Malibu Redesigns Bottle

Posted on | February 28, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Introducing the new redesigned Malibu bottle. The new bottle keeps all the fun and energy that characterizes Malibu but adds more of a contemporary, modern feel. And the new clear window around the bottom of the bottle maximizes shelf-appeal by highlighting the fresh, clear spirit.

“Malibu is the original Caribbean rum and coconut liqueur.  Our iconic white bottle is a symbol of the brand that is known throughout the world. But even something great can evolve. And that’s just what we’ve accomplished with the new design,” says Lisa McCann, Brand Director for Malibu, Pernod Ricard USA.

All aspects of the package have been refined including the word mark, logo design, the typography and the bottle shape itself. The new bottle is more slender with high shoulders, giving it a distinctive, modern feel that appeals to everyone while complementing the unique Malibu character. McCann added, “It brings to life the energy and warmth of the Caribbean, in a highly contemporary way”

The new logo is clean and modern and evokes the free and easy spirit of Malibu. It captures the inspiring moment when the setting sun meets the beach, and the day opens up into an even better time.

Malibu’s spirit. Malibu is all about spreading the summer feeling, of being carefree and open to good times all the time. Those lucky consumers who have had a sneak-peek at the new bottle say it’s a knockout – more fun, energetic, trendy and contemporary.

The new bottle will arrive at retail in the spring 2013.

Talkin Tech: Online Crossroads: Marketing Agents Seeking to Sell Wine Online get a Hearing at the SLA

Posted on | February 28, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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The State Liquor Authority of NY is preparing a new set of guidelines that could have national implications for how wine is sold online. While the jurisdiction of the SLA is limited to licensed wholesalers, retailers and restaurants, the issue at hand is how unlicensed marketing agents can promote wine. As a price-posting state NY has strict laws about 3-tier compliance, and given the size of the NY wine market most marketers will build their business models with these rules in mind. At a special meeting in January Chairman Dennis Rosen of the SLA clearly felt it was time for an open discussion with the industry, so they could discuss their concerns in anticipation of a new protocol.

There are several marketing agents that actively promote wine to consumers including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal wine clubs, the flash sale site Lot 18, and most recently Amazon which sells wine from US wineries on its website. Until a little over a year ago marketing agents operated in an uncertain space, but an advisory from the California ABC in November 2011 changed this. The Golden State clearly saw that its wine industry would benefit from having more marketers promoting their products and opened the door for marketers to be more direct in their pursuit of consumers. For the first time it was clear that credit cards payments could be collected by the unlicensed agent, even though control of the disbursement of funds must stay under the control of a retail license. This was significant in that it gave marketers a green light to put a shopping cart on their website and collect payment directly from consumers.

A special SLA meeting was convened in January in response to a request from ShipComplaint who were seeking validation of their marketplace platform. It turned out the SLA had been conducting its own investigations into the activities of ShipCompliant’s licensed business partners and was using this opportunity to address the wider issue of unlicensed agents participating in and being compensated for the sale of alcohol. Two of those business partners, marketerLot 18 and the wholesaler MHW faced some tough questions about contract language that specified compensation for the retailer and wholesaler, and the price posting of duplicate items. The resulting discussion identified some principals the SLA considers important, and Rosen made the point that the model itself may be sound, but it depends on how the business partners are using it. Was ShipCompliant driving a taxi or a getaway car?

Among Rosen’s concerns were that the retailer needs to exercise control over the transaction, and be exposed to risk. The wholesaler cannot avoid duplicating the brand registrations of other wholesalers in the state by “stickering” products so they become eligible for a new label approval code (COLA) and a separate registration. It was pointed out that the retailer may be able to purchase the same product from a different wholesaler at a different price.

After what was quite a dramatic hearing the publication of the SLA’s guidelines are eagerly anticipated. Amazon announced in January the construction of a 1 million square foot warehouse and fulfillment facility in NJ and had legal representation at the hearing. As a marketing agent Amazon could present a big opportunity for US wineries or a competitive threat for local retailers. Either way the SLA was clear that it does not intend to stand in the way of internet sales.

Irish Whiskey Is a Pot of Gold

Posted on | February 28, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Small but Potent, the Irish Whiskey Category is Proving to be Popular by Demand

You can’t credit success like this to the luck of the Irish: for 2012, Irish whiskey showed growth in every key global market, including a volume increase of 24% to 1.71 million nine-liter cases in the U.S., the number one market for Irish whiskey, according to Impact Databank.

“It shows no signs of stopping,” says Hannah O’Leary, brand ambassador for Jameson, the world’s leading Irish whiskey, owned by Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers. “The whole category is sort of a runaway freight train. People were once concerned that Jameson shots would be a fad, but there are no signs of slowing.” Jameson is indisputably the engine of this train, with 76% of Irish whiskey sales in the U.S., representing about 86% of growth, according to O’Leary. The growth of Irish whiskey is so dramatic, and prolonged, that this once heavily consolidated category is inviting impressive new investment.

Keys to Success

“I think it’s fair to say that our goal is to grow the category. Success is when Irish whiskey does well. We aim to grow the whole pie,” says O’Leary. While Irish whiskey remains a popular bar shot (about 60% of Jameson consumed in shot), the expanding usage opportunities and new consumers portend more, and broader, growth.

The industry hopes to develop a gradual trend toward year-round drinking, flattening out the dramatic peaks of December (holiday) and March (St. Patrick’s Day) consumption, notes O’Leary. There is also growth to be had in long drinks, especially Jameson and ginger ale, which appeals to the important female market for Irish whiskey. And, while Irish whiskey has largely sat idle for America’s cocktail renaissance, there are signs that, too, is changing, with the appearance of Irish whiskey-based punches and cocktails on trendsetting lists, like New York City’s Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, featuring drinks inspired by a place and time when Irish whiskey was the whiskey in America.

Investing in the Future

In anticipation of current and future demand, Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers are investing $127 million to expand the Midleton Distillery in County Cork, where they produce Jameson and other brands, effectively doubling capacity. “We are laying down 70,000 casks per year and the capacity on the pot still side will double as well, which I was really glad to see,” says O’Leary.

The pot still component for Jameson, made in single batches like single malt Scotch, is critical not just for Jameson, but also to supply the premium brand Redbreast, made with 100% pot still whiskey, as well as Powers Gold Label, a sleeper brand that is higher in pot still whiskey than standard Jameson. Unlike the heavily advertised Jameson, these other Irish entrants from are soaring in popularity by word of mouth alone.

Tullamore DEW, the second largest global Irish whiskey brand after Jameson, is also investing for the future, in an effort to satisfy the brand’s double-digit growth in the U.S. since William Grant & Sons took over the brand in 2010. In addition to a newly constructed visitors center, a new facility will come online in 2014 at a cost of nearly $45 million.

The new distillery will ensure supply of Tullamore DEW Original, with its unique triple-blend of malt, grain and pot still whiskey, while offering the freedom to create and diversify, according to Ken Reilly, category marketing director. “Irish whiskey is a dynamic category with new styles emerging, honey for example, and older styles resurrected, like peating and pure pot still,” says Reilly.

Driving Diversity

Some of the most innovative products to broaden the spectrum of Irish whiskey hail from the Cooley Distillery, founded in 1987 to produce the Kilbeggan, Connemara, Tyrconnell and Greenore brands, and acquired by Beam Global  in late 2011. According to Bob Gorman, director of marketing for world whiskies at Beam, the acquisition not only gave Beam a controlling interest in 50% of Irish distilleries (Cooley started operation of a second distillery in the town of Kilbeggan to contribute to the whiskey of the same name in 2007), but also filled a “glaring omission” in their whiskey portfolio—a premium Irish whiskey able to stand should-to-shoulder with Maker’s Mark and Laphroaig. Beam has also imported five brand ambassadors from Ireland to canvas key U.S. markets.

“The whole premise of why Cooley was set up is to revive the traditions of Irish whiskey that were lost when it became a monopoly,” says Stephen Teeling, senior global marketing manager for Irish whiskey at Beam, who very much embodies the passion of his father, the creator of Cooley. “We were the first to offer cask-strength, port and sherry finishes with Tyrconnell, peat-smoked whiskey. We’ve spend over 20 years building that story, talking with pride about Irish whiskey.”

Beam’s Irish flagship, Kilbeggan, is retails around $24, just a few dollars above category leader Jameson. “Jameson did a great job of recruiting and we have these younger consumers coming to Irish whiskey, especially in shots. Where we see a big opportunity is with those who want to step up to a more premium pour,” says Teeling.

While Kilbeggan trades heavily on heritage, Beam’s newly acquired 2 Gingers, also crafted at Cooley, offers a more casual approach, with its whimsical name and modern packaging. Launched in Minnesota by restaurateur Kieran Folliard, 2 Gingers owes much of its success to a trademarked drink, Big Ginger, comprised of 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, ginger ale and a lemon and lime wedge.

Cooley Distillery is also responsible for Sidney Frank Importing Company’s, Michael Collins brand, which includes a double-distilled blended Irish whiskey and 10 Year Old Single Malt, distinguished by its use of peated barley. According to Kate Laufer, director public relations at Sidney Frank, the blend attracts mainstream Irish whiskey drinkers as well as bourbon lovers, a fertile ground considering that Irish whiskey sales still pale in comparison to bourbon’s 16 million cases. Cocktails have also been key, as promoted in advertising and on the website.

Like Michael Collins 10, Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old, from Castle Brands Inc., points to the increasing importance of age statements, especially in winning consumers of high-end Scotch, where age statements are a defining measure of quality. Knappogue ceased making the annual vintage whiskies that emerged in the early ’90s in favor of a flagship 12 Year Old, while leaving room for special editions true to the brand’s super-premium positioning. The newest is Knappogue Castle Twin Wood 14 Year Old Single Malt, bottled at 92 proof, following aging in both bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks.

Perhaps the surest sign that the Irish whiskey category is far from peaking: Concannon Irish Whiskey was enthusiastically embraced by both on- and off-premise accounts during the 2012 launch, says James Parker, VP of sales for The Wine Group Spirits, which markets the brand. Concannon may be a new name but also embodies four generations of family heritage. Park expects sales to double in 2013.

With a passion for the past and optimism for the future, the last thing these Irish producers require is luck. New expressions are growing the category both up and out, exciting sophisticated whiskey lovers with single malts and specialty finishes that challenge Scotch malt whisky, while soft, sweet, drinkable blended Irish whiskies appeal to converts from vodka, beer and bourbon.

In addition to quality, however, Irish whiskey may have one thing going for it above all else—just being Irish. Says O’Leary: “I’m Irish, and like a lot of Irish-Americans, that makes these whiskies an important part of my heritage and a matter or personal pride.” 

Don’t Forget the Creams…

Whiskey is not everyone’s cup of tea—which is one reason why Irish cream liqueurs have proven popular since being introduced in the 1970s. While still dominated by Baileys, the market’s ability to absorb other brands and variations is proof that it’s important for stores and bars to offer these as well.

Distinctions among Irish Creams—which are essentially 34-proof, shelf-stable blends of whiskey, cream, sugar and sometimes additional flavorings—are not as critical as with the whiskeys. For sweet-toothed drinkers, these smooth liqueurs are delicious on the rocks or in coffee.

Reliable brands include Carolans, Duggan’s, McCormick’s, Molly’s and Saint Brendan’s. To make a selection of Irish Creams stand out, consider adding flavor variations (Baileys recently added hazelnut to its range that includes caramel, coffee and mint chocolate). And a basket of minis by the register are sure to disappear come mid-March.

Irish Whiskey Playbook

As the popularity and diversity of Irish whiskey continue to grow, here are some top picks, with points of distinction to help make the right recommendation.

TOP SHOTS AND CLASSIC POURS

JAMESON
Pernod Ricard USA; $22
Triple-distilled and renowned for smoothness, the Irish category leader is the go-to pour for shots and everyday enjoyment, earning the youth vote for its unmatched name recognition.

TULLAMORE DEW ORIGINAL
William Grant & Sons; $21
The second largest Irish whiskey in the world, Tullamore D.E.W. is triple distilled, and uses all three types of Irish whiskeys; the pot still, malt and grain whiskies.

BUSHMILLS BLACK BUSH
Diageo; $32
Matured for up to seven years in a combination of sherry casks and bourbon barrels, a generous 80% malt whiskey makes this premium blend a top shelf classic.

BOURBON LOVERS’ FAVORITES

JAMESON SELECT RESERVE BLACK BARREL
Pernod Ricard USA.; $32
A high proportion of pot still whiskey with small-batch grain whiskey, demand is soaring for this newcomer aged in bourbon barrels and sherry casks. Like bourbon, this whiskey uses considerable corn.

GREENORE 8 YEAR OLD SINGLE GRAIN
Beam Inc.; $45
Smooth and mellow, this Irish whiskey is made predominantly from corn and aged for a minimum of eight years in ex-bourbon barrels, imparting the abundant oak and vanilla notes familiar to bourbon drinkers.

MICHAEL COLLINS BLENDED
Sidney Frank Importing Co.; $24
A smooth yet flavorful blend, this whiskey includes double-distilled malt whiskey aged four to 12 years in small bourbon-seasoned casks.

SOPHISTICATED SIPPING

BUSHMILLS 21-YEAR OLD SINGLE MALT
Diageo; $119
This rare malt spends a minimum of 19 years in Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks, followed by two years in Madeira-infused casks, delivering dark chocolate and raisin notes.
CONCANNON
Concannon Irish Whiskey; $25
Intrinsically connecting this whiskey to its namesake winery, barrels previously used for Petite Sirah are used for aging along with bourbon barrels; the makers call this “the Concannon effect,” imparting extra fruity notes.

CONNEMARA PEATED SINGLE MALT
Beam Inc.; $42
Double-distilled using peat-dried malted barley and aged in ex-bourbon barrels, this full and rounded whiskey, balancing fruit and smoke flavors, will win fans among discerning Scotch drinkers.

REDBREAST 15 YEAR OLD
Pernod Ricard USA; $74
Like all Redbreast, this exquisite whiskey is pure pot still, a rarity crafted with both malted and unmalted barley. In addition, it is aged in bourbon and sherry casks and non-chill filtered.

TYRCONNELL 10 YEAR OLD SHERRY CASK
Beam Inc.; $74
One of a collection of specialty finishes (the others being Madeira and Port), this rich and creamy single-malt layers grape and berry fruit over sweet vanilla, caramel and dried fruits.

HOT BRANDS

KILBEGGAN
Beam Inc.; $24
Double-distilled in the oldest operating pot stills at the world’s oldest licensed distillery, this relative newcomer combines real heritage and great taste.

2 GINGERS
Beam Inc.; $20
A four-years-aged blended Irish whiskey, 2 Gingers was inspired by the red-headed mother and aunt of founder Kieran Folliard, who is now looking to take its cult-like devotion national.

POWERS GOLD LABEL
Pernod Ricard USA; $22
With a substantial pot still component, this full-flavored Irish blend is a true classic and sleeper hit, now that savvy bartenders have discovered the difference in its long, honeyed finish.

BEYOND WHISKEY

BUSHMILLS IRISH HONEY
Diageo; $25
Ireland hops aboard the honey trend, a natural partner for sweet and gentle flavors of Irish whiskey. And one that may put Bushmills back on the lips of consumers.

THE KNOT
William Grant & Sons; $25
This sweetened Irish spirit is not technically whiskey, but The Knot is a hearty 100 proof, embracing the high-proof trend among young male consumers and targeting shot glasses.

Somm Sez: A Fresh (& Big) Start

Posted on | February 28, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Alpana Singh, Proprietor/Master Sommelier, The Boarding House, Chicago

Few sommeliers in America have enjoyed a trajectory as steep and rapid as Alpana Singh. In 2000, at the age of 23, she became the sommelier for Chicago’s acclaimed Everest. Three years later, she became the youngest woman to become certified as a Master Sommelier, and soon shifted into a larger role as wine and spirits director of the Lettuce Entertain You (LEY) group. Singh left LEY late in 2011 but stayed in Chicago to pursue a project of her own: The Boarding House. The multi-level space is divided into the First Floor Wine Bar (featuring a chandelier made with 9,000 wine glasses); the Dining Room; and, below ground, a more loungeish Cellar. All three have been packed since the December 2012 opening.

THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: Do you have a go-to region or type of wine?

ALPANA SINGH: I would say Southern Rhône and Spain. We get a lot of customers that like California Cabernet; Rhône and Spanish wines pair well with food but the style is not far off.

TBN: What is a favorite current pairing from your menu and list?

AS: Pierre Gonon St. Joseph ’09 with Bavarian sausage and choucroute. The smokiness of dish with Northern Rhône Syrah is fantastic.

TBN: Do you do special wine promotions?

AS: No. But I isolate a page of “top wines of the moment” toward the front of the list. We change that about every four weeks.

TBN: What software system do you use to manage your list/inventory?

AS: I have a spreadsheet on Google Docs. An outside company comes in once a week to do bar and wine physical inventory, so I can monitor the differential between purchasing and selling. Spoilage by the glass is important.

TBN: Do you have a system for managing your wine orders?

AS: I get nightly reports of what was sold. Our master is set up listing bottles on hand, with another field that allows me to punch in number to order. I can download that as an order sheet. I order Monday for Tuesday and then Thursday for Friday.

TBN: What were some of the challenges in starting from scratch?

AS: First was not knowing what to put on the list. My taste leans toward classics; I did not know if people were more into esoteric or still drinking California. Also just the general size of the list. At Everest no one ever questioned the length of the list. We have storage limitations here at The Boarding House. I originally aimed for 350, and tasted 1,400 wines to start. Eventually we wound up at 500.

TBN: What are some wine trends you have noticed recently?

AS: Chinon. Loire in general. We went through 50 cases of a Chinon—the distributor’s entire supply—then switched to Olga Raffault and it still is very popular. Also Syrah; I don’t know why some people think people are not ordering Syrah. Something I think is coming: esoteric grape varieties from California. Arnot-Roberts and Palmina are two examples. Younger winemakers are geeking out and there is a lot of potential to work with interesting grapes.

TBN: What advice do you find yourself frequently telling your staff?

AS: My motto is: it’s all about the palate not the price point. We have enough price points for a spectrum. Even if someone wants to spend three digits, the style comes first. We do wine training once a week, and this is why we spend a lot of time on comparative tasting, so they are set up to recommend wine in the style a customer asks for.

TBN: What is another wine program that you admire?

AS: Frasca in Boulder. Bobby Stuckey has a super Italian selection that matches the cuisine, and impeccably trained staff.

Corkboard
The Boarding House

Cuisine: Wine-inspired global cuisine
Selections on wine list: 500
Bottles in inventory: 2,000
Price range of list: $38-$1,400
Average bottle price: $65
Sweet spot on list: $50-$80
Wine list strengths: Champagne,
France, Pinot Noir, small producers; the list itself, organized mostly by grape, but then sectioned by style/region and annotated with eclectic wine quotations
List format: 3-ring binder; 50 total
Wines by the glass: 2 sparkling;
7 white; 9 red
Price range by the glass: $10-$28
Stemware: Schott Zwiesel Tritan Forte
Preservation system: None; turnover is frequent and each part of the restaurant starts with fresh bottles every shift

How To Train A 21st Century Bartender?

Posted on | February 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Pure knowledge matters, but pro trainers emphasize techniques, service and efficiency as well.

Paul Pacult leads the Beverage Alcohol Resource program.

When bartender Jacob Briars first visited New York City, his verve to sample the fare at bars and boîtes made famous as cocktail cathedrals ran smack into a cold and unpleasant reality. His request for an Algonquin (rye, dry vermouth and pineapple juice) at the hotel bar of the same name was met by a blank stare—a typical response from a server accustomed to orders no more complicated than a Tanqueray and Tonic.

That was some time ago, but it’s fitting that Briars’ latest enterprise includes setting up a bartender training program for Bacardi in the U.S. There was a time not so long ago, as Briars’ experience reminds us, when bartender training consisted mostly of the new hire showing up an hour or so early to get familiar with the bar layout, product mix, rules and regulations and general decorum expected. More time was likely spent trying to figure out the POS system than mastering the cocktail menu.

There’s little doubt among cocktail cognoscenti that the overall skill level expected among new employees at craft cocktail bars today far exceeds that of any previous era. Supported by numerous brand-based programs, seminar-rich conferences, traveling brand ambassadors, and supplier and distributor efforts, the average bartender working at any level today enjoys a wealth of opportunities to learn.

The same avidity for cocktail training may not be at work in most non-craft oriented bars and restaurants, though throughout the vast range of American watering holes, there has been a noticeable uptick in general knowledge and enthusiasm in drink-making.

“It’s great to see so many bartender training programs out there, and they all seem to have their own take on the craft,” says Gaz Regan, author of numerous books including The Joy of Mixology and host of gazregan.com. Now that bartending is widely seen as a legitimate food service career choice, one with prospects and potential, being trained at the highest level is increasingly seen as a significant step for advancement.

SHORT HISTORY

Paul Pacult, who leads the hydraa-headed Beverage Alcohol Resource program (better known as BAR) in partnership with Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steven Olson, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich, notes that when the program started in 2005, no specific form of professional certification existed, something the culinary world offers in most disciplines—pastry, kitchen management and other aspects. Says Pacult: “A first sector of professionals had already been working as bartenders long before we started BAR, but they still looked to perfect their craft. I believe that we are now attracting what I think of as a ‘second wave’ of young women and men who in the last five years have become intrigued with the bartending profession.”

BAR is an intensive five-day course focusing not only on mixology but also the history of spirits through a broad range of categories and traditions.  BarSmarts—also created by BAR, in conjunction with Pernod Ricard—focuses on bartenders, drink-making and service issues in a shorter course that can be taken online or live. As Pacult puts it, “Think of BarSmarts as bartending high school while the BAR 5-Day is more akin to major university studies.”

Francesco Lafranconi, the executive director of mixology and spirits education for Southern Wine and Spirits Nevada, says that these days hotels and restaurants are seeking to provide better quality cocktails when they turn to him for training and menu development, and therefore more skilled bartenders. “Guests have much higher expectations now,” he says. “They have a better understanding of what makes a good drink, and operators need help trying to cope with what their guests demand.”

Even union bartenders in his market, a group not usually considered open to new training requirements, are more receptive now, especially in sophisticated technique areas, like handling egg whites and fresh products, Lafranconi says.

BALANCING THE SKILL SET

The efforts of Pernod Ricard and other suppliers, and distributors including Southern, Glazer’s and Wirtz, may have helped increase bartender knowledge dramatically over the past ten years. However, it’s commonly agreed that the general rules of hospitality haven’t received the same sort of focus, which bugs trainers like Tanqueray Brand Ambassador Angus Winchester.

Angus Winchester speaking at the “Tanqueray Ginstitute” in Chicago

“When you get bartenders who say, ‘I got into this because I don’t like talking to guests, and craft cocktails take so much time that I don’t have to,’ it’s hard to know what to say,” says Winchester.

“There’s a generation of bartenders now that are the most knowledgeable and creative that has ever existed on the planet. They can tell you the mash bills of all their whiskies and talk about the botanicals in gin, but they slightly suffer with a fixation with the drink as opposed to the drinker,” Winchester points out.

In addition to the widely criticized fixation of many craft bars and bartenders on the sometimes geeky, even snobby topics of cocktail history and approved classics, Winchester says that there are also plenty of skill issues for even the best bartenders. Last year, he toured the U.S. for Tanqueray in a program that gauged the capabilities of more than 300 bartenders, testing bar skills considered important to all levels of the trade: pouring accuracy, speed, memory, numeracy, technique and final presentation.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re working at Milk & Honey or T.G.I. Friday’s—you’re doing the same job of following recipes as quickly, efficiently and attractively as possible,” he points out.

Participating bartenders all received the same sets of recipes, then were given a series of orders and were timed. Drinks were examined for proper garnishment and presentation, bottles weighed for pouring accuracy, and objective scores tabulated. (Tanqueray now offers a similar evaluation to operations, in which bartenders are evaluated against their co-workers.)

The results? Some very good and well-known bartenders didn’t do so well, and many newer folks performed exceptionally. Good skills were evident in cities considered outside the main cocktail circuit—Kansas City and St. Louis, notably. The average American bartender tested poured with 86% accuracy, a score most operators would find wanting.

Another issue: less than 30% tasted their drinks with a straw at the correct time—many forgot altogether or did so after they poured the drink, instead of when it was still in the shaker and correction would be less obvious. More crucial for operators was the common problem of poorly managed pour spouts and spillage. As Winchester notes, “Even the meniscus on a jigger allows for a 10% overpour and these mount up—one bartender working three shifts a week overpouring at a 10% rate making 100 drinks a night will overpour 187 bottles of spirit per year.”

Briars, the newly named Bacardi global director of brand advocacy, says the time is ripe for suppliers to train not only about their brands, but to support the industry to run businesses more efficiently and profitably. “I’m amazed when I’ve talked to leading some leading mixologists who are great bartenders but still have no idea how to cost out a cocktail,” he says.

Now that cocktail-centric bars have opened all over the country, competition is a given, and how to run a bar profitably will be seen as much more important. “We’ve never had this much knowledge and it’s never been this good to be in the bar industry. I’d hate for us to squander this opportunity,” he says.

Says Winchester, “Hospitality is relatively simple: put a smile on a guest’s face, optimize the sale while in the venue and give them a reason to return.” A bartender at the top of her practical skills who can do that in the midst of a Friday night rush would be worth his/her weight in Sazeracs.

In the big picture, perhaps the greatest value in training is the prospect of making the maneuvers and mindset of bartending second nature, empowering the person behind the stick to develop an identity while being an asset to a drinking establishment. That said, a neophyte bartender can still choose among all sorts of training programs, including the much-maligned “flair bartending” style that still has pockets of aficionados. As Gaz Regan says, “I can’t think of any facet of bartending that’s being missed at present, but I’ve no doubt that someone will soon start offering a course in techniques that I’ve never dreamed of.  I’m really looking forward to that.”

Bar Talk: At Your Service

Posted on | February 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Bryan Dayton, OAK at Fourteenth, Boulder, CO

A 2011 fire left the just-opened Boulder, Colorado restaurant OAK at Fourteenth in ashes. But the team spent nine months rebuilding from scratch, and this rustic, new-American eatery persevered, recently celebrating a year in business. Co-owner Bryan Dayton, the man behind the popular beer, wine, cocktail and artisanal soda program, is also a champion of old-fashioned hospitality. Here, he talks about courteous service—and his customers’ predilection for Knob Creek.

 

 

THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: Denver has fast emerged as one of the country’s most interesting cocktail destinations. What is OAK at Fourteenth’s approach to drinks?

BRYAN DAYTON: Ours is a little more simple than some of the other programs. We have classically inspired drinks with modern twists. Some of the ingredients, like green Chartreuse, might be esoteric for the average person, but not for the PDT and Milk & Honey crowd. It’s about finding a way that’s fun and gets people into cocktails.

TBN: The cocktail menu is divided into low-alcohol and high-alcohol libations. You even pay special attention to drinks without liquor, like housemade passion fruit and lemongrass soda. What are some of your most popular creations?

BD: Under Low Alcohol, the Venetian Cup, which is essentially a Pimm’s Cup with Pimm’s, Campari and our own ginger beer. We pour it tableside. The East Aspen Heights is boozier, with Bombay Sapphire East, yellow Chartreuse, blackberry, pear and lemon.

TBN: Because the city is indeed cocktail savvy, what trends are you seeing?

BD: Seeing people from all these different, dynamic backgrounds ordering cool cocktails blows me away. You would think Boulder would be more of a wine and beer city, but guests are looking for us to walk them into a cocktail and open their palates. Vodka is still definitely king. We only have one drink—the Oak Martini—on the menu with it, but we sell a lot of them. We also sell a ton of whiskey and go through a bottle of Knob Creek a week, which is surprising for a 120-proof spirit. Boulder’s also big on tequila, and even mezcal because Richard Betts of Sombra is here.

TBN: Because OAK at Fourteenth is a restaurant, do you consider the food when dreaming up your cocktail menu?

BD: We do have a business model where great food and great beverage coincide. Some places emphasize the food and don’t have the best wine list, and some have great cocktails but the food isn’t so good. We get a lot of compliments on our shared plates—items like wood oven roasted bone marrow with anchovy chimichurri and herb salad—so guests can have a few bites and a few drinks.

TBN: It’s clear from the options on your menu and the enthusiasm you have for your guests that hospitality is important to you.

BD: From the moment a guest walks through the door with the host, we need to be as humble and gracious as possible, make sure all their needs are taken care of and provide the best service. Educate yourself so you know the menu and you aren’t fumbling. You have to make yourself invincible.

TBN: How do you instill this mindset in your staff?

BD: Every night, in pre-service, I tell my staff, “You’re going to make people happy tonight, right?” If they don’t, there’s the door. It’s ingrained in them.

TBN: What should the bartender’s ultimate mission be?

BD: There’s a lost art of hospitality. A lot of people get away with mediocrity, but people are also more complacent now. I’m impressed by the old-school maître d, the one who takes hospitality to the next level; five days a week he’s doing his gig.If you came over to my house, I would make you a great cocktail, not a bad one. I would take your coat, offer you a seat and a glass of water. A restaurant is someone’s home.

Beer Outlook 2013

Posted on | February 26, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Beer’s free fall is over. Last year’s retail sales—projected to hit $100 billion for the first time in U.S. history—reversed three straight years of volume declines,  according to data compiled by the Beer Institute. Driven by increasing sales of hundreds of craft and artisanal brews in all 50 states, 2012 volume rebounded from depressed levels, notwithstanding stable sales, or slight declines, for mainstream brands including Bud, Miller and Coors, which together still account for more than a 75% share of U.S. beer volume.

Meanwhile, craft beers were up in strong double-digits in 2012 and are on track to account for a record 8% share of the total U.S. beer market, according to Charlie Papazian, founder and president of the Brewers Association. The strength of the craft/micro movement was also manifested last year in start-ups: the number of “active brewers” in the U.S. hit 2,751 as 250 more new breweries opened in 2012. The Brewers Association predicts that crafts, micro and  artisanal brands could more than double their present share of the U.S. beer market by 2017.

Big brewers are well aware of the craft-ification sweeping Beer Nation, and it’s not such a bad thing. “I think [the craft beer revival has] woken up a lot of folks who have not considered beer and is bringing them into the category,” Tom Long, chief executive at MillerCoors, told the Wall Street Journal recently. Indeed, perhaps even more significant than the debut of scores of new micro labels in 2012 was the carefully cultivated introduction of new expressions and packages by established brands.

Canned Heat

The craft beer boom is certainly borne out by the experiences of retailers across the nation. “People are trading up to micros and craft beers,” says Jason Galpin, beer buyer at Liquor Depot in New Britain, CT. Noting the improving economic picture locally, Galpin adds, “Bud is strong, Coors Light is always a big seller, so are Heineken and Corona, but we now have 250 SKUs of micros
and crafts.”

The latest trend, Galpin notes, is the arrival of artisanal brews packaged in aluminum cans. “Customers love the convenience, especially during summer and for picnics.” (Cans, first developed in 1935, now account for for about 52% of all beer sold in the U.S.) Galpin also cited the growing popularity of large bottle format bottles, which he dubs “bombers.” These are 22-ounce bottles of brands like Lagunitas, Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada as well as a full range of Belgium imports, which retail from $5 to $12.

At B-21, a full service wine, liquor and beer retailer in Tarpon Springs, FL, near Tampa, “Craft beers are what customers are coming in and looking for,” says Justin Hammer, vice president and co-owner. To stimulate trial and sales, Hammer says the store conducts beer tastings every Saturday. The store recently expanded its artisanal beer section to 500 different brews.

Seasonality & Local Sell Well

Tapping into holidays, annual events and mark-your-calendar sporting events is a proven way to promote beer sales. According to Lori Oliver, bar manager at the Applebee’s in Kingston, NY, 50-cent wings paired with a tall $2.99 beer was a winner during football season. More recently, the restaurant group featured a popular 2-for-1 promotional program, which, interestingly, included Magic Hat, micro-brewed in Vermont.

For artisanal-minded beer drinkers, seasonality is not about sports, but rather limited-time offerings that literally mark the season—stronger, richer winter ales and lighter, crisper summer brews are just two examples. For its part, Heineken USA has been promoting a quartet of Newcastle brews stateside since 2011: Newcastle Summer Ale, a golden beer offering “a subtle citrus hop aroma;” Newcastle Werewolf, a fall ale, “blood red” in color; Newcastle Winter IPA (“full-bodied and hoppy”); and Newcastle Founder’s Ale, a “full-bodied ale with a sweet and dry finish.”

In Saratoga Springs, NY, where horse racing takes center stage every summer, Niall Roche, owner of The Irish Times pub and restaurant, naturally features a variety of classic Irish brews and dishes for racing fans. But, knowing that a large proportion of visitors over the summer arrive in Saratoga Springs specifically to soak up the local scene, in addition to Guinness, Harp’s and Smithwick’s on draught, the pub also features a rotation of upstate New York crafts, including Davidson Brothers IPA and Saratoga Oatmeal Stout.

Bob Kreston, owner of Kreston Liquor Mart in Wilmington, DE, says, “Throughout the holidays last year, we did frequent in-store tastings, price promotions, and we especially featured local beers.” He reports that while “Bud, Miller and Coors held their own, our selection of seasonal beers, especially during the football season, performed strongly, including Dog Fish from Delaware, Sam Adams, Fordham and Dominion, the latter two also from Delaware.” He adds, “Craft beers now account for 25% of our beer sales, and they’re attracting wine buyers too, who love to experiment.”

And Dave Kunkel, manager and beer buyer at Gold Eagle Liquors in Libertyville, IL, just outside Chicago, says don’t forget the summer: that’s when his Corona sales are strong. His impression is that younger legal-age drinkers gravitate to craft beers, while, all other things being equal, older drinkers favor light beers, including Coors Light, Bud Light and Heineken Light.

Rise of Riesling

Posted on | February 26, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Lake-effect fog above the north end of Seneca Lake at
Ventosa Vineyards

The drinking of Riesling makes you a better person,” says Paul Grieco of the restaurant Hearth and the Terroir wine bars in New York City, founder of the Summer of Riesling and self-styled “Riesling Overlord.” If he’s right, the moral well-being of the U.S. has risen considerably over the past decade.

Nielsen data showed Riesling sales growing 72% from 2003 to 2006, outpacing every other major variety aside from Pinot Grigio, and since then the grape has continued to maintain a similar trajectory. According to Euromonitor, international growth in Riesling sales had been a steady 3.3% annually from 1997 to 2005, but then jumped to 10.5% annually for the 2005-2010 period.

Across the U.S., Riesling seems to evoke two associations in wine drinkers: Germany, and sweetness. The former has been more surmountable than the latter; consumers are embracing Rieslings from not just Germany but from New York, Austria, Washington and other regions as well. However, “People still have a tendency to conflate Riesling with sweetness,” says Terry Theise, who imports a number of Rieslings from Germany and Austria such as Christoffel and Alzinger. “We need to convey that Riesling is just a grape variety made in a wide range of styles. To figure out which is which takes six to ten minutes of people’s time, but people treat it like it’s something Talmudic.”

When Grieco does a Riesling tasting, he forbids use of what he calls, “the ‘S’ word,” leaving it out the conversation to put the focus on balance instead. He also points out that 95% of the world’s Riesling is in fact dry, including 60% of Germany’s. Most of that was traditionally consumed domestically, but that’s changing as well. Chaylee Priete, wine director at The Slanted Door in San Francisco, says, “The range of styles has broadened considerably and I think the winemaking practices are improving so that wines seem complete, not stripped of sweetness which I had thought was a problem for some time. I do not think so any more. There are more balanced wines being offered.”

STILL SOME DISCONNECT

While the quality of the wines is there, Theise is more circumspect about their place in the market. “Things are not that easy for really dry Riesling,” he says. “There’s no better dry Riesling than Austrian dry Riesling, but Grüner Veltliner outsells Riesling by 3.6:1. People are happy to say they drink dry Riesling but the numbers don’t support it. There’s still a disconnect between what people say and what they pony-up for.”

And other sweet wines are also on the rise. “Some producers say our lunch is being eaten by Moscato,” says Jim Trezise, president of the International Riseling Foundation (IRF) as well the New York State Wine & Grape Foundation. But Trezise says their research contradicts that: “Moscato and Riesling do not have the same audience.” An IRF study conceded there could be a loss of entry-level occasional drinkers at the lowest price points; but aside from that, Riesling was more highly regarded and not threatened by the success of Moscato. Whatever their surface similarities, respondents didn’t consider the wines interchangeable at all. Mark Burnett, wine director at two Five Point Bottle Shops in Atlanta, says that matches with his experience; guests who are looking for Riesling are looking for “sweeter wine, but not cloying like a Moscato.”

RESTAURANTS REMAIN VITAL

Because Riesling does seem to require more communication, on-premise sales are vital for raising awareness of the grape. “It’s more on-premise in terms of embracing it,” says Theise, “but the volume sales still happen off-premise. You find one passionate retailer for every dozen passionate sommeliers.” He adds that a list with only a couple of Rieslings “looks like tokenism,” and he encourages his distributors to waive split case fees so wine directors can, for example, buy three bottles of 12 different wines instead of a case each of three wines. He says that kind of showing starts the conversation: “The guest says, ‘Wow, what’s with all these Rieslings?’ And the server smiles and says, ‘They are so good with our food…’”

“We have trained our sommeliers and our staff to talk about how our food demands lower alcohol, higher acid wines with lots of minerality,” says The Slanted Door’s Priete. “We discuss that since our food is served family style and progresses from the lightest and most delicate dishes [spring rolls, papaya salad]  to richest/sweetest/spiciest [caramelized tiger shrimp, grilled lamb, clay pot], the wines need to match pace and complement the dishes. We often suggest starting with a very light dry crisp white and moving into a Kabinett Riesling and then a Spätlese. We offer half glasses and encourage guests to try this progression even if they are just having a small amount of wine.”

RIESLING AT HOME

Food pairing extends into off-premise sales, too. Mark Burnett in Atlanta says customers are asking for wine pairing suggestions for home cooking more and more often, and Riesling often comes up in that context. Nancy’s Wines for Food in Manhattan has specialized in German wines, especially Riesling, for over a decade. Founder Nancy Maniscalco says “It’s a great food wine and a tremendous value. There are lots and lots for under $20 that are fabulous; not a lot of regions can say that.” She also says that having more local on-premise venues embrace Riesling has opened the door further; “This is on the list at X restaurant” gets customers interested.

Burnett notes that Riesling does much better at their store next to the University of Georgia campus, which he attributes to the apparent demographic of the new typical Riesling drinker: Millennials. “These twenty or thirty-year-olds don’t care what happened in the past,” says Paul Grieco, alluding to the rise and fall of wines like Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch in the 1970s, which left Riesling’s reputation with Baby Boomers in the doldrums. “They’re willing, even wanting, to have their own journey. It’s a new generation that wants to learn.” Theise agrees that a lot of that generation “came of age not knowing that Riesling was ‘uncool.’”

POSITIVE SIGNS

One advantage enjoyed by Riesling but few other grapes is that both New World and Old World producers label it varietally, which has encouraged international cooperation in marketing and promotion efforts (The Burgundians, for example, have little interest in getting behind a push for Chardonnay, invested as they are instead in their appellation system.) The IRF is one example; Grieco’s Summer of Riesling is another, embracing and promoting Riesling wines from all over the world. Bob Madill, president of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, notes that their own efforts have included introducing people not just to Finger Lakes Riesling but to Riesling as a category; likewise, he says, the PR and marketing agency Wines of Germany has made a point to include the Alliance in their own Riesling-related events.

Higher-profile domestic production is helpful in its own right. “It’s exciting to see the progress of domestic Riesling,” says Theise, “especially the amount of good Riesling being made in the Finger Lakes. I think it’s tremendously encouraging. Superficially it’s competition, but the rising tide lifts all boats.”

Prospects for Riesling’s moment in the sun are still not certain. Theise concedes, “It could still be better. Maybe Riesling won’t ever go mainstream, but it could be a much bigger niche.”

“Is this a long-term trend or a blip?” is how Jim Trezise describes industry thinking. “Right now there’s momentum, there’s a wave which we can make into a growth trend and permanent thing.”

Rare & Refreshing: NYSLSA Chairman Meets with Retailers Alliance

Posted on | February 26, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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On January 31st, the Retailers Alliance welcomed New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) Chairman Dennis Rosen as a guest at an association meeting. Arranged by Retailers Alliance President Jeff Saunders, this was the first time that a meeting like this had ever taken place. With nearly the full membership in attendance, the Chairman spoke briefly and then fielded questions. His candor was clearly appreciated by every retailer in the room, and this was one of the most productive and informative meetings of the Alliance in recent memory.

As background, when Dennis Rosen was appointed Chairman of the NYSLA three years ago, he immediately identified three central issues to improve on:

1. The Authority was backlogged with approximately 3,100 applications to be reviewed; currently, there are only 200 unreviewed applications and the waiting period has been reduced from 1.5 years to approximately four or five months.

2. The Authority had a major problem being able to enforce their rules and laws; Mr. Rosen said he wanted the SLA to “get out of the minutia of the day-today operations of licensees,” allowing the SLA to focus on larger matters.

3. There was a public perception of corruption and favoritism within the Authority, as well as of misuse of state vehicles; under Chairman Rosen, there have been zero reports of corruption and the public perception has greatly improved.

Here is a summary of some of the other relevant topics discussed:

  • Mr. Rosen established a lock box with a national bank; all payments (checks for permit applications, for example) are collected and documented by the bank, freeing up the Authority to focus on more important matters.
  • Mr. Rosen has separated examiners from attorneys. This entire process has been moved up to Albany, and attorneys can only see examiners by appointment only.
  • Almost all other processes have been centralized in Albany. Before, three people were responsible for handling 30,000 renewal applications. Today, thanks to cross-training of many employees, permits, renewals and new applications are processed much more efficiently and backlog is minimal.
  • Administrative authority now sits with the Chairman. Previously, every single decision had to be made by an entire board, which was very time-consuming and would often result in a stalemate at the Board level. Today, their hands are no longer tied.
  • Mr. Rosen’s team is instituting an e-licensing project; soon, applications and renewals will be a 100% electronic process.
  • Price posting is now being handled by Beverage Media, freeing up more resources at the Authority; the process is significantly more efficient than ever, both for retailers and for the enforcement bureau.
  • Prior to Mr. Rosen’s arrival, the NYSLA was a “dispirited organization,” but he changed the corporate culture. He views and runs the SLA as a business, emphasizing efficiency and accountability. Annual employee evaluations are now conducted, something Mr. Rosen brought over from his work at the Attorney General’s office.

Anchor Distilling Hosts First-Ever NYC Tasting

Posted on | February 25, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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On February 11th, San Francisco-based distiller and importer Anchor Distilling Company held its first-ever NYC portfolio tasting at Pouring Ribbons in the East Village. The event showcased over 70 products from Anchor’s diverse portfolio of craft spirits and welcomed 100+ beverage journalists, mixologists and buyers from the New York area. Anchor featured new additions like Hophead Hop Vodka, Nikka Japanese Whisky and Hine Cognac. Joaquin Simo and the Pouring Ribbons team also created four original cocktails featuring Anchor spirits for the event.

 
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