Posted on | January 27, 2014
Written by | BevNetwork
In celebration of the Super Bowl, Diageo is hosting “The Diageo Liquid Cellar” – an event space in New York City’s Chelsea Arts District that will play host to some of the largest events during the week leading up to the big game. Diageo has paired Delta Air Lines and Sports Illustrated with some of the most prominent Diageo portfolio brands including, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Tequila Don Julio, Captain Morgan and Guinness to create what is sure to be a hotspot throughout the week.
Diageo is proud to announce the participation of Delta, New York’s largest airline, and Sports Illustrated within The Diageo Liquid Cellar event series. Throughout the duration of the Diageo Liquid Cellar, Delta will host a pop-up Delta Sky Club for guests, complete with cocktails, flight attendants handing out snacks and giveaways, a .GIF yourself photo booth and the chance to win travel on Delta. Additionally, Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson will host a wine tasting showcasing the wines she has selected for Delta’s flagship Sky Club at JFK Terminal 4. Sports Illustrated will hold their much-anticipated big game events within the space, including an event hosted by retired American Football player, Lynn Swann, as well as their always-exciting yearly event, complete with Sports Illustrated models and friends followed by an after party with a special performance by recording artist Wyclef Jean.
Additional events will include bespoke mixology happy hours, concerts and cocktail parties. Tequila Don Julio will hold a 1940’s-themed cocktail party to celebrate the game with a surprise and special performance, Smirnoff Ice will hold a Women’s Tailgate to celebrate the lady fans of football, and Ketel One Vodka, Ciroc and Guinness will hold special cocktail events with mixology elements and happy hour events.
See below for a full list of bartenders that will make appearances at The Diageo Liquid Cellar:
Eryn Reece, Mayahuel/Death & Co.
Dom Venegas, Nomad
Ivy Mix, Clover Club
Julie Reiner, Clover Club
Tad Carducci, Tippling Brothers
Tim Cooper, Bleeker Kitchen
Justin Noel, Bleeker Kitchen
KJ Williams, Flatiron Lounge
Jay Zimmerman, Basik
Jim Meehan, PDT
John Lermayer, The Gale Miami
TJ Lynch, Mothers Ruin
Leo DeGroff, Apartment 13
Lulu Martinez, Golden Cadillac
Sean Kenyon, Williams & Graham (Denver)
Willy Shine, Will Shine Inc.
Edwin Medina, 13th Street Entertainment
Todd Richman, Diageo Bar
KT Stipe, Diageo Bar
Stilo, Diageo Bar
Posted on | January 26, 2014
Written by | Cara McIlwaine
Winemaking in California dates back to before the mid-19th century, a high time for America’s pioneering spirit. The latest from Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, The Great American Wine Company, is poised to capture that great patriotic feeling and bottle it. Paying tribute to American winemaking and a patriotic spirit, the portfolio includes three all-American varietal wines with labels in red, blue and cream.
Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines has had great success in the past couple years being on trend with wine innovations including Stark Raving, Rose ‘N’ Blum and Butterfly Kiss that are priced right to attract consumers looking for value and quality. “Our recent innovation success has been in the $10-$14.99 price tier as consumers continue to trade up, so we wanted to stay within that target price tier,” says Beth Williams, Commercial Innovation Manager for Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines. The Great American Wine Company’s suggested retail price point is at the sweet spot, $12.99.
The Great American Wine Company’s wines are not only aimed at the millennial drinkers. Williams says, “The brand is designed to appeal to a broad range of consumers who take pride in their country and choose to buy patriotic-themed products as well as those made in the USA.” She adds that research indicates that Millennials are more willing than other demographic groups to try products that support a cause.
Paying homage to American heroes, The Great American Wine Company is designating one primary military charity per calendar year to receive donations. “In 2014, the brand is donating $100,000 to the USO to help fund some of the more than 40 major programs supporting troops and their families,” says Williams. “Diageo has supported the USO as part of the ‘Diageo Salutes the Troops’ programming. Additionally there’s a personal tie. Williams says, “John Kane, the winemaker for The Great American Wine Company, has a military connection, as his dad is a veteran. Choosing to affiliate the brand with military charities made creating this brand an even more special project for him and the passion shows in the wines.”
Red, White and Blend
Staying mainstream in its line of offerings, the portfolio includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend and a Chardonnay. The wines are made by Rosenblum Cellars, which has its own great American entrepreneurial history. Says Williams, “Kent Rosenblum dreamed of becoming a winemaker and achieved it with the ultimate American varietal, Zinfandel.” The Great American Red Blend, based on Zinfandel (with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon), is a natural fit.
The Great American wine labels maximize the effect of their red, cream and blue styling. “The greatest impact will be in displaying the bottles together. The shippers are also in red, blue and cream colors, allowing many possibilities to create colorful patriotic displays. Our launch POS features more muted colors with a background that is reminiscent of the heartland and amber waves of grain. This allows the bottles and label colors to really stand out and reinforces the ‘Made in the USA’ crafted feel for the brand,” says Williams.
At its core, the brand is about celebrating Americana, which, of course, works from coast to coast and is a perfect fit for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and more. “Just by displaying the red, white and blue bottles, retailers will be able to easily incorporate The Great American Wine Company into any American holiday program with pride,” says Williams.
Posted on | January 24, 2014
Written by | Andrew Bell
The Evening of Deuces (as I like to call it) is rapidly approaching. And the pressure is mounting. The reservations-for-two are pouring in and you’re looking around in a panic at all the four-tops in your dining room, trying to determine where to put them all. Sure, there may be the odd quartet, but every other party is a couple. That’s right…I’m talking about the fabulous February 14th!
If this is your first Valentine’s Day on the floor, rest up. This can be one of the best nights of the year for some of your guests, but the least exciting—and most exhausting—for those in the service industry. The key to survival? Preparedness.
Start by creating an extensive By-the-Glass offering that pairs well with the chef’s inspirations for the evening. The kitchen will likely be in the weeds most of the night. Having many easy let’s-get-you-started glasses to offer gives you an opportunity to quickly serve a beverage, thus relieving some pressure from the kitchen and allowing for a smoother service evening.
Understand that this is not a typical date night and most likely it’s not a splurge night. In fact, seasoned restaurant-goers often avoid this evening and I’ve even heard some refer to it as Amateur Night. So, you will find that for many diners in your establishment on the 14th, Valentine’s Day is value night.
Romancing the Glass
Valentine’s Day draws out a greater number of inexperienced (or simple less-frequent) diners than the typical evening. Often you will find guests who are looking for an amazing experience while trying to remain economical. For this reason, many will dine and drink on a glass-by-glass basis (often finishing with a wine check at the end of dinner that comes close to the cost of a bottle anyway). An expanded BTG list doesn’t necessarily take away from any potential bottle sales that may follow the initial glass; it does, however, give your guests a great variety of choices, allowing them the opportunity to affordably visit different areas of your list, one glass at a time.
Of course, be sure to include at least one option for pink bubbles. With the economical guest in mind, don’t limit yourself to Champagne—offer something from a secondary market, whether it be Spanish Cava, French Crémant or Venetian Refosco, to name a few. There are plenty of great value options to choose from.
Start planning now and you will have a chance to not only pair your BTG offerings with the chef’s menu, but also to eliminate from your program some of those pesky unwanted wines… it’s a win-win! Your guest will be enthralled, your beverage cost improved and your General Manager content!
*Back by popular demand, on February 9th American Sommelier is offering “A Brief History of the VinoVerse”—American Sommelier’s seminar covering people and events that have had major impacts on the history of wine. This seminar will be led by American Sommelier President, Andrew F. Bell. Eight wines will be poured to illustrate the lecture.
Andrew Bell is a co-founder and president of American Sommelier. Through the Sales, Service and Buying Seminar Series, American Sommelier provides professionals with the tools needed to build and maintain a successful wine program in any restaurant environment. Member benefits include events, career guidance, discounts and a the American Sommelier newsletter. For more details and a calendar of classes, visit americansommelier.com or call 212-226-6805.
Posted on | January 24, 2014
Written by | Jeffery Lindenmuth
What do the Statue of Liberty, foie gras and the dry martini have in common? For each of them, we owe a debt of gratitude to France. The cocktail may be an American creation, but without critical ingredients like dry vermouth, first produced in France by Joseph Noilly, namesake of Noilly Prat, as well as high-quality spirits like Cognac and original liqueurs like Chartreuse, many classic cocktails simply would not exist. France offers a great tradition of liqueurs, wine and spirits, many of which actually predate the invention of the cocktail, making them an integral part of cocktail history.
That tradition appears strong at New York City’s Pouring Ribbons, where Troy Sidle, partner in Pouring Ribbons and Alchemy Consulting, offers a list of classic and original cocktails, many of which include French spirits, liqueurs or wines. There is even a list of 18 vintages of Chartreuse, a tribute to one of Sidle’s favorite French spirits.
Unlike bourbon or gin, French ingredients rarely take center stage in a cocktail. But, that makes them no less important. Much like a dash of fleur de sel from Brittany or a sliver of black truffle from Provence, these Gallic specialties are irreplaceable. When added to cocktails, they lend complexity, balance, intrigue and that elusive je ne sais quoi. Here, Sidle shares his strategies for utilizing French ingredients, both popular and lesser known.
This green liqueur is produced by Carthusian monks in the French Alps from over 130 different types of flowers, herbs, roots and other botanicals.
Sidle says: “A fascinating spirit, Chartreuse is the oldest liqueur in the world. It’s sort of like truffle oil, you put a touch in and you cannot miss it. However, it’s best in small doses that make a cocktail complex and interesting.”
Founded in 1863, this liqueur actually dates to the Benedictine monk Don Bernardo Vincelli, who created it using 27 plants and spices in 1510. Key ingredients include Angelica, Hyssop and Lemon Balm.
Sidle says: “While often enjoyed with brandy, as B&B, it works really well with Scotch, too. It carries a lot of honey notes, so that makes a nice inclusion as well. When using Bénédictine in a cocktail, you don’t need a lot of other ingredients.”
Created by Edouard Cointreau in 1875, Cointreau is the first triple sec, an 80-proof spirit that balances sweet and bitter orange flavors.
Sidle says: “A lot of time a generic triple sec will have some orange color; that makes Cointreau the choice for something in a martini glass that you want to remain clear. It also offers a very distinct and authentic orange flavor.”
A black raspberry liqueur, Chambord is created by infusing raspberries and blackberries for a total of six weeks in neutral spirits. This is blended with natural fruit extracts, Cognac, Madagascar vanilla and other fragrant herbs before final blending.
Sidle says: “As a sweeter liqueur, Chambord is a great opportunity to balance with something bitter, like Angostura bitters. Try Chambord as a complement to other harsher spirits, like balancing a really intense smoky mezcal with something so sweet and pretty.”
Apple brandy from Normandy in northern France, Calvados can be distilled from fermented ciders from over 200 varieties of apples.
Sidle says: “Like Cognac, this is potentially best sipped on its own. I just really respect and love the flavor of this refined apple brandy. You could look to substituting it in Cognac cocktails to create something similar but with apple flavor.”
While it originated in Switzerland, this high-proof anise-flavored spirit is most associated with France’s Belle Epoque and known for its reputed hallucinogenic effects. A longstanding ban in the U.S. was lifted in 2007, opening the market to Lucid Absinthe, which was then followed by others.
Sidle says: “Now that the sensation has died down, we are seeing absinthe used in a less heavy-handed way. It works well in small amounts, as in a Sazerac where the glass is rinsed with Absinthe to ensure you don’t use too much. Drinks made this way can be called “Sazerac style.”
Dry (French) Vermouth
“Vermouth” is a French pronunciation of the German word for wormwood, a bittering ingredient used in this back bar staple. Technically wine flavored with aromatic herbs, dry vermouth, like that used in the martini was created in France around 1813 by Joseph Noilly.
Sidle says: “I never met a dry vermouth I didn’t like. The most important thing is to keep it fresh by buying small bottles and tasting it before each use. As soon as it’s no longer fresh, it’s best used for cooking.”
Founded in Bordeaux in 1872, Lillet is a brand name aperitif, with Lillet Blanc the modern incarnation of the founder’s original Kina Lillet. More recent additions include a Rouge (1962) and Rosé (2011).
Sidle says: “Lillet is really a sweet vermouth that is light in color, so it holds a unique position. You can take a Manhattan template, using sweet vermouth, and create variations using Lillet. It’s also a natural fit with orange bitters.”
A Selection of Cocktail Recipes
Last Word by Troy Sidle
¾ oz. Ford’s Gin
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Holidays Away by Troy Sidle
1½ oz. Bowmore Legend Scotch Whisky
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass over ice cubes, or a single large ice cylinder.
1½ oz. Pinnacle Citrus vodka
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Grand O adapted from Grand Marnier
1 1/3 oz. Grand Marnier liquor
In a tall glass, pour Grand Marnier and orange juice over ice cubes. Fill up with soda water. Squeeze a wedge of lemon above the glass and add same wedge in the glass.
1½ oz. Vodka
Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Champagne Cocktail by Troy Sidle
1 Sugar cube
In a chilled cocktail glass, add the sugar cube and soak with Angostura bitters. Add the spiral twist of lemon and fill the glass with Champagne.
Fort Julep by Troy Sidle
1½ oz. Lillet Rosé
Lightly press mint into the bottom of a silver julep cup or rocks glass. Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the cup with mint.
Classic Dry Martini by Troy Sidle
2 oz. Beefeater Gin
Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
1½ oz. Cognac
Prepare a cocktail glass by rubbing the outside rim with lemon juice and dipping it in sugar. Add the liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the prepared glass.
1 oz. Lucid Absinthe
Fill a tall glass with ice and add Lucid Absinthe, Hpnotiq, lemonade and fill with lemon-lime soda.
1½ oz. Calvados
Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
2 oz. London dry gin
Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.
½ oz. Crème de Violette
Add Crème de Violette to a flute. Top with Champagne and stir gently.
1 oz. Green Chartreuse
Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
2 oz. Scotch malt whisky
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Cointreau Fizz Cucumber and Basil adapted from Cointreau
1 ½ oz. of Cointreau
In a shaker glass, muddle the cucumber slices with basil leaves, add Cointreau and lime juice and ice. Shake and strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with club soda.
1½ oz. Tequila
Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Bramble Bar Cocktail
2 oz. Chivas Regal blended Scotch whisky
In a Collins glass, combine the first four ingredients. Add ice, top with club soda. Stir gently.
The Sweet Taste of Victory created by Hal Wolin, New York, New York, courtesy Chambord
2 oz. Bourbon Whiskey
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a Coupe glass. Garnish with any three of brandied blackberries, brandied raspberries or regular blackberries.
Sazerac as prepared by Troy Sidle
2 oz. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
Prepare a rocks glass by adding the Pernod Absinthe, swirling to coat, then discarding the liquid. Add the remaining liquid ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into the rocks glass. Garnish by twisting the lemon peel over the glass and adding it to the drink.
2 oz. Tequila
In a collins glass filled with ice, add Tequila and crème de cassis. Top with ginger ale and stir gently. Squeeze the lime wedge and add it to the drink.
Black Forest Martini adapted from Bols Liqueurs
½ oz. Bols Strawberry
Add all ingredients except cream to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float the cream on the surface of the cocktail.
Rémy Martin Jasmine Tea adapted from Remy-Martin
1 1/2 oz. Rémy Martin VSOP
Pour Rémy Martin VSOP, the simple syrup and the jasmine tea in a long drink glass over crushed. Add a dash of lemon juice, stir and add a straw.
2 oz. Rhum Agricole
Squeeze lime into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice, and add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
F.W.I. Revolver adapted from Rhum Clement
2 oz. VSOP Rhum Vieux
Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled tumbler or Collins glass. Garnish by grating nutmeg and adding the orange wheel and brandied cherry.
Moët Golden Glamour created for the 2010 Academy Awards by Moët Hennessy
4 oz. Moët & Chandon Imperial Champagne
Combine all ingredients in a flute. Top with fresh sprig of mint for garnish.
Anne-Rosine adapted from Noilly-Prat
2 oz. Noilly Prat Original Dry
Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the grapefruit zest.
Vesper as enjoyed by James Bond
3 oz. Gordon’s Gin
Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon peel.
Links to other Today’s France stories
Posted on | January 24, 2014
Written by | Elaine Chukan Brown
Lesser-known grapes and producers can be the wine merchant’s secret weapon
Five grapes—Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and Pinot Noir—accounted for about 65% of California’s 2012 winegrape harvest, according to the state’s official report. In a rather dramatic shift, the next five most-planted grapes (Colombard, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Rubired [Tintero] and Chenin Blanc) together comprising only 16% of the total acreage. And after the top ten, the remaining 19% is scattered among dozens of grapes, mostly unfamiliar even to the average American wine lover.
But tastes change. Before Cabernet Sauvignon became the leader of Napa Valley, Petite Sirah dominated that landscape. More recently, Moscato took off like a rocket from 2010-2012 then leveled off in 2013. In our social media-equipped age, it is possible that tastes will change faster. Who is to say that the zeitgeist won’t shift toward Californiagrown Teroldego, or Tempranillo, or Touriga Nacional, or that Chenin won’t become the new hot Blanc?
A growing coterie of progressive California winemakers are hoping to have a say in the matter, focusing renewed energy and attention on off-the-beaten-path vineyards. And while the wheels of the major varietal wines continue to turn, based on recent consumer press—particularly the San Francisco Chronicle and their wine editor Jon Bonne’s book, The New California Wine—interest in uncommon varieties and unique styles of wine in California is on a steep upswing.
Granted, the base for most offbeat grapes is tiny. But the collective small-scale success of such wines has paralleled the growth of the specialized food market and “farm-to-table” restaurants across the United States. California’s boutique wineries also echo America’s wildly successful craft distilling movement. In short, amid the quiet popularity of wine sameness, there is a growing buzz for uniqueness.
Which brings us that other 19%.
First of all, it’s not small. With California producing nearly two-thirds the total wine sold in the U.S., 19% of that is a chunk to reckon with (it’s almost as much as all the Chardonnay). Even more important: With the U.S. closing in on two decades of growth in wine consumption, and anecdotal evidence from coast to coast suggesting Americans are getting more adventurous in their drinking, smart wine merchants are keeping a close eye on offbeat wines from small California producers. Doing so provides both an opportunity to succeed via niche sales now, and a stake in California’s future.
Bigger Picture of Smaller Scale
Wines made from unusual grapes in California are happening at smallproduction levels, almost by default, but also by design. Small independent winemakers are drawn to non-mainstream grapes—why would they want to replicate what so many other wineries are already doing? Another factor: Younger winemakers are often slim on capital and some turn to buying fruit from unusual varieties that are not in as high demand as the big five.
s Tim Arnold of importer and distributor Polaner Selections explains, wines from labels like Ryme, Wind Gap and Arnot-Roberts are different from how we previously thought of California: “They are using classic techniques to really show what specific sites can offer. These labels are figuring out what California wine can do.”
Micro wineries create a challenge when it comes to sales. As Nate Rose, allocation specialist and fine wine consultant for Spec’s Wine and Spirits of Texas, points out, “Customers are interested in these wines but the volume is so low that their presence is limited.” Even once a wine is in a market, it is inclined to remain largely unknown simply due to volume.
On the other hand, as Neil Gernon, a representative of the distributor Neat Wines in Louisiana, points out, the uniqueness of many oddball wines plays into their attraction. “It’s exciting to show these smaller production varieties because people feel like they’re being let in on a secret,” says Gernon. He regards the passion for discovery as a reason to sell such wines. In New Orleans, Gernon has seen retailers like Faubourg Wines and Pearl Wine Co. create niche markets for themselves by carrying wines hard to get anywhere else. It is precisely in the exclusive nature of these boutique wines that some retailers find their power.
According to Gernon and Rose, in Louisiana and Texas, success of unusual varieties has partially arisen from piggybacking newer wines on the shoulders of already established brands. In Texas, for example, Robert Foley’s Charbono was pivotal in getting the Houston market curious for “other” red grapes. And in Austin, where Italian wines have long been popular, retailers encouraged customers to try Italian varieties made in California.
For wines with unclear reference points, pricing and customer contact prove crucial. Christy Frank, owner of Frankly Wines in New York City, emphasizes that in her smaller-sized shop, a unique wine at $25 or under is comparatively easy to sell; she can hang an appealing handmade shelf talker, and people are willing to try it. Above that price, it’s more likely to depend on a conversation. Once wines hit the $50 mark they become much trickier to sell.
Craig Perman of Perman Wine Selections in Chicago relies almost entirely on direct conversation. In a market where wine sales are dominated by superstores or the corner liquor store. Perman’s clientele turn to him precisely to escape the wash of indistinguishable wines available at other shops. They trust his palate, and in conversation Perman can focus on a customer’s interests while also sharing an anecdote about the producer. Stories can motivate sales; people want to taste the results.
Larger stores have also found ways to make smaller labels worthwhile. At Spec’s, the chain’s unpublicized specialization program is about to go mainstream. Rose explains that all three tiers cooperated to create “Lo & Behold”—a curated and exclusive six-pack of wines from boutique winemakers, set to debut in February. What once were hand-sells—offered off-the-grid to grape-nutty customers—have become a collective showpiece marketed to the broader store customers. It’s an all-around win-win situation, providing a new vehicle for producers, a distributor and a retailer to cultivate experimentation among curious wine lovers.
Posted on | January 24, 2014
Written by | W.R. Tish
Restaurateur Tony Vallone, whose namesake Tony’s is a Houston culinary icon, has added a new target for the city’s wine and food cognescenti: Vallone’s, serving up steak, fish, chops and homemade pasta in the Memorial City neighborhood. We caught up with Scott Sulma, partner and general manager, a veteran of the restaurant group who is overseeing the wine program at the new outpost, to get his take on being able to start a fresh spin-off of a well-established operation.
THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: What is a favorite current pairing from your menu and list?
SCOTT SULMA: 55-day dry aged beef and a Tuscan Red such as 2008 San Fiorenzo Brunello di Montalcino, an accessible and affordable Brunello, approachable right out of the bottle, with that classic Tuscan nose. Or 2010 Petrolo “Torrione,” a Tuscan blend from one of the great houses of Italy, but at a very accessible price point.
TBN: What has done especially well for you by the glass?
SS: In whites: 2012 Ramey Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast and 2012 La Fiera Pinot Grigio. In reds: 2012 Sandrone Dolcetto and 2006 Pietro Beconcini “Reciso.” Sparkling: Taittinger Brut Française.
TBN: In opening a new restaurant, what was your aim for the wine program?
SS: We wanted a very approachable list with attractive price points, but we also want to introduce our guests to more boutique producers as we build relationships with them.
TBN: Do you have a strategy for displaying wines at the restaurant?
SS: Wine is art, and at Vallone’s it is prominently displayed in a 33-foot tall, all-glass wine cellar.
TBN: Were there any adjustments you made in terms of format for the list?
TBN: People have become familiar with the concept of steak wines. How about pasta—do you think there are ‘pasta wines’?
SS: We don’t like to dictate what a guest drinks. We certainly feel there are ideal bottles for all dishes, but if you’re in the mood for something else you’re going to get it.
TBN: How many distributors do you do business with?
SS: 20 plus.
TBN: What software system do you use to manage your list/inventory?
SS: We do all inventory by hand. We like to feel the bottles. When you do it by hand, you’re also maintaining the inventory, by handling and turning the bottles.
TBN: Do you have a system/routine for managing your wine orders?
SS: It’s all about personal relationship with our purveyors. If we have a party that drinks us out of Vietti, we call and get Vietti in the next day. We don’t standardize or automate because then the guest would suffer.
TBN: What are some recent trend(s) you have noticed in wine in general?
SS: People are flocking to Italian wines with open arms and we are thrilled.
Cuisine: Modern Steakhouse
Selections on the wine list: 375
Price range of list: $45-$1,200
Average bottle price: $85
Sweet spot on list: Italian red and domestic Cabernet Sauvignon, blends and single-variety wines, $65-$145
Wine list strengths: A healthy balance between steakhouse classics and Italian cult.
Wines by the glass: 35, adjusted weekly
Price range by the glass: $11-$45
Type of stemware: Mircenza
Preservation system used: WineEmotion
Posted on | January 24, 2014
Written by | Kristen Wolfe Bieler
With distinctive brands and attractive line extensions, Pernod Ricard is revolutionizing the Irish whiskey category.
It’s no secret that Irish whiskey is exploding. With revenues hitting $415 million in the U.S. last year, it’s grown 460% since 2002 according to DISCUS. However, Paul Di Vito, VP, Irish & North American Whiskey, Pernod Ricard USA, would like to remind everyone that “Irish is still in its infancy.” Consider this: Irish whiskey imports reached the 2 million case mark in 2012. By comparison, Scotch sold 8 million cases.
This translates to a very bright future for the Irish spirit. “We are only just getting started,” says Di Vito. “While we are the smallest category, we are growing at almost two and a half times the pace of all others. And value is outpacing volume by 4%.”
Even category giant Jameson, which owns 70% of the Irish whiskey market in the U.S. and has posted double digit growth for years on end, is nowhere near its potential, says Di Vito: “I would never use the word mature to describe Jameson. Even if you look at the most developed markets, places like Illinois, New York or California, Jameson is much smaller than its competitive whiskey set—Jack Daniel’s or Crown Royal—so we see incredible opportunity. We talk to our sales force frequently about how small we actually are.”
When Pernod Ricard acquired the brand in 1988 it was under half a million cases. Last year worldwide sales hit 4 million. The Irish boom hasn’t gone unnoticed: A growing number of other big spirits companies have entered the category by purchasing or developing Irish whiskey brands. Today the category is more robust and diverse than ever, thanks to innovation happening at the high end with higher proof releases, inventive maturation processes and new Single Pot Still expressions.
BEYOND THE SHOT
Jameson owes much of its dynamic growth to being embraced as the shot of choice in bars nationwide; the Pickleback—a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle brine—is no less than a phenomenon. “We were one of the first brands to be part of the whisky shot revolution; we know we stole share from tequila,” says Di Vito. This occasion has allowed the brand to bring in new drinkers, Pernod Ricard has discovered—non-traditional whiskey drinkers like women and younger consumers. Rather than steal share from other brown spirits, Jameson is growing the entire whiskey pie.
But to call Jameson a “shot brand” doesn’t tell the whole story. “When we look at occasionality for Jameson, we find drinkers who will do a shot, they consume it on the rocks, and other times sip it neat or in a cocktail,” says Di Vito. “This is the fundamental, most critical reason why the brand continues to grow: It has the versatility to be consumed in a range of different occasions by the same consumer.”
RETAINING THE MATURING WHISKEY DRINKER
This is not to say that consumer isn’t evolving. Irish whiskey serves as a point of entry for many whisky drinkers, and Pernod Ricard sees opportunity in holding onto those consumers by giving them different Irish options to explore. “As whisky drinkers mature, they will experiment with single malts, small batch bourbons and locally crafted artisanal whiskey,” Di Vito says. “We want them to have other choices within the Irish category.”
The gap between Jameson’s entry level offering and the Jameson 12 Year Old and 18 Year Old is a big one in terms of both taste profile and price, so last year the distillery created Jameson Black Barrel, a richer, more intense expression which is partly aged in deep-charred bourbon barrels, priced around $43 at retail. It has been so successful, Pernod Ricard is unable to expand beyond the 13 states of current distribution because there isn’t enough liquid.
“Everywhere we place it, it takes off,” says Di Vito. “It’s a completely new Jameson experience.”
Interestingly, in addition to attracting Jameson drinkers looking to trade up, Black Barrel has pulled in Scotch and bourbon drinkers who are new to the brand, notes Di Vito: “It’s a small batch whiskey for us; we only distill it once a year. Bars have been playing with it and promoting it in new ways.”
SATISFYING THE APPETITE FOR DIVERSITY
Irish whiskey is benefiting from a perfect storm of consumer trends—the growing popularity of brown spirits, a curious consumer demanding more high-end options, and motivated retailers willing to devote more shelf space to the Irish category. “We are now able to bring to life brands with rich history; this is where the category is headed,” says Di Vito.
One such brand is Powers. Recently repositioned with a new package and price, and returned to its original strength of 43.2% abv and non-chill filtered (as it was when it launched 60 years ago), Powers is finally getting the love it deserves, Di Vito explains. “We were so focused on Jameson, we really hadn’t paid attention to Powers, which had been growing at 16% with very little effort on our part. But it got to a certain size and we realized we needed to take a serious look at this brand.”
Defined by a lingering spiciness and richer mouthfeel than Jameson due to an expensively greater inclusion of pot still whiskey in the blend, Powers is an exceptional product—and was long underpriced considering the cost going into the bottle. Pernod Ricard is still working to help the trade understand the necessity of the price increase, but so far it hasn’t really hurt sales—and at just $5 above Jameson on the shelf, it still over-delivers. The Powers consumer is someone well into their whiskey journey; an ideal transition step for the consumer looking to explore a more complex whiskey.
RETURN OF THE POT STILL—THE SINGLE MALT OF IRELAND
Hands-down the most exciting development in Irish is the return of Single Pot Still whiskey (see box). A style completely unique to Ireland, SPS was the preeminent whiskey in Ireland 100 years ago, but over the decades, the category practically died out. All Single Pot Still whiskey currently produced in Ireland hails from the Midleton distillery (where Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, etc. are produced) which enables Pernod Ricard to lead the resurgence. “We have a phenomenal amount of pot still whiskey in cask; we want to own this category,” says Di Vito.
Much of the pot still whiskey the distillery crafts goes into larger brands, giving Jameson its hallmark spicy richness, for example. Historically, the only SPS whiskey available in the U.S. has been Redbreast, the cultish small-batch whiskey which has one of the most devoted followings—both trade and consumer—of any spirit. At $50, and with a robust, powerful taste profile, Redbreast doesn’t recruit from the Irish whiskey category, believes Di Vito, but pulls drinkers from Scotch. It just broke through 20,000 cases in the U.S.
This month, Pernod Ricard is launching Green Spot, a Single Pot Still whiskey that the Midleton distillery has been producing for about a decade. It doesn’t have an age statement, though it contains a lot of older stocks. Priced similar to Redbreast, it has a slightly sweeter taste profile, and the U.S. will only get about 1,000 cases. Powers recently debuted its John’s Lane 12 Year Old expression, a Single Pot Still whiskey aged in bourbon and sherry casks.
At the top of the heap sits Midleton, the Midleton Distillery’s namesake brand. There are several expressions—all super-premium—and only 2,500 cases make it into the U.S. market (which represents 90% of Midleton’s production). The pinnacle of Irish whiskey, Midleton has generated tremendous interest among whiskey enthusiasts. Whereas Redbreast is aged in new oak and is all about bold flavors and power, Midleton is a more delicate whiskey, marked by soft pear and melon flavors. The whiskeys in Midleton Very Rare are aged between 12 and 25 years and are matured in bourbon-seasoned American oak casks.
THE CASE FOR MORE SHELF SPACE
Irish whiskey may have once been an underdog category—a whiskey that sold well around St. Patrick’s Day and languished the rest of the year. Today, as the fastest growing category with more premium offerings than ever, the opposite scenario is playing out. Irish whiskey offers incredible value to the retailer year round, which is why it’s time to give Irish more play on retail shelves and back bars, Di Vito argues: “If you look at bourbon and Canadian whisky, Jameson is on average $2 more premium—it’s a more efficient per-bottle facing. The value it delivers on- and off-premise is significant, and the more facings Irish whiskey gets, the more money the retailer will make.”
Research has shown the Irish whiskey consumer enters the category spending about $25 on a bottle. Now there is a very large group willing to spend double that for certain occasions. With brands like Redbreast, Midleton, Green Spot and Jameson’s high-end offerings, there are many more expressions to consider in the Irish whiskey set. “We want to convince retailers to showcase a greater number if Irish whiskies—similar to what they do with bourbon and Scotch. In many cases, it’s about questioning some of their slower categories and re-allocating shelf space. There is an insatiable appetite from consumers for whisky and Irish is very much a part of that.”
Experts predict the category will increase from today’s 2 million cases to 6 million within the next decade, making it bigger than gin and giving Scotch a run for its money. Pernod Ricard is planning accordingly: The Midleton distillery recently announced a 150 million euro investment which will double its capacity once it is complete in 2016. The company is laying down significant volumes of aged stocks and Single Pot Still spirit so in a decade they will be ready.
“The category has come of age and we look forward to building it with the other players and our retail partners,” says Di Vito. “Irish whiskey will triple in size over the next ten years, so we want to see it get triple the space for a reason. The retailers will benefit most.”
Posted on | January 23, 2014
Written by | Alia Akkam
In one of Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhoods, locals gather at Extra Fancy for smoked paprika aioli lobster rolls and fried whole belly clams. But thanks to beverage director Robert Krueger, this elevated seafood shack also churns out tempting, playfully named cocktails.
THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: Extra Fancy is a true neighborhood spot. How is this reflected through the drink program?
ROBERT KRUEGER: A neighborhood spot needs to have the ability to do big nights out and celebratory events as well as the everyday, stop-in-for-a-beer night. We have options in every price range and we offer varying styles of cocktails, spirits, wine and beer.
TBN: Sipping a few beers here is just as cool as trying a new drink. How do you get locals to try your more spirited offerings?
RK: It’s all about sitting at the bar. A customer will see us mixing another order and it might be the way it’s prepared, that special garnish or the use of a bottle they already know and drink that makes them ask about it and maybe even want to try it. We pride ourselves in being an unpretentious, yet knowledgeable staff so I’d like to think we’re easy to approach and talk to. Often, we’ll give little tasters of a cocktail to guests or groups who are having a good time; a little thank you that is also in a way a sales pitch.
TBN: What are the most popular drinks right now?
RK: The Go-To (Fords Gin, St-Germain, fresh lime, mint, ginger beer) has always been a bestseller, with the One More, That’s it (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Flor de Caña Gran Reserva Rum, Amaro Meletti, chocolate bitters) coming in at a close second. The Mr. Personality (Hakushu whisky, Fernet Branca, Cocchi vermouth, Bénédictine) has also been doing very well. It has a rich, soothing, herbaceous character.
TBN: Extra Fancy has a slew of regulars. What do you think keeps them coming?
RK: Regulars are by definition friends of the house, and they become friends of the folks working and the other guests of the bar. Extra Fancy is a comfortable place to see your friends and to make new ones.
TBN: What developments at the bar are you most excited about?
RK: We’re going to be rolling out a classics ‘a la Fancy’ section using premium brands and updated recipes. While anyone can order a classic Manhattan or Aviation off-menu, we want to tell people, Hey, this is how you make an Alaska.
And for our Mixed Company series, we invite a bartender whose work we respect to come in and tend bar with us for a night. We also bring in a featured spirit and together we’ll create a one night-only menu of specialty cocktails. In a few weeks, we will be doing one with Amaro Montenegro and Nick Bennett from Booker & Dax. In the past we have worked with Christian Sanders, Sother Teague, Brett MacDonald and brands such as Rémy Martin, Knob Creek, Suntory, Pavan and Jim Beam.
TBN: Does the popularity of a restaurant like Extra Fancy reveal that customers’ needs and wants for bars are shifting?
RK: I’m not sure it’s a shift so much as a niche that we’re filling in the neighborhood. There are great cocktail bars and there are top-notch dining establishments that aren’t necessarily focused on the bar. We want to be that place where you can order a quality cocktail and delicious meal at any hour (the kitchen stays open till 3:30am) and get great service.
Posted on | January 23, 2014
Written by | Jack Robertiello
Despite its reputation as one of America’s costliest cities, there are bargains galore to be found in New York City; however, an inexpensive drink usually isn’t one of them.
Set aside, for the moment, trophy drinks such as The World Bar’s World Cocktail—a $50 mélange of Rémy XO, Pineau des Charentes, Veuve Clicquot, et al., mixed tableside on a silver tray in the shadow of the United Nations. Take what’s currently available at the busy Chipotle Grill in Union Square. The unit is one of the 900 or so Chipotle Grills serving Margaritas—here charging $8.47 for one made with Patrón and $5.98 for Sauza.
If that’s the going rate at just about the least atmospherically inviting drinking spot in the city, then it’s no surprise that $12 for a cocktail of any type has become the baseline upon which many beverage menus are built today. Even in Long Island City in Queens, hardly a high rent district, the house cocktails at the newly-opened Alobar’s are all priced at $12 or $13.
Maybe New York isn’t the best standard by which to gauge cocktail prices today. But wherever you are, a consistent national price creep may be reaching the upper limits of what the market will bear.
In a recent national survey by the research firm Technomic, comparing the same three-month period in late 2012 and 2013, the average Margarita price moved from $9.30 to $9.64, and the generic Martini grew from $9.37 to $9.46. Bloody Marys showed slight price reductions, but that’s perhaps due to brunch menu discounting and other deals that have been used to drive traffic lately in the daytime.
According to Donna Hood Crecca, senior director for Technomic, independent operators were more likely to say they have raised alcohol menu prices in the past year than chain operators (34% vs. 29%), and have greater expectations of taking prices up in the year ahead (47% vs. 22%). “Bear in mind also that it’s the higher end of the product spectrum that’s growing on-premise,” she says. “Many consumers appear to be gravitating to the more expensive products, particularly in spirits and beer. Today’s imbibers are looking for that ‘affordable indulgence.’”
The current pricing trends allows a chain such as Bonefish Grill to price winter specials like a White Cosmo made with Stolichnaya at $7.90, depending on location, and a Ketel One Dirty Martini at $8 to $8.50, and still be below the industry average.
The upward price creep is being watched warily. “In general, I think pricing is pretty fair in most cocktail bars and restaurants, given locations, styles of drinks, etc.,” says Tad Carducci, who, with partner Paul Tanguay, currently oversees beverage programs for Chicago-based Mercadito Hospitality. “But I have been shell-shocked from time to time, like everybody has. No Pisco Sour should ever cost $22 anywhere.”
The house Margarita at Mercadito Chicago, made with El Jimador, Grand Marnier, agave syrup and fresh lime juice, goes for $10.50—not high for the market. “We try to keep the value for our guests as high as we can, while keeping an average percentage of 18 to 19% cost,” he says.
Carducci is concerned about the growing use of higher-end spirits and their impact on pricing: “It’s very hard to justify to an unknowing consumer who is perusing a drink menu that a cocktail should cost $18. On the other hand, putting out a product with a big cost and pricing it to remain attractive to consumers can be disastrous to margins and bottom lines.”
COST VS. INDIFFERENCE
Charging more than your own average price should signal some step up to customers—featuring more luxury ingredients or a more challenging flavor profile, says Jackson Cannon, bar director of Boston’s Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar, owner/bartender of the Hawthorne and now designer of his own bar knife. An $18 cocktail is not for everyone, he notes: “A higher price can act as a stop sign that gives us time with the guest to make sure this is a good choice for them.”
The upward pricing trend, though, has allowed indifferent drink makers to push their prices up as well. Noted bartender Tony Abou Ganim (aka the Modern Mixologist) says, “Premium spirits, fresh, seasonal ingredients, a crystal glass, great ice, fabulous, professional and fun service; these are all things I am happy to pay for. What I can’t tolerate is being overcharged for inferior spirits, artificial ingredients and pretentiousness, no matter how hip the joint of the minute might be.”
What customers understand from drink prices, though, is not always clear-cut, even within one market. “I hear comments across the board about my charging $12 for a cocktail,” says Toby Cecchini, cocktail writer and owner of the newly opened Long Island Bar in Brooklyn. “People who think nothing of dropping $18 on a glass of wine at one of Danny Meyers’ places in Manhattan wax furious in Brooklyn at the same prospect, as though Brooklyn isn’t part of the same city, in the same market, with the same enormous costs.”
Of course, as Cannon says, what the clientele will bear matters most. David Commer, Texas-based restaurant beverage consultant at Commer Beverage Solutions, says chain operators exposed to what some mixology bars charge can lose sight of their customers’ needs. Serious gaps in pricing have opened, he says: “Ten or 12 dollars for a drink might not be a lot in New York City but in Dallas it’s still a lot. [Clients] see it and think they can do it, too. And as they feature higher and higher cost brands, because of the way they do the metrics they have to charge more. When the drinks sell, their menus get top heavy and end up with a whole lot of high end.”
Then those same operators will discount deeply at some times, but generally have no lower-priced or middle-tier drinks featured on the menu. That can lead to customers ordering a single $12 drink, instead of two at, say, $7. The result? Better pour cost percentage but fewer dollars banked. Commer notes that getting a second drink order at any establishment is important for profitability, and certainly better than the customer nursing one $12 cocktail.
Other options mentioned that might slow pricing inflation and still pick up spending include offering small portions of cocktails in tasting flights, or building a multi-tier pricing scheme based on different brands.
Of course, if customers continue to shell out at current levels and spirit suppliers take more price increases, pricing will only keeping inching upward. That is, until the day a certain vodka maker issues a brand extension called Golden Goose. Then we’re all in trouble.
Posted on | January 23, 2014
Written by | BevNetwork
The End of an Era
To me, the passing of Edgar Bronfman represents the closing of another chapter in our history of industry founders and their families.
Unlike the multi-tiered, multinational corporations that so dominate our industry today, it all started with a number of dominant personalities. Men like Garvin Brown of Brown- Forman, Lou Rosenstiel of Schenley, and Sam Bronfman of Seagram’s.
I remember participating in a Seagram meeting when Sam Bronfman arrived unexpectedly. The young man seated at the head of the table rose to offer his seat. The immediate response from “Mr. Sam” was “Stay where you are son. Anywhere I sit is the head of the table.”
But as a second generation family member, Edgar, brought a softer, different style. Well groomed and engaging, he brought signifi cant growth to the company and began to diversify the family interests.
With the eventual appointment of his son Edgar Jr. the family focus shifted from alcohol to Hollywood and the iconic Seagram name faded into history.
William G. Slone, Chairman
Beam: Still BEAMERICA to Me
Despite the constant chatter surrounding Beam as an acquisition target, the news of Suntory’s purchase still came as a bit of a shock. And not only within the industry.
The nature of the deal—a master of the great American spirit, bourbon,gobbled up by a Japanese firm—drew kneejerk reactions from society at large. Even Conan O’Brien spoofed the news.
Seems like we’ve heard this before. Remember when an all-American beer company called Anheuser Busch was purchased by the Belgian firm InBev? It was 2008, and that deal was finally consummated after months of resistance. Heard anything lately about Budweiser being any less red, white and blue?
It has become almost automatic for observers to literally raise flags when an iconic American brand becomes part of a multinational fi rm. But such deals are par for today’s global course, and time after time.those initial cries of patriotism fade quickly. InBev clearly understood this with Budweiser and all of its sister brands. In the case of Beam and Suntory, they are already distribution partners in Asia and know each other well. Beam’s great American brands will no doubt continue to remain…great American brands.
Jason A. Glasser, Chief Executive Officer
Vive La France
This month, we’ve gone a little French. Our special report covers everything from selling French wine in the 21st century to the new Vin de France category and cocktails utilizing French ingredients. Take the opportunity to read about the new Bordeaux drinkers, the remix of Cognac culture and learn about French cider and beer. The report starts here.
Get inspired for St. Patrick’s Day; check out “Irish Comes of Age” to explore how Pernod Ricard has been revolutionizing the Irish whiskey category. “Up, Up & Away” examines the trend of rising cocktail prices nationwide and how operators are approaching the issue. If you are looking for something patriotic, “Message in a Bottle” profiles the latest innovation from Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, The Great American Wine Company.
Jody Slone-Spitalnik, Chief Marketing Officer