Just plugging in new staff doesn’t improve the business.”

As the COO of Platinum Todd sees a bright future for the company which directly relates to the goal of helping each client, “It comes down to old-school customer service. All of our representatives are closer than a text; they’re local.”

Being that Todd uses people who understand the local marketplace, he is able to offer a different kind of service than larger or less involved reputation companies. 

The need for this kind of service for both small and large businesses is obvious. Todd’s involvement and realization of the need came from a very personal experience, “We built this from nothing.” He went on, “My family had some poor exposure online and we needed to find a way to clean up some of the things being said online and we found that there were a lot of people who were having similar problems. We developed ‘’ and it took off from there.”

Family is still an important driver for Todd even though he convincingly explained, “My business and my job is always number one. Some people will hate me for saying that. He explained, “My girlfriend and my four kids are my life, but what I’m building is important. Hopefully one day one of them will be interested in taking it on.”

Todd’s involvement with his family and the national company aren’t the only ways he stays so driven. Platinum Reputations is also the primary sponsor for Baltimore and Carroll County Restaurant Weeks. 

“It’s been a perfect union that is mutually beneficial.” Todd explained his involvement in the two Restaurant weeks, “It was just a really easy fit and we’re proud to be their largest sponsor.”

The challenges that life present often offer opportunity on the back end and that’s exactly how Todd Collins viewed the difficulty that plagued his family. “You just have to take opportunity and create a solution.”

Todd’s dedication to old-school customer service and to learning while constantly evolving is a big reason for his continued success. It’s hard to find someone who exudes more exuberance and excitement over the competitive and cooperative nature of his job. The dedication to improvement for his clients combined with the drive to show them how to be and compete with the best in the business is evident in his day-to-day activities.

One other job you would rather have?: "Motivational Speaker – It’s actually a goal for me."

Favorite Defunct Restaurant?
“It’s actually very much still open, but Elmo’s in south Hampstead. They have a no cell phone policy that the owner enforces. Can’t beat it.”

Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) September 2016 Editions Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:31:43 -0400
The Femme Paradox


Fortunately, the plight of female oenophiles has improved since the second century A.D., when Roman women faced severe punishment for consuming alcohol. Yet gender associations remain embedded in the world of wine. It’s easy to notice once we start looking for it: Richer, heavier wines are “masculine,” while delicate ones are said to be “feminine.” Formal wine service is ingrained with a gendered code of conduct (all too often, men still get handed the wine list; ladies get their glasses poured first). And the dominant image of a wine collector is still unflinchingly male.

Specific aspects of gender in wine are naturally evolving. Women continue to enter all corners of the industry. And presumptions of wine preference are flexing; to wit, the term “brosé” being used to capture rosé’s current surge of popularity with men—a situation practically unthinkable a decade ago.

The most visible area in which gender rears its head over and again in the wine world is on retail shelves, where there seems to be a disproportionate amount of marketing mojo being steered toward wome-n-oriented branding and promotion.

Women Ascendant

Or is it disproportionate? While the score–happy, claret–cellaring, middle–aged male may still represent the prototype of wine’s most important consumer, women have emerged as the major force driving the market. It is currently estimated that women account for 55% of American wine drinkers and are directly responsible for over 80% percent of the wine purchases in the United States each year (volume). Given the huge slice of the market-share women represent, it’s only natural that marketers can’t seem to resist trying to answer that perennial question: “What do women want?”

To an extent, the market has attempted to answer the question itself, via a proliferation of female-targeting labels like Skinnygirl, Seven Daughters, Middle Sister and Mommy’s Time Out, just to name a few. With names and/or imagery hitched to gender stereotypes, these brands have nevertheless  earned spot on shelves across the country.

To what, then, can we attribute their success?

 Price is Right?

Lucrative as it might be, there’s one fundamental problem with trying to enter the mind of the “average female consumer.” Fundamentally, she’s a fiction. Much research shows that, if she does exist, she’s really not so different from her male counterpart.

In a 2012 study published in the International Wine Business Journal, for instance, Dr. Liz Thach determined that “there is much in common between California men and women in terms of wine-drinking occasions, motivations to drink and preferred wine style” and that “gender-neutral wine promotions will most likely be more successful in reaching a larger demographic and thus the market-share.” An earlier 2010 study, presented at the fifth International Academy of Wine Business Research Conference in Auckland, New Zealand, similarly concluded that “gender is not a particularly useful variable with which to segment the global wine market.”

Digging a little deeper, however, the research does reveal some distinctions in the purchasing behavior of men and women, which brands have incorporated into their strategies. According to Thach’s study, “men mentioned more practical motivations for wine consumption.” Women, on the other hand, “seemed to focus more on hedonistic and social reasons to drink wine.” Another important distinction involves cost: “Women were more likely to purchase less expensive wines ($2.00-$9.99),” whereas men are almost twice as likely to purchase bottles priced above the $25 mark.

Together, these findings predicate a basic formula: price tags below $10 that present a lifestyle-centric angle seem to stand a better chance with the specific type of shopper these labels are courting, who mostly just wants to unwind. “The data shows that emotion-based marketing works, and brands have honed in on that,” explains Leslie Sbrocco, author of Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing Wine. “A lot of women want to come home, have a glass of wine, and relax after a busy day. It’s a lifestyle choice, and let’s face it: Many people still buy wine based on the label.”

Softening the Stance

The pressing question for the wine market is not why to target women, but rather how. “Women overwhelmingly lead consumer purchasing in the world, which is also reflected in the U.S. wine segment,” notes Monika Elling, CEO, Foundations Marketing Group. “In order to be successful in selling to them, it is important to keep their culture, habits and sensibilities in mind.” Tapping those sensibilities remains an imprecise science, to be sure, and it would be misguided to assume that they can be reduced to generalities. The category of gender-specific labels wouldn’t persist if women weren’t buying these wines. And yet, a number of self-professed female-appeal wines have petered out, notably Butterfly Kiss, Girl Go Lightly and “Be.”

In an effort to determine why this might be the case, marketers have been posing all kinds of targeted questions: Are women drawn to a label more by name, or by graphics? Is color important? But at what point does “appealing” to women cross the line into “pandering”? Wine Market Council reports that 17% of female consumers feel “turned off” by gender-specific labels. Mary Ewing Mulligan, President of International Wine Center in NYC, and the first American woman to become a Master of Wine, adds: “Wine marketing to women needs to strike a balance so that it engages its target audience while not enraging other segments of the female wine-drinking population by overdependence on stereotypes.”

Sensing that women’s attitudes might be changing in favor of subtler cues about gender, certain brands have started to rethink their strategies. “One of the things we found out from the consumer research was that there is a group of women who don’t want you to overtly play to them,” explains Ed Barden, Director of Marketing for Excelsior Wines, whose Little Black Dress is among the lifestyle category’s most enduring national brands.

Little Black Dress (aka LBD) recently updated its packaging to reflect a “less gendered” look, designed to appeal to “a larger range of women,” according to a recent press release. “Before, we had a clothes-hanger on the label and a pair of red shoes, but now we’ve created a very simple and premium-looking package,” Barden says. “The biggest win comes with something that’s a little more centrist and subtle. Women don’t want to bring a stereotype to the dinner table.”

“Today’s modern woman wears many different hats daily. Marketers should take the time to identify sub-segments rather than lumping all women into one homogenous group,” notes Deborah Brenner, Founder and President of the Women of the Vine Alliance. “One message does not fit all any longer.”

Clarice Turner, Senior VP at Food Americas, who is overseeing the budding wine program at Starbucks, offers: “My personal feeling is that marketing is most effective aimed first at lifestyle characteristics. Certainly gender can be a factor, but for the investment, lifestyle and occasions tend to be drivers of purchase/visits [beyond price and quality], and over time create relevancy that can drive loyalty.”

the ‘B’ Is Back?

Other examples of wine marketing (and packaging) taking a subtler approach include Polka Dot, Domino, Belle Ambience and Chloe. While the logic behind these wines and Little Black Dress going less “femme” seems sound for a mass audience, it may come as a surprise to see the apparent success of brands built around the controversial “B” word.

Witness the lineup of wines accessible with the click of a mouse on’s price-listings database for Metro NY: B*tch, Jealous B*tch, Royal B*tch, Sweet B*tch…. And there’s even Happy B*tch (distributed in Upstate NY, New Jersey and Arizona). Founders Debbie Gioquindo and Keryl Pesce took the wine’s name from the title of a self-help book authored by Pesce. If the book bills itself as “the girlfriend’s guide to…finding the fun, fabulous you inside,”  then Happy B*tch the wine—like fellow B*tch-named bottlings—aims right for a quick hook. “I think the branding toward women is great when you do it the right way,” Gioquindo says. “You want to make it fun. You want to make it enjoyable.”

Whether or not women actually find fun or enjoyment in these efforts is best taken on a case by case basis. To be sure, the success of such labels can be surprising. For example, we have seen an outlier such as Blanc de Bleu, the decidedly untraditional blue bubbly, make a substantial impact in the bridal market. And Popcorn Cellars Chardonnay has tapped into the seemingly ultra-narrow niche of people (mostly women, according to the brand) who like to hang out at home with Netflix, wine and popcorn.

Millennially Speaking…

If the growing ranks of female wine drinkers represent a coveted audience, then the sub-demographic of millennial-aged women would be considered a holy grail. Millennials currently drink over 50% of the wine purchased in the U.S., Wine Market Council reports, and the majority of these purchases are being made by women. In 2015, females accounted for 66% of “high frequency” (once or more a week) wine drinkers under the age of 30.

But while the buying clout of younger LDA is not in doubt, the sheer dynamics of the market—in which SKUs continue to explode—and the experimental nature of this demographic make it that much tougher to pinpoint what works and why. There is inevitably a lot of divergence among younger women wine drinkers’ demographics; it’s never just about gender.

For Samantha Dugan, General Manager of The Wine Country, a popular wine shop in Southern California, there seems to be a rather clear segmentation within the demographic of Millennial women: “The younger female wine drinkers we’ve been seeing lately generally fall into two categories,” Dugan clarifies. “There are the ones who have seen more wine being consumed on television via The Real Housewives and such, who perceive some kind of built-in glamour to drinking wine. Then there are the ones that have been bitten early, who are curious to try new varieties, new regions, and to explore more food and wine pairings.”

Dugan’s “two types” analysis represents her strategic approach, derived from front-line experience, which is always the most reliable source of customer knowledge. The larger picture is that broad national statistics are of limited use to retail wine merchants; a merchant’s particular female customer base is the demographic pool that matters most, which is bound to be more diverse than any market research could possibly account for.

Perhaps the best advice for wine sellers everywhere is pretty self-evident: Pay close(r) attention to your store’s female clientele. Some may enjoy learning, as Samantha Dugan recounts, that certain wines were made by women winemakers, whereas others will be more interested in discovering a new region or varietal. If a few will be happy enough to grab a limited-edition bottle of Ecco Domani by fashion designer Zac Posen and run, others will be eager to geek out about a hipster-approved Cabernet Franc from the Loire. Of course, the vast majority will be looking for no more or less than a bottle of red for tonight’s pasta.

In the end, there are as many different types of female wine drinkers as there are wine drinkers. But as women’s excitement about wine—to say nothing of their spending power—continues to grow, one thing is certain: the future of wine sales will likely continue to command the attention of wine marketers and sellers.

Download The Femme Paradox Here


Read More]]> (Beverage Network) August 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Jul 2016 18:52:14 -0400
Urban Renewal


Close your eyes and picture a winery. Maybe you see a stately chateau. Maybe a rustic barn, or perhaps a high-tech marvel nestled in a hillside. And no matter which scenario, you most certainly can picture the winery surrounded by rows of manicured grapevines.

Whatever you imagine, it’s almost certain to be different from the set-ups presented by today’s urban wineries, set in the bustling heart of some of our most active cities, which are casting aside assumptions of what a winery ought to look like, or where it even needs to be.

Michael Dashe, of Dashe Cellars in Oakland, says the advantages for urban wineries are numerous: “We can bring in grapes from many different places—the Sierra Foothills, Sonoma, Napa, down south to Paso…it’s easy to get grapes and bring them to the winery.” Dashe was one of the first in Oakland, along with Rosenblum; today the Oakland Urban Wine Trail has 10 winery members.

Michael and his wife Anne didn’t set out to be “urban.” In 1996, Michael was working for Ridge, and dividing his time between the Montebello location and Ridge’s newer vineyard purchase up in Lytton Springs, so they had settled in San Francisco, a convenient midpoint. When it came time to start their own project, “Buying a vineyard really wasn’t an option. We were a bootstrap operation. We just put our money into grapes.”

Dashe says visitors to the Bay Area are delighted to find wineries to visit a transit ride away, and to find a full 16,000 square feet production facility, not just a tasting room. His location also makes it easy to host winemaker dinners or in-store tastings and otherwise support local retailers and restaurants. The Pacific Northwest has seen a similar scene develop: Portland’s PDX Urban Winery Group has 12 members, including Teutonic Wine Company and Boedecker Cellars—as has Seattle.

It’s not just on the West Coast. Perhaps the most overtly urban winery, which began in Manhattan and now has outposts in Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, and Boston, is City Winery—it’s in the name, after all. The concept was to be a place for individuals to make their own wines, coupled with a restaurant/wine bar and live music venue. City Winery does make wines under that label, but they are not available in regular distribution channels.

As Local As Wine Gets?

Contrast that with Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver. CEO and winemaker Ben Parsons says not only do local restaurants stock his wines (often on tap, which is especially convenient when the winery is so close); they also bring their staff to the winery to learn more about the winemaking process. When Parsons started the winery in 2008 he was inspired by the taproom model so common around Denver, where people enjoy beers made on-site. For Parsons, being near the customer was more vital than being near the vines; most of Colorado’s vineyards are on the opposite side of the state.

The model, especially selling so much wine on tap or in cans, means they’ve favored certain styles. “We’re trying to make wines that are more accessible, for everyday use, not to age 20 years,” says Parsons. “We’re making wine to be consumed young. Even the higher end wines only need 3-4 years, maybe.”

While the urban model builds on a small, locavore base, that’s hardly the limit; Infinite Monkey Theorem now has distribution in 42 states, and this year Parsons even opened a second location in Austin, TX. Similarly, New York-based Brooklyn Oenology, celebrating its tenth year, is available in six states, thanks in part to the recognition of the Brooklyn name. “Brooklyn is a name people recognize anywhere in the world,” says founder and winemaker Alie Shaper.

Shaper works with New York State (Finger Lakes and Long Island) grapes, but also collaborates with her neighbors in Williamsburg in terms of artwork for her labels, featuring local oysters in her tasting room, and so forth. “For us, the Brooklyn Terroir concept includes local agriculture and those regions, but it’s also expressive of our community.” Parsons agrees, noting that the artistry of winemaking benefits from being part of urban life. “People live in cities because they’re excited about the art and cultural activities; we’re surrounded by other creative people.” For Shaper, being an urban winery means the city’s creativity becomes part of the terroir.

The Power & Promise of the Can

Ben Parson’s downtown Denver location isn’t the only unconventional aspect of his winery. His commitment to experimentation and packaging innovation—from edgy labels to wine on tap and in cans—has been the foundation of his business model since he launched Infinite Monkey Theorem (IMT) in 2011.

“Many were skeptical at the beginning, and the cans still get a mixed reaction,” Parsons says. “Many people love the convenience of the single serve, but naysayers find any change to traditional packaging hard to fathom.” By the end of 2014, he started to see real traction as Whole Foods and Frontier airlines got on board.

IMT produces four California wines in can: Red (Syrah), White (Chardonnay), Rosé (Syrah) and Moscato: all but the red are slightly carbonated. Parsons also produces a dry hopped pear cider in a can with fruit from Oregon’s Hood River.

Just two years ago, IMT sold 180,000 units; this year the company is on track to sell 1.5 million across 42 states. But it’s still just the beginning, believes Parsons: “Once people recognize the usage occasions that cans allow—concerts, the park, the beach, soccer games—we see the acceptance grow. One could argue that Millennials are leading this charge, but really it’s anyone who likes to drink wine at times when a single serve product makes more sense than a bottle.”

Download Urban Renewal Here

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) August 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Jul 2016 18:45:05 -0400
Whiskey Express!


Producers have been tinkering with the spirits-aging process for about as long as distilled liquids have been stored in barrels. Techniques that have endured include using smaller barrels (which increase the amount of contact between the liquid and the wood); creating a solera (adding new spirit to already-aging product); and using wood chips or staves for oak “flavoring.”

Lately, the tinkering has aspired to an even more dramatic level, bolstered by new technologies. At the Catskill Distilling Company in Bethel, NY, proprietor Dr. Monte Sachs uses a technique he calls “accelerated aging” he learned from the late Lincoln Henderson (Brown-Forman, Angel’s Envy). Four specially designed, heat-cycled warehouses emulate seasonal heating and cooling, but at a faster rate.

Sachs says the design was Henderson’s but hadn’t been put into action. Heating and cooling allows raw spirit to seep in and out of the barrels, collecting esters and flavoring from the wood. Sachs says two years in his rickhouses creates a spirit that tastes five or six years old, ideal for bourbon-style whiskies. Reflecting the new-tech, indie spirit, Catskill Distilling labels feature names like Defiant Rye and Fearless Wheat Whiskey.

Totally Rad

While Catskill Distilling’s approach can be rationalized as a means of mimicking nature in order to exert more control over the post-distillation aging, Bryan Davis’s approach at Lost Spirits in Monterey, CA, is more extreme. Davis, who previously worked with the Spanish-based absinthe brand Obsello, first got his idea by wanting to be different. “With 400 distillers, no one needed another vodka, gin or white rum,” he recalls. And he targeted aging because he believed that the math for aging whiskey didn’t make sense. It was time to accelerate the process.

“Whiskey is a solution to over 600 things,” Davis says. “There were a lot of missing links in the research on precisely how a spirit ages in the barrel.” He honed in on the dual aging processes of extraction—physically pulling flavors from the wood into the spirit—and esterization, the chemical conversion of fatty amino acids into the organic compounds that add fruit and oily notes.

His research led him to a new technology—dubbed the THEA One reactor, a sort of Hadron supercollider that bombards a raw spirit with all the component chemicals and reactions that are expected to occur by the end of the aging process. It’s more like taking a shortcut, as opposed to accelerating the aging process.

For each base spirit and for each desired result, it takes Davis several weeks of tweaking to get the desired profile. He made a splash last year by announcing he could make a whiskey or rum in six days that looked, smelled and tasted as if it had aged for 20 years. (An interesting quirk: Davis points out that he produces a finished product, i.e. a 20-year “aged” spirit. Yet, he can’t yet make 10-year and 15-year expressions of the same juice.)

The goal now at Lost Spirits is to partner with other distillers making great raw product. So far, the company has two “beta testers,” as Davis calls them: Santeria Rum, and an upcoming Rattleback Rye.

Crossing Borders, Transparently

Davis isn’t the only explorer in the world of rapid aging. Tom Lix of start-up Cleveland Whiskey introduced a process wherein whiskey produced in Kentucky and Indiana is aged for a few weeks in new oak (as per the bourbon rules), then shipped to his facility in Ohio. The whiskey is “finished” through a pressure-aging system where staves of black cherry, honey locust, hickory and other non-conventional woods are placed with the whiskey inside pressurized steel containers which force the spirit in and out of the staves for additional coloring, flavoring and chemical interaction. This step takes about 24 hours.

Lix points out that his company isn’t simply providing a high-tech, fast product: “That’s not necessarily a consumer benefit. Our focus is, what can we use this technology for that hasn’t been possible before?” Hence the exotic wood finishes. “You couldn’t make a barrel out of black cherry, because it would leak like a sieve,” says Lix.

One reason writers and bartenders have been receptive to the concept of rapid aging is a sense of transparency regarding technology and intent. Lost Spirits and its partner distilleries, for example, make no attempt to hide the technology (as is sometimes done with sourced or flavored products).

Another plue: rational price points for the finished products. Santeria Rum is about $35 SRP; Rattleback Rye is $45. Rattleback just launched at Tales of the Cocktail in July. Made at Lost Spirits’ new lab/distillery in Charleston, the 61% undiluted (122 proof), matured with Sherry-seasoned, tannin-stripped new American oak. By contrast, some start-up distillers jump into the market by sourcing already-aged whisky or rum, putting their label on it and charging $75 or $100, in part to keep up appearances and in part to pay back hungry investors. “The pricing doesn’t have to be inflated,” says Davis. “That would take all the fun 
out of it.”

In general, the consensus is that the disruptive technology doesn’t capture all of the nuances, flavors and general wherewithal of whiskey that sits in a rickhouse for five, 10 or 20 years. But for a world increasingly thirsty for brown spirits, it seems to be an acceptably fine way to get more decent product to the shelves. And given the relative pricing and degree of transparency—coupled with continuing demand for mature spirits—speed-aged spirits are likely to proliferate.

Download Whiskey Express! Here 



Read More]]> (Beverage Network) August 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Jul 2016 18:41:17 -0400
Bob Wiggans: The Toast of The WSWA BobWiggansLowerRes.jpg

Bob Wiggans is the Senior Director of Membership for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA).  In that position, he is primarily responsible for the strategic direction and management of day-to-day operations of the association’s membership development, recruitment, retention, member services, and benefits.  In addition, he is a bit of a tech head, managing and maintaining the organization's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database to meet staff and member needs.

Wiggans sat down with us recently to discuss his job, what it's been like coming from outside the beverage industry, and what has him excited for the future.  

What follows is our chat:

BEVERAGE JOURNAL: For those readers who are unfamiliar with the association, please describe the membership and what the WSWA's main mission is?

BOB WIGGANS: The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) is the national trade association representing the wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry. We're dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of wholesale distributors and brokers of wine and spirits. Founded in 1943, WSWA has 379 member companies in 50 states and the District of Columbia, and our members distribute more than 80 percent of all wines and spirits sold at wholesale in the United States.  We're headquartered in Washington, D.C., and we provide our members with representation before Congress, executive agencies, regulatory bodies, courts, and other alcohol beverage industry organizations.  WSWA also offers a wide range of services in the areas of public affairs, education, and social responsibility, as well as some valuable cost-saving programs.

BJ: What do you consider to be the favorite part of your job?

BW: I love the travel to and interaction with our members and prospective members for on-site meetings and visits.  These get-togethers have significantly increased my understanding of their business.

BJ: You are also a lover of technology.  What went into the WSWA's decision to implement a cloud-based association management software (AMS) program.

BW: In 2011, we were utilizing a number of separate systems for membership data, convention and meeting registrations, exhibits, e-mail marketing, and financial management needs.  Our legacy system did not have a high adoption rate.  We determined that we wanted to find a cloud-based AMS that could integrate all these functions, enable flexibility, and capture activity history as well as serve as our website login gateway.

BJ: What have been the results?  Has it improved organizational efficiency and streamlined operations as you and your colleagues had hoped.

BW: Over the past five years, we have had a significant increase in user adoption by staff in key departments while serving as an efficient focal point for convention registration, exhibits, marketing, member management, dues administration, and financial management.  We also have achieved full confidence by staff in the accuracy of all the data maintained within the AMS – a significant achievement!

BJ: We understand that the AMS has helped better manage the WSWA's annual convention and exposition.  How so?

BW: Use of our AMS along with continually evolving and expanding e-mail marketing capabilities have contributed to increased attendance at the WSWA Annual Convention & Exposition.  In particular, the onsite registration process at our convention allows for on demand convention badge production for pre-registrants.

BJ: Was there some advice given to you earlier in your career that has stuck with you?

BW: I have spent my entire career in the association business and initially had no idea what role associations played.  The CEO for the first association I worked for advised that I learn about and stay abreast of the industry’s issues and envision the perspective of the member as it would help me become a better association professional.  Following that sage advice has enabled me to comfortably engage with members and prospective members and provide better service to them.

BJ: How has the experience of working in the wine and spirits industry specifically been for you?  I take it from your last response that you came from outside the beverage biz?

BW: This is indeed my first time in the beverage/wine and spirits industry, and I have enjoyed the continuing education I’ve received as a result.  The private, family-owned businesses who are our members are unique.  They are the face of the hospitality industry, and they are great examples of how to build and enhance business relationships.

BJ: Is there anything coming up on the horizon in the second half of 2016 for you personally or for the WSWA that has you especially excited?

BW: I am really looking forward to completing production of our first printed and electronic and soon-to-be-annual membership directory since 2013.  We're also gearing up for our annual convention in 2017.


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) August 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Jul 2016 18:01:59 -0400
John Minadakis: Famous ... The Old-Fashioned Way 27624203931_1711de2b33_h.jpg

Professional restaurateur, amateur wrestler and owner of Jimmy's Famous Seafood located in Dundalk, John Minadakis knows what it takes to be the best because he was recently named the best. But to him, being the best is far more important and intricate than making the most and opening hundreds of locations.

Jimmy's was recently honored as the 2016 Best Bar and Best Restaurant in Maryland by the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM). John and his extended family of "Team Famous" found ways to make it look easy both in and outside the bar. The brand and all-around experience at Jimmy's is something that John dedicates himself to everyday.

The commitment to a full experience by way of the bar or one of the game day bus trips to a Ravens or Orioles game exemplifies the goal. The idea of becoming more than a restaurant is obvious when John says things like, "Jimmy's is not a restaurant it's a brand."

Part of that brand management involves designing the "#getfamous" and "Crabcake City" shirts that you see around Baltimore so often. "When I see people walking around in our t-shirts that's like an endorsement of the restaurant. That's what we're going for." It's the passion, pride, and appreciation of the customer that seems to drive John to continue building something special for many more years to come.

The idea behind "Get Famous" goes far deeper than becoming a brand. John is quick to point out that it is much more about the customers, "When someone famous comes in they get the same treatment as everyone else."

This love of the locals came from growing up and watching his father run the old Chevrolet Inn and watching the consummate 80's bar-sitcom. "When I grew up watching Cheers it was corny to say it's a place that everybody knows your name, but that's what we really want this place to be." And he backs it up.

As John gestured at one of the regulars having a beer and a bowl of what was surely half-and-half soup he continued," Then when someone like Larry comes in he still feels famous." He wasn't generically looking and calling an arbitrary name; Larry looked up.

It seems simple to understand, "Give the guy a nice 33 degree beer, learn is name, and make him happy because if you won't do it, someone else will." John understands his clients and the market and has grown with his clientele. "You'll see someone have their first communion here, then have their sweet sixteen, then their graduation and their wedding. "

John credits his work ethic and business acumen to learning from his late father and the late Phil Rizas, former owner of a now defunct bar in Canton. Experiences from his father and other role models have made education and his father's legacy a driving force in his own personal development.

John recently hosted the 9th Annual Jimmy Minadakis Memorial Golf Tournament. This year the team was able to raise enough money to fund four scholarships to Loyola High School. The tournament is close to John's heart as it is named after his father and is another opportunity to stay connected and invested in the local community. 

The annual golf tournament is John's favorite and certainly the largest event, but his second favorite is easy, "Toys for Tots. We do the largest pick-up for Toys for Tots in Maryland year after year." These and various fundraisers for cancer and other charities are constant reminders of the ways John gives back.

Becoming the best in a close-knit community is no easy feat. It takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication; not only to the bar, but to the community. The "Get Famous Team" has a fearless leader that embodies an old-fashioned ardor that is often lost in the current restaurant marketplace.

Who is your favorite person to ever serve?

Rob Gronkowski was pretty cool. He made a video eating our crabcakes that got pretty popular."

What is your top 'Bucket List' Item?

"I want to see a Coldplay concert. I already met 'The Rock' so I guess I'm moving on to that."

Is there some other job you would rather be doing?

"No, this is what I fell in love with. Even though my father never wanted us to get into it."


Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) August 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:52:15 -0400
Back to Basics: Vodka 101


Vodka may have emerged from Eastern European distilling and drinking cultures, but as far as spirits are concerned, it’s probably the closest to the Wild West anyone’s going to get. That’s because there’s no clear standard mandating from which starchy or sugary bases it must be fermented. That’s not to say there aren’t some standards in place. The European Union, for instance, sets the vodka ABV minimum at 37.5% (75 proof). On these shores, the TTB sets the ABV Vodka may have emerged from Eastern European distilling and drinking cultures, but as far as spirits are concerned, it’s probably the closest to the Wild West anyone’s going to get.

That’s because there’s no clear standard mandating from which starchy or sugary bases it must be fermented. That’s not to say there aren’t some standards in place. The European Union, for instance, sets the vodka ABV minimum at 37.5% (75 proof). On these shores, the TTB sets the ABV floor at 40% (80 proof). The U.S. regulatory agency defines the spirit as “neutral spirits distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”

However, vodka’s complete lack of all of those things makes it the nearly perfect blank canvas on which mixologists can paint their masterpieces. Ask a group of cocktail crafters and enthusiasts, “What’s the most mixable spirit?” and at least nine out of 10 of them will likely answer, “Vodka.”

Download Back to Basics: Vodka 101 Here

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) July 2016 Editions Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:57:58 -0400
Flavored Vodka 101 July16_FlavoredVodka101_1.jpg

Barely half a decade ago, the vodka category’s flavored segment seemed to be dominated by headline-grabbing concoctions that infused the spirit with the artificial essences of everything from dessert confections to popular breakfast foods. Whipped cream, blueberry pancakes, marshmallow fluff and gummy bears were all fair game, as far as beverage developers were concerned.

The unconventional flavors, proved—for a little while at least—to be a dependable way for established, mature vodka brands to grab a little more shelf space, and add a little incremental volume to their mostly flat trademarks. For lesser known brands, it generated press and put them on the radar. But the novelties quickly wore off as consumer tastes evolved. Those brands were good for driving trial, but they generated few repeat purchases.

Download Flavored Vodka 101 Here

Download the 2016 Vodka Flavor Chart Here

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) July 2016 Editions Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:53:57 -0400
Craft’s Staying Power


Overcrowded shelves, you say? The proliferation of new distilleries and brands may seem already to have created an bulging-at-the-seams market, but there are plenty of signs that the expansion has only just begun. As more states see the value in changing laws to ease the way for these small spirits businesses to open and, crucially, to sell wares directly to visitors, industry watchers can only expect newer to follow the new.

Currently it’s difficult to pinpoint its size, but according to the recently launched Craft Spirits Data Project [CSDP, led by the American Craft Spirits Association (ASCA), International Wine and Spirits Research, and Park Street], craft spirits represent about 3.8 million of the nearly 211 million cases of spirits sold annually in the U.S., with the average craft distiller selling about 3,200 cases per year here—tiny compared to the 80 percent of volume the top 15 suppliers represent. Today there are more than 1,300 active craft spirits producers operating, with the number of production facilities in the U.S. more than tripling since 2007.

Says the non-profit’s ACSA Executive Director Margie A. S. Lehrman, whose organization now boasts about 300 members: “We are only at the beginning of the craft spirits movement. The interest in local products, this vibe of those spirits being more hip, and people wanting something that’s unique is just going to help.”

When looked at from another angle, craft spirits are already bigger; a recent report by Goldman Sachs predicted that consumer mega-tends toward authenticity, quality and premiumization means craft spirits could more than double volume to 11% by 2020. Definition plays into this, as Goldman includes such brands as Tito’s Handmade Vodka and other craft-scaled spirits owned by major companies. By contrast, the CSDP follows ACSA guidelines, including only distillers whose volume is below 316,000 cases, and which are independently owned and operated, with no more than 25% capital and operating control coming from a non-craft producer.

Local Magic

 Either way, most retailers expect to be taking on more new distiller products. Says Josh Hammond, President of Buster’s Liquors and Wines in Memphis, “I think the best way to look at what’s happening is to take a quick glimpse at the craft beer industry. In a matter of years it’s gone from 200 or so to more than 4,000 brewers, more than pre-Prohibition.” He notes Pyramid Distillery as one of the local distillery success stories.

Most retailers, when asked about small distillers, cite how customers are attracted to local brands with interesting stories. “It all comes down to people wanting to try something new and exciting, and everybody is in favor around here of helping someone local,” says Greg Rixson, General Manager of the Grand Forks unit of the Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops chain in North Dakota. At their stores, craft brands get marked on the shelves with starbursts to help interested customers locate them.

Rixson points out that even in the Midwest, the eagerness of bartenders to experiment and serve the new and unique, along with customer interest in cocktails, drives interest in the unusual local spirits. “For instance, there’s a small Minnesota distillery, Far North, that’s very big for us, a complete field to glass farm operation where they grow their own grains and they make gin, vodka, spiced rum and they’re working on a Minnesota rye. They’ve been out working with bartenders and restaurants, creating their reputation.”

The Big Picture

According to former Maker’s Mark distiller and consultant Dave Pickerell, who has built or advised about 60 small distilleries, few craft spirits will surpass the 30,000 case range, although some are better positioned than others for growth. “There are basically three groups of small distillers,” he says. “The lion’s share are underfunded businesses who are making spirits just because they can, who have cobbled together a nice business and don’t need much, and most won’t sell very much. The second group is trying to make a family business grow and need to break even and make money fairly quickly, and they are likely only to be regional. And then there’s a small handful of very well funded companies, and they’ll provide the next big brands on the horizon.” He cites Washington’s Woodinville Whiskey Co., currently selling out everything they make within Washington state, and Bayou Rum as brands poised to explode.

Huber’s Starlight Distillery in Indiana, with product sold in nine states, is one of those farm business distilleries, with an established winery, fruit orchards and fields of grain ready for distillation. Now the Chair of the Distilled Spirits Council’s 138-member small distiller group, Ted Huber says the changing of laws in Indiana was key to their growth, in terms of being able to offer visitors tastes and especially cocktails at the distillery. “We had to be able to have the ability to sell directly to visitors and not only pour spirits but to serve them in cocktails. We’re very niche—a large farm making brandies and growing unique corn—and part of our appeal lies in people touring the distillery and the fields. People are able to see and smell the orchards—it has a major impact, just as it did for wineries in the 1990s.”

In fact, estimates are that direct shipping and tasting rooms currently sell more craft product than bars and retailers.

Pickerell says rather than craft, he prefers the term “small and independent” to describe the current crop of little guys. “They don’t have a corner on craft and many of the large well-known distillers are nothing but craft.” He mentions that some now revered small whiskey makers made awful stuff on their first pass, but have since figured out their distillation practices.

Hammond agrees. “It’s a blurry area for consumers and retailers; what makes it craft? Is it craft when moonshine is made with bubblegum flavor?”

Pickerell believes the small guys realize that their existence depends on their ability to self-distinguish. “Making something that’s exactly like Maker’s Mark isn’t going to sell anything,” says Pickerell, “if for no other reason than they have to charge more because of economies of scale. But make something different—using a Sauternes finish or Madeira cask or second barrel—or do things to change the texture, character and quality that the big guys maybe never thought of. Then maybe they will be able to last.”          

Download Craft’s Staying Power Here

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) July 2016 Editions Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:47:21 -0400
Godfather Actor Has a Vodka He Believes Will Have Your Loyalty 0002Gianni_RussoLR.jpg

The makers of Don Corleone Vodka are hoping this is one spirit customers in our area can't refuse.  Produced by Distillerie Francoli in Italy and inspired by "The Godfather" movie franchise, MJ Licensing Company launched the label back in February of this year in the New York Tri-State area.  Ever since, the company has been rolling out the vodka nationally and in select international territories with the help of Brand Ambassador Gianni Russo.

Does that name sound familiar?  It should.  Russo played Carlo Rizzi, the no-good, wife-beating son-in-law of mafia boss Don Corleone in the original 1972 "Godfather" film.  It was his first movie, and he went on to appear in over 40 other motion pictures (everything from "The Freshman" to "Any Given Sunday" to "Seabiscuit").  He also ran one of Las Vegas' most happening restaurants in the Rat Pack heyday of Sin City.

Russo was in the area in early June to introduce Don Corleone Vodka to this market.  Appearances included cabaret performances at 49 West in Annapolis and Germano's in Baltimore, a bottle signing at the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, and a meet-and-greet at Magruder's supermarket in the nation's capital.  We were lucky enough to sit down with Russo to ask him about his business.  

What follows is our chat:

BEVERAGE JOURNAL: Mr. Russo, what makes Don Corleone Italian Vodka stand out in a crowded vodka marketplace?

GIANNI RUSSO: Recognizing that it IS a crowded market, the decision was made to go with an ultra-premium vodka.  That's what this is.  And we knew we would have an iconic brand and name that fortunately I have a relationship with.  And when I say "we," I am talking MJ Licensing Company, who owns the brand.  I am the spokesperson for the company.  We are cultivating something that I think is quite unique.  It's quadruple-distilled, and I think our last process is what separates it.  Before it gets into the bottle, we pour it over frozen granite.  I don't know how our vintner came up with that, but it just softens it.  It's such a smooth vodka.

BJ: Can you talk a little bit more about the taste profile?

GR: There's no burn.  There's no after taste.  I drink it straight chilled without even ice.  But we've also come up with some signature drinks.  I came up with the Black Hand, which you can do as a martini or as a shot.  It's one ounce of vodka, one ounce Black Sambuca.  You shake it, chill it like a martini, and serve it straight up.  It looks like a black martini.  What's nice about it is you can use it as an after-dinner drink, because it has the soothing taste of the Sambuca.  But the young generation loves it as shots.  We also came up with a drink for the women.  The Kiss.  That's equal parts limoncello and vodka, and you can garnish it with orange or lemon, and again that's great as a chilled martini, a shot, or an after-dinner drink.

BJ: What do you think of the bottle art?  It certainly stands out on the shelf.

GR: If you were going to buy a trophy bottle, this would be it.  We just launched this in February of this year, and we knew we could sell a million of them because "The Godfather" has now crossed four generations.  I applaud the decision to go with a black bottle when nearly everyone else is clear glass.  And the pouring line is down the side.  At the end of the night, when you want to make inventory, you know how many shots are left.

BJ: You're not just a celebrity spokesperson who has no real idea of what he's talking about.  You've been in our business before.

GR: I've been in the club business most of my life.  I worked my first club when I was 18 on Staten Island.

BJ: So, you know premium beverage service.  When you talk, you talk from experience.

GR: Yes, indeed.  I opened one of the signature restaurants in the '70s and closed it in 1988 called Gianni Russo's State Street.  I came up with the idea where I would serve gourmet food for 12 hours, from 6 at night to 6 in the morning, because the celebrities had nowhere to go but coffee shops.  And I was hanging out with most of them at that time.  I created this space, and it became the haunt of everybody.  Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin.  It became a late-night spot.  Tom Jones was at the big Hilton on Paradise, and I was right next door to the Las Vegas Country Club on State Street between Sahara and Paradise. So, it was easily accessible. I had limos to go pick up people.  There was one night I couldn't believe.  I got a call from Don Rickles, and he had a special table that he liked and he said, "I'm gonna come in after my show.  Can I have my table?"  And I said, "Sorry, Paul Anka is there now."  So, he asked, "How about the one across near the fireplace?"  "No, Tony Bennett's there."  Then, he said, "Aw, come on. How about the one next to the bandstand on the other side of the fireplace?"  And I said, "Can't. Frank is there."  And he said, "Frank who?!"  I said, "If you have to ask that question, you don't know the guy."  He hung up on me!

BJ: It was that kind of place, huh?

GR: Yeah, and not only that, but the greats would come and sit in.  I remember after one of the big boxing fights, there was this up-and-coming comedian who came in.  He had a couple of movies out right away, and he came in with his brother and all of that after the fight.

BJ: Who?

GR: Eddie Murphy!  He did about a half-hour of stand up.  Then, they all sat down and at the end of the night, my maitre'd brought them a bill for $2,300 and his brother said, "What is this?! My brother did 25 minutes up there!"  They called me over, and I said, "Well, I didn't ask him to do it. You have to pay the check!"

BJ: Frank, Sammy, Dean.  So many legends.  What were some of their drink preferences?  Do you remember?

GR: Dean and Frank were straight shooters.  They'd just put the bottle on the table and that was it.  That used to be the thing, to show the balls you had as a man.  When guys were guys, they drank shots.  Jackie Gleason would try and bury you with them.  That guy could drink all day!  But, at night, they were more refined.  This was back in the late '60s and '70s when gentlemen always dressed.  They'd go out, a lot of times, even in tuxedos.  And they'd love martinis.  Dean would call them "martoonis."  Those were great, great days.  I come from a time when my grandmother would rub Scotch whiskey on my gums when I was teething to numb them!  It was a different time.  But maybe we're bringing some of that back.  Now's the time for Don Corleone Vodka.


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2016 Editions Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:40:52 -0400
Danny Coker: Baltimore Born and Bred 0008Danny_Coker.jpg

Baltimore has changed a lot over the last few decades, but Danny Coker is one man who has remained pretty constant throughout his life growing up here in Charm City. From his days of playing shortstop at Calvert Hall, to now co-owning Bartenders on Boston St, Danny embodies the spirit of the city and the industry. Just five minutes and five customers into opening it is easy to see how entrenched in the fabric of the community he really is.

Danny is well known by locals who grew up with him as a fun-loving and loquacious "Highlandtown boy" from Clinton St. Now he has become better known for his work behind the bar with his wife Dana; and still for that unending energy.

There is no secret or mystery behind the name of the bar as Danny explains, "It was for friends that happened to be bartenders and we figured we'd name it simply." The simplicity of the concept and name is just as evident in the feeling while you're there. To say that Danny makes everyone feel comfortable is an extraordinary understatement.

Perhaps it was that comfortability that lead to Danny and Dana's first encounter and eventual marriage. "She came up to the service well and asked if there was anything she should know. I told her, 'Don't call your tickets out of order and don't fall in love with me.' She didn't listen." Another example of how Danny's exuberance and humble confidence attracts the people around him.

While only there for an hour-or-so, Danny told stories about growing up on Clinton street, watching old Orioles games at both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, and telling Cal Ripken Jr. he was going to take his spot as shortstop. Needless to say he was never able to take Cal's spot, but Danny is certainly becoming his own kind of hometown hero.

With much more than enthusiasm, Danny explained what he thinks his reason for success is, and what has earned him the award for best neighborhood bar from The City Paper. "We're the locals. I'm born and raised a spitting distance from the bar. I think most people can attest that everything I do has stayed pretty consistent. Even the good and the bad."

Upon each customer's entry Danny offers an embrace that only a Baltimorean understands. More than obvious is the "come on in, Hon" attitude and the constant reminder that all are, not only welcome, but well-known.

Bartender's was also featured in Baltimore Magazine as one of "Baltimore's 50 Best Bars" and has won a variety of other awards. Again, Danny's answer rang out consistency. Attributing the simplest things to the successes of the bar he said, "Pizzas, whiskeys, and beers; the everlasting." While it may seem too easy and too simple, It is Danny's energy that makes it look so smooth.

He continued, "Cocktail bars, wine bars, martini bars, but that stuff goes up and down."

Danny's focus on the things that stay consistent helps convey that relaxing, end-of-the-day-drink feeling. The go-to's that are always behind the bar and always on tap help convey the warm welcome feeling through the menu too.

As much as Bartenders is a neighborhood and industry staple, Danny and Dana don't shy away from trying their own things that aren't typical. "The Bartender's Last Waltz" from Glendalough Distillery is one of two different batches of whisky specially made for Danny and the bar. The second is "Coker and Hansen: The Danny James Barrel" from Jim Beam. 

Even as they branch out, Danny keeps bringing business back to Baltimore as he hooked up with Key Brewing Company out of Dundalk, Maryland. Using the Jim Beam barrel, the guys at Key are aging a batch of their "On Point Ale". An exciting collaboration that makes Bartender's the great neighborhood bar that it is.

Part of being in the industry is having that late night place to go and get food and be comfortable after a long shift. Part of being a hard working individual requires the same. Every part of Danny and Bartender's offers exactly what every day needs.

If you could have any other career, what would it be?  (Almost before I could finish the question) Shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles.

One person you'd most like to serve?  Brooks Robinson. Besides my dad, I have a tendency to use people that aren't dead... that'd be a little freaky. 

Favorite restaurant experience?  Having fresh octopus in Santorini, Greece


Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) July 2016 Editions Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:30:58 -0400
Back to Basics: Rum 101 Rum101_LR.jpg

Everyone loves a good tropical drink—be it at a tiki bar, on a Caribbean cruise or at some island resort. Sweet and cold, yet refreshing. The real star of this lush liquid genre, is rum. Though it comes in many iterations, all rum can be traced back to sugarcane—so abundant in island climates. The song that island-hopping pirates sing isn’t “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of gin,” after all. 

Perhaps befitting its relative lack of regulation, rum has long been a renegade spirit, from pirates of yore to rum-runners of Prohibition. Whether on high seas or through back doors, rum has remained an American favorite in many forms and formats. A sense of adventure is still palpable in many brands, by tattoo or barrel or cane or pirate map. From a simple base of sugar, a many-splendored spirit has evolved.

Download Back to Basics: Rum 101

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2016 Editions Thu, 26 May 2016 11:29:49 -0400
Carl Nolet Jr.... Why Ketel One Should Be Number One AIP-Carl-Notet-Jr-of-Ketel-One-13.jpg


Carl Nolet Jr. is part of the 11th generation of the Nolet family, makers of the ultra-premium Ketel One Vodka at the historic Notel Distillery in the Netherlands.  His official title is executive vice president of Nolet Spirits U.S.A., a position he has filled since 1996.  But he has held several jobs of increasing authority within the family-owned company for over two decades now, proving himself particularly adept at new product development and market introductions.

Travel is one of the favorite parts of his work.  On April 18, Carl Jr. visited the Washington, DC market for a special sales meeting, trade event, and taste test that welcomed distributors and other industry insiders from the nation's capital, Maryland, and the region.  We sat down with him to discuss his family's legacy, his thoughts on the local market, and what has him excited for the future.  

What follows is our chat:

BEVERAGE JOURNAL: Coming from the outside in, what are your impressions of the Washington, D.C., metro area market in terms of drinking preferences, customer demographics, and so forth?


CARL NOLET JR.: Washingtonians have developed a sophisticated palate based on the experimental nature of talented bartenders and culinary experts in the city.  This spike in exploration has led to the resurgence of classic cocktails such as the Moscow Mule -- for Ketel One Vodka, the Dutch Mule -- and the Bloody Mary, with a modern-day twist.  Bartenders continue to pioneer innovative techniques and ignite new trends, transforming neighborhoods and the local cocktail scene.  You can see some of these trends on display in places like Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, which utilizes fresh ingredients, herbs, and vegetables sourced from the local farmers' market and the hotel's private garden.  Additionally, there is Jack Rose, a speakeasy with a contemporary and imaginative cocktail scene that pulls inspiration from pre-Prohibition cocktails.  Quarter and Glory, newest on the scene, serves up barrel-aged cocktails on tap.  Patrons now expect so much more from their cocktail and dining experience.  I love what I am seeing locally in Washington, DC.

We have always considered talented bartenders to be part of our family.  As gatekeepers of the brand, they are vital in building Ketel One Vodka, and we hope to continue to learn from them. In June, we will return to Washington, DC to support the nation’s best at the World Class National Finals sponsored by Diageo.  World Class, the industry's most prestigious and respected mixology competition, is an outstanding, global training program and internationally recognized platform that elevates the craft of the bartender.

BJ: How important is the "personal touch" ... of getting out into the market yourself and supporting your product?

CN: Personal touch goes into everything we do.  Ketel One Vodka is a result of our family's personal touch and passionate pursuit of excellence that's endured for 325 years.  Today, you will find the same quality and superior liquid in each bottle of Ketel One as our ancestors would have demanded.  When you're proud of what you make, you open your doors and invite everyone to come see for themselves.  Seeing is believing.  All of the care, attention, and expertise fully on display is why our family business has endured for hundreds of years.

BJ: You are the 11th generation of Nolets to join the family business, yes?  What's it like to be part of such a legacy?

CN: Yes, my brother, Bob, and I are proud to be the 11th generation of the Nolet family.  For more than three centuries, our family has upheld the highest standards of quality, and we are honored to carry on the commitment of distilling some of the world's finest spirits.  As the next generation of caretakers, we are accountable for ensuring success.  So, we don't look at the next year or even discuss the next two years.  We focus on the next 25 years.  We talk about generations and a business built on credence of quality before anything.

Like our ancestors, environmental quality is important to the 11th generation.  My brother and I will continue to identify new ways to preserve clean air in Schiedam [site of the Notel Distillery since 1691] and continue to invest in measures that generate green energy to support distillery operations.

BJ: What are your current duties and responsibilities?

CN: My current duties and responsibilities are the same today as the day I began working at my family's distillery more than 28 years ago, learning the intricacies and techniques behind crafting spirits.  My brother, Bob, and I learned that no detail is too small when you want to maintain a commitment to quality and achieving excellence in what you do.  We are both involved in every aspect of our family business.  Our father, Carl Nolet Sr., 10th generation Master Distiller and creator of Ketel One Vodka, taught us many lessons that allowed us to work in sync.  Above all else, we are a family business. We make our decisions together, both at the dining room table and at the boardroom table.  As the 11th generation, we believe the future success of our family-run business lies in the strength of our past and the continued commitments to excellence as we look for the future.

BJ: What motivates you?  What's your passion?

CN: I really value the personal relationships I am able to build with bartenders around the world.  It's great to experience one of their Ketel One Vodka creations or see their reaction when they taste Ketel One Vodka for the first time.  They then realize what sets Ketel One Vodka apart is a combination of what happens at the Notel Family Distillery; the distilling process, the perfectly balanced combination of traditional pot-still distillation and modern techniques; and the fact that each batch of Ketel One Vodka is tasted and approved by a family member before bottling.

BJ: What part of the work do you still find challenging?

CN: Maintaining the standards my family has upheld for 325 years is the biggest challenge and our greatest strength! Every bottle is signed for a reason – it’s our promise to every customer that our family carefully crafts Ketel One Vodka in a way that honors our ancestors' unwavering commitment, artisanal methods, and modern distilling techniques.

BJ: Was there some advice given to you early on that has really stuck with you?

CN: It’s a very simple sentence. My father told me and my brother, "Try not to make mistakes." It says so much in such a short sentence: work harder, smarter, with more innovation and pride. He taught us to stay committed to delivering products with impeccable quality and taste. The proof is in the pudding ... or the bottle! When you buy a bottle of Ketel One Vodka, you’re not just purchasing a phenomenal, super-premium vodka. You are buying our life’s work.

BJ: What has you excited for the future?

CN: We are excited about today's consumer.  Particularly, Millennial 21+ consumers as they are more informed than ever and seek brands with accountability that reflect their desire for individuality and authenticity. With a commitment to excellence that has been passed down from generation to generation, father to son for nearly 325 years, Ketel One Vodka's heritage embodies one of authenticity and craftsmanship that many vodka drinkers are looking for. Combined with the resurgence of classic cocktails and the vodka drinkers' continued love of the martini, Ketel One's personality will shine and appeal to this discerning audience.


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) June 2016 Editions Thu, 26 May 2016 11:22:49 -0400
Will Glass: Going Green at TAPS Fill Station Taps_Fill_Station0013.jpg

Sitting in the Mt. Vernon Marketplace is a sensory experience. Between the noises, smells, and sights the variety of vendors offer a cornucopia of different tastes and experiences. This open-air warehouse feel provides a desire to explore and the expectation of finding something new and exciting just around the corner.

Among the dozen-or-so vendors in the marketplace are several bars and small restaurants. Perhaps the most unassuming but obvious is TAPS Fill Station. On first approach, owner Will Glass has designed a simple, barebones bar front. A wood grain bar top, generic red and black tap handles, and ten barstools highlight the streamlined look. Between the repurposed warehouse turned marketplace and the sleek design, TAPS has found a perfect home.

Between Will's personal interest and cultural experiences, TAPS was born. "The idea came from travels to Portland where, at the time, filling stations were popping up all over the Pacific Northwest, and my travels around Europe. Europeans, especially Italians, are filling jugs with all sorts of products, including oils and wines, for consumption at home."

What Will has created comes from a long drive to achieve a very specific goal. "I've been an entrepreneur with a green twist since I was a little kid. I've written other business plans in the past, but not found the right opportunity to execute them. TAPS Fill Station came to be because the perfect location came about for our proof of concept - Mt. Vernon Marketplace."

Will continued, "The marketplace is a demand generator. We can work together with other vendors to collaborate on pairings of food and drink and plan events together to draw in large crowds." The collaborative atmosphere is even more prevalent when you consider that any of the food offerings from around the market can be enjoyed while sipping on the many libations offered at TAPS.

The idea of filling stations isn't new by itself. The model is, in many ways, a new mode of taking home a six pack at the end of the day. Instead of the typical filling station or basic recycling, Will created a program to fill growlers, one liter wine bottles, and reusable pouches to distribute all of the beer, wine, cider, mead, coffee, and olive oils on tap.

TAPS doesn't stop there and it's because of the "green" initiative that Will feels so strongly about, "Only 30% of glass that is sent in for recycling is actually returned to the consumer stream." By offering to refill the growler or pouch you've previously purchased at TAPS, Will can cut down on the waste and still offer all the benefits of the traditional filling station.

Its rare to see such a selection of different products, but the program is meant to bring together tastes from the North American region and share them with the consumer. Will explains, "Olive Oil shops focus on just oil and filling stations typically focus on just beer. I'm a big fan of convergence versus divergence."

TAPS began with just Maryland beers and quickly grew to include Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. brews. In the near future, you can expect to find artisanal vinegar as well. This goal to bring together concepts is directly evident in what Will describes as his favorite feature on the witty and colloquial menu. 

"I like our Drink Lab pairings which match cordials with specific products on draft. It's a classy beer and shot that's meant for sipping to experience the nuances between the two paired products." While Will admits he's seen this on menus before, it is a particular fit for TAPS. 

Will's approach involves sharing thoughtful handcrafted goods and products with the masses, while not allowing the masses to destroy what has provided us with the necessary ingredients to create them. TAPS Fill Station is a union of tastes, ideas, and drive that is evident within Mt. Vernon Marketplace and the small business owners who inhabit it.


Top bucket list item?:  "I want to travel the world."

If you could have one superpower...  "Invisibility.”

Would most like to serve:  “Consumers that want to be here.  Consumers that get our mission.”

Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) June 2016 Editions Thu, 26 May 2016 11:17:10 -0400
Rye’s the Limit


Demand is not a problem. It seems that no matter what hits the shelves, it sells. It’s an enviable position for any spirit, and it encapsulates the unrivaled comeback tale of rye whiskey. According to figures from the Distilled Spirits Coincil, rye sales exploded—609% from 2009 to 2014—with growing supplier revenue jumping from $15 million to $106 million over the same time period, representing over $300 million at retail. And last year, once again, rye sales leapt by nearly 20%.

Rye is still a very small piece of the American whiskey trade, about 675,000 cases. But Canadian rye also increased by about 100,000 cases last year. Numerous brands—from Whistlepig and High West to Templeton, Hochstadter’s and others—continue to emerge.

Meanwhile, the big Kentucky distillers increase their rye output while at the same time managing recent expansions bourbon production. Much of the rye sold under a long list of names, including Bulleit, comes from the MGP Distillery in Indiana—a recent Cowen Insight report stakes MGP’s share of rye sold in the U.S. at a surprising 70%.

If not from Indiana, a good portion of ryes arrive from Canada including Lot No. 40, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, Alberta Dark and others. (Canadian law allows distillers there to call “rye” any whisky made with a low percentage of rye—most of the brands emerging are high rye content traditionally used for blending into Canadian whisky.)

 Bartender Love

The boom and the accompanying enthusiasm, especially among bartenders, caught most distillers by surprise. As recently as a few years ago, Wild Turkey was poised to reduce the proof on their long time rye icon, Wild Turkey 101. The fight for a stay of execution, led by California bartender Erick Castro, helped convince brand owner Campari. “If they had killed it there would have been a lot of unhappy bartenders,” said Robin Coupar, Global Whiskey Brand Ambassador, Campari USA.

It’s a sign of how important the bartender has been in the return of rye, and most brands retain tight allocation, focusing on on-premise and specialty retailers.

“When I started managing Russell’s Reserve in 2010 or so, that’s when rye was starting to grow, and something was happening driven by bartenders on the East and West coasts,” Coupar says. “Now value is increasing faster than volume, so producers and brands are able to take a little bit of a price increase because the demand is high and the availability is limited.” Campari launched a very limited barrel Russell’s Reserve rye this year, a non-chill filtered 104 proof expression. This spring marked the second time that Michter’s Distillery released their US*1 Barrel Strength Rye. “To enter the distillate for our US*1 Rye and our US*1 Bourbon into the barrel at 103 proof instead of a higher, more industry standard proof is very expensive, but our goal at Michter’s is to produce the greatest whiskey possible, regardless of the cost,” says Michter’s President, Joseph J. Magliocco.

Points of Distinction

Communications Director for Heaven Hill Larry Kass points that some confusion still reigns about what rye is. “Ours are traditional American-style three grain, 51% rye, quite different from the high rye content blending ryes.”

Coupar agrees: “The formula for a lot of those ryes is very high—95% with other malted ryes so they’ll be big and bold and spicy. At Wild Turkey, we still use a significant amount of corn, so Russell’s Reserve is spicy and bold but with a mellow sweetness.”

There is much talk in the spirit business about the “smoke and mirrors” used to sell the brands that are positioned as craft but come from the massive Indiana distillery. That’s unlikely to change much, as MGP is expanding capacity.

But others are poised to benefit from the opportunity to charge more: this month, Booker’s Rye hits the market. “I’m so proud to honor my dad, Booker Noe, with the special release of one of his greatest experiments, Booker’s Rye,” says Fred Noe, the 7th generation Master Distiller at Beam Suntory. “Dad saw the temperamental rye grain as a challenge—small, but tricky to work with. He finally got it just right when he laid down these barrels late in his life in 2003.”

Beam Suntory already has long-time stand-bys Old Overholt and Jim Beam Rye as well as Knob Creek Rye and Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky. Rob Mason, Beam Suntory Vice President, US Bourbon, points out that Knob Creek has been the fastest growing rye over the last 52 weeks per Nielsen numbers. Overholt is actually one of the ryes that has the biggest momentum, a favorite in the bartender community in terms of quality and value,” he adds.

Heaven Hill added the six-year-old 110 proof Pikesville last year at about twice the price point as the established Rittenhouse. “We knew there was an opportunity there and we’ve seen Pikesville be successful to date,” says Senior Brand Manager for Whiskeys at Heaven Hill, Susan Wahl. “We’re in the midst of an expansion, but both ryes are still allocated products because the demand is just so high. We’d love to be able to push over more to the off-premise secaor but we haven’t had the supply to give us that luxury.”

Scotch in the Rye Game

How about this for a signal that demonstrates how coveted rye has become as a taste profile: “I am pleased to present the first Johnnie Walker Rye Cask finished Blended Scotch Whisky,” said Master Blender Jim Beveridge. Johnnie Walker Select Casks – Rye Cask Finish has Cardhu single malt at the heart of the blend, matured for at least ten years and then rested in first-fill American Oak ex-rye whiskey casks, creating a complex new whisky with rich layers of flavor starting with creamy vanilla notes and transitioning to a spicier finish.

Download Rye’s the Limit



Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2016 Editions Thu, 26 May 2016 11:11:46 -0400
Cachaça’s Third Wave



Will the third wave of Cachaça be the one that finally establishes the Brazilian spirit as a respected category in the U.S.?

With the international media and sports attention focused on their home country, suppliers hope so, and are looking to establish its place not only as a tasty South American cousin of white rum, but also as a spirit with substantial ageability.

Cachaça, now legally defined in the U.S. as a sugar cane spirit produced in Brazil, is still a new beverage to most consumers here, if not to the trade. Large, industrial brands including Pitu, 51,  and Ypioca, part of the first wave, have long been available but with limited awareness outside ethnic markets.

“It’s a new category and even country for a lot of people,” says Steve Luttmann, ceo of Leblon, one of the most successful cachaças in the US. “But I’ve always said this is a marathon not a sprint. When I started 11 years ago, the barrier was clearly people thinking  ‘What the hell is that and how do I pronounce it?’ Now everyone knows what it is, especially in the trade.”

Getting “liquor to lips” is what will help expand cachaça across the country, Luttmann says, pointing out that the category is strongest on the coasts and in urban areas, and that major players like Total Wine have been helpful in making room for it. The brand has plans for an international charitable promotion hosting 50 events in a traveling program from May through the Olympics.

After the second wave—brands like Sagatiba, Cabana and Cuca Fresca, mostly unaged and targeted at cocktail bars—receded a few years ago, it left behind a handful of brands to expand the market, one of the key issues has been how to enlighten Americans that, beyond being the engine driving the refreshing Caipirinha, cachaça has a robust heritage of aged expressions.

A majority of cachaça sold in Brazil is aged with either oak or indigenous woods, says Dragos Axinte, ceo of Novo Fogo. In a recent competition in Brazil, 46 of the 50 judged best were barrel-aged, 30 in either French or American oak. Amburana, a wood traditional in the north of Brazil, accounted for five.

“If cachaça is going to be more than a niche spirit here, oak aged is the only way to succeed,” he says. Oak is the most common wood used in southern Brazil, and while amburana and other exotic woods are also widely used, Brazilian laws limit the use of many endangered species. For one of Novo Fogo’s aged expressions, coopers used wood from a derelict house. The brand now sells five cachaças, including Tanager–aged in repurposed oak barrels and finished in Brazilian zebrawood—and a series of single-barrel offerings.

Other brands are building on their US success and looking overseas as well. Organic Cuca Fresca will initially launch in several countries including the Netherlands, Germany, France, United Kingdom and Italy, with continuous expansion throughout 2017.

Like many other brands in the U.S., Avua, launched three years ago as a higher-end cachaça, is looking to bartenders for help as gatekeepers. “We’ve found that retailers looking to have a brand with a unique flavor profile are interested in it, but we’re very much a bartender and craft enthusiast-focused brand,” says Pete Nevenglosky, co-founder of the brand.

Going for Gold…

Placements in Whole Foods in California have helped raise their profile as well. But like others, he’s also hoping for some leverage from the Olympics: “We see the Olympics as a reason to get behind the Brazilian food and drink category and we plan to activate with retailers, setting up displays highlighting the tie between cachaça and the Olympics.”

Luttmann expects the aged expressions will help all brands. “There’s now the Caipirinha and the aged sipping occasion,” he says. “A lot of the newer brands have a more sophisticated approach, better quality and very well thought-out propositions coming to the market.”

Tastings and basic education are essential to move the spirit off the shelves, says Nevenglosky: “The Caipirinha is an amazing cocktail, but what it hasn’t done is get people to understand what cachaça is. It didn’t create a conversation about the category. It’s important that people understand how a sugar cane spirit fits on the shelf with rhum agricole, English-style, French-style and Spanish-style rums, and what the similarities and differences are.” 

Download Cachaça’s Third Wave

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2016 Editions Thu, 26 May 2016 11:06:27 -0400
Back to Basics: Gin & Tonic 101 GT_Slider.jpg

Winston Churchill once declared, “The Gin and Tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” A Gin and Tonic is the only good cocktail you can have on an airplane in coach class. It’s also a gourmet obsession in Spain that has made its way to the trendiest American cocktail bars. And because a G&T doesn’t require any fancy syrups or shrubs, you don’t need to be much of a mixologist to make one at home. 

As with wine, the gin market is hot at the high end and cool on the bottom shelf. Gin is still a small percentage of the total spirits market, about 4% according to Nielsen. But sales by value are growing while sales by volume are actually dropping. So this is a good time to switch inventory away from the super-cheapies and to branch out into some of the new gins coming onto the market. And a classic, refreshing, deceptively powerful G&T could prove to be your MVST (Most Valuable Selling Tool).

Download the Gin & Tonic 101 Back to Basics below:


Read More]]> (Beverage Network) May 2016 Editions Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:40:57 -0400
Justin Hampton: Found the West Not To Be the Best JustinHampton.jpg

The Washington, D.C., drinking scene definitely has its share of rock-star bartenders.  But few rock harder than Justin Hampton, the man behind the taps at Poste Moderne Brasserie inside the Hotel Monaco.  After graduating a decade ago from San Diego State University with a degree in Social Science and a focus on economics, he went into restaurant management.  His first gig?  The Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego.

"I had worked my way as a waiter through college," he recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "At the Hard Rock, the bartenders were walking out with several hundred dollars for working half the hours I did.  When I saw that, I said, 'What's that all about?!'  Those guys looked like they were having a lot more fun.  I wanted to hang out with them, and I wanted to make that money."

After four years of spot bartending and learning on the job, he got involved in starting a food truck company in Boise that never got off the ground.  Having a sense of adventure and a willingness to move, he settled in the District of Columbia and started working at Founding Farmers.  "That was really a training ground for me," he said.  "It was high-volume craft cocktails where you have to really know what you're doing and execute everything exactly the same and in a quick manner.  I banged out cocktails every night for a whole year.  It really perfected my skills."

After that, he took a job at Jack Rose.  Downstairs from that, he ended up helping Dram and Grain develop into one of the most popular cocktail bars in D.C.  Eventually, he heard that Poste Moderne Brasserie was in need of a head bartender and seized the opportunity.  He helped put together the cocktail menu and took  the lead on staff trainings.  He also set about growing herbs, spices, and fruits on site to use in the establishment's cocktail program.  "I like to make a lot of off-the-cuff drinks," he commented.  "I bring a lot of ingredients from home that are seasonal.  More than anything, I guess, I'm know for garden-to-glass drinks."

A social person by nature, Hampton remarked, "I really love interacting with the guests.  They make me want to strive to be better than I was the day before.  Hospitality is a big deal for me.  I enjoy welcoming people and making them feel comfortable at my bar."  He was also drawn to Poste because it boasts one of the biggest patios in the nation's capital, able to hold approximately 400 customers.  As such, it a major Happy Hour draw.  

In his current position, he's really come to see the contrasts between the Washington beverage scene and the one he cut his teeth on out in San Diego.  "Customers are more savvy here," he declared.  "They know more.  They know drink recipes.  They actually know how to make a lot of drinks!  San Diego was more laid back.  There is a huge beer culture in San Diego.  From my perspective, D.C. is much more savvy about cocktails.  People drink a lot more here, too.  Happy Hour is what rules everything, and brunch is a major event."

While Hampton loves his job, he concedes there are challenges.  As we chatted for this article, he had just celebrated his 32nd birthday.  "As I am getting older," he noted, "I do think a bit more about the hours and the strain on my family and personal life.  D.C. has a really terrific bartending community, and I get to be at or near the center of it.  But my girlfriend and I barely see each other at times."

But when pressed, he conceded that he really has no interest in doing anything else.  He knows he's found his niche.  And for others destined for this career, he had this advice: "One thing I try to impart to new hires is 'We are there for the guests.  The guests are not there for us.'  To that end, be aware of what you're doing.  Don't have too many side conversations.  Be attentive to each guest, and remember that we are there to service them.  It's also important to stay healthy.  Stay mentally healthy, exercise, and stay in shape."

Justin's FAVORITE MOVIE:  “Wayne's World"

CAN'T MISS TV SHOW: “Outlander”

HOBBIES: Gardening

Justin's BUCKET LIST: “I've been to four continents in my lifetime, and I plan on going to all seven by the time I die.”

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE A DRINK TO: His late Uncle Henry, who passed away from cancer in October 2008.

** It should be noted that Poste Moderne Brasserie is going to shut down temporarily in late spring, re-concept, and re-open in either August or September.  Hampton will be heavily involved in the process.



Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2016 Editions Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:32:30 -0400
Gin Gone Rogue American craft distillers have led the movement toward less juniper, more diversity & higher price points.


What a difference a century can make. London Dry ruled the 1900s, but the craft boom of this century has used London Dry more as a blueprint of how not to make gin. This movement has often become particularly important at the higher end of the price spectrum: While the total gin category saw volume shrink about 1.8% last year, to fewer than 10 million cases (DISCUS), super-premium gins actually rose 37.8%.

Thomas Mooney, President of American Craft Spirits Association (ASCA) and CEO of House Spirits (Aviation Gin) explains, “The growth of craft distillers—most of whom make gin—has caught everyone by surprise. From under 100 a decade ago, now there are about 1,280, based on a new study led by ACSA.” Craft gin now represents about 2% of the total gin market. It is defined by relatively small producers (under 20,000 cases, with most under 10,000) and by a spirit of innovation and creativity.

Less Juniper, More Styles

Gin growth piggybacked on the renaissance of the cocktail, and the new gins gave mixologists a lot to work with. Allen Katz, co-founder of New York Distilling Company, notes, “This outrageous gin resurgence is driven mainly by the ‘cocktail culture’ and by bartenders who experimented and created new drinks.”

The “American” or “Western” style places less emphasis on juniper and adds a bevy of other botanicals—elderflower (in Farmer’s Gin, for example), sarsaparilla (Aviation), orris root (Lee Spirits), cinnamon (Greenhook Ginsmiths), orange peel, fir and so on. By adding a broader array of botanicals, the impact of juniper is tamped down, producing a more complex, layered spirit.

Some distillers are creating other types of gin, such as barrel-aged, which harks back to the Dutch genever or the sweeter Old Tom. Others emphasize the local sourcing of botanicals. Lance Winters, founder of St. George, walks through the local forests, foraging Douglas fir, sage, bay laurel and fennel. At Berkshire Mountain Distillers, founder Chris Weld is growing juniper, orris, angelica and other flavorings on six acres at the distillery.

Retailers have seen their gin shelves expand dramatically. At Astor Wines & Spirits in New York City, Head Spirits Buyer Nima Ansari has about 35 American gins on display, up from a dozen five years ago. He sees a growing market for barrel-aged gins and for gins that have whiskey characteristics, such as Chief Gowanus or St. George Reposado.

Following are some fine, eminently mixable craft gins that have gained recognition beyond their local circles:

Berkshire Mountain Distillers (Great Barrington, MA)

Products: Greylock, Ethereal, Barrel-Aged Ethereal

Greylock is London Dry style but has a number of strong citrus flavors that balance the juniper. Ethereal is a limited edition gin with each batch given a new number and label color. Barrel-Aged Ethereal is aged 18 months in used bourbon barrels. Nice in a G&T.


Big Gin (Seattle, WA)

Products: Big Gin, Bourbon Barreled Big Gin

Unapologetic in its juniper usage, Big is traditional and aggressive. Partners Ben Capdeveille and Todd Lebman have only been at it since 2011, using a 100-gallon Vendome pot still custom-made in Louisville, KY. Having enjoyed success with Bourbon Barreled Big Gin, Peat Barreled is next.


Death’s Door Spirits (Middleton, WI)

Products: Death’s Door Gin

CEO Brian Ellison spends time picking juniper berries from the Wisconsin woods which go into Death’s Door along with coriander and fennel. It works in classic cocktails or as a martini.


Distillery No. 209 (San  Francisco, CA)

Products: No. 209, Kosher for Passover, Barrel Reserve

With a track record in wine (Rudd Oakville Estate) and gourmet retail (Dean & DeLuca), it’s no surprise Distillery No. 209 takes gin seriously. Aside from the flagship gin, they make a Kosher for Passover version (sugar cane base; all non-grain botanicals), and limited-edition gins using used varietal barrels from Rudd.


FEW Spirits (Evanston, IL)

Products: Few American, Few Barrel, Few Breakfast

Founded by Master Distiller Paul Hletko. American, with its pepper notes, makes a bracing Negroni; Breakfast is infused with Earl Grey tea and bergamot.


Greenhook Ginsmiths (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

Products: American Dry, Beach Plum, Old Tom

Founded by brothers Steven and Philip DeAngelo. The American Dry has elderflower and spice notes; nice straight-up or in mixed drinks. The Beach Plum is a variation on Sloe gin using locally harvested beach plums, which are slightly bitter.


House Spirits Distillery (Portland, OR)

Products: Aviation American

Distiller Christian Krosgtad and mixologist Ryan Magarian created Aviation. Floral notes like lavender and spice notes like cardamom make it shine in a complex martini or the Aviation cocktail.


New York Distilling Company (Brooklyn, NY)

Products: Dorothy Parker American, Perry’s Tot Navy Strength, Chief Gowanus New Netherland

Co-founded in 2011 by Tom Potter and Allen Katz. Dorothy Parker’s hibiscus and cinnamon notes make it great in a Gibson or Negroni. Chief Gowanus is made by redistilling unaged rye with juniper and hops then aging it in oak.


Philadelphia Distilling (Philadelphia, PA)

Products: Bluecoat American Dry, Bluecoat Barrel Finished

Robert Cassell, Andrew Auwerda and Timothy Yarnall co-founded Bluecoat in 2005. The American Dry was one of the first craft gins—a pioneer in defining American Style.  Citrus, orris, coriander.


St. George Spirits (Alameda, CA)

Products: Terroir, Botanivore, Dry Rye Reposado

Jörg Rupf established St. George in 1982 as the first small American distillery since Prohibition. “Terroir” captures “a walk in the woods on a hot summer day.” The Reposado is aged 18 months in casks used to age wines.

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) May 2016 Editions Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:29:04 -0400
Joe DiPasquale: Curator of Maryland's Italian Oasis DiPasquale_Joe.jpg

Since DiPasquale’s opening in 1914 the DiPasquale family has provided Baltimore with an authentic Italian market that has metamorphosized into what it is today. Currently the store features a full deli, brick oven, homemade pastas, oils, fine wine and spirits, and more. 

Affectionately, third generation owner Joe DiPasquale struggled to define the store saying, "This is insane. I can't cookie-cutter what this place is."

DiPasquale's is not a Deli. It is not a fresh Italian marketplace and convenience shop. This is not a fine wine and spirits destination, and not a restaurant. Instead, DiPasquale's is all of the above and one of the best at each. 

Joe describes the original store as something difficult to imagine seeing in downtown Baltimore. "We made our own bleach and we had live animals. We sold goats and they were tied to the light pole out front. We sold everything from soap to tomatoes. It was a convenience store for Italians. A little oasis in a German neighborhood."

The current restaurant still occupies the same street corner that it always has just off Conkling and Gough streets, although the look is quite different.

Over 25 years ago, one customer wanted to sit down and eat a sandwich, which forever changed the layout of the store. The amount of tables has multiplied and so has the amount of business. 

After being featured on “Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives” on The Food Network in 2008, they can add neighborhood landmark to the list.

Early in the 1980's Joe visited Italy to experience the culture as his younger and late-older brothers revamped the store. He exuberantly described his feelings upon returning, "I was recharged about what Italian really is and what we could do."

With a renewed idea of what his heritage entailed, Joe was able to bring home and instill the Italian pride that clearly defines what he still does today. 

"It must be in our blood somehow. In high school I didn't think I would be here. I caught a bug with the local immigrants and it went on from there."

More often than not you can find Joe behind the deli counter; specifically during lunch hours. His attention to detail and direct interaction with customers results in a constant drive toward improvement.

"I change things because of a customer's input. I make it better. I'm here and there's no complaint box. I'm who they go to. I take their ideas and run with it." He continued, "I love the appreciation of the customer. It never gets old and it drives you to get even better."

Sitting at one of the twenty-or-so tables provided an example of the work ethic Joe says he learned from his parents. "I'm sitting here right now and looking around there's some things I'm going to change. You know, I don't always have this angle. I drive everyone nuts because when we go out I try to absorb everything."

When the doors shut and he and his wife Sabrina make their way home the simple pleasures of homemade Italian food prevail, "We get home and we cook for the family. I enjoy that because it's very unwinding. Cooking a simple dish and just taking it easy. That's what I look forward to."

From the first to last question it was obvious that family is the fundamental reason behind every driving force, "I'm always thinking of them and doing everything for them. We work for the kids. That's what we're doing."

As for whether or not DiPasquale's will remain in the family? "Hopefully, I'm creating a lot of options for the kids. It just so happens my son is in college for international food. It would be nice, but it's not the do or die situation. If the children want it, it's certainly open for them. I'm going to build them a foundation and if they want to take it they'll have it."

With plans to open a second location in Harborview, Joe has no plans of slowing down. "It's a smaller scale. Little bit of groceries, brick-oven pizza, sandwiches and salads. A little more seafood oriented since the water is right there."

The effort, dedication, and quality of Joe DiPasquale and DiPasquale’s staff is difficult to rival. The commitment to his local and everyday customers provides immediate feedback that has made the restaurant/deli/marketplace into the Maryland favorite that it is. This same commitment to the consumer has, and is sure to keep “DiPasq” on top.

Joe's Favorite Movie:  “The Godfather, of course.”

Person Joe Would most like to serve: “My Grandfather, who started it all. I never met him. He died the year
my mom was carrying me.”

Something no one knows about Joe: “I’m a softie ... but a strong family guy.”

Career Joe wanted to have:
“I always had fantasies of being a hotel manager after reading the book Hotel. I wanted to be that prestigious manager, speaking five languages, dealing with all the dignitaries. That was always one of my fantasies.”

Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) May 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Apr 2016 15:20:28 -0400
Conundrum Wines: Still Exploring, 25 Years Later Conundrum.jpg

Conundrum was born 25 years ago, and today it still stands for doing things your own way and daring to explore. Its inspiration came from Charlie Wagner, Sr. – co-founder of Caymus Vineyards and father to winery owner Chuck Wagner – who would sit at the dining room table and mix wines to create the “perfect glass” to pair with his meal. At the time, blending wines was considered almost unthinkable, and even Charlie Sr. had no idea that his bold experiment would help usher in a whole new trend. 

Today, Conundrum is as original as ever.  They continue to source their fruit from some of the most sought-after California winegrowing regions to ensure both quality and diversity: Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Tulare Counties. While the exact blend remains under wraps, with every vintage they include Chardonnay for its weight and complexity, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for crisp acidity, Muscat Canelli for floral qualities and Viognier for lush texture. Taken together, they add up to a wine that’s amazingly versatile, pairing well with everything from salmon to spicy food, or enjoyed on its own as an aperitif. 

Winemakers, Jon Bolta and Charlie Wagner, preserve the individual characteristics of each varietal by taking great care to keep separate lots of fruit throughout the entire winemaking process. Some lots are aged in chilled stainless steel tanks to maintain fresh, crisp aromas and fruit flavors, and some in a combination of aged and new French oak barrels for up to ten months. The intriguing result: a wine with multiple layers, subtle and complex, born of an adventurous spirit while inviting more adventures to come.

Winemaker John Bolta on Conundrum White: “Fresh fajitas. Relaxing before dinner. A night out for Thai or Vietnamese. Conundrum White goes with them all. Sourced from California’s premier winegrowing regions, this wine is both exotic and bright, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Canelli and Viognier. It lures you in with scents of apricot, pear and honeysuckle, and if you’re paying attention, orange and lemon meringue pie. Initial sweetness is balanced by natural acidity, and we love the hint of oak that plays with flavors of peach, apple and citrus. The long finish will leave you longing for another glass.”

Director of Winemaking Charlie Wagner on Conundrum Red: “We believe in being both serious and playful, and this wine fits the bill. A rich, dark red, it offers aromas of ripe berries and plums, warmed by a hint of cocoa. Dried fruit and the taste of chocolate-covered cherries come through on the palate, while a wisp of smokiness makes this wine – created from dark red varietals including Zinfandel and Petite Sirah – the perfect complement to grilled meats and full-flavored dishes. Tannins are rounded out by the ripeness of the berries for a texturous but smooth mouth feel. The finish makes us think of lingering at the end of a long evening and still not wanting to go home, with layers of rich flavor that teasingly trail off.”

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) May 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Apr 2016 14:31:13 -0400
Adding Spicer... Behind NBWA's Communications and New Website RebeccaSpicer.jpg

Rebecca Spicer is Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA).  It's an impressive job ... eh, to everyone but Rebecca.  "I don't get hung up on titles," she said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal from her office in Alexandria, Va.  "The really fun thing about working in an association is that everybody pitches in.  Associations are built around people coming together, and that's certainly reflected in our work atmosphere here.  We don't have job descriptions per se that are written in stone, because you never know what's going to come up."

Spicer came to NBWA from TV news.  The Nashville transplant scored an internship with her local news station when she was just 16 and became hooked.  "Every day a reporter went out on a story or a producer put together a newscast, and you had no idea what you would be covering that day," she recalled.  "I think that desire to learn about new issues and new people and never really knowing what was going to be scripted is part of the excitement I love in the association world."

She eventually hooked on with WJLA Channel 7's news operation in Washington, D.C.  But the NBWA soon beckoned.  She's delighted that her job has continued to allow her to tell stories.  "Part of the fun of being in communications with beer distributors, in particular, is that we have such a wonderful, colorful story to tell," she declared.  "The favorite part of my job is the people I work with and for.  I know you were expecting me to say the beer.  But that's a close second!  I was a beer fan before taking this job.  But I certainly didn't know as many beer brands as I do now.  But it always come back to the people, not only those I work with in the office, but also the membership.  Our membership consists of a lot of family-owned businesses that have been in these families for three, four, or even more generations.  These are people who roll up their sleeves and appreciate hard work."

So, coming from the outside in, was there any advice given to Spicer in making the adjustment to life in the beverage biz?  She joked, "The one piece of advice I remember from my very first association meeting was whenever you order a beer, ask for a glass!"

Spicer was one of the key internal players giving advice in the NBWA's launch last year of a new, mobile-friendly website at  The homepage now serves as a one-stop shop for visitors looking to get better informed about the beer distribution industry.  "When you're running a website for an association," Spicer stated, "you're always analyzing how you're projecting the messaging and imaging of your membership to the public.  You're asking, 'How can we raise the bar?  How can we give our membership even more ROI [return on their investment] than we're already giving them?'  We realized the website is the first point of communication for just about every constituency we would connect with."

Spicer and her colleagues decided the association needed to have a more streamlined, organized way to present the vast amount of material it had on its website and to make it a seamless experience, especially for members.  "The single sign-on feature is especially important, because it allows the member to immediately be at home on the association's website," she noted.  "Responsive design was also top of our list.  That was really key.  We looked at numbers that were given to us about how much people are looking at our website from their desktop versus their handheld.  It's almost scary to think about the data that people can pull up.  We also thought about how our members are out and about in their communities.  They are not tethered to their desks all day.  They are out selling beer at retailers.  Or they're out at their state capitals.  So, most of their information consumption is happening not at their desks, it's on the go.  It's on their hand-helds."  

Looking ahead, Spicer expects the NBWA website to continue featuring compelling video content.  In that way, her TV news background is coming in handy.  "We think video is a very effective way of showing and telling the story of beer distributors and showcasing the hard work they do and the value they deliver to their communities shine through.  There will be new videos we unveil during our annual convention in September that will be shared widely across our digital platforms.  There is some really very exciting stuff in the works!" 


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Apr 2016 14:25:30 -0400
The Upside of Selling Sideways Cross-selling remains a potent strategy for retailers in the digital age.


Consumers today have more options than ever for new wine recommendations. The long reign of wine writers and published ratings has been joined by mobile apps like Vivino, Wine Ring and Delectable. The wine world is wired now; anyone can follow the preferred palates of friends and industry pros, or receive suggestions specific to their taste, all with a few swipes on a smartphone.

So, does a small wine-loving retailer still have a role in expanding customer appreciation? Absolutely, according to Tim Laskey, a wine consultant and wine department manager who regularly walks the floor at Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, MA.

With 30 years of experience in restaurant and retail, Laskey believes there is still no substitute for the personal connection. “They may come in with their cell phones and pictures of bottles, and we love that. But the internet does not allow you to taste the wine or interact with someone who has,” says Laskey.

While the traditional rule of upselling a customer 25% in price remains effective, the importance of cross-selling—suggesting wines of similar price—should not be underestimated. “We are not driven by economics but enthusiasm!” beams Laskey.

By opening up a customer to trying a new wine at their preferred pricepoint, Yankee succeeds in cultivating more adventurous wine lovers, generating multiple bottle sales and building trust. “Upselling is a good strategy to gain
an increased sale. With cross-selling, you stand to get a customer for a long time,” says Laskey.

Keys to Better Cross-Selling:

Avoid Upselling

While the temptation may loom, avoid the inclination to move customers up in price. You’ll earn more goodwill by suggesting a wine that is lower in price than their usual choice.

Do Your Homework

Consumers are more informed than ever. You won’t be doing anyone a favor by suggesting a wine you know too little about or haven’t tasted. When you discover wines you love, cross-selling opportunities will come naturally.

Always Be Cross-Selling

Wine apps, email lists and social media are powerful tools to get your cross-selling ideas out to those who know you best, walking a perfect line between mass communication and a personal touch that will set you apart.

Practice Your Pitch

Create some conscious cues to cross-sell new wines related to your top sellers, e.g. “When I see a regular buyer of A, B, or C, I will point out X.” Laskey is careful to compliment, never criticize the customer’s choice, and says that in the end, cross-selling involves more listening than talking.

Follow Up

Off-premise retailers don’t benefit from immediate feedback on their recommendations, like sommelier and servers. But that doesn’t mean you should not be concerned with customer reaction. Make a mental (or written) note on your cross-sells and you’ll be prepared to follow-up with “How did you like that wine?”

Written by | 



Read More]]> (Beverage Network) May 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Apr 2016 13:51:32 -0400
Alaska Proof On The Loose In The Mid Atlantic AlaskaDistilleryLogo.jpg

Alaska Distillery is a small batch distillery located in the foothills of the Alaska Range, where they handcraft spirits with ultra-pure glacier water and the finest grains and ingredients. Having developed a reputation for superior spirits with their Flagship Ultra-Premium Vodka, Permafrost, Alaska Distillery continues to blaze new trails with flavors and inventive spirits indigenous to a state famous for extreme beauty, untamed wilderness, and pristine scenery.

You can catch Toby and the entire Alaska Distillery gang every Thursday night on the Animal Planet channel’s new hit show ALASKA PROOF.



Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) May 2016 Editions Mon, 25 Apr 2016 13:41:35 -0400
New Liberty Distillery: Commemorating Maryland’s Rich Distilling History New_Liberty_Home.jpg

New Liberty Distillery, located in Philadelphia, PA, is reinterpreting some of the famous, but forgotten, Pennsylvania and Maryland brands that once formed the foundation of the U.S. whiskey business.  As Michael Jackson, the renowned international whiskey critic, commented, “American whiskey had its beginnings in Pennsylvania and Maryland.”  Many of the region’s brands were lost to Prohibition or Americans’ changing tastes after World War II that led to the rise of light mixable spirits like vodka.  

“Our Heritage Collection is made up of whiskeys we are reintroducing and New Liberty is honored to make them once again available to consumers,” stated Thomas Jensen of New Liberty Distillery.   “We introduced our first Heritage Collection release, Kinsey, in 2014.  Kinsey is a famous Pennsylvania-based whiskey that was once nationally known for its witty advertising and easy drinking style.   We currently are launching our Maryland Heritage Series exclusively in Maryland and The District of Columbia.  Maryland rye was a softer rye whiskey usually with a 51% rye content, unlike Pennsylvania rye which was usually 95% rye and very spicy.  At the turn of the century, the Baltimore area was home to numerous distilleries which are now long closed.  After extensive research, we decided on three distilleries that played unique roles in making Maryland whiskey famous.  Our master distiller, Robert J. Cassell, sought existing whiskey stocks that could be used to create the easy drinking style of pre- and post-Prohibition Maryland whiskey, and we hope you can taste the history in every sip.”  

The Melvale Distillery, maker of Melvale Rye Whiskey, was located in the Jones Falls section of Baltimore, on Cold Spring Road. One of the original buildings remains intact, although the site no longer distills alcohol. Melvale Pure Rye was one of the most premium of the pre-prohibition Maryland ryes. 

Melvale Straight Rye: Mash bill will be 51% rye and 49% barley to capture the bright and grassy flavor of the old Maryland rye brands. It will be a straight rye, aged three years and hand bottled at 90 proof.

Until Prohibition, M.J. Miller’s Sons Distillery produced Melky Miller Rye Whiskey just outside the village of Accident, MD. The ruins of the abandoned distillery stood for decades until destroyed by fires in the 1970s and '90s. The Garrett County Historical Society has marked its location with a sign.  

Melky Miller Eight Year Old American Whiskey: Mash bill is 100% corn, produced and aged in the USA, and is at least eight years old. We will hand bottle it at 90 proof.

Maryland Club Whiskey was originally produced between 1870 and 1919 at the Cahn, Belt & Co. facility on 32 W. Lombard Street in Baltimore, MD.  It featured creative ads and marketing.  The brand enjoys a unique role in history as a date book with an ad for Maryland Club was found on the Titanic!

Maryland Club Straight Bourbon:  Mash bill is 51% corn and whiskey has been aged in new oak barrels for at least three years. It will be a straight whiskey and hand bottled at 95 proof.

For More information on the New Liberty Distillery you can contact Tom Jensen at 917.226.9022 or

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) May 2016 Editions Wed, 20 Apr 2016 15:14:11 -0400
Tequila 101: Back to Basics BacktoBasics_Tequila101.jpg

Welcome to our newest series, Back to Basics! Every month we'll provide you with a 101-style feature about a different spirit that not only goes in-depth, but can be electronically shared and/or printed out and given to your staff. Let the educating begin with...Tequila!  

Click this link and go directly to the PDF that you can view, print and distribute to your staff... CLICK HERE.

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) April 2016 Editions Tue, 29 Mar 2016 21:36:18 -0400
Pink Boots Society pink-boots-society_IMAGE.jpg

At a key moment in "The Shawshank Redemption," Morgan Freeman's good-hearted convict friend, Red, posed the question: "Seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?"  Well, anyone who hung around Shane McCarthy in January and February of this year likely looked at his footwear quite a bit.  The assistant general manager and beer manager at Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse in Bel Air wore pink boots day in and day out to promote a very special event his store hosted on February 26 to raise money and awareness for the Pink Boots Society.

Some of you reading this may be asking, "What is the Pink Boots Society?" It is an international organization of women that was created to empower female beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry, chiefly through education.  The organization also seeks to teach women beer professionals the judging skills necessary to become beer judges at the Great American Beer Festival and other competitions.  Society members include women who own breweries, who design beers, serve beers, package beers, and write about beer.  The group currently has more than 3,000 members and counting. 

"I've read a lot about beer history," McCarthy stated, during a late January interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Women were actually the main brewers a couple of hundred years ago.  A lot of the beer was made by women.  That's where the term 'alewife' came from.  But, today, it is a male-dominated industry.  So, it's really unique that these ladies are trying to change that.  They don't want to drink wine.  They want to drink beer ... good beer!  That really inspired me to reach out and try and raise money to send a woman to brewing school, because the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology is NOT cheap!"

The February 26 event saw Ronnie's have a 12-tap takeover of all rare and exclusive beers from multiple breweries.  "We contacted these wholesalers and breweries to specifically ask for rarities," he stated.  "Most of the breweries involved have female brewers or members of the sales team who are a member of the Society. Ronnie's will tap all 12 kegs and donate all of the profits to the organization, and we will have females from the industry here talking about beer and brewing."

McCarthy also reached out to breweries who do not presently distribute beer in Maryland, but still wanted to be a part of the event.  They donated gift baskets to raffle off to the public, and the raffle money was also to be donated to the Pink Boots Society.  "For example," he noted, "Cigar City Brewing is huge in Florida and has some world-class beers.  They have mailed us some amazing gift baskets that we'll be raffling off.  We'll also be doing tastings.  Actual women beer professionals will be doing bottle tastings.  They'll be out there on the floor and saying, 'We can talk to you about beer. We know what we're talking about.'"

Additionally, McCarthy reached out to some craft-supporting, on-premise accounts to join him in raising money and awareness for the Society. Looneys, Sean Bolans, and others agreed to host events that same evening.  Following Ronnie's lead, they also invited women to come out and talk about beer and share their passion for all things suds.  "I think its special that competing businesses can get together for such a good cause," McCarthy remarked.  "We wanted to create this almost festival atmosphere where you could get your packaged beer to go, get it home, drop it off, then go back out to Bel Air where there's going to be a different bar on almost every corner serving craft beer and benefiting the Pink Boots Society."

It should be noted that "Pink Boots" is actually an acronym.  "P" is for passion, the "I" is for Integrity and Inspiration, the "N" is for networking, and the "K" is for knowledge.  With regards to the second word, the "B" is, of course, for beer; the first "O" is for opportunity; the second "O" is for "open exchange of ideas;" the "T" is for teach; and, finally, the "S" is for success.

McCarthy is no stranger to success. He played a key role in putting together the well-received Bel Air Beer Week.  "I also put together something called the Maryland Beer Project, which brings different businesses in the community to support craft beer.  I've found craft beer is an amazing community builder."

He continued, "I thought it would be neat to get some of these local businesses that are supporting craft beer actively every day to get involved.  For example, Birrocteca's beverage director is a woman, and she's really into beer.  She knows exactly what she is talking about.  In addition, there's Looney's in Bel Air.  A woman named April runs their beer program, and she's also giving craft beer a chance.  We're all helping the Pink Boots Society while bringing the community together.  The customers can expect some pretty rare beers.  We're calling it the rarest tap takeover in the state of Maryland!  Instead of having 11 'normal' beers and one rarity, you're going to have a dozen very rare beers."

McCarthy has observed that women are accounting for an increasingly big portion of the consumer beer sales market.  As a result, stores have to pay attention to this growing demographic and know how to market and sell to them.  "In the store, out in the market, everywhere I go, I see two things," he stated.  "I see new craft beer drinkers who are women and who are experimenting.  They want to drink something that is flavorful and is a quality product.  And, two, I see women coming out of the woodwork and standing up as women who proudly drink beer and have done so for years.  I tell all of our beer guys who work the floor, 'Don't approach a female customer and assume she's buying beer for her husband.'  That is a huge issue.  It's kind of insulting to go up to someone and ask, 'Is this for someone else?'  Instead, approach women and ask, 'What do you like to drink?'  Then, they'll either tell you, 'Oh, it's not for me,' or they will get into a conversation about their beer preferences.  The point of this whole event is to change people's perception on beer and women in the beer industry."

Of course, the question has to be asked.  What's in this for Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse?  It's all fine and great to support a good cause.  But the bottom line is making money.  McCarthy says it's also about growing the store's customer base, while at the same time being seen as a community leader.

"If we did a normal tap takeover, like we do almost every other week, we would be financially benefiting more than what we're doing for Pink Boots," he stated.  "In our county, everything is C.O.D.  So, we have to pay for it the day it comes in.  When it comes to beer, basically what we are doing is purchasing beer and then giving it away for cost.  We have to make a penny off of each keg.  We're giving away all of our profit.  We don't really look at this as 'How is this going to financially help Ronnie's?'  Instead, we are more concerned with the community.  I feel like we are giving back to craft beer, which has built this store.  Through networking with the Pink Boots Society, it lets the community know that we want to get involved with different organizations and nonprofits.  Sure, we're trying to reach out to some new customers, get them into the store, and show them that we can give you a good experience.  But we stand for more than just the dollar sign."

So, about those pink boots McCarthy has been wearing?  When asked to talk about them, he first chuckled and hesitated just a bit.  But then he shared, "OK, I had to get on Google and convert my size in women's boots to men.  Yes, I have a hot pink pair of women's-size 11 1/2 boots on right now.  Our general manager, Megan, has been working for the store for over 10 years.  She is actually a member of the Pink Boots Society, as well, and will also be in the house that night and wearing some pink boots also.  They're actually pretty comfortable!"


Here are Courtney Lacey, Brewer, Heavy Seas Beer; Megan Hunter, General Manager, Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse; Judy Huxtable, Sales, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Sami Myers, Sales, Victory Brewing Company; Shane McCarthy, Beer Director, Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse; Suzanne Woods, Sales, Allagash Brewing Company; and Hillary Harris, Sales, DuClaw Brewing Company; at Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse.


So Why A Pink Boots Society?

If you love craft beer, you probably remember the beer that changed it all—that beer that made you fall in love with craft beer. It's an exciting experience, and if you work in the craft beer industry now, it's also a life-changing experience. When I think of the first time I had Twin Lakes' Greenville Pale Ale, I can still remember the way my passion for craft beer took off. Something had just clicked; it was immediate. If you love craft beer and you're a woman, you probably also remember the first time you were treated like that passion was somehow unauthentic, or even worse, nonexistent. 

For a long time I tried to ignore the relentless fruit beer suggestions from bartenders, and for the most part, I did. I ignored the man that asked what beer I preferred, so he would know not to buy it.  I ignored the unorthodox comments from taproom employees stating that a beer was somehow inherently feminine, a “girl beer”, for being light-bodied and sweet. I had just turned 21, and I guess there was a part of me that was just happy to finally be immersed in the local craft beer scene. That part of me continued to ignore these uncomfortable moments. 

There came a time though, when I realized that this couldn't be ignored. I walk into a bar and sit down with my friend. A male bartender comes up and asks if we’d like a cocktail. The bar had a decent craft cocktail menu, so I didn't think much of the suggestion. I ask him, instead, what beers are on tap and he begins his unenthused descriptions of a variety of beers. He doesn't even manage to name breweries. His descriptions of the beers themselves, ranged from “it's good” and “it's lighter” so I assumed the guy was just a bad bartender.  Then, my boyfriend and his friends sit at the bar. Immediately the bartender walks over and asks if they would like a drink. Yes, he chose the word ‘drink’. He hands them beer lists, and seems tentative. They ask about the beers and suddenly he seems knowledgeable. That’s when I start to get angry. Why was I never offered a beer list? Why wasn’t I given the same descriptions? Why was my interest in beer not taken seriously? 

I have talked about my experiences with many people, and all responses are different. I am lucky to have so many supportive friends, that not only sympathize with me, but have sadly been in similar positions. I've talked with people that assure me that I'm looking too much into it, or have just said, “I didn't know you were one of the feminist beer girls.” What is even more troubling to me than those who roll their eyes are those that are surprised that I believe I have been treated differently as a woman in the craft beer industry. So many people refuse to look, to listen. This is not just a problem for women to deal with, it is everyone's problem.

The reason why organizations like Pink Boots society are so important is that they demand respect for women in the beer industry, and since I started working in the industry, I understand that respect can be scarce. I can't tell you how many times I've felt as though beer reps are genuinely surprised by my craft beer knowledge, or have asked the dreaded question, “Wait, you actually work for the brewery?” Sometimes, I feel like I'm not just representing myself to others in the industry, but that I have to represent all women in the industry. But the truth is, I don't want to do that nor should I ever have to.

I am just one woman, one palate, and one story. What's important is that these stories are heard, rather than ignored, so that the next time a young woman expresses interest in craft beer industry, she's not afraid to be heard, too.


By Amanda Zivkovic, Heavy Seas Beer

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) April 2016 Editions Tue, 29 Mar 2016 20:56:07 -0400
Mahaffey's: A Family Affair Mahaffeys0008.jpg

Dennis and Alice Kistner are the Bar and General Managers, respectively, at Mahaffey's Pub in Canton and are married in "real life". The two proud parents also have an 18 month old baby keeping them busy at home, but that doesn't stymie their dedication to the bar one bit. If anything the youngster has driven them to reach for greater success.

The pair couldn't help but show excitement, and borderline elation, whenever talking about "Little Dennis". Alice described early motherhood with the youngster saying, "It's fun. We take him with us everywhere. He's a good baby, he makes us laugh and now he's doing so many things, it's entertaining."

Alice explained how initially it was a difficult balance, but that she wouldn't trade it for the world, "I snapped at a couple customers and I had to apologize a couple times, but we have awesome customers and they understood right away." With superhero-esque confidence and an ear-to-ear grin she continued, "It's just like juggling any other job. I love what I do. I'm constantly moving. I'm not sitting at a desk all day so I'm not getting bored."

Asking the two of them about what they do for fun revealed almost subconsciously that their young son Dennis is the center of their universe without exception. "Every Thursday we take him on a field trip. We went to the bouncy house today and it's fun, you know?" Alice continued, "We go to places like the aquarium and the discovery center."

Other than the day trips, managing a bar, and doing some personal training on the side Dennis and Alice both balked before answering what else they do in their free time. "I guess we've started cooking more."

The two relentless parents continue to build their life around the youngster. So much so that it has carried over to their next venture. 

Good ideas often come to us while showering. Most likely because there is no one else around to tell us it's a bad one. In the case of Dennis and Alice, one shower idea quickly turned into a great idea.

One day Dennis' shower helped to brew up the idea, "Why not add writing a book to the agenda?" Given the nature of his experiences, and after a little research, a children's book about beer was born.

Tired of the same old children's stories he set out creating characters like Mary Malts, and Bobby Barley and soon after "Hophead Harry Goes to the Brewery" was born.

While not everyone may agree with the idea of a children's book centered around beer, Dennis is hopeful that people keep an open mind. He understands it could also be more of a novelty item. "We hope it's both. People having kids right now kind of grew up drinking good beer. We're not necessarily just a generation of Coors light or Budweiser drinkers."

The craft beer culture has grown with millennials and Dennis cites this new market as a reason for writing the book and reason why he's not concerned with the book's reception.

Needing art for the new endeavor he sought the assistance of fellow Mahaffey's bartender and Maryland Institute College of Art graduate, Beth-Ann Wilson.

Beth provided a series of mock-ups and auditioned for the job. After seeing rough sketches bring their characters to life, Dennis and Alice asked Beth to be their artist.

The three immediately went to work on the 22 page children's book that Dennis describes as, "a rhyming book that shows how beer is made, the ingredients and the processes that get the beer from the farm to the pub."

The target date for publication was a simple decision as another feature of the beer world growing faster than ever comes into town. The 2016 National Homebrewers Conference will be held in Baltimore this year. The conference will be held June 9th-11th at the Baltimore Convention Center and is expected to garner over 6,000 attendees. 

"I definitely want to get it done by then to try to get it out there." Dennis continued, "We also want to sell it at the bar and talk to some of the homebrew places that are close, because they have home-brewing books, to see if they would carry it."

Something your customers don't know about you:
I'm actually very nice
There are five close relatives that are all named Dennis and live within 5 miles  

One place you'd each like to travel:
Bora Bora's overwater bungalows  

Favorite movie:
Tommy Boy   
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation  

favorite childhood toy: 
Anything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle    
Skip It


Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) April 2016 Editions Tue, 29 Mar 2016 20:36:36 -0400
Erin Ivey's Cherry Blossom Cocktail ErinIveyHorizontal.jpg

"I love the creativity aspect of my job.  I love the autonomy that I have and the challenges I've been given to come up with new drinks."

So said Erin Ivey, bar manager at Lincoln on Vermont Ave., during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  Ivey, who has been tending bar at various area establishments for the last decade, has become known for her craft cocktails.  "What drew me to craft cocktails is I really love the integrity of the drinks as far as fresh juices and ingredients," she stated.  " I enjoy making twists on an Old Fashioned, different syrups and such.  I love being able to play and bring a different and unique element to drinks."

The drink that she most recently played around with and created is the Cherry Blossom Cocktail.  She believes it to be one of the best concoctions she has ever come up with.  "I don't like to make sweet drinks," she said, "so I chose morello cherries as the key ingredient.  Morello cherries make a really wonderful syrup -- not too sweet, not too tart, right in the middle.  I wanted to do something with rye, in particular, so I chose one of the most flexible ones I could think of, Bulleit Rye.  I threw some mint in there for freshness; along with some fresh lemon juice; the rum syrup; and crushed ice, which is really appealing to the eye.  The Cherry Blossom Cocktail has a beautiful red color.  I'm very proud of it.  It's got a great taste, and it's very refreshing.  There is a little bit of residual sweetness.  But mostly you get that tart cherry taste, along with fresh mint and lemon."

She continued, "Bulleit Rye is great.  A lot of ryes can get pretty hot and spicy.  Bulleit Rye is a little bit softer.  I like the dry honey aspect that it has, too.  It still packs that punch that most ryes have, but it's not super-hot.  That's why I like to mix with it.  It makes a great Old Fashioned, as well."

A member of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild, Ivey had originally been employed at Lincoln as a floor manager, but wanted to work more with customers.  She left briefly to help open Osteria Marini on Water Street near Nationals Park.  The Italian restaurant had a very big focus on craft cocktails right from the get-go.  But Lincoln always felt like home to her.  After six months away, she returned to Lincoln and was given the job she wanted all along -- bar manager.  That was nearly two years ago, and she has been in charge of the restaurant's beverage program ever since.

"I do all of the Drinks of the Month here," she declared.  "Those are my recipes.  We put a lot of our focus on bourbon.  We have infusions that we do, as well, in house.  We use our own vodka for our Bloody Mary for brunch on Sundays.  We use peppers and onions, as well as celery and tomatoes.  It makes what we call our 'Breakfast Vodka.'  We also have our Moscow Mule, and what distinguishes that from everyone else's is we don't use ginger beer.  We infuse our own house-made ginger syrup.  It really sets it apart from any other Moscow Mule you might have at another bar.  That's probably our No. 1 selling cocktail."

Consistency is a big buzzword for Ivey.  As management, she says it is a frequent challenge making sure everyone is on the same page and all doing the same thing.  "I want every guest that comes in here to have the same drink, the same way, no matter who's making it," she stated.  "So, the challenge is fine-tuning that with my bartenders to make sure we're all making our signature drinks the same way.  We have a lot of creativity behind that bar."

One of her mentors was Brendan McMahon, who is now an owner of Beuchert's Saloon on Capitol Hill. "He really mentored me and introduced me to craft cocktails," she recalled.  "He taught me all about integrity and taking your time to make drinks so you can be proud of them.  Pride is essential.  If you're not proud of the drink you're putting out as far as the taste and presentation, how can you expect to serve that to a guest?  That was something that was very much cultivated by him and very much appreciated on my part." 


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) April 2016 Editions Tue, 29 Mar 2016 11:31:32 -0400
Barry Cregan Teams With Carolina Wine Brands Barry_Cregan_WEB.jpg

After a long career working for everyone from RNDC to Southern Wine & Spirits, Barry Cregan moved to the supplier side about a year and a half ago to serve as East Coast Vice President of Carolina Wine Brands USA. The company handles mostly South American wines for the U.S. market for Carolina Wine Brands, one of Chile's main winemaking groups owned by the agro-industrial group Watt's SA.

If you've seen Cregan or any of his colleagues lately, you can tell they are riding a real high. That's because the company's flagship winery, Santa Carolina in Chile, recently won the New World Winery of the Year 2015 honor from the Wine Enthusiast. Cregan traveled to New York City in late January to attend the awards ceremony.

"All of the big companies were there," he marveled. "It was neat getting that award because a lot of people in the industry were able to recognize who we were, and they came up and gave us congratulations. We also had the chance to have people taste our wines while we were there. It was a great experience. Winning an honor like Best New World Winery really tells the world where we're standing. What it also does is it allows us to use that in our marketing. We're putting little, round stickers on our bottles that say 'New World Winery of the Year.' We're going to use it on our point-of-sale. We're going to parlay that to the consumer and say, 'Hey, good value ... fantastic wine ... try me!'"

Santa Carolina certainly has a diverse portfolio worthy of trying. In addition to this diversity, Cregan says the key to the company's success has been putting out quality products at fair prices. "Our Reserva wines [Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.] are in the market priced anywhere from $10 to $12," he noted. "If you move up to our $20 to $21 wines, we received 90-plus points on all of our Chilean and Argentine wines from the Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. Our icon wines receive 93 to 95 points every year. Even our Malbec was in the top 100 last year in Wine Enthusiast's Best Values. In this year's Best Values, we had our Chilean Carmenere make the list. We're in 96 countries hitting on all cylinders right now."

Cregan is especially high on the line of Chilean wines he promotes. Ever the salesman, he stated, "Chilean wines have a unique way of giving you fruit with some earth tones to them. What we do with Chilean wines and Argentine wines, too, is we enhance the times that you live in -- the good times, the bad times. We enhance the event that you're having. We enhance the food you serve. We enhance the moment."

One of the best moment-enhancing products in the portfolio is Santa Carolina's VSC Red Assemblage, a tasty blend of Petit Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Malbec grown in Peumo. The 2010 Herencia Carmenere, which earned 93 points, is another top seller. Full-bodied with fine-grained tannins, it has black fruit and spices and comes from two locales known for this varietal: Peumo and Los Lingues.

Also popular is Santa Carolina's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva de Familia, which has garnered 90 points and is known for its nose. Indeed, it has aromas of ripe cherries in liqueur intermingled with more herbal ones and even some green peppercorns. Looking ahead, Santa Carolina's Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2011, Rapel Valley, is one to buy now and store for later. Wine Spectator Managing Editor Kim Marcus says it will be best from 2017 through 2020.

In addition, Santa Carolina has history on its side, as it celebrated its 140th year in 2015. In doing so, it participated in 140 different celebrations around the globe last year, including many of the major international wine fairs like Vinitaly and Vinexpo. The 140th celebration also included the release of a special edition of Reserva de Familia, the winery's emblem line.

One other thing that makes Carolina Wine Brands stand out is an unswerving commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. From its use of irrigation measurement technology in its fields and vineyards to its minimal use of pesticides to Carolina Wine Brands' Santa Carolina and Casablanca brands purchasing clean energy bonds in Chile to neutralize the carbon footprint for the transportation of the cases they export, steps are being taken every day to ensure all concerned are doing their part to remain environmentally friendly -- an increasingly key selling point in the marketplace.

"We were also the first South American winery to do the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)," Cregan added. "We also work with lightweight glass. Our super-premium brands are still in a heavier bottle, so we're looking to turn that around also. As far as industries itself, we were ranked No. 2 in Chile for sustainability -- not just the wine industry, but No. 2 of all industries in Chile. We're a company that takes care of Mother Earth."

Taking care of the planet is certainly a key selling point for socially conscious wine drinkers in the Old Line State. Cregan lists Maryland as among the company's key states in terms of sales and marketing. "I go all over as the East Coast Vice President, and Maryland is a unique proposition because it is an independent market similar to Connecticut and not a chain market. The consumer gets a chance to see more and different wines here, where the chain markets may not have as much variety. Maryland is really a positive market that skews high. The per-capita intake of wine, I think, is in the top 12 right now."

Cregan is based in La Plata, Md., even though his company's corporate offices are in Charleston, S.C. He got his start in the industry on the beer trucks in Southern Maryland, selling red, white, and blue Pabst. He moved on to a small beer company as a sales representative and then a sales manager before eventually hooking on as a field manager with what was then Reliable Liquors. He eventually moved on to National Distributing, which became RNDC, before moving to Southern Wine and Spirits in sales management.

He concluded, "After I left beer, I went to work with Reliable Liquors. And a gentleman there named Mike Stewart who is no longer with us told me, 'Barry, learn wines. Believe me, there will come a day where everyone will be drinking wine.' So, that's what I did, and he was right. I mean, I'm not a sommelier or anything. But I do know what I like. I know some of the history of wine. And if you're able to talk about wine and enjoy it, it becomes part of who you are. It becomes a soulful thing and not just a business thing."


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) April 2016 Editions Thu, 24 Mar 2016 14:53:41 -0400
Neighborhood Bars Closing ... Don't Count Them Out b2ap3_thumbnail_tavern_sign.jpg

Taps are running dry and doors are closing at neighborhood bars across the country. That has left the remaining ones to try to find ways to stay afloat.

One in six bars closed between 2004 and 2014, according to market research firm Nielsen. More than 600 close each month, with just 334 opening.

The neighborhood bar closures are happening as more people are getting their alcoholic drinks from restaurants, cavernous sports bars with scores of TV screens, brewpubs and at home. Besides the increasing competition, neighborhood bars also are contending with other challenges, including rising costs for expenses such as rent.

For instance, when the rent doubled seven years ago at Mumbles in New York City, running a neighborhood bar became more difficult for owner David Feldman. Online reservation and order-taking services took more bites out of his profits. At the end of January, after 22 years, Mumbles closed.

"It's getting harder and harder. The bigger corporate restaurants have tons of money, that seems to be the way things are going," says Feldman, who still has two restaurants in Manhattan, one of which will now employ one of Mumbles' bartenders.


The number of neighborhood bars has declined as drinking habits have changed, says Lester Jones, chief economist with the National Beer Wholesalers Association, a trade group. Tougher laws on underage drinking and drunk driving have cut into consumption.

The growth of in-home pay TV services has also had an impact; when relatively few homes had cable in the early 1970s, sports fans went to bars to see games that weren't on broadcast TV. There were nearly 10 million cable subscribers in 1975 and close to 100 million pay TV subscribers last year, including cable, satellite and telephone company-delivered services, according to research firm SNL Kagan. People don't need the corner bar.

When consumers do go out, they have a rapidly growing number of choices. Restaurants including national chains have bars and advertise their beverages as much as their food.

They're also the kind of place where parents can take their kids and have a beer with their meals. And the chains are growing; the number of Buffalo Wild Wings locations has tripled from 370 in 2005 to 1,136 by the end of 2015.


Rising costs also have hurt neighborhood bars.

Rent increases, in particular, are typical of areas that are trendy or have high real estate taxes. Urban areas where residents have big incomes have seen the largest increases in rents for retail space, which includes bars, says Ryan McCullough, a senior economist with CoStar Group, a real estate information provider. Rents in those areas nationwide are up an average 9.4 percent since the high they reached before the recession.

But in areas where demand for real estate is particularly high, rent increases can be substantially higher. Rents on a trendy stretch of Broadway in Manhattan not far from Mumbles soared 42 percent between the fall of 2014 and this past fall, according to the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade group.

Other cities see similar increases: In Miami, retail rents rose an average of nearly 33 percent from 2011 to last year, with rates in the hottest areas climbing at a higher pace, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate services company.

In addition to higher rent, neighborhood bars have to contend with other rising costs.

Larger companies with multiple locations can buy beer, liquor and food at lower prices because they get bigger discounts — the New York State Liquor Authority mandates a 40 percent discount on purchases of 50 cases, compared to 20 percent on five cases. A higher minimum wage and rising insurance costs also sap profits, says Tess Collins, who runs McGeary's in downtown Albany, New York.

But Collins brightens as she talks about McGeary's customers. The bar draws a regular after-work crowd and people visiting the state capital on business. Families show up on weekends. There are seven TVs in the main bar and two in a back room, but Collins finds her customers are more interested in talking to each other than watching a game.

"I have an awesome community here," says Collins, whose bar is nearby Recovery Sports Grill, a sports bar and restaurant that has 35 screens and is part of an 11-location chain. "Everybody knows each other."


Many owners have to pass on their higher costs to their customers, or look for lower-priced food options for their menus.

When his landlord raises the rent, bar owner Scott Drake has to pass along the costs to his customers. Drake, who co-owns Moe's & Joe's, a nearly 70-year-old Atlanta bar, sees higher rents as a neighborhood bar's biggest threat.

But he says smaller bars offer something more intimate than the bigger guys can serve — what he calls a neighborhood feel. For that reason, Drake is less concerned about the competition, which includes a nearby Yard House, part of a 64-location chain and that has 130 taps and 20 TVs, compared with his bar's 18 taps and seven TVs.

"On any day, you can come in here, and there are tables with construction workers, maybe two prominent judges and a couple of people from the banking industry, all walks of life," Drake says. "I want to have a conversation in a bar and talk with people and I think a lot of people (at the big establishments) are missing out on that."

One of the regulars at Moe's & Joe's, John Webster, has been going to the bar for decades.

"It's like an old pair of jeans, very comfortable. You know what you're going to get," he says. "You know the people, you know the staff, the bartenders."

Jim Wiste, who owns Campus Lounge in Denver, agrees.

The relationship between Wiste, a former pro hockey player, and his customers is a big part of the appeal. He'll help them get tickets for a big game and make the bar available for people who want to hold a memorial for a friend or relative.

But Wiste has added more TV screens to compete with bigger chains. The bar now has 15 screens, but it still is a place where regulars hang out and families stop by for a weekend lunch, owner Jim Wiste says.

"I think there's something to the old standard place that's on the corner, a local place that feels a little more comfortable," he says.


JOYCE M. ROSENBERG, AP Business Writer  

Follow Joyce Rosenberg at

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) Industry News ... Mon, 21 Mar 2016 11:09:01 -0400
On Call: The Barrel Rolls On b2ap3_thumbnail_big1.jpg

At the Jameson-centric Barrelman Tavern in Chicago, Irish whiskey keeps getting reinvented.

There may be venues that pour more Jameson Irish whiskey than Barrelman Tavern in Chicago, but it’s hard to imagine that any pour it with more enthusiasm. “We’ve always had a special thing for Jameson,” says the bar’s owner, Blake Itagaki. And his regulars are on board too; instead of ringing in 2016 with a Champagne toast at midnight, the crowd at the Barrelman raised shots of the brand new Jameson Caskmates expression.

Not a big bar, Barrelman Tavern has plenty of TVs mounted high for easy viewing, but it is more neighborhood joint than sports bar. The drinks menu is dominated by whiskies, with a tilt toward shot favorites, and is rounded out with 25+ mostly craft beers, on tap and in can or bottle. Wine? Try another bar. Heck, they don’t even serve food at the Barrelman (patrons can order in).

No surprise: Jameson is also the focal point of the bar’s handful of listed cocktails. Itagaki and his GM, Danny Lenart, chose Black Barrel for their take on the Old Fashioned because its “charred character and sherried sweetness makes it a pretty close match to a bourbon.”

Their approach to using Jameson in cocktails is straightforward. “We try not to add anything that could overwhelm the whiskey,” says Itagaki.

The bar’s signature cocktail, The Barrelman, was developed after he went to the distillery in Ireland and sampled a Black Barrel-based summer cocktail with a hint of OJ and orange bitters. “We were working on what our signature drink would be,” Itagaki recalls. “So when I came back we put our own spin on it and used cider and added Averna. In the beginning we thought we would have a summer and winter Barrelman signature cocktail, but this cocktail was so popular we’ve kept it as the only one.”

The Barrelman’s Jameson focus is kept fresh by the bartenders playing not only with mixed drinks, but also with infusions to create new shot experiences. One that became a year-round staple is Black Barrel with apples, pears and cinnamon stick. “We also did a blueberry-infused Jameson,” notes Itagaki. “It tasted better than it looked.”

The rage in January was a new shot featuring Jameson’s brand new Caskmates expression (finished in stout barrels) infused with Andes mints (and a secret ingredient, if you must know). It does not have a name—it’s just the latest word-of-mouth, try-this-one creation—something the regulars have come to not merely expect but to embrace.

And for Itagaki, Lenart and the Barrelman staff, those novelties keep them ahead at the leading edge of Irish whiskey in general and Jameson in particular. “We don’t like to follow trends,” says Itagaki, “we try to make them!” 

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) March 2016 Editions Mon, 14 Mar 2016 11:15:27 -0400
The Case for Vino Nobile

New Reasons to Rediscover Montepulciano’s Noble Wine.  

In the Tuscan trifecta of great wines, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano suffers from middle child syndrome—it’s largely ignored and often passed over. It’s a dramatic role reversal for a region that once dwarfed its neighbors—Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino—in both pedigree and esteem.

Vino Nobile (Vee-no NO-bee-lay), Montepulciano’s most important wine, got its name in the 1800s from the Medici family (it translates as “wine for nobles”); and the small region in Southeast Tuscany was the first in Italy to attain the prestigious DOCG status, in 1980.

During the second half of the 20th century, however, Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino ascended in fame and fortune, a result of outside investment and marketing savvy. Montepulciano slid backward. Quality slumped and the spotlight faded.

Yet a closer look at Montepulciano today reveals a more dynamic landscape. Younger winemakers, new ownership and a more international outlook are helping Montepulciano reclaim its reputation as one of Italy’s best sources for Sangiovese. The challenge remains getting people to recognize it.

“I’ve always felt a little sorry for Montepulciano,” says Ed McCarthy, author of Italian Wine for Dummies. “There are tons of great producers there and quality is better than ever, but they suffer from lack of recognition.” There are only about a dozen producers of Vino Nobile with good distribution in the U.S. And it doesn’t help, he adds, that the region gets confused with the grape Montepulciano grown in southern Italy’s Abruzzo region. The bulk of Montepulciano d’Abruzzos are of the cheap and quaffable variety, and Vino Nobile does not benefit from the association.


Fresh Twists, Old Roots

Sometimes a sleepy wine region needs a shot in the arm, and for Montepulciano, that would be Virginie Saverys. From a Belgian shipping family, Saverys bought the declining Avignonesi estate in 2009 and has become one of the most important ambassadors for Vino Nobile. She turned around the winery, purchased scores of new vineyards and converted the entire estate to organic farming. Avignonesi is the largest producer in Italy practicing biodynamic viticulture today (though not certified due to the use of  machine harvesters).

With her goal of “marrying the best of  the technology and biodynamic techniques,” she hired Australian winemaker, Ashleigh Seymour. Ironically, the foreign approach has restored an authentic Italian taste profile, and Avignonesi’s wines are some of the area’s most soulful and terroir-driven. Thanks to organic farming and a clean winery, the wines are more alive, says Seymour: “Hygiene has been a big problem in Montepulciano historically. When wineries are dirty, it mutes the fruit character that Sangiovese expresses.”

The Montepulciano Signature

Some describe Vino Nobile as less tannic and structured than Brunello and less acidic than Chianti Classico, and while this may have something to do with the region’s particular clone of Sangiovese (called Prugnolo Gentile) it’s likely more a factor of terroir and climate. With high average elevation, Montepulciano is more Mediterranean than Chianti, which gives softer acidity and riper fruit flavors, says Seymour, yet it’s not as warm as Montalcino, so the wines are lighter-bodied. “The signature profile here is spice, herbs, bright fruit and earth,” she describes.

Balance sets the region’s wines apart, says Giulio Caporali, who purchased the Valdipiatta estate in the 1980s and runs it with his daughter, Miriam. “Brunello has more muscle and Chianti can be tart; here we have balanced wines that are elegant and feminine,” he says. Vino Nobile’s aging requirements—just two years in cask compared to Brunello’s four—adds to their approachability, Caporali adds. While in general Brunello may achieve more complexity and have greater aging potential, Vino Nobile is fresher and more consumer-friendly out of the gate.

Montepulciano’s heavy clay soils also play a role. “The red soils in Montepulciano allow the roots to go very deep, which brings more minerality and fruit flavors than other parts of Tuscany,” says Luca De Ferrari who heads his family’s legendary Boscarelli estate with his brother, Nicolò, and mother, Paola. Boscarelli’s traditionally-styled wines are made in the family’s tiny, ultra-old-school, low-ceilinged winery which hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. (Boscarelli’s smoky, perfumed Il Nocio 2011 is particularly exquisite). “Yet we still have much to learn about these soils,” De Ferrari explains. “What is Vino Nobile? We are still defining.”

Nowhere is the balance between tradition and modernity more visible than at the ultra-sleek, brand new winery at Dei, run by Caterina Dei, a professional opera singer and granddaughter of the founder. The facility is gravity-fed, geothermal-heated and built out of travertine stone (the other Dei family business) and resembles a Roman amphitheater. Dei’s organically grown wines are lush, aromatic and fruit-driven; they are more modern for sure, yet still supremely elegant.

Sangiovese Reclaims Center Stage

The experimentation with international varieties, which held sway throughout Italy in recent decades, has been at work in Montepulciano as well. In fact, denomination rules recently increased the amount of non-Sangiovese grapes permitted in Vino Nobile to 30%. Yet quality producers today lean much more towards 100% Sangiovese for their Vino Nobile—a critical step for the region’s resurgence, believes Jeff Porter, the Beverage Director for Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group: “People today don’t want a homogeneous flavor profile, they want distinct expressions and the return to classic production styles. Focus on Sangiovese is key to expressing Montepulciano’s terroir. The region has stopped trying to be something they thought people wanted in the past.”

Young winemakers are passionately driving this trend. Alberto Brini, whose family acquired Il Conventino in 2003, was among the first in Montepulciano to farm organically. “Now that we better understand how to work with Sangiovese in the vineyard to tame its acidity and tannins, we don’t need grapes like Merlot,” Brini says. 

Michele Manelli, who founded Salcheto winery in 1997, takes a high-tech approach to the challenges of Sangiovese. “The soul of Vino Nobile is freshness—the biggest problem is greenness and rough tannins,” he says. Manelli worked with a scuba diving company to help design a system that traps CO2 given off during fermentation and pumps it back through the tank where it bubbles gently through the grapes—extracting more fruit flavors and less tannins. (Partially underground, Salcheto is 100% energy self-sufficient and is lit entirely by natural light brought through a system of pipes with mirrors.)

Along with the renewed focus on Sangiovese, another important shift is restraint in oak. “In the past five years, I have seen producers here really come to understand how to use oak barrels to highlight, not dominate the wines,” Porter observes. A legitimate criticism of Vino Nobile for years was that the fruit was drowned out by extended oak aging—or too much new French oak—but the pendulum has swung back.

Owner Frederico Carletti, whose family purchased Poliziano—the closest thing Montepulciano has to a household name in the U.S. market—made the decision to dial back on the oak in 2008 in favor of larger, more neutral casks for his Vino Nobile, and single vineyard trophy bottling Asinone. The wines are still bolder, darker and more powerful than many in the region, but fresher and more terroir-driven. “Like everyone, my palate evolves and we wanted a less oak influenced taste profile. People really want taste terroir today,” he says. Poliziano also made the move toward organic viticulture, and is experimenting with native yeasts. “The best expression of terroir isn’t always by sticking with tradition—we want more technology and less chemistry,” he observes.

Finding the Spotlight

Still, the region’s reputation has yet to catch up to the wine quality. There is a lot of discussion in Montepulciano over how to best achieve this. McCarthy recommends a name abbreviation: “For Americans, ‘Vino Nobile di Montepulciano’ is a mouthful—they should be marketing these wines simply as ‘Nobile.’”

One helpful selling point is their value. Most Vino Nobiles retail for less than $30, about half of what you would pay for Brunello in any vintage (and the region’s lesser wine, Rossi di Montepulciano, is more affordable still). “They offer terrific value for retailers and restaurants,” says Porter. “If someone wants a Brunello but has sticker shock, they can still have the identity of great Sangiovese with Vino Nobile,” says Porter.

Plus, they tend to be more reliable than Chianti, says McCarthy: “Because there is far less Vino Nobile produced, and even fewer that are exported here, they represent very solid quality. Compared with other parts of Tuscany, you’re not going to find too many dogs in Vino Nobile. ”

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) March 2016 Editions Tue, 23 Feb 2016 10:32:56 -0500
Stadium Size Service

Tim Graham Looks to Score With Beverage Service at M&T Bank Stadium

If you've ever owned, operated, or tended bar at a sports-themed restaurant or tavern, you know there is always the risk that some customers may get a bit out of hand if their team is losing.  Heck, even when the Ravens, Redskins, Orioles or Nationals are doing well, the atmosphere can get rowdy.  Chances are, you only have to be concerned about a few diehards getting too distraught over a final score.  Tim Graham, Beverage Manager at M&T Bank Stadium for concessionaire Aramark, has to worry about a few thousand!

Graham has held his current job since last June, having previously served as Beverage Manager at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  He wasn't there when the Ravens had their Super Bowl run a couple of years back.  But he was there for this past season's injury-plagued, 5-11 disappointment.


"There are so many moving parts behind the scenes," he said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "It's how you carry yourself and how your staff carries themselves in those moments that can be the difference between a mob of 50 angry people or everybody just keeping their cool.  There are just a lot of things you can't control in this particular business.  You can't control the on-field product.  You can't control the game day weather.  But anything you can't control, you still need to be ready for.  If it is a poor season on the field like the Ravens have had this year, you need to know what that brings.  What that brings is tension.  The people aren't quite as easy-going.  They are a little quicker to complain.  So, you have to be prepared for that.  The same holds true for when they are doing really well.  We'll want to ride that out and celebrate with our many fans."

Graham's responsibilities are many.  Chiefly, he is tasked with hiring and training the stadium's bar staff.  One of the challenges, of course, is his hires may only be on the job for eight days out of the whole year.  To train someone new for a live NFL event is almost impossible.  "You can't mock up what they are going to continually see on game day," he said.  "But we constantly have a demographic of new staff who we try to pair up with our veteran bartenders.  We really rely on some of our strong folks, some of whom have been here since the stadium opened, to make sure everybody's comfortable."

A lot of the bartenders and servers Graham employs do it "for the fun of it," he noted.  They have other full-time jobs.  Others are so-called "lifers," career servers who bartend wherever the proverbial fish are biting depending on the time of the year.  A lot of the suite attendants who work at M&T also work at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., or at Oriole Park or at the Nationals stadium, for instance.  "Probably 60 percent of the people are here for the extra income," Graham estimated.  "It's good money for the time spent.  The other 40 percent, I would say, are adding this to their food and beverage service jobs to fill out their year-round schedule."

In training servers and bartenders, Graham is not shy about instructing such staff in the knowledge that, sometimes, people just need to be told what they want to drink.  A lot of customers, especially those standing in lines with anxious people behind them, get anxious themselves about the question: 'What would you like?"  Graham and his staff have found it much more effective to lead with: 'Would you like to try?'  

Graham remarked, "If you lead with 'Would you like to try our Purple Whatever, five or six times out of 10 they'll answer, 'Yeah, OK, I'll try that.'  They don't have to think about it.  It keeps the line moving, and it elevates the bartender from an order taker into someone who has a suggestion, someone who has valuable input.  You're always walking a fine line between helping the customer decide and telling him or her what they want.  In the end, though, you can't really re-invent the wheel, especially when you're serving thousands and thousands of drinks."

He went on, "I also order all of the alcohol for the stadium, all of the wine and liquor and some of the beer.  Most of the beer portables and the stands that have drafts come from our central warehouse.  All of the liquor, though, is controlled by me.  I order it, and I and my team issue it out to each of the bars and monitor their yields and any of other issues that might come up.  We want to always make sure we have almost exactly the right amount of everything.  I have 32 bartenders at club level.  Probably my main game day duty is to watch over them.  Every bartender has their own unique stock.  So, part of my role is to keep them accountable.  Also, we have the suites where there are a lot of special orders and higher-end products going up there.  I look over all of that."

But it's not just Ravens Game Day where Graham and his staffers spring into action.  There are probably about 200 days where there is something going on at the stadium and catering is needed -- everything from corporate events and holiday parties to weddings and concerts."We do events year round," he stated.  "For example, we have dozens of weddings every year.  Some people will get married elsewhere and then have their reception on the club level in one of the lounge areas.  But a lot of the ceremonies are here, too, because the space is purchased for a block of time and some find it both unique and cost-effective to use the one space for the entire event."

If he has an operational philosophy that he lives by and tries to impart to his staff, it's this: "Under promise and over-perform.  Don't promise anything you know you can't deliver on.  That's the best way to get into trouble.  I am definitely not saying set your bar low.  But make it so you have room to exceed people's expectations.  Allow yourself room to blow minds."

One way he does that is beverage selection.  Under his leadership, M&T Bank Stadium has quickly garnered one of the best reputations in the NFL as being a venue to get really good drinks.    One of the reasons is something Graham likes to call "in-between cocktails." He explains, "What it comes down to is perceived value.  Anybody can make a rum and Coke.  The key is to find that little way that make drinks just a tiny bit more than you would expect.  The bartender is in the driver's seat of the experience, because drinks are often what customers are presented with first. ... People are coming and paying a premium price for drinks; they want to walk away from the bar feeling confident that they spent their money well."

He continued, "We may do a signature cocktail, a Sangria or a punch, that utilizes products already on-hand, while also managing cost.  But it's also not something stadium goers expect when they go to a bar.  It also crosses demographics.  A lot of the stadium experience is male-driven.  So, typically, there are a lot of beers and dark spirits mixed with cola.  It's really important that you keep the female consumer in mind, to give them a reason to come into the concourse and spend money.  You have to give every consumer a reason to walk into your space where you're selling things.  If they're staying in their seats because there's nothing inside for them, then we've lost out on residual food sales and the like."

This creativity has extended to M&T's catering events, its suite service on game days, and other special gatherings.  "With catering and in the suites, that's where we have the opportunity to add a little flair.  These are people who are entertaining, and they expect something upscale.  We have a menu that we've crafted, which is a great starting point, but I love working with the suite holders who want to customize their bar area.  To be able to provide something way better than they expected, that is the best feeling.  They get eight games a year, and they pay darn good money for it.  The same thing goes for weddings.  We have one chance to make a bride happy.  Probably the most rewarding part is when the bride and their family comes back to us with an e-mail or a call and says, ‘Wow, you guys knocked it out of the park!  That was awesome!"'

As for the most challenging part of his job, Graham harkened back to his transition from working a Major League Baseball season to now working pro football.  He concluded, "You don't have a 10-game home stand where you can say, 'Hey, bartender.  Yesterday, you did this wrong.  So, let's work on it today.'  Some people are gone for six months, and then they're back for just eight games.  Basically, in foodservice at this scale, the approach we live by is: 'Stuff is going to go wrong behind the scenes.  It's never perfect no matter how much you plan.  We know that.  But as long as the guest doesn't see us sweat, we're fine!'"


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2016 Editions Tue, 23 Feb 2016 10:03:55 -0500
Too Cool for School

What You Don’t Know About Ice

Shine a bright light in the eyes of an accomplished mixologist and he or she will eventually admit that ice is the most important ingredient in cocktails. It impacts every aspect of mixed drinks and does so with little cost and no marketing or packaging. In a time when success behind the bar is measured one drink at a time, outfitting your bar with the most advantageous type of ice is essential.

Its contribution goes beyond lowering the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature of around 37-38˚F. While only the genuinely obsessed would stick a thermometer into the drink to ensure it’s sufficiently chilled, the fact remains that cocktails rapidly increase in temperature moments after hitting the glass. Ice plays a crucial role in postponing the inevitable. 

“Equally important, ice introduces water into a drink. It helps to balance the blend and allows the various ingredients to meld and harmonize,” says Debbi Peek, portfolio mixologist for Bacardi USA. “The water also softens the biting edge of spirits, as well as accentuates their flavor.” 

According to Jonathan Pogash, acclaimed mixologist and beverage consultant, "The relative hardness of ice is an often over-looked attribute. A hard cube, lump cube or block of ice will dilute a drink at a much slower rate than your run-of-the-mill ice machine ice cube. If ice isn’t hard enough it will melt too quickly and over-dilute the cocktail. A “wet” ice cube is one that has been tarnished with excess water on its surface, thus allowing it to melt at a much quicker rate than desired.”

Another consideration is the nature of the water used to make ice, the quality of which will affect the taste of the finished drink. For that reason it’s advisable to use ice made from spring or mineral water. 

Celebrated chef and mixologist Kathy Casey thinks ice made with soft water produces better ice for drink making. “Many operators fail to factor in the type of water they use to make their ice. While spring or mineral waters are preferable, they’re not necessarily a practical option at a bar. However, installing a water softener is relatively inexpensive. And because the water is also filtered, the ice comes out free of haze or clouding. Crystal clear ice is more aesthetically pleasing.”

Size Matters

The size and shape of the ice you use play a key role in how drinks taste. “Small ice cubes tend to melt faster than larger cubes and will therefore more quickly dilute mixed drinks,” contends Bacardi’s Debbi Peek. “A drink made with small cubes will taste best when it’s first served, but becomes watery and less flavorful in short order. Larger ice cubes melt slower and release less water into a drink. That means the first sip will taste as good as the last.”

Ryan Magerian—mixologist and creator of Aviation Gin— thinks large format ice looks a whole lot sexier than standard bar ice, especially when stacked in a Highball glass. “More importantly, that using fewer, large format cubes presents less surface area and results in slower dilution. I recommend making drinks with 1.25-inch cubes, especially those from Kold-Draft or Hoshizaki machines. They’re produced to be dense and slow melting.”

Casey also prefers working with larger ice. “I think the square cubes from Kold-Draft are superior. They’re perfectly clear, uniformly shaped, and because of their density, they melt slower and cool faster.” 

Long a staple in Japan, ice balls are gaining popularity behind American bars. ice balls are seemingly the perfect marriage of form and function. Made on-premise in molds or carved individually, they look like crystal clear spheres between 3-5 inches in diameter. Their singular shape allows them to melt at a slower rate, thus reducing dilution.

Journalist Yuri Kato is the author of the recently published book, Japanese Cocktails (2009 Chronicle Books, San Francisco) “In Japan, we carve ice balls out of mineral water using an ice pick or knife. In fact, to become a member of the National Bartenders Association of Japan, a bartender must be able to quickly carve a perfect ice ball. Japanese people appreciate the ice ball when sipping whisky. It keeps the whisky at a steady temperature about an hour.” 

Peek likes using ice balls when serving cocktails on the rocks. “Since it is round the corners don’t melt leaving the first sip as cold as the last. They’re crystal clear, look sexy and last a long time. In a recent cocktail competition, I presented my entry with an ice ball to ensure it wasn’t watered down by the time it made it to the judges’ table.” 

Retro Chillers

Back in the day, cocktails were prepared with chipped, cracked or crushed ice. Even as late as the ‘70s bars typically carried both cubed and crushed ice in the bartender’s station. But as juleps, frappes and smashes slipped from the limelight, so did the need for stocking crushed ice behind the bar. The Tiki revival underway has changed that.

 “Tiki drinks are those popularized after Repeal through the 1950s and 60s,” says Jonathan Pogash. “Luminaries such as “Trader” Vic Bergeron knew that crushed ice created a massively cold drink and that people in the tropical South Pacific needed more help beating the heat than anyone else.”

Its cooling abilities results from having more surface area than any other form of ice, second only to shaved ice. Adds Magerian, “That makes crushed ice perfect for making Tiki drinks. Not only does it make them cold, but they’re potent drinks, so the extra dilution is an advantage.”

While the cocktail may reign supreme, ice appears to be the power behind the throne. As Pogash says, “You’ve walked into a place that cares about their drinks when you see the proper ice being plopped, dropped, chipped or cracked into your glass.”


Read More]]> (Robert Plotkin) March 2016 Editions Mon, 22 Feb 2016 21:22:56 -0500
Green Shoots on the Emerald Isle

Irish whiskey is undergoing an unprecedented wave of new distilleries.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, the saying goes. But investment is pretty high up there, too. For years now, Irish whiskey has been posting noteworthy gains on a small base. Now the supply side of this phenomenon has jumped in with real capital, and big plans.

Here is most of what you need to know about the growth trajectory of Irish whiskey: In 2011, there were four distilleries operating in Ireland, and now, at least 14 are up and running with nearly 20 more in various stages of planning. And make no doubt about where distillers expect most of their new whiskey to be flowing: to the United States, their number one market.

Irish has for decades been driven by the success of Jameson, representing about 75% of U.S. volume. But as other brands—Tullamore D.E.W. and Kilbeggan, specifically—were purchased by companies with a strong presence in the U.S., more weight has been put behind them. In some cases, new iterations and brand extensions have arrived, with companies—not always the big ones—committing greater resources. Even young, lesser-know labels are showing growth—Castle Brands’ Knappogue Castle age-statement single malts and value-priced Clontarf, for example.

Malini Patel, VP of World Whiskies and Americas Innovation for Beam Suntory, owner of Kilbeggan, Two Gingers and three other Irish brands, summarizes: “A global boom over the last several years has driven the interest of Irish whiskey amongst consumers looking for quality spirits with distinct flavor profiles and unique stories. We are also seeing a larger variety of Irish whiskey available today than five years ago with new brands coming to market at a very fast pace and established brands releasing new expressions.”

“Irish continues to gain momentum in numbers and with bartenders with its very approachable style and taste,” says Sona Bajaria, Brand Director for Jameson. “Jameson has opened the door for Irish whiskey for American consumers generally—they drink it and enjoy it, even if they move along in their whiskey journey to try other Irish products, which is happening increasingly, as they move to super and ultra-premium, and that has benefited our higher-end brands Powers, Midleton, Green Spot, Yellow Spot and Redbreast.”

One of the few mysteries in Irish is the next steps for Bushmills, Ireland’s oldest registered distillery. In 2014 Bushmills became part of the Proximo portfolio, which has always been defined by the Jose Cuervo brand. Bushmills is routinely respected as an important Irish whiskey, especially for its malt expressions, and for having introduced the first flavored Irish in the U.S. several years ago: Bushmills Irish Honey. The trade is eagerly anticipating what Proximo will do with the brand.

Edge of the Irish

Irish whiskey is in general considered lighter and smoother than bourbon and Scotch, a more approachable and a great entry point for newcomers to whiskey. While most Irish whiskey sold here is blended, many brands now feature extensions in the individual styles—single grain, single malt and single pot still—with more aged expressions and, lately, cask-finished types available.

Other innovations are taking hold. Jameson last fall launched Jameson Caskmates, finished in stout casks.Teeling sells a small batch finished in rum casks and a single grain matured in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. And Tullamore just released Trilogy, a blend of triple-distilled grain, malt and pot whiskies matured in three cask types—bourbon barrels, Oloroso Sherry butts and rum casks.

Tullamore’s oldest release to date, Trilogy is part of the range expansion that will roll out over the next few years, a result of being owned by William Grant, a company with access to a broad variety of high quality casks with which to experiment, says U.S. Brand Ambassador Tim Herlihy. “The real significant change in Irish whiskey, beyond the growth of so many new producers, is it’s no longer just entry level,” he says. “We’re seeing more single malts and single pot still whiskies and will see more of that coming on, with a real breadth of style and price points.”

Future Bright

“Irish whisky has definitely arrived and the big brands continue to grow substantially, making this a very interesting and exciting time,” says Jack Teeling, Managing Director of the Teeling Whiskey Company. “Things are very much dominated by the big guys and the new whiskies are coming from a narrow production base, but there’s a whole host of smaller guys trying to get into the business, and I believe over the next five to seven years, as production comes on stream, the supply will expand quite dramatically in terms of flavor profile and expressions.” Teeling released a single malt last May and now has a core range of three whiskies, as well as some limited offerings, like a malt finished in white port casks and 12 single casks to be released in February and March.

The expanding supply hasn’t been lost on on-and off-premise retailers. “We came to realize that Irish has so much versatility and diversity within it that the many types can really be applied to many different platforms in the cocktail world,” says Jack McGarry, one of the men behind The Dead Rabbit, currently considered one of the best cocktail and all-around drinking destinations in the country. Their current menu, in fact, is based half on Irish whiskey-based drinks, and with more than 180 different labels of Irish behind the bar, McGarry reckons they stock the most of any operation in the U.S. But it’s not just for show; the Dead Rabbit pours more than 100 liters of Irish each week, making it the biggest category at their bar.

McGarry says showcasing the properties of Irish is something they’ve taken on at Dead Rabbit, but admits that many operators and bartenders only know about Jameson. “People don’t order if they don’t know what it is,” he explains. “Many people don’t understand what single pot still whiskey is, for example, so we train our staff on whiskey flights and how to recommend the right style for each guest, making it easy and accessible to our guests.”

Donal O’Gallachoir, Brand Manager for the 2011-launched Glendalough Distillery, says as the range of possibilities—grain or malt, continuous or pot still, peated or unpeated, as well as various finishes—expand throughout the market, consumers will welcome the chance to go beyond the blended style. Glendalough, for instance, currently bottles three poitins (see sidebar), a 7-year-old and 13-year-old single malt, as well as “Double Barrel,” aged in bourbon and Sherry casks.

Most of the whiskey currently being sold by these brand new distilleries are sourced from one of the major Irish companies, as they wait for their young whiskies to mature. As William Grant & Sons’ Herlihy notes, there will be a flood of new expressions once that happens, and the real proof of what’s next in Irish will emerge only then. “There’s a long long way to go and it will be interesting to see what this boom will have us talking about in five years time,” says Herlihy, “after the wave of new Irish whiskies come over our way.” 

The Poitin Factor

If mezcal and moonshine can find a bigger market, why can’t poitin? That’s the question some Irish distillers are starting to ask of spirit retailers.

Donal O’Gallachoir, U.S. Brand Manager of Glendalough Distillery, now promotes three poitins, and compares its prospect to that of mezcal in relation to tequila: “Like mezcal, like pisco, poitin has an appeal to modern drinkers looking to try something different. This is a time in which people are looking to grow their knowledge of the Irish category and anything that starts that conversation is a positive thing.”

Traditionally, poitin (pronounced “po-CHEEN”) was the precursor to whiskey, made from malted barley, sugar beets and potatoes. Glendalough produces a premium expression at 40% alcohol by volume; one aged in Sherry casks; and one bottled at 60% or “Mountain Strength.”

Other brands, including Bunratty, have entered the U.S. market in the past few years. Newer importers feel the time is right now that any and all spirits seem to have a waiting customer base.

Mad March Hare, distilled in pot stills from malted barley, is pitching their poitin with a “craft” angle. “Poitin plays a large role in the history of Ireland and especially Irish whiskey, with local distilling tradition being similar to that of American craft spirits,” notes John Ralph, co-founder, Mad March Imports. “With the U.S. market accounting for approximately 36% of Irish whiskey sales, and craft spirits continuously growing in popularity, we feel it is the perfect opportunity to introduce the U.S. consumer to the ancient craft of Irish poitin.” Mad March Hare launches in CA, MA, IL, NY and CT this quarter, at SRP $24.99.

Getting Greener All the Time…

Arguably a sign of the Irish category’s continuing strength, the U.S. market has seen a fair number of new entries in recent years. It’s no shock to see them put their nationalism front and center, playing off Irish history, geography and tradition. To wit: West Cork and Donegal Estates both evoke beloved counties on the Emerald Isle. Claddagh Irish Whiskey honors the traditional Irish ring design, whose significance dates back centuries. The Pogues is made in partnership with the ever-popular Irish band.

The Irishman, produced at the Walsh family distillery, leaves no doubt as to its heritage; plus the recent extension, Writers Tears, honors 19th century Irish writers and playwrights. Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey, with Dublin roots dating back to 1779, was actually the first ever whiskey to be trademarked. Winebow is bringing in the brand to the U.S., with a blended whiskey (92 proof) and a 10-year-old single malt.

With straightforward, authentic appeal, the expansion of labels in the Irish category has the feel of a family getting bigger.

Selling Points

**Irish whiskey is generally lighter and smoother than bourbon and Scotch, more approachable and a great entry point for whiskey newcomers.

**New expressions of Irish whiskey have great appeal for whiskey enthusiasts as suppliers are putting the best material and effort into specialized bottlings.

**Irish whiskey is underrated as a mixer; did you know that half the cocktails on the menu at The Dead Rabbit (recently named Best Bar in America) are made with Irish whiskey?

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) March 2016 Editions Mon, 22 Feb 2016 21:18:42 -0500
Julian Demiri: An Unexpected Ascension

Julian Demiri arrived in the United States in 1996 as a young 19 year-old from Albania. He arrived speaking no English. He arrived with no job. He had however, just won the lottery.

Every year the United States offers around 50,000 temporary green cards to applicants from around the world. While this may not be the lottery you had in mind, it is in many ways just as important in the lives of those who are picked. What those "winners" do with such an opportunity makes all the difference. 

Speaking French and Albanian, Demiri hit the ground running at a now defunct bar in Fells Point. After five years, Demiri earned full citizenship and sought a job at the Inner Harbor staple, the Rusty Scupper. The Scupper has become a well-known landmark in Baltimore with an impressive history and an award-winning wine list.

Demiri interviewed with long-time General Manager Ed Prutzer, but he was told that due to slow business following the 9/11 attacks they didn't have the shifts available to hire him. Continuing to press for a position Julian was offered "a few shifts." That small 'trial offer' suddenly became an open position.  Without hesitation Demiri took that stroke of good fortune and ran with it. Just a few years later he began as a shift supervisor and now serves as the Assistant General Manager and Director of Wines.

Demiri's quick to point out that he has had help along the way, "When I came here 20 years ago from Albania we had nothing and I knew nothing. I had to assimilate and I got lucky to have a few people along the way who gave me a chance and shared their knowledge with me."

While Demiri had help in developing the Rusty Scupper’s award-winning wine list he has worked with it longer than anyone.  When given an opportunity to do so, he made it his own. Explaining the first of his challenges, "When I got the job, everything was a little high, some of the pricing was off. We had to bring in new wines and adjust."

Eleven years in a row the Rusty Scupper has earned the award for 'Best Affordable Wine List' from Wine Spectator magazine. The award is one of three that go to entry, mid, and high level wine lists in each state, each year. From 2004-2015 the Scupper has won the award for Maryland.

The feat of dominating such an award for over a decade is no easy task. Demiri believes the restaurant's success comes from a series of approaches that are each backed with reason and evidence. Demiri describes the process as if he's a scientist delicately balancing an equation, but with the confidence of a UFC fighter.

The accessibility of the list helps to keep the award coming back to the corner of the harbor.  "We never fail on that," said Demiri referring to the distinction. "We design it this way for a reason. We want affordable and inexpensive if you are on a budget. [If] somebody is entry level they get it. [If] somebody is an expert they have that too."

This balance isn't achieved through only feel, but also an understanding of the customer.

"I think American palates are different; softer, sweeter, floral, fruity." Demiri continued, "You need to adjust with the market. A recognizable list with easy to drink wines. The best reading is the guest. You have to adjust day to day."

Perhaps it is the ability to adjust to changing circumstances that has made Demiri one of the best at what he does. After two decades in the United States he's ascended to heights he certainly may never have dreamed about. As far as the next twenty years are concerned? Demiri stays driven rather than dream-filled, "I've had to be dynamic in the past 20 years and I don't see that changing. In our business you cannot get stale, you cannot get complacent. People's tastes change and you need to stay fresh and give people what they want."

If you could choose any wine, which one would you drink:
"Napa Cabernet"

Person you'd most like to serve
"Andrew Zimmerman from Bizarre Foods"

Other career would
loved to have tried
"A pilot. When I was a kid I always wanted to fly."

Next major industry trend:
"I think the trend toward local and artisan products will continue."

Favorite thing to do outside of work
"Spend time outside with my family. I take a lot of day trips into the far counties of Maryland and into neighboring states"

Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) March 2016 Editions Sun, 21 Feb 2016 20:17:39 -0500
Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey

The Teeling Whiskey Company has expanded its premium Irish whiskey portfolio with the launch of its award winning Irish Single Malt.  This Single Malt, was recently named World’s Best Irish Single Malt at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards.

Teeling Single Malt is the third release in the Premium range of Teeling expressions completing their full range to form the Teeling Trinity of non-aged statement of Irish whiskeys. To add a unique depth of character and flavor, Teeling Single Malt consists of aged malt whiskey up to 23 years old that has been matured in five different wine casks including Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon. This combination of cask maturation techniques has never been done before in Irish whiskey and creates a truly innovative Irish whiskey bursting with personality. Like all the Teeling whiskeys, it is bottled at 46% with no chill filtration allowing for all the natural flavors of the whiskey to be retained. 

Jack Teeling, founder of the Teeling Whiskey Company, commented, “We are delighted to be able to release another expression of Teeling whiskey that helps expand consumer choice and challenge existing perceptions of Irish whiskey. Our new Teeling Single Malt proves Irish whiskey can have big bold flavors that appeal to Single Malt drinkers without losing its distinctive Irish identity.”

The Teeling Whiskey Company was founded by Jack Teeling in 2012 to bring back an independent voice to the Irish whiskey category.  The Teeling family whiskey heritage dates back to distilling in Dublin in 1782 and Walter Teeling, who set up a distillery in Marrowbone Lane in the Liberties. Jack and his brother Stephen, Sales and Marketing Director, are just the latest generation of Teelings involved in the Irish whiskey industry and have just opened the first new distillery in Dublin for over 125 years with their Teeling Distillery and Visitors Center in Newmarket, Dublin 8.

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) March 2016 Editions Sun, 21 Feb 2016 19:56:34 -0500
Distilled Spirits Growth Continued in 2015

Distilled Spirits in the United States have enjoyed a gain in market share for the sixth consecutive year.  The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has reported another year of steady growth in 2015 with supplier sales up 4.1 percent and volumes up 2.3 percent.  Distilled spirits suppliers and marketers also marked the sixth straight year of increasing their market share relative to beer in 2015. 

“The positive performance of distilled spirits is the result of many factors including market modernization, product innovation, consumer premiumization and hospitality tax restraint,” said DISCUS President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz.

DISCUS reported strong growth in every whiskey category for the second straight year, with revenues rising 8 percent.  Super premium whiskeys were particularly popular among American consumers with luxury Bourbon, Scotch, Canadian and Irish whiskeys all recording double-digit gains.  Other categories performing ahead of the distilled spirits average growth included Tequila, with another exceptional year of 9.4 percent sales growth, and Cognac, with sales growth of 16.2 percent.

Category Highlights for 2015

DISCUS estimated that overall retail sales of distilled spirits in the U.S. market reached nearly $72 billion in 2015, supporting 1.4 million jobs in the hospitality industry. 

Additionally, the spirits sector achieved a slight increase in market share relative to beer for the sixth straight year in 2015.  Total market share gains by spirits compared to beer since 2000 totaled 6.7 points, with each point of market share equaling approximately $680 million in supplier sales for a total of $4.6 billion.

Several key factors contributed to the spirits sector’s continued growth, including:

l Demand for American whiskeys – Bourbon, Tennessee and Rye – booming in the U.S. and abroad

l Millennials of legal drinking age interest in discovery driving innovation and premiumization

l State legislatures showed
hospitality tax restraint protecting
jobs and consumers

l Modernized alcohol laws expanding consumer access and choice

l Focus on craft-style, artisanal
products benefiting both large and small producers

l Growth of micro-distilleries generating excitement in the spirits sector

l Cocktail culture continuing to define nightlife in cities across the country. 

Additional 2015 Top Performers

Both Irish Whiskey and Single Malt Scotch continued their rapid growth with revenues up 19.9 percent and 13.5 percent, worth $664 and $732 million, respectively, as reported by DISCUS Chief Economist David Ozgo.  Cognac sales were also up an impressive 16.2 percent, generating $1.3 billion in revenue, and Tequila revenues grew 9.4 percent, generating $2.3 billion revenue.  Despite growing only 0.5 percent, Vodka sales reached $5.8 billion.

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) March 2016 Editions Sun, 21 Feb 2016 19:54:36 -0500
Protect Your Livelihood

Get Involved...Stay Involved   

The Maryland 2016 Legislative session begins in two days (it is January 11th as I type this) … There is no doubt that Chain Store legislation is a concern of the entire industry as is Dram Shop legislation.  As in year’s past, you can expect these industry hot topics to arise during this year’s session.  Chain stores being allowed to enter the Maryland marketplace is a dangerous prospect to the independent beer, wine and liquor retailer.  As in year’s past, I am again iterating how important it is to get as many industry members involved and be prepared to defend the independent store-owners’ position to the state representatives.  Many of you are involved and are familiar with the process of protecting your business from harmful proposed legislation.  However, too many are not.  Below is my annual ‘How To’ on getting involved and protecting your livelihood …

First, you need to know what proposed legislation is coming down the pipe and how it would affect your business.  Becoming a member of your county association as well as the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) would be a great start.  The MSLBA was formed, in part, because the association's leaders understood that actions in the Maryland State House directly impact the operations of your businesses.  The MSLBA tracks proposed legislation that will have an effect on its members’ businesses.  They do this right at their web site,  

Next, you will need to know who your elected officials are.  There is a very quick and easy way to find out … go to and type in your address.  Make note of your State Senator and State Delegates.  

Now you will need to inform yourself as to the contributions you and your business make to the community. American Beverage Licensees (ABL) has a way for you to quantify the significant contribution you make to your community when it comes to jobs, taxes and economic impact.  ABL is the preeminent national trade association for licensed beverage retailers. Through the ‘resources’ area of the ABL website,, ABL members can create reports and download data that detail the number of jobs and amount of taxes that they provide to their communities, as well as more in-depth economic impact information at the state legislative district level.  This is a very powerful tool.  By utilizing this economic study data, you now have the ability to tell your overwhelmingly positive story and impact you have in your community to your representatives in Annapolis.

Lastly, you will need to get the attention of your representatives and share your story with them.  I would suggest you again enlist the help of the MSLBA.  At their web site,, go to their Legislative area and you’ll find information on upcoming events as well as how to put together an email or letter that will be well received by your representatives.

Access to the above mentioned materials at the MSLBA web site are free to all.  However, I would highly suggest becoming a member if you are not already.  If you want more information than is on their web site feel free to call the MSLBA at 410 876-3464.

Access to state Senate and House district data is free to ABL members and requires additional log-in information, which can be obtained by contacting the ABL office.  If you are not a member of ABL, you will need to become one to access the Economic Impact Study data and create reports, etc.  Visit or call them at 301 656-1494 for more information.

I’ve said it before, it’s worth saying again, get involved … your livelihood may depend on it.

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) February 2016 Editions Tue, 26 Jan 2016 11:39:52 -0500
Caught In the Draft

Cocktails on tap are no longer just a fad ...  


When Anton Baranenko, owner of Draft Choice, a New York-based company that customizes draft systems, began installing cocktail lines in 2010, the response from his bartending peers was hostile, even Luddite, with accusations that he was cheapening the value of craft cocktails, and could put bartenders out of work.

In 2015, just five short years later, he estimates that in 2015 more than 80% of his clients sought out cocktail as well as beer or wine lines. “Before, I’d have to pitch people on draft cocktails when I went in to sell a beer system,” says Baranenko. “Now they ask me.”

Welcome to the new world of draft, in which speed of service, efficiency and pre-batching can sometimes trump, or at least help resolve, some of the problems created by the 15-minute cocktail.

Tad Carducci, as part of the Tippling Bros., created a program at Mercadito (NYC, Chicago, Las Vegas) with seven cocktails on tap. He predicts, based on conversations with national account restaurant executives, that by the end of 2016 draft cocktails will be flowing in some major chains. “Operators are now seeing the long-term value and return on investment possibilities, and there are now so many more vendors, for everything from tubing and fittings to installation, in the game, it’s far easier to set up,” says Carducci.

No Blueprint Yet

Draft cocktails are uncharted territory. Consider two recent openings: Yours Sincerely in Bushwick, NYC, has an all-draft program with 20 cocktails on tap. Quarter+Glory in Washington, DC, has two. One is a barrel-aged Negroni, the other seasonal—currently “Jamie (Here’s How),” made with rye, bitters and sarsaparilla.

Kenneth McCoy, Chief Creative Officer for Public House Collective, the NY-based hospitality company that opened Quarter+Glory, admits some customers might wonder if the cocktails are bought in bulk rather than batched in-house. But he feels draft cocktails can provide quick service and consistency especially at busy times, allowing bartenders to be more social and interactive.

“The cocktail world can be extremely stuffy,” says McCoy. “We’ve all seen the bearded and suspendered bartender, frowning while standing behind the bar staring at you. We want to have a place that offers a fun experience, and while execution is part of the show, this sort of approach allows more time devoted to actual hospitality,” he says.

Yours Sincerely, with a dominant 20-handle tap, self-identifies as a “cocktail laboratory.” The drink menu—9 nitrogen cocktails, 5 carbonated cocktails, 3 shots, 3 non-alcoholic—spells out specific ingredients along with hand-drawn flow charts that provide both an air of simplicity and scientific precision. Classics get new life, such as the Pineapple Express (coconut-infused denizen rum, organic pineapple juice, vanilla coconut syrup).

Sacramento’s Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company serves four draft cocktails at a time, recently including the Local 916 (spiced Tullamore D.E.W., honey, cranberry and lime juices). “We set out to offer draft from the start in response to many customers saying they felt craft cocktails took too long to make. To us, waiting 20 minutes just isn’t acceptable,” says head barman Chris Tucker.

While draft cocktails more often tend to be spirit and fortified wine only, Tucker includes those made with fresh juice, avoiding spoilage by making smaller batches that will be depleted quickly. (Juices are commonly clarified to preserve freshness.)

Quick Study

Baranenko credits the growth of craft beer and draft wine for bringing more attention to the potential for draft cocktails, and for the greater availability of better systems. There is also easy-to-grasp logic in the idea that draft cocktails are not a huge leap beyond batched cocktails. (A typical five-gallon cornelius, or “corney,” canister, often used for soda, holds about 120 drinks.)

Like draft wine, draft cocktails have some particular requirements. Type 304 stainless steel components (valve couplers, tubing nipples, faucets, shanks) are essential to maintain the integrity of the system. The type commonly used for beer, 303, contains sulfur and can taint wine and spirits easily. Similarly, oxygen barrier tubing is sometimes required, as liquids oxidize quickly when exposed to tubing common in beer systems, and even flavor transfer can occur.

With the genre of draft cocktails effectively not even a decade old, there is a lot of learning to be done, and still some fundamental questions. Operators will naturally be concerned not only with issues of storage and delivery of draft cocktails, but also preservation and provenance. Cocktails are a different liquid than beer and wine; systems need to be able to handle the harshest and most acidic liquids.

Gas choice is also important, as is level of pressure—with both being variables to be tinkered with. Tucker says he thinks using nitrogen mellows cocktails, and he notices a distinct and favorable difference between a draft cocktail and one made fresh in some instances, with the draft version gaining a silkier texture. Products can change even in an oxygen-free environment. He notes some vermouths become slightly more bitter, even in stainless steel, and so careful monitoring is always required.

And no doubt, the more attention operators pay to this trend, the more they will learn.

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) February 2016 Editions Tue, 26 Jan 2016 11:27:43 -0500