Michael’s: Accessible Luxury

Posted on | December 29, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Michael Flannery,  New York, NY                                

During breakfast, Michael McCarty’s Midtown destination will be filled with New York’s powerful washing down California omelets with coffee. A few hours later, deals will be made over salade niçoise and La Caravelle Champagne. Now, thanks to the arrival of Michael Flannery behind the stick, weekday evenings have spawned a lively bar scene around cocktails like the Parisian Negroni.

The Beverage Network: Creating a cocktail program at a wine-centric restaurant as legendary as Michael’s is both exciting and challenging. What was your and Michael McCarty’s vision for building the drinks menu?

Michael Flannery: To be completely honest it is very humbling to be working in a restaurant such as Michael’s. Throughout my career I have opened many restaurants and hotels, but building a program for a 22-year-old restaurant in midtown Manhattan has a completely different feeling. My priority was to focus on the classics while being able to offer anything a modern cocktail drinker enjoys. I’ve stocked the bar with the best tools and now proudly can refer to any classic anybody desires to create something fresh for adventurous guests.  

TBN: I bet a lot of the regulars are used to their traditional martinis, yet you’re also whipping up cocktails with, say, Santa Teresa Venezuelan rum and Louis Royer Cognac. What has reception for the bar program been like?

MF: Incredibly positive, even from the guests who will still get their vodka sodas. Guests might be conservative but they still want a fun experience while they are in our restaurant to dine. They love Chef Kyung’s menu and his specials and they have an adventurous side.

TBN: How do you encourage guests to go beyond their comfort zone?

MF: One of my first nights, I started a gentleman with his usual vodka soda but he said I could be creative for his next drink. I made him an Aviation and he loved it. After that he was more intrigued and said he was not afraid of whiskey, so then I had that same gentleman drinking a deep purple highball with whiskey, maple syrup and fresh blackberries. He loved it! Today he still always starts with his vodka soda, but continues to try new drinks afterwards.

TBN: One way the restaurant has successfully introduced cocktails to bar patrons is Mixology Wednesdays. What is the goal of that program?

MF: Mixology Wednesdays started as a way for me to come into the restaurant one night per week to get a feel for the establishment and the clientele I would be entertaining. It has developed into our busiest bar night and along with our special bar menu from Chef Kyung, and some great cocktail prices, we get to have some of the other office workers come in, not just the bosses who are known to lunch at Michael’s.

TBN: I think another part of the program that is exciting is the bar food. How do the cocktails complement the experience?

MF: Chef Kyung has developed a great menu of bar bites that allow us to offer a more affordable evening. Matching cocktails with food is like pairing wine with food. So whatever the guest wants, from our market crudo which is light and savory to our Korean tacos that are spicy and rich, I will match for them a cocktail varying from something with sour and citrus to my personal favorite being a stirred spirit-forward cocktail like a Manhattan.

TBN: I like that you’re using some classic brands like Campari as well as the increasingly popular Del Maguey mezcal. Is this an opportunity to engage customers?

MF: Absolutely. Just as the guests are trying new cocktails (with lots of classics, too) I tell them about what spirits are in their drink. So many brands have great history—a little education gives the guest a bit of knowledge and will ultimately bring them back again for more. I’ve been making my cocktails to the flavors that are in the bottles, so working with great brands is important and leads to giving our guests something they possibly have not heard of before.  

Beer Institute Spent $260K on Lobbying

Posted on | December 29, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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The Beer Institute spent $260,000 in the third quarter to lobby on alcohol tax, labeling, safety awareness and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

That is up from the $220,000 it spent in the second quarter and down from the $360,000 it spent in the third quarter last year.

The trade group — whose members include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken USA Inc. and MillerCoors — also lobbied on funding for programs to combat underage drinking and drunk driving.

Besides Congress, the Beer Institute lobbied the Federal Trade Commission, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies in the July through September period, according to the report filed with the House clerk’s office.

Source: The Associated Press

December 27th

Inspired Innovation: As Consumers Again Embrace Premiums, Diageo Answers the Call With A New Wave of Luxury Goods

Posted on | December 29, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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With consumers ready and willing to trade up again, Diageo has ramped up attention to the premium and super premium arenas, says Olivia McNeal, the company’s Vice President of Technical Innovation. “Diageo continues to be very focused on delivering premium brands to consumers,” she explains, adding that while the economy is far from perfect, “people are still willing to pay a premium for unique drinking experiences.”

“Premiumization is alive and kicking and occurring at all levels of price positioning,” says Andrea Segara, Global Brand Director, Tequila Don Julio. “The super-premium segment is the fastest growing segment in the North American market.” Consumers are again moving up the price ladders, Segara observes, but adds that it can be very “category specific.”

Which is why identifying the growth areas is the critical first-step for Diageo’s innovation strategy, says McNeal: “We want to find pockets of consumer opportunity and then develop products that are truly special.” Scotch is an example of one of these growth categories, and Johnnie Walker continues to take advantage of consumer appetite for new expressions, most recently with Johnnie Walker Double Black.

Don Julio is another example. The brand recently rolled out the Don Julio 70, the industry’s first and only clear añejo tequila. “It celebrates the history of this iconic brand and is something completely unique with an entirely different taste profile,”
says McNeal.

Bullseye Approach

“We want to identify exactly who our consumer is for each innovation we bring to market, and figure out exactly how to speak to them,” says McNeal. Take Qream, an ultra-premium liqueur launched over the summer. Created in collaboration with musician Pharrell Williams, Qream—available in strawberry and peach flavors—is aimed at a very specific market. “We had the female consumer in mind from the moment we began creating this product,” says McNeal. “The beautiful bottle with French detail is very similar to a fragrance bottle; it possesses all the quality cues that encourage people to pay more.”

Flavors in general are a huge growth driver, and an area where industry-wide innovation will be coming from in future years. “The flavor world is booming and there is no limit to the possibilities, particularly in the premium category,” says McNeal. “Our Cîroc Peach posted impressive numbers right out of the gate. Flavors are going to be with us for a very long time.”

The Trade-Up Trend

When it comes to consumer behavior, McNeal is optimistic: “We see people returning to the on-premise and returning to the clubs, and premium spirits brands represent an affordable celebration.” Is there a price ceiling? Not necessarily, she believes; it depends entirely on the target consumer and the individual product (consider Jose Cuervo’s latest $2,250 offering). “We see many opportunities across the price spectrum.”

Even in this economy, spirits are still viewed as affordable luxuries and consumers are willing to trade up depending on the brand, the experience and the occasion. “Diageo works hard at identifying the opportunities that will unlock new occasions for premium-seeking consumers,” says McNeal. Indeed, opting for a luxury beverage can bring immediate reward to a consumer with relatively little investment compared with, say, trading up when purchasing a car, electronics or even clothing.

Plus, going luxe brings consumers added benefits in terms of status in social situations, whether that involves impressing colleagues having a drink after work, a date, or perhaps a gift recipient. In nightclubs, for instance, full-bottle sales are a fertile territory for high-end spirits; ordering the bottle lets peers see what you are drinking and sharing, whereas a single drink using a high-end spirit will look just like a regular rail drink. Smart bars know that visibility for luxury brands can spur sales. For Diageo, each of the offerings detailed here does a good job of declaring its luxury status visually, encouraging impulse orders.

Dollars & Sense

Where appropriate, Diageo is “premiumizing and innovating against current brands by providing a more unique sensory experience,” says McNeal. “This can be in the form of a new liquid like Johnnie Walker Double Black which is priced slightly above the Johnnie Walker Black Label. This liquid amplifies the signature style of Black Label, including its hallmark smoky flavor, to produce a bold blend of extraordinary depth, richness and character.”

McNeal adds that  “packaging also enhances a premium experience. This can be seen in the elegant design of the Qream bottle inspired by royalty which complements the decadent liquid inside.” She notes, too, that celebratory occasions represent a time when consumers are willing to pay more and trade up: “This can be a celebration in a club or a gathering at home and Cîroc Peach, for example, fits perfectly into this space.”

Riding The Flavor Wave: Cîroc Peach

Black Amped Up: Johnnie Walker Double Black

Wine Buzz: December 2011 Edition

Posted on | December 21, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Earlier this season, the New York Jets beat the San Diego Chargers, but whose wine rules? The J-E-T-S partnered with Napa Valley’s Marco DiGuilio, producing Jets Uncorked 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $27.99), 2010 Chardonnay ($19.99) and 2009 red blend ($19.99); distribution by Winebow ensures a full-out market blitz as well. For Chargers Legacy 2008 Cabernet ($30), the Chargers partnered with another Napa Valley vet, Anthony Bell. Behind blocking (OK, distribution) by Classic Wines of California, Legacy is available in the San Diego metro area and at Qualcomm Stadium. If the teams meet again in the playoffs, perhaps a tailgate tasting will be in order.




Will 2012 prove to be the breakout year for box wine? It could be if more premium California producers keep bag-in-boxing juice that could easily be in bottles. Two new entries from McManis Family Vineyards make a strong case. Interestingly, their Jack Tone Red and White are non-vintage blends, which Ron McManis explains “allows our winemakers to choose from different harvests, selecting grape varieties and optimum flavors to consistently produce wines of good taste vintage to vintage.” Jack Tone Red is a blend of Petite Sirah and Syrah; Jack Tone White blends Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Muscat Canelli. SRP $20-$23.



Champagne as a category has luxury coded into its DNA, and three new releases under the Barons de Rothschild aegis are sure to add shine to the iconic region’s image. The trio includes a Brut (60% Chardonnay; SRP $100), Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay; $125) and Rosé (made with 5% red wine rather than skin contact; $125). Packaging sports the family shield, and each wine, in addition to being Chardonnay-driven, features low-sugar dosage, an unusually high percentage (40%) of reserve wines and long aging after disgorgement to achieve the standard of quality established by other Barons de Rothschild wines.


This reusable rodlike device aims to provide an easier way to keep white wines optimally chilled and even bring reds up to a more suitable “cellar” temperature. Simply keep the Corkcicle in the freezer for at least two hours, then insert into the wine bottle after opening. With SRP of $22.95 and a 16-unit POP display, the gadget makes a novel and functional gift/impulse item.



The Moscato wave continues apace. The Ricossa Moscato D’Asti has launched across the U.S., appealing to a whole new generation of wine drinkers who embrace “sweet” like it’s the latest pop (or hip hop) tune. Imported exclusively by Touchstone Wines, LLC, the Ricossa is a top Moscato from the distinguished Moscato d’Asti DOCG region in Italy, where the wines adhere to a strict set of quality measures to ensure that nly the best grapes are selected. Made from 100% Moscato Bianco. SRP: $14.99


New Jersey Wine Sale Law Faces Uncertainty in Assembly

Posted on | December 20, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Although the state Senate approved legislation that would open New Jersey to both in-state and out-of-state winemakers to direct shipments to consumers and open markets for their products, the Assembly needs to act within the next three weeks for the measure to go to the governor’s desk.

And local Assemblyman Gary Chiusano said, “There’s probably a less than 50% chance it will get posted” by the Jan. 9 deadline for this session of the state Legislature. Any pending legislation that isn’t passed by both houses on or before that date must be reintroduced for the next session, which begins Jan. 10 when members of both houses are sworn in.

State Sen. Steve Oroho, whose district includes three vineyards in Sussex County and one in Warren County, said he voted in favor of the bill Thursday because “we’re talking pretty small amounts, small businesses. It goes back to keeping the farmer on the farm.”

The bill had an interesting array of supporters in the state Senate with both the majority leader, and chief sponsor, Democrat Stephen Sweeney, as well as the minority leader, Republican Thomas H. Kean Jr., voting in favor.

Oroho said there was no party stance on the bill and “everybody was on their own. There were a lot of reasons people voted for it and a lot of reasons people voted against it.”

The senate vote was 23-13 with four not voting.

Chiusano said he hasn’t made up his mind about which way to vote on the bill and believes that the measure hasn’t been posted because the bill’s chief Assembly sponsors haven’t lined up enough “yes” votes.

Two of the Assembly’s sponsors are Celeste Riley and John Burzichelli, fellow Democrats from Sweeney’s 3rd Legislative District, which includes parts of Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties and has several vineyards.

The bills are a response to federal court cases that have ruled against current New Jersey law, which prohibits out-of-state wineries from operating shops in New Jersey or shipping to New Jersey residents.

Chiusano said the courts are ready to impose an “everybody in the pool or everybody out of the pool” stance.

“The problem I have with it is that while our wineries could ship out-of-state, this would allow others to ship into New Jersey,” he said.

The bill sets up a special category of vineyard, which would apply to out-of-state wineries as well, that produces less than 250,000 gallons of wine and, for a license fee of less than $1,000, could operate up to 18 sales rooms across the state from which it could sell its own product. The new class could also sell directly to a retailer, such as a licensed liquor store, or to a wholesaler. The winery could also ship up to 12 cases to any customer for personal consumption.

The law does change around the numbers of sales rooms a winery can operate off-premises and eliminates the ability to operate joint sales rooms with other wineries.

There would be a separate fee for each sales room, up to a maximum of 19.

The Garden State Wine Growers Association supports the bill and thanked Sweeney and “the 22 other senators who understand the vital and critical nature of the bill.”

Wine-growing in New Jersey dates to Colonial times. Atlantic County is site of one of the oldest, continuously operated wineries in the United States.

In 2009, the state’s 33 wineries in 11 counties produced about 1.7 million gallons of wine.

Although dwarfed by California’s production of more than 638 million gallons of wine a year, New Jersey still ranks seventh on the list of wine-growing states.

Source: New Jersey Herald


Dec 20, 2011

The Find: December 2011 Edition

Posted on | December 19, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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The high-end spirits realm just got stretched in a brand-new direction. Hennessy Privilège NyX—the second in the brand’s “Privilège Collection”—sports a daring translucent platinum glass bottle with metallic purple trim inspired by a starry night. Logos etched in luminescent ink adorning the label, collar and cork are visible only under black light. Hennessy’s Jennifer Yu says that the design “evokes the imagination and conjures the endless possibilities when exploring the unknown or crafting the perfect night out.” The Cognac within is not exactly new (it is Hennessy’s Privilège VSOP), but this iteration represents the second in a noteworthy series. The first, Helios, paid tribute to the sun; others are slated to follow annually. Distribution begins December 1st. SRP: $45.99-$49.99



History has long been fertile territory for special spirits bottlings, but this one practically goes to the ends of the Earth. Mackinlay’s has re-created the malt whisky that explorer Ernest Shackleton toted to Antarctica in 1907 on his “Nimrod” expedition. Three wooden crates of the malt, originally distilled at Glen Mhor Distillery in Inverness, were abandoned and buried in the ice, only to be unearthed a century later by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust. Apprised of the discovery, Mackinlay’s distillers set about to faithfully re-produce the spirit—elegant with hints of apple, pear, smoke and creamy caramel. Dubbed The Enduring Spirit, it was then given a fitting package: the bottle contains deliberate imperfections; the label was meticulously hand-drawn to match the original; and, in a nod to the re-discoverers, it is encased in a wood box made from New Zealand pine. SRP: $175



As drinking is a constantly evolving pastime, it makes sense that bartending books should evolve as well—and even lead. Jim Meehan, the force behind Manhattan hotspot PDT, seems perfectly positioned to pen the definitive “circa now” book. The PDT Cocktail Book is packed not only with 300+ recipes, but also oozes its namesake speakeasy’s underground yet accessible edginess, with behind-the-scenes secrets and evocative full-color, retro-modern illustrations by Chris Gall. Available in hardcover (Sterling, $24.95), it’s already been lauded by spirits maven Gary Regan as “the best book of its kind to hit the shelves in the twenty-first century.” Back-pats by cookbook author Mark Bittman, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Momofuku chef David Chang speak to the book’s appeal beyond the mixologist fraternity.



While coffee has long been a foundation of rich, warming bar drinks, tea—perhaps due to its inherent subtleties—has been less frequently complemented by varied liquors. Baltimore’s Teavolve Café and Lounge features a slew of loose-leaf teas, but also an impressive range of spirit-ed tea options. Sangrias include red, white and blush (each based on wine, brandy, triple sec, tea and fresh fruit). Himalayan Green Tea Vodka and Pomegranate White Tea Rum are among the house-infused spirits. The latter is used in the café’s most popular cocktail, the Pomegranate Mojito, which also includes agave nectar, muddled lime and mint leaves, and club soda. Teavolve’s menu focuses on sandwiches, salads and crepes, with many ingredients locally sourced.


Season’s Menu: December 2011 Edition

Posted on | December 19, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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2 oz. Sobieski Vanilla Vodka
½ oz. Irish cream liqueur
Splash of pomegranate juice

Serve over ice and garnish with a stick of cinnamon.


1½ oz. Russian Standard Vodka
4-6 strawberries
3 tsp. sugar
Juice of half a lime
Crushed ice

Shake ingredients together well with ice and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with strawberry slices or a candy cane.


1 part Frangelico
1 part Skyy Infusions Citrus Sugar
1 Lemon wedge

Shake Frangelico and Skyy Infusions Citrus with ice. Strain into a sugarrimmed rocks glass, fill with ice and garnish with a sugar coated lemon wedge.


2½ oz. Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka
½ oz. Lucid Absinthe
½ oz. simple syrup
Crushed chocolate cookie for glass rim
1 Chinese star anise

In an ice-filled shaker, add Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka, Lucid and simple syrup. Shake thoroughly and strain into martini glass rimmed in chocolate cookie crumbs. Garnish with star anise.


1½ oz. Camus VS Elegance Cognac
¾ oz. sweetened condensed milk
¾ oz. passion fruit concentrate

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir to mix. Add ice, give a hard shake and strain into a coupe glass.


1 oz. Pama Liqueur
1 oz. premium vodka
4 oz. fresh apple cider

Build all ingredients in a highball glass over ice.


2 oz. Hpnotiq Harmonie
1 oz. vodka
Splash of cranberry juice
1 Candy Cane

Shake ingredients together well and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a candy cane.


4 parts Zipang Sparkling Saké
1 part St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Splash of yuzu simple syrup
1 Raspberry

Shake St. Germain and yuzu simple syrup over ice and strain into a chilled Champagne flute. Top with chilled Zipang Sparkling Saké and garnish with a fresh raspberry.


1½ parts Tequila Avión Silver
1½ parts pomegranate juice
¾ parts orange liqueur
Splash of fresh sour mix (half lime juice/half simple syrup)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice; shake vigorously. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime twist.


1½ oz. Russian Standard Vodka
½ oz. dry vermouth
½ oz. olive brine

Shake ingredients vigorously over ice. Strain and serve in a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cornichon or an olive.


2 oz. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon
2 oz. crème de cacao
1½ oz. hazelnut liqueur

Fill a shaker with cracked ice and blend. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.



Pernod Optimistic Over Year-End Sales in U.S.

Posted on | December 16, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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French spirits group Pernod Ricard is optimistic over sales prospects for the end of the year in the United States, a recovering market where it aims to take market share.

The world’s second-biggest spirits group behind Britain’s Diageo may also further raise prices in some of its drink categories in the U.S. but has no plans to do so for Absolut vodka in the next 12 months, Philippe Dreano, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Americas, said on Thursday.

Dreano told analysts during a conference call Pernod and Bean Inc had agreed to end a distribution contract for Beam’s Sauza tequila in Mexico, but the impact on Pernod would be “minimal” as the brand made less than 5% of Pernod’s profit in Mexico.

“We are quite positive on the outlook for year-end sales,” Dreano said, when asked to give a view on trading conditions in the United States after Thanksgiving.

“Data from Black Friday are quite excellent,” he added. He said there had also been good feedback from the group’s distributors.

Pernod Ricard claims the number-three spot in the United States, a market where the group makes 52% of its sales in the Americas region, which also comprises Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

In the last 10 years, Pernod has expanded in the region through organic growth and three major acquisitions — Seagram in 2001, Allied Domecq in 2005 and Absolut in 2008.

The Americas region is the second-largest contributor for Pernod behind Asia, making 29% of group profit from recurring operations in fiscal year 2010-11.

Growth in the region has been fuelled by a recovering U.S market and fast-growing emerging markets of Brazil and Mexico, where Pernod claims the number one spot.

In the United States, Pernod said it is was well positioned to grow thanks to a portfolio of six premium brands — Absolut vodka, Jameson whisky, Malibu rum, Chivas Regal, Glenlivet whisky and Kahlua liquor.

The six brands account for 60% of its U.S. volumes and over 85% of marketing spend.

Pernod successfuly raised Glenlivet and Jameson prices in the U.S. two months ago and will “continue to be pro-active” on that front, Dreano said.

In October, the Pernod Ricard group said it was targeting a rise of close to 6% in underlying operating profit in the year to June 2012, thanks to Asia and a recovering U.S. market, as it expected slow growth in its mature markets.

From Reuters, December 15th, 2011

American Cancer Society Holds Annual Wine & Spirits Industry Gala

Posted on | December 10, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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On October 17th, representatives from across the wine and spirits industry gathered to attend the 34th annual dinner hosted by the American Cancer Society at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. This year’s event raised significant funds for cancer research and honored Bill Deutsch and Peter Deutsch of W.J. Deutsch & Sons. Jim Nantz of CBS Sports television fame introduced the Deutsch’s. Tom Steffanci of WJD and last year’s honoree, Robert Sands of Constellation, also addressed attendees.

Fedway and Carolina Wine Brands Visit Pasqua Winery in Verona, Italy

Posted on | December 10, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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The Pasqua Family, producers of highly rated Amarone and Prosecco, recently hosted their New Jersey distributor, Fedway Associates, and their United States agent, Carolina Wine Brands, on a tour of their vineyards and winery in Verona.

Alessandro Pasqua, Riccardo Pasqua, Pat Scelfo, Rich Scelfo, Umberto Pasqua, Neil Barnett, Lucy Lombardi, Cheryl Krueger, Frank Panicali, Gale Barnett and Rose Panicali

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