Absolut Vodka Creates Signature Collection Exclusively With Bartenders in Mind

Posted on | March 29, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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In a bold move, the world’s number one selling vodka today unveils the details of its newest flavor innovation, ABSOLUT CRAFT. Co-created with Master Bartender, Nick Strangeway, ABSOLUT CRAFT is a signature collection, designed exclusively for professional bartenders, that offers the versatility of vodka with the added complexities of macerations and distillates.

“ABSOLUT has always maintained an uncompromising belief that to create an exceptional product you must start with exceptional ingredients,” said Maxime Kouchnir, Vice President of Marketing for ABSOLUT. “Continuing in this tradition, each of the three products in the ABSOLUT CRAFT Collection is made entirely from the finest botanicals and natural raw ingredients available, creating a unique and complex flavor experience.”

The first profile of ABSOLUT CRAFT available will be Herbaceous Lemon which, like the others to come, uses at least 12 macerates and/or infusions and distillates to obtain completely distinct and un-replicable blends and flavors. Kouchnir continues, “With the immense amount of new flavored vodkas available today, it was important that we create flavors that bartenders could trust when crafting cocktails. Through the help of one of the world’s most influential bartenders, and by working with 100% natural flavors and seasonal ingredients, we are extremely excited to see what inventive cocktails are created in the on-premise using ABSOLUT CRAFT.”

In a new eye-catching, silver grey bottle that highlights the iconic bottle shape of ABSOLUT, ABSOLUT CRAFT Herbaceous Lemon will be available in 750ml bottles, hitting select markets in April 2013.  Look out for the other two profiles emerging later in the year.

Familia Camarena’s Triple Play

Posted on | March 29, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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In just three years, Familia Camarena Tequila has earned recognition as the second-fastest growing spirits brand in the country. Besides building an impressive resume of acclaim from top publications and competitions, the brand has enhanced the tequila category overall by offering today’s consumers an unmatched combination of accessibility and premium product.

In 2010, E&J Gallo partnered with the Camarena family of Mexico—with six generations of growing and producing experience—to launch Familia Camarena Tequila into U.S. markets. “Familia Camarena Tequila has afforded us the rare opportunity to work with some of the most respected figures in the tequila business,” says Gerard Thoukis, senior director of marketing for the brand. “The partnership has resulted in tequila with quality, smooth taste and widespread accessibility that is unmatched in the marketplace.”

Emphasizing the benefits of 100% agave tequila over mixto tequila, for a surprisingly marginal cost, has been the key to Camarena’s success and inspiration for on- and off-premise promotions since its launch.

This message of quality and value has been bolstered by strategic partnerships with sports teams in the MLB, NFL and NBA leagues. Through large-scale in-stadium trial, signage, promotions, broadcast and LED features, Familia Camarena’s “100% agave” quality message resulted in an estimated 200 million impressions with sports fans over the age of 21 in 2012.

Stepping Up to 100% Blue Agave

This year, the brand is poised to take its sports marketing platform a step further. In addition to continued partnerships with MLB’s Giants, Angels, Rockies, White Sox and Braves, Familia Camarena Tequila is unveiling its “Step Up to the Plate” campaign, essentially bringing the stadium experience into stores and bars. Baseball-themed promotions and POS encourage customers to move up from mixto tequila to 100% agave Familia Camarena Tequila; and thematic drink specials and game night sampling will bring the brand’s message to life in sports bars nationwide.

New Products & Promotions: April 2013

Posted on | March 28, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Pernod Ricard USA has added Pike Creek Whisky to its portfolio. This is a small batch whisky, aged in American oak bourbon barrels and finished in vintage Port barrels. Pike Creek Whisky is matured in Pike Creek, Ontario, and has sweet dried fruits and peppery spice on the notes, with robust body, good balance and pleasant finish. Initially launched at retail this month in WA, OR, ID, CO, TX, LA, GA, NC, NY and NH. Additional markets will follow. 80 proof.


SRP: $31.99


Sonoma Oaks is a new brand of wines that taste like they should be priced higher. The 2010 Chardonnay, sourced from Sonoma County, has aromas of crème brûlée and layers of bright lemon and pear. The 2010 Sonoma Oaks Russian River Pinot Noir offers bright cherry, licorice and toasted spices, with a lush mouthfeel, balanced tartness and a long finish.




Award-winning Grand Argent Vodka is a triple-distilled French vodka, and currently the only one available in the U.S. distilled from beets. The premium packaging playfully hints at the vodka’s French origins. One of six vodkas out of 1,000 to place at the World Beverage Competition, Grand Argent is available in both 1.75L and 750ml in 6-pack cases.


SRP: $12.99/750ml



Joining the portfolio that includes Frïs Base, Citrus Freeze and Orange Freeze, Whipped Freeze, a whipped-cream flavored vodka, is the brand’s first foray into the confectionary segment. It has layers of vanilla and caramel, combined with a chill factor from being distilled at 14°F. The bottle has a new, sleek charcoal color and sharp angles. 70 proof.


SRP: $10.99/750ml | $19.99/1.75L


M.S. Walker has released St. Elder—an all-natural, small-batch liqueur crafted from fresh elderflower blossoms. This versatile artisanal liqueur offers herbal aromas and notes of lychee, citrus, honeysuckle, citrus and white flowers. Available nationally in 750ml size. 40 proof.


SRP: $19.99/750ml





Country mega-star Kenny Chesney loves the Caribbean, and together with FLO {thinkery} he has bottled island flavor in the form of Blue Chair Bay Rum, rolling out this May. Available in three expressions: White (80 proof) with notes of vanilla and oak; Coconut (53 proof), a clear blend of beach-aged rums flavored with ripe coconut; and Coconut Spiced (53 proof), a clear coconut rum laced with Caribbean spices.


SRP: $17.99-$18.99




Ronnie Magro, of The Jersey Shore, introduces Smush Cocktails, which are colorful, delicious and bursting with natural flavors. They also promise minimal guilt as Smush Cocktails are all 34 calories per serving. Flavors include Appletini, Cosmo, Mojito and Margarita. 25 proof.



SRP: $16.99




Imported from Poland, Spud Potato Vodka is 100% gluten-free, and distilled five times for a rich, clean and smooth taste with a soft note of vanilla (bottled at 40 proof). Flavor extensions using natural garden-picked flavors include: Red Hot Chili Pepper, Ginger Lemongrass and Heirloom Tomato, all 35 proof.


SRP: $22.99


Grove Ridge offers high quality at a modest price point, with three varietal wines in the portfolio: Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are fresh yet sophisticated and pair with an array of cuisines. Winemaker Kimberly Sapp suggests the Chardonnay with various cheeses or shrimp scampi, while the red varietals match well with bolder dishes like pasta with meat sauce or grilled tri-tip steak.





Meadowsweet is a delicious mold-breaking blend of rosé wine and grapefruit juice. The product is an appealing pink with a hint of darker shades. The tangy aroma of fresh grapefruit melds with the smooth rosé flavor to deliver a vibrant, refreshing treat. Luneau USA Inc, d.b.a. Nicolas Wines. 10% alc/vol.


SRP 750ml: $6.99


Crystal Head Vodka is the official vodka of the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones. Both are iconic for being unique and creating a loyal fan base. Expected to hit shelves in May, the package doubles as its own display case. The 750ml bottle of Crystal Head Vodka comes with an exclusive double CD live compilation and bottle stopper engraved with the Rolling Stones logo. Distribution is limited; check with a local Infinium Spirits distributor.




Newcastle Brown Ale is getting ready to release the brand’s newest limited-edition ale, Newcastle Bombshell. This English-style blonde pale ale offers a balanced bittersweet taste intertwined with caramel sweetness, leading into a uniquely clean finish. Bombshell will be available starting May 1st, in six-packs and 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles.


SRP: Prices in line with Newcastle Brown Ale



ProWein 2013 Is More International Than Ever

Posted on | March 28, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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The recent staging of ProWein 2013, International Trade Fair Wines and Spirits, attracted 4,783 exhibitors from 48 countries and more than 44,000 trade visitors from around the world (compared to 40,667 visitors in 2012).

In addition to the stable attendee level from Germany, the number of international visitors at ProWein 2013 increased again. The trade visitors came to Düsseldorf, Germany from all the relevant wine import markets and all major wine producing countries. In particular, strong increase in visitor participation from Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries but also from France, Spain and Italy was recorded. New visitors could also be attracted from North America and Asia.

“The number of trade visitors from throughout the world rose significantly at ProWein 2013. Posting a 6% rise, the proportion of international visitors now stands at 40%,” stated Hans Werner Reinhard, Deputy Managing Director of Messe Düsseldorf. “In combination with the large number of decision-makers coming to Düsseldorf this development confirms ProWein’s leading position as an international meeting point and central order platform for the world’s wine and spirits sector.”

With almost 50%, the international wholesale, retail and specialist trade sector again accounted for the largest visitor group, followed by specialists from the restaurant and hotel segments. Over 70% of the trade visitors held management positions.

Successful Expansion

By using two additional exhibition halls, ProWein 2013 offered more space, exhibitors and products than ever. This worldwide unique wealth and variety of product presentations met the visitors’ needs: according to a survey, 96% stated that they had achieved their goals and were satisfied or very satisfied with their visit of ProWein. Cathrine Hernes, Product Manager at Norway’s A/S Vinmonopolet, agreed: “All producers relevant for us from the most varied of nations are featured on site in Düsseldorf and that is what makes ProWein the most important trade fair worldwide for us.”

For Joshua Wesson from New York, ProWein is the most extraordinary wine trade fair he has ever attended: “ProWein gives you the opportunity to see the whole world of wine in one location and at the same time to discover many new producers and products – that’s like heaven for a professional like me! I’m already looking forward to ProWein 2014.”

ProWein 2013 saw nearly all countries represented increase their presence, including first time joint participations of wine producers from China, Great Britain, Tunisia and Lebanon. Also attracting great interest were Europe’s classic wine nations. At the same time, there was increased interest in wines from the New World, especially from Australia, New Zealand and Chile. Organic wines from throughout the world were also once again in focus with a dedicated central platform in Hall 7.1.

New Introductions both in the Wine and Spirits Segment

For the German wine sector, Monika Reule, Managing Director of the German Wine Institute, remarked: “ProWein has completely established itself this year as the most important international wine trade fair. Despite increased presence from international exhibitors, wines from Germany also enjoyed avid interest. Particularly striking here was the increased number and high quality of international trade visitors showing great interest in our wines.” According to Monika Reule, the focal point of interest was the 2012 vintage which received particular praise for its intense fruity quality and was offered in top class qualities in all price categories,

With its presentation of the new vintage and its focus on product innovations and range additions, ProWein is the annual trend show for the sector. One example was the introduction of the sweet and fruity sparkling wine “Mia Moscatoby” by market leader Freixenet. “The decision to launch “Mia Moscato” at ProWein was a very conscious one as ProWein has developed into the leading trade fair internationally. We use the event to present the wide and varied range of Freixenet products and we had very good talks at our stand,” commented Kirstin Brunkhorst, Marketing Director of Freixenet.

Nuno Vale, Director of Marketing at Wines of Portugal, also reported good contacts: “We are very satisfied with ProWein 2013. This year we stepped up our marketing activities and were able to welcome many top class visitors at our new location.”

The spirits segment at ProWein 2013 included almost 400 exhibitors presenting specialties from throughout the world, including tequila from Mexico, a herb liqueur from Norway and Moutai from China. Distillery Hubertus Vallendar introduced its new product line of South African spirits while Schlumberger unveiled the Japanese whisky “Nikka”.

Added Value through Events

ProWein 2013 again featured an ancillary program consisting of over 300 events attracting many trade visitors. Theme-related tastings on specific grape varieties and regions as well as numerous events on the combination of food and wine offered hands-on ideas and impulses. In addition, lectures on trading channels, market developments and import/export requirements provided background and trend information. The new ProWein Forum was also very popular with the attendees as were the events at the stands of the exhibitors. The Central Tasting Zone, the FIZZZ Lounge and the special show “wine’s best friends” were also again rated highly by the visitors. In the evenings, over 90 events were offered in the city of Düsseldorf as part of the “ProWein goes City” campaign.

Heineken USA Ramps Up for 2013

Posted on | March 28, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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When a barkeep chirps, “How about a Heineken?” in response to a customer asking what’s on tap, or when a beer shopper has cause to pause at an eye-catching Dos Equis display, make no doubt that plenty of strategy and legwork preceded those moments of decision.

Execution at the granular level—where bartenders and servers suggest a brand or retailers are happy to install stacked-case displays—requires coordinated, ongoing teamwork at all three tiers. Brand vision is only the starting point. To move that vision down the chain, a supplier needs concrete promotional programs that not only generate excitement with distributors, but also make sense to a range of end-sellers, from independent merchants and bar owners to and chain buyers and restaurateurs. And it takes a team of field representatives to the regional heads who are seamlessly synched with Heineken USA’s senior managers headquartered in White Plains, NY.

In fact, it is this one-two punch of creativity and detailed follow-through that has driven Heineken USA to an impressive turnaround. Heineken Lager is back in black and its collective 2012 sales grew by more than 4.4% year over year, according to results announced by Senior VP of Sales Scott Blazek to great applause at the start of Heineken USA’s 2013 National Distributors Conference (NDC) held recently in Phoenix.

During the NDC opening evening reception, some 1,500 distributor partners visited each of the company’s brand’s dedicated hospitality area, sampling, among others: Newcastle Bombshell, one of its 2013 seasonal offerings; Indio, the edgy, urban newcomer to the portfolio; Dos Equis Ambar and Lager on draft; Tecate Light and Tecate displayed in bright red-and-silver cans; Strongbow Hard Cider on tap; and Amstel’s Wheat Bier line extension.

But the star, pun intended, of the evening’s reception was the debut of Heineken’s new Star Bottle, graced with complementary packaging. The new, sleeker bottle, adorned with two red stars now—one centered on the label as before, the newer one close to the top of the bottle-neck—drew delighted verdicts of approval from Heineken USA team members from Maine to Maui.

As Chris Natale, president of Ritchie & Page Distributing Company in Robinsville, NJ, sees it, an essential ingredient behind the brand’s renaissance is that “Heineken USA listens to our ideas.” Natale says he has experienced a refreshing degree of openness when dealing with the company. With inspired management further supported by strong, creative marketing and amplified by consistent in-field support, the two-way partnership between importer and distributor literally turbo-charged the flagship beer’s sales in 2012, while simultaneously energizing the rest of Heineken USA’s portfolio.


After welcoming Heineken USA’s distributor partners to the Phoenix convention center on the morning after the opening reception, Scott Blazek issued a call to action: Accelerate! While congratulating the upbeat crowd on last year’s achievements, Blazek went on to stress that it will be essential to build on the momentum of 2012.

Blazek proudly acknowledged the multiple awards for the importer’s advertising campaigns; Heineken’s multi-platform media tie-in with the James Bond movie Skyfall; double-digit sales surges for its Mexican brands; the strong growth of Newcastle Brown Ale and its popular seasonal brews; the 2012 launch of Indio; and, last but not least, the vibrant ascent of its Strongbow Hard Cider, the number-one imported hard cider in the world.

But that was last year. Seizing the moment, Blazek declared: “2013 is year of pivotal opportunity, especially with the national rollout of the new Heineken Star Bottle, which is a once in a lifetime chance to really talk about the brand.”

Next up to the NDC stage, Dolf van den Brink, Heineken USA president and CEO since 2009, observed that the current marketplace is tougher than ever. Wine and spirits marketers continue to put pressure and take share from malt beverages, and imported beers continue to be squeezed on one side by crafts and on the other by new entries from re-energized domestic brewers. He emphasized the need to communicate the “import opportunity story” more successfully in 2013.

In van den Brink’s diplomatic but firm appraisal, the nation’s retailers, restaurateurs and bar and tavern owners all need a bit of reminding that imported beers account for a vibrant, growing and highly profitable segment of the U.S. beer market. Notwithstanding all the attention paid to the latest local artisanal brew, imports are an almost overlooked category by some merchants. Brands like Heineken, Amstel Light, Dos Equis and Tecate definitely rotate faster than crafts; indeed, van den Brink argued that imported beers, when compared to crafts, ultimately account for even higher margins and a larger share of profits for re-sellers.

Looking forward, he outlined three key challenges for Heineken USA brands: a numbing sameness to most beer advertising; the proliferation of craft beers; and diminished trade execution in the imported beer segment.


That said, for Heineken USA, the essential fuel to accelerate is innovation. Chief Marketing Officer Lesya Lysyj explained that innovation is not simply about products; it really involves creating impactful marketing plans, pursuing enhanced communications with both trade and consumer media, and imagining new ways to effectively engage consumers who have an affinity with one or more Heineken brand.

To break through the advertising clutter in virtually any medium, Lysyj sees her team’s primary work as a task to figure out every opportunity where the company should “zig, while everyone else zags.” In delivering a brand-by-brand rundown of HUSA’s approach to those three challenges, Lysyj described a wide array of initiatives—spanning TV, radio, print, digital, outdoor and other media.


One of the most startling insights Lysyj shared with distributor partners was the forecast that by 2020, only 10% of viewers will be accessing television broadcasts via conventional cable; the balance will be via digital devices. In turn, Lysyj explained how Heineken USA has been investing aggressively in social media outreach, smart phone applications and digital advertising. She outlined 2013 plans for strong marketing investments for the company’s three priority brands—Heineken, Dos Equis and Strongbow Hard Cider—via electronic and print media, with “ads that stand out!”

Heineken’s 2013 television ads will add the next chapters to the successful Heineken Legends campaign, in an adventurous series of 30-, 60- and 90-second commercials, further supported via on- and off-premise executions. Lysyj and her Heineken USA colleagues also discussed separate and well-funded campaign plans for Heineken Light and Amstel Light.

Matt Kahn, VP of Heineken USA portfolio brands, reported that the Dos Equis brand grew 20% in 2012, which generated a huge applause. Kahn said even greater marketing investments are planned for 2013—including more TV support than ever before and new event-related appearances by “The Most Interesting Man In The World”—all to “accelerate” the brand’s torrid growth.

Regarding Strongbow Hard Cider, Lysyj vowed that Heineken USA would ramp up its account penetration efforts in both on- and off-premise arenas. Adding the right consumer element to this momentous effort, Lysyj promised record levels of sampling opportunities for consumers via Stongbow-themed events at cooperating accounts. And to get the word out, thanks to Heineken’s leading edge social media capabilities (Heineken brand has more Facebook followers than any other beer brand), there was great optimism that by working together with its distributor partners, Heineken USA could make hard cider sales history in 2013 with Strongbow.

Wrapping up, Scott Blazek returned to the stage to emphasize Heineken USA’s longstanding commitment to “flawless execution” in the field. He explained that today Heineken USA is benefiting as never before because the managers at the company’s headquarters and distributor partners are all on one page in terms of marketing, advertising, merchandising and account-by-account delivery—no out-of-stocks allowed! Empowered by its 4% share of the U.S. beer market, Blazek promised that Heineken USA would maintain and enhance its ability, as he thundered to a close, “to Align, to Adapt, and to be the Thought Leader” in the 2013 U.S. beer business.

Brand Profile: Svedka Vodka’s Flavor Palette Grows

Posted on | March 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Vodka brands don’t join the ranks of the fastest-growing top-10 spirits in the country by sitting on their laurels. Relentless innovation and consumer insight is what makes Svedka a category leader—as well as the second largest imported vodka brand in the U.S.

Joining Svedka’s robust flavor portfolio this April—which already includes Colada, Citron, Clementine Raspberry, Cherry, Vanilla and Grape—will be Orange Cream Pop and Strawberry Colada, each 35% alcohol by volume (70 proof).

“Based on our research, both flavor profiles resonate strongly with our target consumer and set Svedka apart from the highly fragmented flavor segment,” says Diana Pawlik, vice president of marketing for Svedka.

“Svedka Orange Cream Pop is a nostalgic and mouthwatering blend of juicy orange and icy vanilla cream flavors,” says Pawlik. The packaging reflects these flavors with shimmering orange and white gradient ombré graphics. Pawlik suggests that Svedka Orange Cream Pop can be enjoyed on the rocks, blended with ice as a frozen slushy, or in delectable signature cocktails (see sidebar).

Launching on the heels of Colada—Svedka’s most successful flavor to date—Strawberry Colada is a blend of strawberry, coconut and pineapple. “The tropical flavor segment across all categories has proven to be enduring and engaging to consumers year round,” says Pawlik. “Whether it be body and bath products, confection or beverages, there is an appetite for the sensation of ‘escape’ that this profile evokes.” Its package, too, aims to communicate the flavor profile, with a sleek white lacquered bottle, a metallic gold band and fuschia pink flavor callouts.  

While Svedka’s original vodka leads the brand in terms of growth (among its many awards, the Swedish vodka has received three Gold Medals in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition), flavor extensions provide the excitement and energy which keeps Svedka so strong among its target demographic, consumers age 25 to 34. “Our new flavors are paving a road of their own in terms of differentiating while achieving a balance between novelty and mass consumer appeal,” says Pawlik. And they offer bartenders new creative opportunities as well: “Strawberry Colada and Orange Cream Pop empower bartenders to flex their creative muscles by introducing complex yet versatile flavors. They lend themselves well to many drinks—shots, martinis, frozen or novelty.”

Brand Profile: Hangar One Takes Flight

Posted on | March 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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With so many vodkas competing for attention, points of distinction have never been more important. Hangar One Vodka is making a multifaceted bid to stand out from the crowd, with a unique story, brand-new packaging and flavors that strike a balance between exotic and familiar.

The Hangar One creation process starts with fresh fruit transported directly from small farms via blimp—yes, Hangar One has its own blimp!—to the distillery, which is set in a decommissioned World War II Naval Air Station aircraft hangar in Alameda, CA.

True to its handcrafted mission, Hangar One is independent and family owned, allowing for total control of the distilling process. The fruit that arrives at the hangar is distilled the very same day in a single Holstein copper still, small batch by small batch, to produce unparalleled texture and flavor.

The key to the flagship “Straight” vodka rests both in the method and the ingredients. The base fruit is grapes—Viognier, to be precise—skin, stems, seeds and all. This grape has low acid and amazing fruit and floral aromas; this combination takes the harsh ethanol bite right out of the spirit while imparting a sweet, smooth, satisfying feel. The Viognier eau de vie is then blended with spirit made from midwestern wheat to make a perfectly balanced, fruity, “straight” vodka.

Proof that Hangar One’s time-intensive, handmade process yielded exceptional quality was immediate: the brand was named vodka of the year by three separate magazines when it was first released in 2002. The recognition set the stage for experimentation that would yield truly distinctive variations—vodkas of flavor, not simply flavored—in addition to the Straight.

The flavors that made the cut, ultimately earning the Hangar One label, were:  Mandarin Blossom, Buddha’s Hand Citron, Kaffir Lime and Maine Wild Blueberry. And now the entire line is enjoying a
fitting makeover.

Fresh New Look

Hangar One has just revealed new packaging, evoking the brand’s experimental process and handcrafted heritage. The meticulous artisanal production methods actually inspired Hangar One’s new look, featuring an apothecary-style bottle with embossed measurements along the side and a black stopper cap, reminiscent of a measuring beaker.

The labels are distinctively printed, giving them a crafted feel and each incorporating a small story about the flavor variety. The labels also feature hand-drawn visuals for each offering. Both the bottle and labels were designed by Stranger & Stranger, a leading packaging design firm based in New York and London.
Their release late this winter across the U.S. coincided with a new website for the brand with a minimalist approach.  The website and the advertising were done by creative agency The Made Shop from Denver, CO.

In retrospect, it is accurate to call Hangar One a forefather of the craft distilling movement in the United States. The Hangar One distillers are dedicated to producing the very best spirits, using real fruit and ingredients, one batch at a time. Hangar One Vodka is 80 proof, retails for $29.99 and is available nationally. The hangarone.com website features more details, including recipes.

Bar Talk: Quick Quality

Posted on | March 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Jason Kemp, The Family Dog, Atlanta

In the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta, low-key eatery The Family Dog attracts locals with vibrant pub food and drinks to match. Here, bar manager Jason Kemp talks five-minute cocktails, the importance of advance prep and classy fruit punch.

THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: What is your approach to The Family Dog’s cocktail program?

JASON KEMP: The Family Dog is first and foremost a bar. It’s a boisterous, friendly gathering spot for regulars from the neighborhood, Emory students and young urban professionals. While we could simply schlep boring Jack and Cokes—and perhaps get away with it—we strive to provide our guests with simple but well-thought-out cocktails that maintain a level of sophistication and quality. And, I think that they value our efforts. I see the same faces come through the doors of The Family Dog day after day, week after week, and that’s what this business is all about.

TBN: The Family Dog is a casual destination, so how do you balance bringing your guests interesting, well-made drinks when they might not be so patient to wait for them?

JK: With preparation, it’s relatively simple to provide a perfect cocktail—any cocktail—in under five minutes. Sure, on a Friday night, when we’ve got guests three deep at the bar, taking the time to craft a perfect Old Fashioned (and we make a damn good one, I might add) is a little tough, but that’s why it’s important to practice the craft and do what you can ahead of time. At The Family Dog we juice all of our own fruit, we just make sure to prepare enough that afternoon to meet the demand of the evening. I think the whole idea of waiting 15 minutes for a drink is a little contrived.

TBN: What are your most popular drinks?

JK: Our White Whiskey Mule is a playful blend of High West Silver whiskey, fresh-pressed lime juice and ginger beer. The Angry Elk—32 ounces of adult fruit punch—might just be the cocktail that put us on the map, and I’m ashamed to say that it was inspired by my first experiences with that drink, surely containing gobs of canned Hawaiian Punch. I definitely raised the bar a little with my own recipe, elevating it with fresh pomegranate and orange juices and pineapple, as well as Peychaud’s bitters.

TBN: Beer is also a cornerstone of The Family Dog, and there are several beer cocktails, like the Catcher in the Rye (rye whiskey, orange liqueur, Angostura bitters, Hefeweissbier) on the menu. How do those sell?

JK: Our clientele is generally eager to try new drinks. The Spiked Shandy, our best seller, is an extremely palatable combination of rye whiskey, India pale ale and ginger beer. Ladies seem to really enjoy this cocktail. And yes, our beer list is quite diverse; that’s something I’m proud of.

TBN: Beyond bartending, you’re an artist. Do the two realms connect for you?

JK: Yes, I hold a BFA in Ceramics, and find some parallels in terms of the process and production of my art and the practice of crafting cocktails. There definitely is a correlation with how I approach projects and deal with daily criticism.

TBN: Why is this a great time for     
Atlanta’s mixology scene? What trends are you noticing?

JK: The post-Prohibition cocktail craze in Atlanta has spawned a generation of excellent barkeeps creating their own unique takes on old-fashioned cocktails—Manhattans, Sidecars, Sazeracs. Bartenders have experimented with barrel-aged cocktails, bottled cocktails, bitters, syrups and infused spirits for quite a while now, but alongside this innovative do-it-yourself mindset, there is also an explosion of craft-distilled spirits entering the market like no other time in recent history. I can see that simple, well-crafted drinks are here to stay, and I definitely believe that the people of Atlanta have more choices than ever when it comes to finding a place that can make a decent cocktail.

The Shortlist

Posted on | March 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Michael Madrigale of Daniel Boulud’s NYC restaurants

First, the obvious: wine-by-the-glass programs have come a long way since the days of house white and house red. On a more subtle level, however, it has become clear that by paying more attention to their glass pours—effectively treating them like a miniaturized list—savvy restaurants are able to literally bring more wine to the table, pleasing more diners in more ways.

More emphasis on this sub-list, so to speak, can bring new challenges, especially in terms of waste and freshness. But in these tricky economic times, the opportunity for greater profitability can not be overlooked, and by enhancing its glass program a restaurant can elevate its wine profile without significantly expanding inventory.

In speaking with wine directors at a diverse selection of restaurants, it is obvious that a good “micro list” can be a fresh, vibrant profit center, and not just by aspiring to raid the wallet of the guest who doesn’t want to spring for a bottle.


“First and foremost, the by-the-glass list should represent a snapshot of the list as a whole,” says Joe Campanale, owner of several Manhattan restaurants including Anfora, L’Artusi and L’Apicio. “It should complement the cuisine, offer a variety and range of styles, offer a range of price points, and it should have a story to tell that differentiates it from other by-the-glass lists.” Complementing cuisine goes beyond pairing well to knowing how your guests eat, explains Campanale: “I look for wines that will pair broadly, as at our places guests will order several dishes at the same time and share them.”

Devising a functional list is not always straightforward. You’d think Dana Farner, wine director at Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse CUT in Los Angeles, would have her hands full with glasses of big reds, but it’s the whites that keep her hustling, as tables most often go with a bottle of red with their mains, but start with glasses of white. She’s also not afraid to double-down on certain varietals, with two Rieslings on offer (dry and lightly sweet) and three Chardonnays. “We offer a white Burgundy, ideally a Puligny-Montrachet, and two California Chardonnays, one at the high-end…toasty oak and buttery, delicious with lobster,” says Farner. “The rest of the table may want Napa Cab, but we have something at that level for the person who wants a white. Then we have something at the opposite range of California style.”

Emily Wines, senior director of beverage for the Kimpton hotel group, agrees that while she would select different wines for an Asian concept than for a Southwest menu, “I don’t think about specific pairings. I aim for a selection of wines that are food-friendly. Good wine with great acidity works with a lot of food.”


Master Sommelier James Tidwell’s program at the Four Seasons Resort and Club outside Dallas calls for as many as 30 by-the-glass offerings. “The priority is diversity,” he says. “The by-the-glass wines are a reflection of the list as a whole. We have incredibly diverse guests: people who want the standards, people who seem focused on a given varietal, people who like to be taken on a journey, people who want trophy wines.” So at any given time Tidwell’s pours include well-known international varieties alongside lesser-known grapes like Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, Pinotage, etc.

Offer too many wines, however, and oxidized wine becomes an issue. “When I started I wanted to have lots and lots of different things by-the-glass,” says David Weitzenhoffer, co-owner of AI Selections and formerly wine director at Felidia in New York CIty, “but it’s hard to manage too many, and hard to ensure they’re turning over fast enough.”

When selecting pours, Tidwell asks himself: “Is this a wine that’s going to benefit from being open, deteriorate, or stay the same?” Ideally it’s going to develop a bit with some exposure, but, “Am I going to be able to turn this wine quickly enough even if it’s not?” Farner asks her suppliers for a bottle of a potential pour, opens it, and tastes it at intervals as long as a week out to see how it holds up.

Even with a compact glass list, individual wines can suffer. “Put Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and one ‘off’ varietal on the list,” says Weitzenhoffer, “and you are not going to sell the last one.”
Tidwell believes the solution is to price the offbeat wines attractively, and to “position them on the list so people can understand them.” For Tidwell that means grouping them alongside wines with a similar character, even though the list isn’t explicitly arranged by style.


Staff training is also essential, but remember your audience. “Wine people want their staff to know everything about a wine,” says Weitzenhoffer, “but waitstaff don’t have the same motivation. I got much, much better at condensing stuff to tell guests” when training servers.

Different staff, different toolbox, says Carla Rzeszewski, the beverage director for The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory in New York. The staff at John Dory Oyster Bar is tiny and focused. “They know what they want to sell; they’re coming to me with questions.” So esoteric wines—like the perennial underdog Sherry, one of the team’s darlings—have a good chance of doing well there. The Breslin’s servers work fewer shifts and sales skew more toward beer and cocktails, so they’re less invested in selling wine; in turn, Rzeszewski says she offers strictly familiar grape varieties there.

Technology has provided other ways to make sure that each glass that goes out is as fresh as the winemaker intended. Wine on tap has made a major comeback, and helps control both freshness and waste. “Our wine on tap programs at the Dory and the Breslin are quite successful,” says Rzeszewski. “We have three wines and one cider on tap. In my mind, the entire point of keg wine is this fresh, juicy wine, not intended for anything other than immediate enjoyment and happy food pairing.” She adds that when they started serving wine from the keg two years ago, the Gotham Project Finger Lakes Riesling was the only one available; today she can choose wines from around the world.

Other solutions for freshness can be simple as Private Preserve, which tops off an opened bottle with an inert gas from a spray can, to installations like the Cruvinet or Enomatic, which maintain the temperature and dispense the wine while preventing oxygen exposure. These units, however, can be expensive and take up a lot of space. Ideally, by monitoring their offerings, even small restaurants should be able to offset spoilage via the higher glass-pour revenues.


As with beer, kegged wine is an excellent value for the restaurant, and can still be well-priced for guests at strong margins. For wines packaged in conventional bottles, most restaurants charge the wholesale price of the bottle for a single glass, which accounts for by-the-glass wine’s popularity among beverage managers when they’re calculating their cost of goods percentage. Wines says, “Mark-ups maybe come down a little on the high end—typically for Champagne, as they inevitably get pricier. They end up being the best value on list.”

Even if you are sticking with high-recognition varietal wines, selecting a pour goes beyond choosing a wine you like that fits the price range. How your glass pours are presented can impact flexibility. “We don’t change our list a lot,” says Rzeszewski, “because it means changing the website, the menu, training…. I want something to be on for at least three months.” That means the supplier needs to have adequate stock. The Spotted Pig recently switched to an all-domestic list, and Rzeszewski says a lot of the boutique producers she wanted to pour didn’t have enough wine to make it work for her.

Michael Madrigale, who runs the wine programs at three of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in New York, agrees. “If they don’t have at least ten cases I won’t put it by-the-glass,” he says. “Like a Beaujolais from Lapierre, the Morgon. Much as I want to pour it by-the-glass, I won’t—it’s so good I don’t want to burn through it. Even if it’s a feather in my cap to have something rare and affordable you need to save it; you can’t be a spendthrift.”

Some venues can be more flexible. “I can change my wines by-the-glass every week, and sometimes will,” says Tidwell, who adds that he doesn’t worry about supply or continuity issues with his slower-moving, more esoteric wines, and also has a number of selections he can pull from the bottle list if need be.

There’s also room to play. Madrigale offers something special each evening at Bar Boulud by pouring a selection from a large format bottle—“only bottles with some age, sold at cost.” So it’s not a moneymaker directly, but it generates buzz and reminds people that they can get something special there. In addition, “Flights are always fun, and people seem to like them. We did a flight from volcanic soils: a white from Santorini, a red from Campania, a white from Canary Islands. Or you could do Rieslings from different soils. People are really into it.” 


Michael Riahi—who left a management position at a large NY metro distributor to form his own import company, Riahi Selections—has found by-the-glass programs to be a fertile proving ground for boutique offerings. “I find that buyers are looking to offer their customers a unique experience with high-quality, atypical wines,” says Riahi. “When I tell the story of the family-owned vineyards and artisanal production, it allows the buyer to really connect, and they become as passionate about the product as the winemakers themselves.” From the restaurant standpoint, consistent supply of small-production wines can become an issue in a higher-volume glass program; and esoteric wines will need more TLC to move like Cabernet and Chardonnay. Still, artisanal wines bring some real advantages:

  • Restaurants want to support artisanal wines and family producers, just like they support local farmers.
  • Smaller producers offer “unique” varietals; Riahi’s imports include Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Refosco and Pignolo from Italy, Albariño from Spain; and a Crémant from Alsace made from 100% Pinot Noir.
  • Small production give restaurants an edge of exclusivity—buyers like pouring wines that customers probably won’t find at the wine shop down the street.

Somm Sez: Coastal Inspiration

Posted on | March 27, 2013   Bookmark and Share
Written by |

Lee Spires, Aqua by El Gaucho, Seattle Washington

Situated at the tip of Seattle’s Pier 70, with Elliott Bay, Magnolia Bluff and the Space Needle highlighting panoramic views, AQUA by El Gaucho seems poised for dining drama. Fortunately, the food, wine and service are up to the challenge, and with frequent winemaker dinners, the restaurant has made itself a true destination for wine lovers.

THE BEVERAGE NETWORK:  How often do you change the wines by the glass?

LEE SPIRES: Seasonally. We go heavy on reds in the winter and do a lot of white and rosé for the summer, since we have a large deck.

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

LS: Our 18 oz. frenched rib steak and 8 oz. Maine lobster tail with a bottle of Figgins red blend.

TBN: Do you do special wine promotions?

LS: We do all-day happy hour on Sunday and Mondays, and from 4-6pm the rest of the week, featuring select red and white wines.

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

LS: Currently we use Excel, but we are moving to use BinWise. When I tested the BinWise method, I could see it will make things so much easier.

TBN: How many distributors do you do business with?

LS: Mainly five vendors, but there are 19 that I use to fill out my list. Also being about 20 miles away from wine country (Woodinville), I am able to buy from the wineries directly.

TBN: How do you place orders?

LS: I order wines on Mondays and Thursday. I generally text my orders in to my distributors. Some email, but rarely.

TBN: How has the new distribution system in Washington affected you?

LS: The new distribution system has not affected any of my wine orders or routines.

TBN: Do you have a strategy for displaying wines at the restaurant?

LS: We display wines on a wine table as people walk in to be seated.

TBN: Your list has a very evident connection to Washington wineries; has it always been that way?

LS: We like the focus of our list to be about the Northwest wines. There are a lot of good Pinot Noirs from Oregon.

TBN: What recent trends you have noticed in wine in general, and in your restaurant in particular?

LS: Syrah, Shiraz and Merlot sales have fallen. I also feel that a lot of people are more aware of how great the quality of Washington wines are becoming, and my sales are showing it.

TBN: How does management measure the success of your wine program?

LS: Year over year sales, for sure. And keeping on-hand inventory low.

TBN: What words-of-wisdom do you find yourself frequently telling your staff?

LS: Taste yourself—don’t let me tell you what you should drink. Be curious.

TBN: What other wine programs do you admire?

LS: I look for inspiration at RN74 in San Francisco; and at Purple and Canlis here in Seattle.

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