Bar Hacks

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Código 1530 Tequila Closes the Loop

Código 1530 Tequila Closes the Loop

by David Klemt

Upscale tequila bar with luxury bottles on back bar

The evidence that consumers are showing increasing interest in luxury spirits continues to mount, with tequila benefiting greatly.

According to DISCUS, the luxury category of tequila continues to grow. Sales volume is up 30.7 percent annually since 2015 for luxury tequila brands.

While it’s easy to point to brand recognition, cache and perception, there may be another reason for this growth.

In a word, “responsibility.”

Sustainability is Sexy

Episode 57 of Bar Hacks features Collin De Laval. He’s the company mixologist for Código 1530 Tequila, and he’s intimately familiar with the brand.

So, De Laval knows more than every nuance of each Código 1530 expression. He also understands the ethos that drives the brand and its processes.

One of Código’s values is responsibility, which it manifests through sustainability efforts. As De Laval explains, “we try and close a lot of the waste loop, as much as we can.”

Not only does Código utilize naturally filtered water, they cut the water back out of their heads and tails. That water is then reused. The brand uses broken pieces of barrel and spent agave to char new barrels.

Further, Código is a small craft distiller. They don’t level thousands upon thousands of agave each day. Instead, they’re selective and take only what’s necessary.

“We’re treating the land a lot better in that way,” says De Laval.

These efforts are increasingly appealing to consumers. It’s not just the liquid in the bottle that matters. How that liquid got into the bottle is important to them.

“Now it’s like, ‘I know this brand. I know they do good stuff,'” De Laval says.

That “good stuff” doesn’t reference only the quality of the spirits but a brand’s responsibility and sustainability.

Drinking Better

“People are drinking ‘up’ now,” says De Laval. “Gone are the eras of, ‘Let me get whatever’s well.'”

He’s not talking about how a guest orders their drink. By “up” De Laval means they’re choosing top-shelf spirits.

Six years of steady growth for luxury or ultra-premium spirits supports this claim.

De Laval isn’t the only Bar Hacks guest who notices this trend. During episode 56, Pernod-Ricard Prestige sales manager Maxime Lecocq mentions the trend as well.

If luxury spirits and wines had suffered during the pandemic, that would’ve made sense. It could’ve been explained as people being cautious with their money.

Indeed, consumers were cautious. However, not in the way that many would assume. The numbers support the belief that consumers were spending more to drink higher-quality bottles.

Interestingly, drinking better doesn’t appear to refer only to quality or price. Many small, luxury craft distillers enjoy the perception as more responsible than large, industrial producers.

Drinking better now seems to mean drinking what’s better for the environment. And if what’s more responsible and sustainable happens to be ultra-premium, consumers are willing to pay for it.

Image: Spencer Pugh on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Stir Up This Authentic Mexican Cocktail

Stir Up This Authentic Mexican Cocktail

by David Klemt

Black glass Coca-Cola bottle with black background

A simple, three-ingredient cocktail can make a big impact on guests when it’s authentic and the build is part of the presentation.

A perfect example of authenticity and a wow-factor cocktail build is the Batanga.

During episode 57 of Bar Hacks, Collin De Laval recommends this deceptively simple drink.

La Batanga

When De Laval is creating, it’s important to him that he remains faithful to a particular country, region or town.

As the company mixologist for Código 1530, that means honoring tequila in an authentic way.

Not only is De Laval a “blanco drinker, through and through,” he’s also unafraid of things getting “rowdy.”

So, while he isn’t the creator of the Batanga, he is a big fan.

One reason, as he mentions on Bar Hacks, is that the drink seems like it shouldn’t work. After all, the recipe combines tequila blanco, lime juice, and Coca-Cola.

Now, one could say that this is “just” a Cuba Libre with tequila stepping in for rum. However, that’s far too dismissive; the flavor profiles are vastly different.

In fact, I’m fairly certain that nobody has raised an eyebrow at a Cuba Libre and said the ingredients shouldn’t work together.

Impactful Build

You may find yourself wondering how this simple cocktail can possibly wow guests. Really, what’s impressive about combining tequila, juice and cola, and stirring?

Well, it’s the stirring that’s the secret.

Per several sources, the Batanga’s creator had a trick up his sleeve when he came up with the recipe. And that trick was a big knife with a wood handle.

Don Javier Delgado Corona created the Batanga in 1961 at La Capilla, his bar in Tequila, Mexico. When it came time to finish his build, he stirred the drink with the aforementioned wood-handled knife.

Even better, Don Javier is reported to have explained, if that knife has been used to cut limes, salsa ingredients, or ingredients for guacamole.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that unless they’ve had a Batanga made in Mexico, not many guests have watched a bartender stir their drink with a big knife.

Of course, not just any knife will have real impact, so I recommend using the biggest knife your highball or specialty glassware will accommodate.

The Recipe and Technique

Obviously, you can decide which of your tequilas to use when adding the Batanga to your menu.

Of course, you can also build it with whatever tequila your guest requests.

However, we’re going to use Código 1530 tequila for this recipe. After all, the brand certainly speaks to authenticity.

Additionally, Código 1530 also speaks to consumer desire to drink better and seek out ultra-premium spirits. Tequila is one of the luxury spirits categories benefitting most from this consumer trend, with sales volume increasing 30.7 percent annually since 2015.

La Batanga

Recipe created by Don Javier Delgado Corona at La Capilla

  • 2 oz. Código 1530 Blanco
  • 0.5 oz. Fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Coca-Cola to top (per De Laval, only Mexican Coke in the glass bottle will do)
  • Salt for rim

Salt rim of highball glass or other tall glassware with decent width. Add ice to glass. Combine Código 1530 Blanco and lime juice. Top with cola. Most importantly, stir with a big knife and serve to wowed guest.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

by David Klemt

Luxury concept featuring Champagne coupes on silver tray

Consumers are drinking better and the luxury categories of several spirits, wine and Champagne are benefitting.

Interestingly, this growth no longer appears to be driven solely by a desire to stand out and be seen.

Instead, according to one Bar Hacks podcast guest, consumers seem to be more carefully allocating their dollars.

Luxury Continues to Rise

The word “luxury” tends to conjure thoughts of expensive, high-end items.

Indeed, that’s certainly still a part of luxury. However, the concept of luxury as unattainable to most people is seemingly falling to the wayside.

Maxime Lecocq, Prestige sales manager in Las Vegas for Pernod-Ricard, shares a similar thought on episode 56 of Bar Hacks.

“The consumption style started to change during the pandemic,” says Lecocq. “So, people are more careful on what they’re drinking, where they’re spending their money.”

Intriguingly, Lecocq doesn’t mean that people were looking to spend as little as possible. Rather, they wanted higher quality for their dollars.

“Instead of having just any Scotch, they’re gonna research more,” Lecocq says. “Instead of spending, like, $25, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna spend $40 but I’m gonna be more careful about what I’m gonna drink.'”

As far as Lecocq is concerned, consumers doing more research is benefiting the luxury segment.

Why does he think that? Because it appears that research is leading consumers to spend more on luxury spirits and wine.

Numbers Support Luxury Growth

Early last month, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) shared their research into luxury spirits.

DISCUS data shows that during the period from 2015 to 2020, luxury spirits brands saw sales growth of 125 percent. Further, looking at the first half of 2021, luxury spirits volume is up 25 percent.

For the curious, DISCUS considers any brand that sells 750mL bottles at retail for $50 or more to fall within the luxury segment. So, $10 more than the example Lecocq provides during his Bar Hacks appearance.

There are six luxury categories tracked by DISCUS: American whiskey, Cognac, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

On his podcast episode, Lecocq discussed three of those categories: Cognac, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

Growth Categories

Per DISCUS, American whiskey has seen annual growth since 2015 of 41 percent. For Japanese whisky, that rate of growth is 42 percent.

Irish whiskey and Single Malt Scotch are also healthy annual growth. However, Irish whiskey’s annual growth is only a third of that of its Japanese counterpart at 14-plus percent.

Single Malt Scotch, in the first half of 2021, is up 5.6 percent.

According to DISCUS, Cognac’s annual growth is nearly 16 percent. Lecocq posits that this rise in interest in Cognac is down to shifting consumer perception.

Once thought of as “your grandparents’ drink,” younger consumers are now more eager to explore this type of brandy.

It’s perhaps tequila that sees the most interesting growth. Given its explosive and seemingly unwavering popularity, I thought the luxury tequila category would see growth in excess of 42 percent.

However, per DISCUS, luxury tequila brands are up 30.7 percent annually since 2015. Obviously, that’s impressive growth, and the category represents 28 million bottles sold.

That’s more than American, Irish, Japanese and Single Malt Scotch whiskeys combined.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that operators should abandon their less expensive spirits and wines. It does, however, show that consumers are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be higher quality brands.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

You’re Competing Against Chains for Labor

You’re Competing Against Chains for Labor

by David Klemt

Help sign outside business

Independent operators and local chains aren’t just competing with one another for staff, they’re up against global brands.

Unfortunately, that means competing against massive corporations that can offer higher wages and all manner of benefits.

However, smaller operations can still take steps to lure workers and fill open positions.

The Threat

In response to the labor shortage, many national and global chains are increasing hourly wages.

For example, Chipotle boosted wages for hourly workers to $15 per hour a few months back. Along with this boost in wages came a hike in menu prices: four percent across the board.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s also announced they would boost hourly pay. Hourly workers saw a boost of about ten percent. Of course, this chain also found itself dealing with increased supply costs. To offset a rise in costs of at least four percent, McDonald’s also boosted menu prices.

The latest to enter the labor fray is Starbucks. And like other chains, the corporation addressed the issue of hourly wages publicly.

Indeed, Starbucks’ announcement shares several details. First, staff who have worked for the company for a minimum of five years could see a pay raise of ten percent. Those who have been with the company for at least two years (but less than ten) could get a raise of five percent.

However, it doesn’t end there. Starbucks workers in the United States can take advantage of $200 referral bonuses. On average, Starbucks says hourly wages will range from $15 to $23 per hour, with an average of $17 per hour. The company expects these wage changes to be in place by Summer 2022.


Of course, one doesn’t have to need revenue in the tens of millions or billions of dollars to compete for staff.

We’ve addressed this topic several times on the KRG Hospitality site. In particular, we’ve brought up increasing menu prices to support wage hikes. Specifically, we recommend borrowing from Chipotle and McDonald’s: Be transparent and explain why menu prices are going up.

Additionally, Bar Hacks guests like Chef Brian Duffy and Lynnette Marrero have spoken about this topic.

As Chef Duffy says during his second appearance, treating staff better is a big step toward reducing turnover. Word spreads among hospitality workers, and improved employer-employee relations is an excellent recruitment tool.

Another effective benefit? Flexible and improved scheduling which, of course, can be implemented easily via scheduling apps.

Mentorship is a powerful recruiting and retention tool. Both Chef Duffy and Marrero believe in the power of this benefit. They have decades of experience to pass on to staff that can help their careers.

Marrero also suggests implementing labor structures that corporations don’t offer. For instance, she suggests new operators are well positioned to offer earned equity, profit sharing, and co-op ownership structures.

Existing operators can also leverage Marrero’s ideas. However, they’ll need agreement from their investors if they have any.

Now that you know where labor threats are coming from, you can strategize and fight back. You may not have billions of dollars in the bank, but you’re nimble and can implement changes much more quickly. Listen to your staff and be open to making meaningful but reasonable concessions.

Image: Fernando Venzano on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Resources for Keeping Guests Safe

Resources for Keeping Guests and Staff Safe

by David Klemt

Everyone is Welcome sign painted on wall

One of the non-negotiable responsibilities of operators and their team members is ensuring the safety of every guest they serve.

Respecting others, instilling trust in guests and the community, and awareness are core tenets of hospitality.

Further, those three tenets are also crucial for the safety of guests, team members, and the community.

We in the hospitality industry like to think we deliver selfless service, putting guest needs above our own. The phrase “all are welcome” is supposedly a hospitality mantra.

But if operators aren’t providing the tools and empowerment staff need to ensure every guest is safe, is everyone really welcome?

Safety as a Core Value

Look, I know it can be uncomfortable to address the uglier elements of this industry. However, we can’t effect change to severely reduce the impact or outright eliminate those elements if we don’t face them.

On today’s Bar Hacks podcast, episode 54 with Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, our guests address keeping women safe in bars and restaurants. That goes for guests and staff.

When we’re honest with ourselves, we know that our industry, operating at its best, is welcoming, accepting, supportive of the communities they serve, and a pillar of society. But we also know we have widespread issues concerning the harassment, violence, and inequality affecting women and other minorities.

Two things can be true at the same time. However, we can work toward wiping out that second truth.

During today’s podcast, Ivy Mix shares two key resources for building safer hospitality venues and work environments: Safe Bars and Green Dot.

Safe Bars

This organization seeks to improve the safety and culture of any venue that serves alcohol. Restaurant, bar, nightclub, brewery, hotel… If alcohol is a major component of service, Safe Bars wants to help.

Through three Safe Bars programs, operators can make their businesses safer:

  • Active Bystander Skills. Teachers operators, leadership team, and staff how to recognize unwanted sexual aggression and opting for the best intervention solution. (Learn more here.)
  • Self-defense and Empowerment. Strategies an owner, operator, member of the leadership team, or a staff member can implement should they be the one targeted for aggression or other unwanted attention. (Click here to learn more.)
  • De-escalation for Hospitality Professionals. The tactics necessary to keep one’s self and others safe should they encounter an aggressive, angry or threatening guest. (More information here.)

Unfortunately, most hospitality professionals have at least one story involving unwanted aggressive or threatening behavior from a guest. Programs like those on offer by Safe Bars can help bystanders intervene to protect others and themselves.

Green Dot

I’ve written about Green Dot Bystander Intervention education before.

Specifically, I shared Green Dot’s Five Ds of Bystander Intervention:

  • Distract
  • Delegate
  • Document
  • Delay
  • Direct

Programs like those from Green Dot and Safe Bars can help operators and leadership assess their bystander intervention capabilities.

The time is now to have an open and frank discussion to assess each team member’s comfort level regarding intervention. That can provide a baseline and guide operators towards which programs they should pursue. From there, operators and leadership can create policies and procedures for intervening, and keep guests and staff safe.

Addressing safety rather than hoping nothing will happen and these issues will somehow solve themselves pays immense dividends. Here are just a few examples:

  • Greater staff confidence.
  • A better relationship with the community, along with increased traffic.
  • A reduction in staff turnover.

Service is about more than food, beverage, and entertainment—it’s also about safety.

Image: Katie Moum on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Get Ready for Old Fashioned Week

Get Ready for Old Fashioned Week

by David Klemt

Old Fashioned Cocktail on bar

Old Fashioned Week is returning for its second year to raise money for the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

The RWCF is a non-profit restaurant and bar worker advocacy and action organization.

In its inaugural year, Old Fashioned Week set and met a goal of raising $100,000. This year, the goal and mission are the same: Raise $100,000 to help hospitality workers financially.

How to Participate

Lynn House, national spirits specialist and portfolio mixologist for Heaven Hill, shares the details of Old Fashioned Week on episode 52 of the Bar Hacks podcast.

Over the course of nine days, October 15 through 24, Elijah Craig is celebrating the bourbon cocktail they feel best showcases America’s native spirit.

Old Fashioned Week is another win-win-win restaurant and bar promotion. Operators can drive in-person and to-go (where legal) traffic, consumers enjoy an iconic cocktail while supporting the industry, and struggling hospitality workers can receive financial assistance.

Luckily, participating in this philanthropic campaign is simple. First, operators can use their social media channels and guest database to let people know they’re celebrating Old Fashioned Week. Publish posts, send emails, and send out marketing texts.

Second, operators can use the “contact us” form on the Old Fashioned week website. From there, they can ask to have their venue included in the ZIP code search function.

Third, anyone can post pictures of their Old Fashioned to social media. Simply include #OldFashionedWeek and tag Elijah Craig. The brand will donate $5 to the RWCF for every properly hashtagged and tagged photo.

Like I said, it’s simple to participate and raise money for those in need.

Elijah Craig Old Fashioned

Hey, you can make your Old Fashioned however you want. However, if you want to make the signature Elijah Craig Old Fashioned, see below:

Elijah Craig signature Old Fashioned cocktail

Add bitters, simple syrup, Elijah Craig Small Batch, and ice to a mixing glass. Stir—do not shake!—until well chilled. Strain cocktail over a large ice cube in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a swath of orange and a brandied cherry.

If you’d like to make this classic how Lynn House does, add four dashes of bitters instead of three. Two dashes of Angostura bitters, two dashes of Regan’s orange bitters.

Image: Paige Ledford on Unsplash