Posted on | June 25, 2014
Written by | Alia Akkam
Nick Nistico is first and foremost a bartender. Most recently the opening bar manager for Marc Forgione’s American Cut steakhouse in NYC, now he’s translating that operational expertise to Premier Beverage Company’s key accounts throughout Florida. Premier Beverage is a member of The Charmer Sunbelt Group.
THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: How would you describe your role at Premier Beverage Company in one sentence?
NICK NISTICO: I design, or fix, the beverage programs of our accounts to make their menus profitable.
TBN: An important position considering the necessity for an impressive drink list—no matter if it’s a dive bar or a restaurant—today.
NN: Menu development is exciting. If you told me years ago that all these chains would be using fresh juices to make cocktails I would have never believed you. It’s a good sign for the industry. Every group I’ve worked with has been receptive to change because they care about the consumer.
TBN: You spend the majority of your time on the road, traveling the state. Is there a bar program you didn’t work on that leaves you impressed?
NN: Cask & Larder, in Winter Park. From the beers to the wine to the cocktails to the ice program, it is a great place. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to some of the best bars in the world, but they have it down.
TBN: How do you think your personal background as a bartender gives you an edge working for a distributor?
NN: Over the course of my bartending career I specialized in openings. I’d come in as the head bartender and then groom the next person. I’m still doing that, but on a smaller scale. I train staff on a day-to-day basis and then move on to the next place. I’ve gotten to learn so many different markets.
TBN: Miami tends to get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to cocktails, but you are upping the game of bars across the state. Share a recent example.
NN: I just built a foundation program for a place in Destin, Chan’s. I trained the entire staff for a week, day in and day out, and now they are making fresh Daiquiris and Mojitos—spirit-forward, balanced cocktails. These drinks aren’t too innovative; there are no infusions, there’s nothing molecular about them. But they are $8 and made with fresh juices. Now I’m getting calls from other surrounding bars asking for their own beverage programs. I take it very seriously and treat everyone like I’m opening an establishment of my own.
TBN: It must be challenging customizing each restaurant’s ideal beverage blueprint.
NN: They are all different. Copper Blues just opened in West Palm Beach and has an aggressive plan for multiple locations. There are cocktails on draft, beer cocktails and flavored ice. It’s a high-volume, mainstream place with live entertainment and food, so it has a different approach than a small cocktail bar. For Walt Disney World we put in fresh juices and fruits. I created basic, one-modifier cocktails, like a sour with raspberry puree, that are available at all Disney-affiliated hotels’ lobby bars.
TBN: You are working with a variety of accounts, but what is unique about your method that unifies them?
NN: By the end of the year it’s looking like I will have worked with over 200 bars and 6,000 bartenders. Some corporate mixologists may only create menus, but I don’t like when accounts request just the recipes. Instead, we have a corporate facility where we can train their staff on them. It’s not about getting our brands on lists; it’s about follow-through and consistency.