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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

This Year’s Big Trend: Moderation

This Year’s Big Trend: Moderation

by David Klemt

Two drinks in mason jars

Beverage-top media platform Ripples is reporting 2022’s big drink trend, focusing heavily on Gen Z imbibing habits.

The unique company produces devices that make it possible to print images atop drinks. With beverages of all types as their focus, the company is a great position to study drink trends.

Interestingly, Ripples focuses primarily on Gen Z drinking habits. However, the company’s data identifies an intriguing trend that transcends a single generation.

Let’s jump in.

Zero-proof Beverage Growth

At KRG Hospitality, we appreciate numbers; we’re a data-driven agency. Well, amongst all the stats Ripples latest findings reveal, two are massive.

First, in comparison to 2019, zero-alcohol products are up 166 percent. Second, the non-alcohol category is growing four times faster than its low-ABV counterpart.

Another impressive number? Non-alcohol spirits have grown by over 113 percent since 2020.

Per Ripples, Gen Z is driving the growth in the no-alcohol space. According to the beverage-tech company, this is likely due to social media presence.

I’m sure you read articles at least from time to time about Gen Z social media habits. Those written by their older counterparts make it seem like Gen Z doesn’t understand the risks of recording their every action.

Well, it’s highly likely that much of Gen Z would rather not have their drunken shenanigans on display on every social platform.

Values Drive Purchase Decisions

Beyond risk aversion, Ripples identifies values as key to Gen Z purchase and consumption decisions.

Generally speaking, members of Gen Z value transparency and authenticity. Brands that share those values are more likely to succeed with Gen Z.

And, again, speaking broadly, smaller, independent brands are often perceived as more transparent, authentic, and responsible. Large, mainstream brands are often seen as anything but green and responsible, never mind transparent or authentic.

Ripples posits that small indies aren’t encountering daunting barriers to entry. So, small-batch, craft non-alcohol brands are apt to find Gen Z support.

Craft sodas, RTDs offering health benefits, and zero-proof cocktails in cans or bottles are flooding the market. And they’re finding success. In fact, according to Ripples, RTD sales are up 400 percent on Drizly since 2019.

The Big Trend

If you’re a listener of our Bar Hacks podcast you’ve likely heard our episodes with David Allison. If you haven’t heard them, they’re episode 46 and episode 67.

As the founder of the Valuegraphics Project, Allison isn’t a fan of focusing on demographic stereotypes. Instead, he recommends a focus on values in conjunction with demographic and psychographic data.

In part, the Valuegraphics Project approach encourages business owners and operators to identify and target their customers’ values. This is, according to Allison, far more powerful than focusing on age and sex. As important is the fact that demographics tend to divide us, and stereotypes are dangerous.

So, he and the Valuegraphics Project team probably wouldn’t like all the focus on a single generation in this article and Ripples’ findings. Well, there’s some good news and it pertains to what’s likely this year’s biggest drinking trend.

Across all generations, one drinking trend is common: Moderation. An interest in no- and low-alcohol beverages is shared among all generations.

In fact, according to Ripples, 78 percent of consumers purchasing zero-proof drinks aren’t doing so exclusively. These consumers are still buying they’re favorite full-alcohol beverages.

Takeaway

Leveraging the moderation trend is fairly simple. The growth of all zero-proof categories means operators can succeed with alcohol-free spirits, beer, and wine.

RTD cocktails—full-, low- and zero-proof—are selling very well and work in restaurants and bars.

In short, ensure you have low-ABV and zero-alcohol versions of your full-ABV drinks on your menu. Include these in a dedicated non-alcohol section.

Operators don’t need to be afraid of guests drinking more moderately. The stereotype that guests who choose zero- or low-proof drinks are bad for the bottom line simply isn’t true.

Image: Chris Curry on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Politicians Get Wrong about Us

What Politicians Get Wrong about Our Industry

by David Klemt

Restaurant and bar with exterior windows open

It still stings that the 43 senators chose to vote against replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The fact that four senators didn’t vote at all on S.4008 is nearly as insulting and painful.

Now, while all the “nay” votes came from Republican senators, I’m not here to bash one party in particular. Four Republicans voted “yea,” as did two Independents.

Unfortunately, given how hostile Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem to be, it’s difficult to be objective. Right now, it appears that the RRF was left to die a slow death because many—not all, of course—Republicans in power don’t want their Democrat peers to “win” at anything.

To be used as political pawns and be left out in the cold… It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Cornerstones

Too many politicians, it seems, view restaurants and bars as they would other types of businesses. Perhaps the perceived success of national and global brands paint the picture that independent venues and small chains don’t need any help.

More disappointingly, maybe politicians, from local lawmakers to state representatives, take our business’ role for granted.

Look at the history of restaurants and bars, of hospitality. Think about the rich history of hospitality in America alone, let alone globally.

Yes, independent restaurants and bars are small businesses. But like so many small businesses in so many towns across the country, they’re so much more.

Restaurants and bars are pillars, cornerstones of the communities they serve. These are businesses that welcome people in, treat them like family. They’re there for them as they move through their lives.

People who were seemingly at odds with another routinely found common ground over a bite and a sip. More often than not, that’s still the case.

Operators and their teams give back to their communities through food drives, quietly feeding those in need, and finding other ways to give back.

And they look out for their communities.

Lifesavers

Last week, the team at a cafe in the Bronx called the Chipper Truck helped rescue a woman from an alleged hostage situation.

Permitted by her assailant to place a food order via Grubub, the victim thought quickly and sent a life-saving note with her order:

“Please call the police… don’t make it obvious.”

A staff member read the note in the “additional instructions” section of the order and called one of the owners. Nobody at the Chipper Truck knew if the situation was real but they chose to err on the side of caution.

When the alleged assailant—who was arrested and charged with a list of serious offenses—opened the door for the Grubhub order, he was met with police officers.

A Facebook post from the cafe addressing the situation read, in part, “I’ve often heard of this happening but never thought it would happen to us. Thankfully we were open and able to help her.”

It’s terrifying that this happens enough that the cafe owners hear about it “often.” But it’s telling of the role restaurants and bars play in their communities that they’ve saved multiple lives.

This is to say nothing of the restaurants and bars that have put coded safety systems in place to help patrons who find themselves in danger.

No Such Thing as “Just” a Restaurant or Bar

There isn’t a restaurant or bar out there that’s “only” a restaurant or “only” a bar.

Every one is a source for food, for socializing, for an escape from the stresses of life. Restaurants and bars are committed to service and sacrifice.

They’re pillars of their communities, the cornerstones that play important roles in our everyday lives and the special moments as well.

Perhaps our politicians, local and otherwise, need to a reminder. Restaurants and bars play crucial roles in the lives of the people politicians are supposed to represent.

Too many politicians claim to support small businesses while their actions and votes prove otherwise. Talk, as we all know, is cheap.

Restaurants are not “just” restaurants. Bars are not “just” bars. We deserve better.

Image: Scott Webb on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

WCK Shares Chefs for Ukraine Update

World Central Kitchen Shares Chef for Ukraine Update

by David Klemt

Ukraine flag blowing in wind

World Central Kitchen has been on the ground helping refugees since Russia first invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

I mean that quite literally. In their video update, it was revealed that a WCK team arrived in Poland within hours of the invasion.

Maggie Leahy, director of donor relations at WCK, spoke with WCK CEO Nate Mook to share the details of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization’s #ChefsForUkraine campaign.

Mook shared that the WCK activated a fast-response team which is informally referred to as the Tip of the Spear. When the team arrived at the Poland-Ukraine border, they had gotten there so quickly that they weren’t certain what they’d find.

Assessment and Coordination

In fact, WCK wasn’t certain if their humanitarian efforts would even be needed. However, as we all know now, they certainly were in demand. The United Nations, as it turns out, wasn’t even on the ground yet.

Shockingly, Mook shared that WCK hadn’t encountered a crisis at the level of Ukraine’s invasion for many, many years.

For the past 12 years, WCK has responded to crises all over the world. From natural disasters like massive floods and earthquakes to, unfortunately, shootings and warzones, the humanitarian organization has provided nourishing meals for those displaced and in need.

So, assessing the situation in Ukraine quickly was of the utmost importance. Some refugees crossing the 24-hour pedestrian border at which the first WCK team had arrived hadn’t eaten a meal in two days.

Responding as fast and efficiently as possible, the organization connected with catering companies and local restaurants in Poland to feed those fleeing Ukraine.

However, that was simply a quick fix.

Systems in Place

Mook shared the following anecdote to explain WCK’s commitment to fast responses in its humanitarian efforts.

Chef José Andrés, who co-founded World Central Kitchen his wife Patricia, says that they’re the world’s largest non-governmental organization, or NGO. Going further, Chef Andrés says this is because they have chefs and restaurants around the world WCK can activate to respond to crises…even if those chefs and restaurants don’t know it now.

Getting the refugees crossing into Poland fed quickly was just one step to providing assistance. What WCK really specializes in is coordination and setting up systems, per Mook.

Speed is just one element of WCK’s humanitarian efforts. Reliability, consistency, accountability, and efficiency are the other keys.

Without systems in place, WCK simply wouldn’t be able to do what they do, which is provide nourishment, stability, and a sense of dignity to those in crisis.

Millions of Meals

Soon after arriving and setting up in Poland, WCK teams arrived in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Moldova, and Romania.

When refugees started heading west, WCK teams set up in Germany and Spain. And while it wasn’t clear initially if teams would be needed in Ukraine directly, WCK has indeed set up inside the war-torn country.

There are WCK teams serving and supporting people in communities hosting refugees, liberated Ukraine cities, and even cities under fire.

Currently, WCK’s mission is providing hundreds of thousands of fresh meals to those in need. The organization is also providing tens of thousands of meal kits.

WCK has provided a staggering amount of meals. As of June 22, the day Leahy and Mook provided the #ChefsForUkraine update, they’ve served more than 54 million meals in response to Ukraine’s invasion.

It’s results like that incredible amount of meals that inspire our continued support of WCK through our KRG Cares program. We encourage you to support WCK as well.

Image: Daria Volkova on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Summer 2022 is the Summer of Mezcal

Summer 2022 is the Summer of Mezcal

by David Klemt

Código 1530 Mezcal bottle

Move over tequila, rum and gin, because this year the drink of the summer is something different.

Summer 2022 is the Summer of Mezcal.

Traditionally, sure, we’re led to believe that lighter spirits (white rum, gin) are best for the hotter months. Of course, dark rum is another route people often take during the summer.

However, mezcal is on fire at the moment. In fact, it has been for the past few years now. So, why not feature it on your summer drink menu?

Mezcal adds depth and complexity to classic cocktails, engaging guests by offering new flavors. And, of course, mezcal is also a fantastic starting point for modern drinks.

Below you’ll find six summer mezcal recipes from Collin De Laval, company mixologist for Código 1530. He turned his attention to Código 1530 Mezcal Artesanal for the Summer of Mezcal.

To learn more about Código 1530 and De Laval, check out Bar Hacks episode 57. Cheers!

Código 1530 La Palomita

La Palomita

  • 1.5 oz Código 1530 Mezcal Artesanal
  • 0.75 oz Lime juice (fresh, of course)
  • 0.25 oz Aperol
  • 4 oz Yuzu-lime soda
  • 0.25 oz Simple syrup
  • Lime wheel or wedge to garnish

Prepare a cocktail glass with fresh ice. In a shaker, combine Código 1530 Mezcal, lime, Aperol and simple syrup. Shake well, pour into cocktail glass, top with yuzu-lime soda, and garnish with lime wheel or wedge.

Código 1530 Tropicana

Tropicana

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and prepare a cocktail glass with fresh ice. Shake vigorously, pour, and garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Código 1530 Mezcal Margarita

Mezcal Margarita

Prepare a cocktail or Margarita glass with fresh ice, then combine all ingredients in a shaker (also with ice). Shake, pour, and garnish with a lime.

Código 1530 Mezcal Ranch Water

Mezcal Ranch Water

Combine Código 1530 Mezcal, lime juice, and agave nectar in a cocktail or highball glass with ice, top with soda water, and stir.

Código 1530 Mango Mezcal Paloma

Mango Mezcal Paloma

In a shaker with ice, combine Código 1530 Mezcal and all three juices. Shake vigorously, strain into a highball glass with fresh ice, top with soda water, and garnish with grapefruit peel.

Código 1530 Mezcal Espresso Martini

Mezcal Espresso Martini

If you own, operate or are on the leadership team at a bar—or if you’re a bartender or server—you know the Espresso Martini has once again found itself having a moment. So, while you’re building out your summer mezcal menu, don’t forget this trendy drink.

Add all the liquid ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Pour into a Martini glass (consider preparing by chilling if you don’t already) and garnish with coffee beans.

Images courtesy of Código 1530

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tales Announces Top Four Awards Finalists

Tales Announces Top Four Spirited Awards Finalists

by David Klemt

The number four inside a circle

It’s official: The Tales of the Cocktail Foundation announces the top four finalists in each of the 2022 Spirited Awards categories.

I don’t envy the judges who have to narrow down the top ten nominees to the top four finalists. Equally as daunting: deciding on the winner of each award in each category.

We’ll know who’s taking home each Spirited Award in just over a month. The ceremony will take place on Thursday, July 28 at the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. For those attending the 20th anniversary Tales of the Cocktail, the Ritz-Carlton is this year’s headquarters hotel.

Purchase Spirited Awards tickets here, and check out the digital playbill here.

See you at Tales, y’all! Cheers.

US Categories

US Bartender of the Year presented by Del Maguey

  • Josh Davis (16th Street Bar, Chicago, IL)
  • Chris Hannah (Jewel of the South, New Orleans, LA)
  • Masahiro “Masa” Urushido (Katana Kitten, New York, NY)
  • Christine Wiseman (BarLab Hospitality Group, Miami, FL)

Best US Bar Mentor presented by BarSmarts

  • Meaghan Dorman
  • Sean Kenyon
  • Nectaly Mendoza
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Best US Brand Ambassador presented by Libbey Glass

  • Chris Cabrera (Bacardí USA)
  • Tad Carducci (Gruppo Montenegro)
  • Vance Henderson (Hendrick’s Gin)
  • Lynn House (Heaven Hill)

Best US Bar Team presented by William Grant & Sons

  • Half Step (Austin, TX)
  • Jewel of the South (New Orleans, LA)
  • Katana Kitten (New York, NY)
  • The Roosevelt Room (Austin, TX)

Best US Cocktail Bar presented by Absolut Vodka

  • Bar Goto (New York, NY)
  • Katana Kitten (New York, NY)
  • The Roosevelt Room (Austin, TX)
  • Thunderbolt (Los Angeles, CA)

Best US Hotel Bar presented by Grey Goose

  • Dear Irving on Hudson at the Aliz Hotel (New York, NY)
  • Hey Love at The Jupiter (Portland, OR)
  • Little Rituals at the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Silver Lyan at the Riggs Washington DC (Washington, DC)

Best US Restaurant Bar presented by Maison Ferrand

  • Café La Trova (Miami, FL)
  • Cleaver: Butchered Meats, Seafood & Classic Cocktails (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Jewel of the South (New Orleans, LA)
  • Kumiko (Chicago, IL)

Best New US Cocktail Bar presented by Aviation Gin

  • Double Chicken Please (New York, NY)
  • Happy Accidents (Albuquerque, NM)
  • Temple Bar (New York, NY)
  • Yacht Club (Denver, CO)

International Categories

International Bartender of the Year presented by Patrón

  • Lorenzo Antinori (ARGO / Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts, Hong Kong, China)
  • Keith Motsi (Charles H. Seoul at the Four Seasons Hotel, Seoul, South Korea)
  • Rémy Savage (🔶🟥🔵 A Bar with Shapes for a Name, London, UK)
  • Matt Whiley (RE, Sydney, Australia)

Best International Bar Mentor presented by Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic

  • Monica Berg
  • Renato “Tato” Giovannoni
  • Lauren Mote
  • Agostino Perrone

Best International Brand Ambassador presented by Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic

  • Martin Hudák (Mr. Black Spirits)
  • Daniyel Jones (House of Angostura)
  • Ricardo Nava (Bacardí Latin America)
  • Nicola Riske (The Macallan)

Best International Bar Team presented by House of Angostura

  • ALQUÍMICO (Cartagena, Colombia)
  • MAYBE SAMMY (Sydney, Australia)
  • The Clumsies (Athens, Greece)
  • Two Schmucks (Barcelona, Spain)

Best International Cocktail Bar presented by Tequila Fortaleza

  • MAYBE SAMMY (Sydney, Australia)
  • Satan’s Whiskers (London, UK)
  • Tayēr + Elementary (London, UK)
  • Two Schmucks (Barcelona, Spain)

Best International Hotel Bar presented by Perrier

  • Charles H. Seoul at the Four Seasons Hotel (Seoul, South Korea)
  • Fifty Mils at the Four Seasons Hotel (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Lyaness at Sea Containers London (London, UK)
  • The American Bar at The Stafford London (London, UK)

Best International Restaurant Bar presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Danico (Paris, France)
  • Le Mary Celeste (Paris, France)
  • Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Sexy Fish (London, UK)

Best New International Cocktail Bar presented by Stranger & Sons

  • 🔶🟥🔵 A Bar with Shapes for a Name (London, UK)
  • ARGO (Hong Kong, China)
  • Schofield’s Bar (Manchester, UK)
  • SIPS (Barcelona, Spain)

Global Categories

Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Abasolo Ancestral Corn Whisky
  • Citadelle Gin Jardin d’été
  • Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic – Italian Orange
  • Nixta Licor de Elote

World’s Best Cocktail Menu presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • Little Red Door (Paris, France)
  • Lyaness at Sea Containers London (London, UK)
  • Swift Soho (London, UK)
  • Tayēr + Elementary (London, UK)

World’s Best Spirits Selection presented by Beam Suntory

  • In-Situ Mezcaleria (Oaxaca City, Mexico)
  • Jack Rose Dining Saloon (Washington, DC)
  • Sexy Fish (London, UK)
  • Swift Soho (London, UK)

Writing and Media Categories

Best Cocktail & Spirits Publication presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • CLASS magazine
  • Discard the Zine
  • VinePair
  • Whisky Magazine

Best Broadcast, Podcast, or Online Video Series presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • Radio Imbibe
  • Shōshin Art Club
  • The Cocktail Lovers Podcast
  • The Speakeasy Podcast

Best Cocktail & Spirits Writing presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • “Get Real: The bar world looks beyond feel-good measures on sustainability and climate change” by Max Falkowitz, for Imbibe Magazine
  • “Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Destroyed American Bar Culture?” by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, for Daily Beast
  • “Meet the Eco-Packaging Innovations Transforming the Drinks Industry” by Betsy Andrews, for SevenFifty Daily
  • “The Greatest Drinking Contest in History” by David Wondrich, for Daily Beast

Best New Cocktail or Bartending Book presented by Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic

  • Death & Co: Welcome Home by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan
  • The Cocktail Seminars by Brian D. Hoefling
  • The Japanese Art of the Cocktail by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig
  • The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes by Julia Momosé with Emma Janzen

Best New Book on Drinks Culture, History, or Spirits presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • Bourbon: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey by Clay Risen
  • Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization by Edward Slingerland
  • Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol by Mallory O’Meara
  • The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails edited by David Wondrich with Noah Rothbaum

Image: Tim Hüfner on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Eatertainment Poised to Come Roaring Back

Eatertainment Poised to Come Roaring Back

by David Klemt

Two women playing cornhole

People are eager to return bars and restaurants, and that focus is beneficial to the growth of one hospitality category in particular: Eatertainment.

As the name suggests, an “eatertainment” venue operates as both an entertainment space and restaurant.

Those who have been to such a concept know the key elements that define eatertainment. A robust F&B program; an array of bar games and other entertainment; room enough to play games and attract groups, but so large it draws massive crowds; and an interest in extending guest stays rather than constantly turning and burning.

Pre-pandemic, the eatertainment category was heating up, steadily growing in popularity. As recently as 2019, SevenRooms and YouGov partnered to study these concepts. When your category draws the attention of data-focused platforms and research firms, you know it’s a winner.

So, what did SevenRooms and their research partner conclude? That eatertainment venues are the new nightclub.

Eatertainment Muscles in on Nightlife

Per the SevenRooms report from 2019, nightlife preferences in the United States were shifting away from traditional nightclubs. This switch was, according to SevenRooms, partially driven by three factors:

  • Nightclubs draw large crowds;
  • they play very loud music; and
  • such venues embrace exclusivity.

Now, that isn’t to say that the nightclub is dead. Particularly in destination cities like Las Vegas and Miami, nightclubs are a major draw.

However, as people reach their thirties or seek out more casual spaces, eatertainment becomes increasingly attractive. For the most part, people can leave work and go straight to an eatertainment concept to meet up with friends. They’ll be able to carve out a space, grab a bite and a drink, and socialize while engaging with an array of entertainment options.

Such venues also tend to be open seven days per week, from noon or early afternoon into late night. Their F&B programs, focus on entertainment, and hours of operation position them to play an important role: the third place.

Home Away from Home

As any dive or neighborhood bar operator knows, becoming a person’s third place is crucial. The third place, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the spot you go to in between the workplace and home.

So, becoming someone’s home away from home is a big deal. It’s the ultimate in consumer loyalty. Become someone’s third place and you’ll be on your way to building an army of brand advocates.

The third place is where we unwind after work. We’re friendly with the staff: they know us, know our usual orders, and know what recommendations to make.

Now, what if a regular’s third place offered not just quality F&B but also entertainment and an atmosphere that shifted with dayparts? You’d have a supercharged third place, a.k.a. an eatertainment concept.

Eatertainment will Continue to Grow

Where should people go when they decide they’re beyond their nightclub years? Feeling uncomfortable in a nightclub doesn’t mean the interest in nightlife simply disappears.

Well, they turn to eatertainment. And why do they find these concepts appealing? For several important reasons driven by shifts in consumer behavior.

One, I think we’re all tired of endless text and DM exchanges attempting to organize an outing. An eatertainment venue is a restaurant, bar, entertainment space, and nightclub in one place. No more planning to travel to a restaurant, then a bar for drinks afterward, and then a nightclub, concert, or lounge.

Two, today’s consumer is seeking out restaurants and bars that offer more inclusive, more welcoming, more personalized experiences. Again, eatertainment hits all those marks.

According to SevenRooms, there are key datapoints that indicate eatertainment will continue to grow. And while their report was published in 2019, their findings are still relevant given the past two years:

  • Around a quarter of Americans want more eatertainment venues close to them.
  • A quarter of Americans prefer a venue that combines quality food and drinks with fun activities in one space.
  • Nearly 30 percent of Americans consider food quality when deciding where to spend their time and money.
  • Close to 20 percent want a venue to offer something to do beyond drinking.

More recently, May of this year, in fact, Datassential also found that eatertainment is on the rise again. Per their data, half of consumers “are very interested in revisiting an eatertainment experience.

Takeaway

Eatertainment concepts are positioned to perform well moving forward.

Think about it: people are eager to socialize without being packed together; guests are showing interest in innovative, high-quality F&B items; people want entertainment that spans live music and DJs to cornhole (or bags, if you want to have that argument), axe throwing, and arcade games; and having access to an incredible, personalized experience in one venue is an attractive prospect.

Punch Bowl Social, Topgolf, Pinstripes, and Flight Club are among the best representatives of the category. Do you have the idea for the next big eatertainment brand? Let us know!

Image: Elevate on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Raise a 7&7 to National Dive Bar Day

Raise a 7&7 to National Dive Bar Day

by David Klemt

Dive bar or neighborhood bar

We celebrate one of the most hallowed of drinking establishments on July 7, also known as National Dive Bar Day.

Look, we love a visit to a high-end, luxurious cocktail bar. But there’s nothing quite like discovering a casual, comfortable, unpretentious bar that feels like home.

Often times, the local watering hole is a cornerstone of a given community. So, we’re looking forward to the fifth annual National Dive Bar Day in just over two weeks.

You should have plenty of time if you’re a dive or neighborhood bar owner to create your National Dive Bar Day promotion.

A Little History

It’s hard to believe that National Dive Bar Day is a mere five years old. In fact, Seagram’s 7 Crown launched the first annual celebration in 2018.

Not only does this holiday honor a true institution, Seagram’s donated $25,000 to the National Trust for Historic Preservation on its inception. (This year, Seagram’s 7 Crown is supporting Main Street Alliance.)

This makes a lot sense when you think about it. After all, dive bars are often located in a historic building or are landmarks themselves.

Some people may not like it, but drinking culture is an integral part of many a community across not just America, not just North America, but the world.

Not so long ago a bartender could set beers and shots in front of two people with opposing views and they’d find common ground to bond over. The optimist in me hopes we can return to those days, visiting our local neighborhood bars and focusing on what we all have in common rather than letting ourselves grow further divided.

Where some people see a “just” a dive bar, those of us in the know see social and cultural centers that support neighborhoods and communities.

Given their commitment to unpretentious and welcoming service, we need to support and protect our local dives.

What Makes a Dive Bar?

There are some key elements that set dive bars apart from other drinking establishments.

Characters on both sides of the bar, inexpensive drinks, familiar bar food, and an approachable feel are, I would say, the hallmarks.

Now, there are those who think a dive bar also includes an “earthy” smell, to be generous. They may also feel that they call dirty buildings with questionable structural integrity home.

However, “dive” doesn’t have to mean filthy. First and foremost, a dive bar needs to be comfortable and welcoming. Filth tends to give off an unwelcoming, dangerous vibe. That’s not exactly the spirit of hospitality.

Just as a great dive bar should be clean, it should also have a solid F&B program. Inexpensive doesn’t have to mean cheap. Oh, and no, the staff doesn’t have to be surly and untrained.

Dives are Neighborhood Bars

When I first learned about Nickel City, as an example, I saw what a dive bar should be. Both locations, Austin and Fort Worth, are described by co-owner Travis Tober as “anytime bars.”

Nickel City commits to serving the community, and they’re open when people need them. In fact, as you’ll learn during episode 50 of the Bar Hacks podcast, Tober made sure they were open to serve people during the infamous winter storm of 2021 that shut down much of Texas.

In speaking with Tober and reading other interviews with him, I learned that he prefers the term “neighborhood” to “dive.” Due in part to the negative perception some have of dive bars, I can understand his preference.

In my opinion, the difference lies in subtle but important nuances. However, I’ll probably still refer to neighborhood bars as dive bars.

Either way, Nickel City is a dive bar done right and a concept that other operators should certainly study. Nickel City is exemplary, a standard that dive/neighborhood bars should aspire to reach.

The 7&7

As far as Seagram’s is concerned, the 7&7 is “the quintessential Dive Bar drink.” It’s difficult to argue: it’s a highball, it’s fast and simple to make, it’s refreshing, and it shouldn’t be pricey.

But, hey, if you’ve never made or ordered one, here’s the recipe:

Simply prepare a highball glass with ice, add Seagram’s 7 Crown and 7UP, and stir. Then just stir, garnish, and serve.

Cheers!

Image: Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Viral Post Highlights Real Leadership

What a Viral Reddit Post Reveals About Leadership in Hospitality

by David Klemt

Reddit app icon on smartphone

A text exchange between a restaurant manager and delivery driver posted to Reddit went viral last month.

Refreshingly, it didn’t make the rounds on news sites for the wrong reasons. Rather, the text conversation is a succinct example of emotional intelligence, empathy, and leadership.

Those interested in reading the text exchange in its entirety can follow this link. However, I’ll sum it up here.

Posted to the subreddit Kitchen Confidential, the conversation begins with the manager checking in on the driver, asking, “You doing OK?”

The driver says they’re “doing better but” is still dealing with a lot. After the manager asks if they should cover their shift that night, the driver reveals they may need to quit the job.

Instead of blowing up at the driver, trying to talk them out of their decision, or cutting the exchange short, they say, “It’s alright [sic].”

Going further, the manager says, “You’re [sic] happiness is more important.” They add that the business hopes the driver will return to the job when they’re ready.

Shall I Cover You Tonight?

Now, I tend to believe that most members of restaurant, bar, and hotel leadership teams are empathetic. I also lean toward believing that most are competent problem solvers.

However, we’ve all come across people who don’t belong in a leadership role. In some cases, a person’s lack of leadership qualifications doesn’t manifest until they’ve been in the role for some time.

My business partner Doug Radkey and I have had conversations about leaders who don’t seem to lead. At best, they’re examples of what not to do. At worst, they’re chasing away a business owner’s staff and guests.

Most recently, these conversations have centered around managers insisting that staff solve scheduling problems themselves.

Before I proceed, I acknowledge fully that we’re facing an unprecedented labor shortage. That’s no excuse for poor leadership.

What, exactly, is the leadership team doing that they can’t manage the schedule? Further, with today’s modern scheduling platforms, why is filling available roles difficult for leaders? Several scheduling apps make it a painless, automated process.

The manager in this Reddit text exchange doesn’t demand the driver find someone to cover their shift. Instead, they behave like a manager and handle it themselves.

Don’t Ever Discount Yourself

If you’re active on LinkedIn and have a sizeable hospitality-centric network, you’ve likely seen posts about how the industry needs to be more people-focused. Not in terms of guests—that’s obvious.

Rather, the consensus is that we’re not going to solve the labor problem if we don’t treat staff as well as we treat guests. Some of these posts may be a bit saccharine, but they’re not incorrect.

Let’s review the texts from this manager:

  • “You doing OK?”
  • Your “happiness is more important.”
  • “We love having you here.”
  • “You’re an awesome person.”
  • “Don’t ever discount yourself.”

When’s the last time you and other members of the leadership team asked a staff member if they’re okay? And if you’ve asked recently, did you get an honest answer? Did you want an honest answer?

A restaurant or bar team that doesn’t trust leadership isn’t going to bother providing an honest answer to that question—they feel like the leaders don’t care about them.

Looking at the rest of the texts above, do you and your leaders take the time to recognize and thank staff? Even the shyest team member wants recognition for a job well done.

Those in leadership roles need to develop their skills constantly. Contrary to some in those positions, leaders aren’t there simply to lord their authority over others and dish out punishments.

So, before your next team meeting, gather the leaders. Find out if every member of the team is checking on staff, valuing their health and wellness, and tackling the mundane tasks that are inherent to their roles.

The maxim is true: People don’t quit jobs, they quit people. If your leadership team isn’t leading with empathy, you can expect your labor issues to compound. No amount of excuses will turn that around.

This article by KRG Hospitality director of business development David Klemt was first published by Bar Business and can be read in its entirety by following this link.

Image: Brett Jordan on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Top 10 2022 Spirited Award Finalists

Top 10 2022 Spirited Award Finalists

by David Klemt

Bartender presenting cocktail

With just six weeks to go until the 20th anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail, the foundation announces their Spirited Award finalists.

Unsurprisingly, a number of the nominees can also be found on the North America’s 50 Best Bars list.

However, the Spirited Awards honor more than bars. The awards span four categories: US, International, Global, and Writing & Media.

Along with bar nominees, you’ll find mentors, bar teams, brand ambassadors, spirits, cocktail ingredients, books, articles, podcasts, videos, and publications in the list below.

Congratulations to the Spirited Awards’ top ten nominees! We’ll see you in New Orleans.

Cheers!

US Categories

US Bartender of the Year presented by Del Maguey

  • Josh Davis (16th Street Bar, Chicago, IL)
  • Chris Elford (Trade Winds Tavern, Navy Strength, Rob Roy, Here Today Brewing, Seattle, WA)
  • Chris Hannah (Jewel of the South, New Orleans, LA)
  • Caer Maiko Ferguson (DrinkWell, Austin, TX)
  • Chris McMillian (Revel Bar & Cafe, New Orleans, LA)
  • Shauna O’Neil (Sweet Liberty, Miami, FL)
  • Kapri Robinson (Allegory, Washington, DC)
  • Christian Suzuki-Orellana (Wildhawk, San Francisco, CA)
  • Masahiro “Masa” Urushido (Katana Kitten, New York, NY)
  • Christine Wiseman (BarLab Hospitality Group, Miami, FL)

Best US Bar Mentor presented by BarSmarts

  • Colin Asare-Appiah
  • Julio Cabrera
  • Kevin Diedrich
  • Meaghan Dorman
  • Alba Huerta
  • Alex Jump
  • Sean Kenyon
  • ms franky marshall
  • Nectaly Mendoza
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Best US Brand Ambassador presented by Libbey Glass

  • Kiowa Bryan (Spiribam)
  • Chris Cabrera (Bacardí USA)
  • Tad Carducci (Gruppo Montenegro)
  • Cameron George (Ardbeg)
  • Vance Henderson (Hendrick’s Gin)
  • Lynn House (Heaven Hill)
  • Jenna Murray (The Glenlivet)
  • Natasha Sofia Velez (Davos Brands)
  • Ryan Wainwright (Bombay Sapphire)
  • Daniel Warrilow (Campari America)

Best US Bar Team presented by William Grant & Sons

  • Attaboy (New York, NY)
  • Cleaver: Butchered Meats, Seafood & Classic Cocktails (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Half Step (Austin, TX)
  • Jaguar Sun (Miami, FL)
  • Jewel of the South (New Orleans, LA)
  • Katana Kitten (New York, NY)
  • The Long Island Bar (Brooklyn, NY)
  • The Roosevelt Room (Austin, TX)
  • The Snug (Sacramento, CA)
  • Thunderbolt (Los Angeles, CA)

Best US Cocktail Bar presented by Absolut Vodka

  • Bar Goto (New York, NY)
  • Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (New Orleans, LA)
  • Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (Phoenix, AZ)
  • DrinkWell (Austin, TX)
  • Julep (Houston, TX)
  • Katana Kitten (New York, NY)
  • Occidental (Denver, CO)
  • Pearl Diver (Nashville, TN)
  • The Roosevelt Room (Austin, TX)
  • Thunderbolt (Los Angeles, CA)

Best US Hotel Bar presented by Grey Goose

  • Bar Marilou at Maison de la Luz (New Orleans, LA)
  • Champagne Bar at The Surf Club Miami (Miami, FL)
  • Dear Irving on Hudson at the Aliz Hotel (New York, NY)
  • Hey Love at The Jupiter (Portland, OR)
  • King Cole Bar at The St. Regis New York (New York, NY)
  • Libertine Social at the Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Little Rituals at the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Midnight Rambler at the Joule (Dallas, TX)
  • Mountaineering Club at the Graduate Seattle Hotel (Seattle, WA)
  • Silver Lyan at the Riggs Washington DC (Washington, DC)

Best US Restaurant Bar presented by Maison Ferrand

  • Café La Trova (Miami, FL
  • Cleaver: Butchered Meats, Seafood & Classic Cocktails (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Crown Shy (New York, NY)
  • Gramercy Tavern (New York, NY)
  • Jewel of the South (New Orleans, LA)
  • Kimball House (Decatur, GA)
  • Kumiko (Chicago, IL)
  • L’Oursin (Seattle, WA)
  • Republique (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Spoon and Stable (Minneapolis, MN)

Best New US Cocktail Bar presented by Aviation Gin

  • Double Chicken Please (New York, NY)
  • Happy Accidents (Albuquerque, NM)
  • Kona’s Street Market (San Francisco, CA)
  • Law Bird (Columbus, OH)
  • Overstory (New York, NY)
  • Palmetto (Oakland, CA)
  • Temple Bar (New York, NY)
  • Tiki Tatsu-Ya (Austin, TX)
  • Trade Winds Tavern (Seattle, WA)
  • Yacht Club (Denver, CO)

International Categories

International Bartender of the Year presented by Patrón

  • Moe Aljaff (Two Schmucks, Barcelona, Spain)
  • Lorenzo Antinori (ARGO / Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts, Hong Kong, China)
  • Giorgio Bargiani (The Connaught Bar, London, UK)
  • Kate Boushel (Atwater Cocktail Club / Milky Way Cocktail Bar, Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • James Grant (Little HK, Edmonton, Canada)
  • Keith Motsi (Charles H. Seoul at the Four Seasons Hotel, Seoul, South Korea)
  • Rémy Savage (🔶🟥🔵 A Bar with Shapes for a Name, London, UK)
  • Daniel Schofield (SCHOFIELD’S BAR, Manchester, UK)
  • Ezra Star (Mostly Harmless, Hong Kong, China)
  • Luke Whearty (BYRDI, Melbourne, Australia)
  • Matt Whiley (RE, Sydney, Australia)

Best International Bar Mentor presented by Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic

  • Monica Berg
  • Arijit Bose
  • Simone Caporale
  • Renato “Tato” Giovannoni
  • Tim Etherington Judge
  • Trevor Kallies
  • Dre Masso
  • Lauren Mote
  • Danil Nevsky
  • Agostino Perrone
  • Christina Veira
  • Camille Vidal

*Includes 12 nominees due to a tie

Best International Brand Ambassador presented by Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic

  • Jenna Ba (Diageo)
  • Claudia Cabrera (Fratelli Branca)
  • Irene Díaz (Ron Diplomático)
  • Martin Hudák (Mr. Black Spirits)
  • Daniyel Jones (House of Angostura)
  • Ally Martin (Hendrick’s Gin)
  • Dave Mitton (Lot No. 40 / JP Wiser’s)
  • Ricardo Nava (Bacardí Latin America)
  • Tim Phillips-Johansson (Johnnie Walker)
  • Nicola Riske (The Macallan)

Best International Bar Team presented by House of Angostura

  • ALQUÍMICO (Cartagena, Colombia)
  • Atwater Cocktail Club (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Jigger & Pony at the Amara Hotel (Singapore)
  • La Factoría (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
  • MAYBE SAMMY (Sydney, Australia)
  • Salmon Guru (Madrid, Spain)
  • Tayēr + Elementary (London, UK)
  • The Clumsies (Athens, Greece)
  • Tres Monos (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Two Schmucks (Barcelona, Spain)

Best International Cocktail Bar presented by Tequila Fortaleza

  • ALQUIMICO (Cartagena, Colombia)
  • Atwater Cocktail Club (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen & Cape Brandy Bar (Cape Town, South Africa)
  • COA (Hong Kong, China)
  • Florería Atlántico (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • MAYBE SAMMY (Sydney, Australia)
  • Paradiso (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Salmon Guru (Madrid, Spain)
  • Satan’s Whiskers (London, UK)
  • Tayēr + Elementary (London, UK)
  • Three Sheets (London, UK)
  • Two Schmucks (Barcelona, Spain)

*Includes 12 nominees due to a tie

Best International Hotel Bar presented by Perrier

  • Bar Trigona at the Four Seasons Hotel (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • Botanist at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel (Vancouver, BC, Canada)
  • Bulgari Bar at The Bvlgari Resort (Dubai, UAE)
  • Charles H. Seoul at the Four Seasons Hotel (Seoul, South Korea)
  • Fifty Mils at the Four Seasons Hotel (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Jigger & Pony at the Amara Hotel (Singapore)
  • Lyaness at Sea Containers London (London, UK)
  • MO BAR at the Mandarin Oriental (Singapore)
  • Origin Bar at The Shangri-La Hotel (Singapore)
  • The American Bar at The Stafford London (London, UK)
  • The Donovan Bar at the Brown’s Hotel (London, UK)

*Includes 11 nominees due to a tie

Best International Restaurant Bar presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Bar Kismet (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
  • Caffe Fernet (Singapore)
  • Danico (Paris, France)
  • Le Mary Celeste (Paris, France)
  • Locale Firenze (Florence, Italy)
  • LPM Restaurant & Bar (Dubai, UAE)
  • Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Sexy Fish (London, UK)
  • The Continental Deli (Newtown, Australia)
  • Tjoget (Stockholm, Sweden)
  • Zuma Dubai — Dubai, UAE)

*Includes 11 nominees due to a tie

Best New International Cocktail Bar presented by Stranger & Sons

  • 🔶🟥🔵 A Bar with Shapes for a Name (London, UK)
  • Amaro Bar (London, UK)
  • ARGO (Hong Kong, China)
  • Dead End Paradise (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • DEAN & NANCY (Sydney, Australia)
  • RE (Sydney, Australia)
  • Schofield’s Bar (Manchester, UK)
  • Side Hustle at the NoMad (London, UK)
  • SIPS (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Wax On (Berlin, Germany)

Global Categories

Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Abasolo Ancestral Corn Whisky
  • ANGOSTURA® cocoa bitters
  • Citadelle Gin Jardin d’été
  • Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal Vida de Muertos
  • Equiano Light Rum
  • Fever-Tree Sparkling Lime & Yuzu
  • Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit
  • Hendrick’s Lunar Gin
  • Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic – Italian Orange
  • Nixta Licor de Elote
  • Lost Irish
  • Ojo de Tigre Mezcal Artesanal
  • SAVOIA Americano

*Includes 13 nominees due to a tie

World’s Best Cocktail Menu presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • ALQUÍMICO (Cartagena de Indias, Colombia)
  • Dante NYC (New York, NY)
  • Himkok (Oslo, Norway)
  • Little Red Door (Paris, France)
  • Lyaness at Sea Containers London (London, UK)
  • Mace Bar (New York, NY)
  • Paradiso (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London (London, UK)
  • Swift Soho (London, UK)
  • Tayēr + Elementary (London, UK)

World’s Best Spirits Selection presented by Beam Suntory

  • ATLA (New York, NY)
  • Brandy Library (New York, NY)
  • In-Situ Mezcaleria (Oaxaca City, Mexico)
  • Jack Rose Dining Saloon (Washington, DC)
  • Origin Bar at The Shangri-La Hotel (Singapore)
  • Rumba (Seattle, WA)
  • Sexy Fish (London, UK)
  • Swift Soho (London, UK)
  • The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago, IL)
  • The Doctor’s Office (Seattle, WA)

Writing and Media Categories

Best Cocktail & Spirits Publication presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • CLASS magazine
  • Difford’s Guide
  • Discard the Zine
  • DRiNK Magazine Asia
  • Drinks International
  • Liquor.com
  • The Cocktail Lovers magazine
  • The Spirits Business
  • VinePair
  • Whisky Magazine

Best Broadcast, Podcast, or Online Video Series presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • A Life In Whisky: The Dennis Malcolm Story (A documentary by Whisky Magazine)
  • Behind the Bar with Cara Devine
  • El Club de los Cantineros (Documentary)
  • Freepour
  • Happy Hour History
  • Hospitality Forward Podcast by Hanna Lee Communications
  • Radio Imbibe
  • Shōshin Art Club
  • The Cocktail Lovers Podcast
  • The Speakeasy Podcast

Best Cocktail & Spirits Writing presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • “Get Real: The bar world looks beyond feel-good measures on sustainability and climate change” by Max Falkowitz, for Imbibe Magazine
  • “Getting high from a new supply: a revolutionary flavour extraction method for cocktails is being pioneered in South Africa” by Leah van Deventer, for TheWorlds50Best.com
  • “Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Destroyed American Bar Culture?” by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, for Daily Beast
  • “Making it Through: How a Bar’s Regulars Helped During a Pandemic,” by Rebecca Cate as told to Paul Clarke, Imbibe
  • “Marc Farrell Wants to Change the Way You Think About Rum” by Yolanda Evans, for Food & Wine
  • “Meet the Eco-Packaging Innovations Transforming the Drinks Industry” by Betsy Andrews, for SevenFifty Daily
  • “Mexican Terroir” by Liza Weisstuch, for Whisky Magazine
  • “The Greatest Drinking Contest in History” by David Wondrich, for Daily Beast
  • “The Hard Reset – Creating a New Hospitality Culture” by Anna Sebastian, for CLASS
  • “Turns Out Rye Whiskey Isn’t an American Creation After All” by Lew Bryson, for Daily Beast

Best New Cocktail or Bartending Book presented by Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic

  • Claridge’s The Cocktail Book by Denis Broci and Nathan McCarley-O’Neill
  • COCKTAIL DIVE BAR: Real Drinks, Fake History, and Questionable Advice from New Orleans’s Twelve Mile Limit by T. Cole Newton
  • Death & Co: Welcome Home by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan
  • Difford’s Guide to Cocktails Sixteenth Edition by Simon Difford
  • Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails by Robert Simonson
  • The Cocktail Seminars by Brian D. Hoefling
  • The Japanese Art of the Cocktail by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig
  • The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes by Julia Momosé with Emma Janzen
  • Tokyo Cocktails by Nicholas Coldicott
  • Zero Proof: 90 Non-Alcoholic Recipes for Mindful Drinking by Elva Ramirez

Best New Book on Drinks Culture, History, or Spirits presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • A Good Drink: In Pursuit of Sustainable Spirits by Shanna Farrell
  • Bourbon: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey by Clay Risen
  • Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization by Edward Slingerland
  • Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol by Mallory O’Meara
  • L’Ora dell’Americano by Mauro Mahjoub & Lucio Tucci
  • Something & Tonic by Nick Kokonas
  • The Big Book of Amaro by Matteo Zed
  • The New Kindred Spirits by F. Paul Pacult
  • The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails edited by David Wondrich with Noah Rothbaum
  • The Spirit of Rye by Carlo DeVito

Image: Jia Jia Shum on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

National Bourbon Day: 2022 Bourbon Trends

National Bourbon Day: 2022 Trends

by David Klemt

Maker's Mark bourbon bottle on top of barrel

Happy National Bourbon Day, a holiday celebrating one of America’s greatest creations and contributions to the whiskey world.

Hyperbole? I really don’t think so. Bourbon is a wholly American spirit that enjoys global demand.

We may not know the name of the first person to produce a bourbon. Like so many spirits and cocktails, the origins are mostly the stuff of myth and legend.

However, historians do believe America’s whiskey is named for the House of Bourbon, a French dynasty. So, some claim that the spirit is named for Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Still others say Kentucky’s Bourbon County is the inspiration for this whiskey’s name.

At any rate, it’s assumed bourbon was first produced in the 18th century. About a century later, the spirit became what we know it as today.

Additionally, bourbon is officially “distinctive product of the United States,” according to official recognition by Congress as of 1964.

That’s a lot of history and lore. But what about what’s going on now? Well, let’s take a look.

Barrel Finishing

Obviously, rules can sometimes stifle creativity and innovation. In fact, Andres Faustinelli of BEARFACE Whisky says as much on episode 75 of Bar Hacks.

Clarifying, Faustinelli took the Master Blender role at BEARFACE because there are fewer rules for Canadian whisky production than other spirits.

However, there’s a flip-side to that coin. Sometimes, the more rules in place, the more creative people get in navigating them.

One way this manifests is through barrel finishing. We’re seeing a lot labels boasting about unique or otherwise attention-grabbing barrel finishes.

Rum casks, Cognac casks, Armagnac, sherry, a slew of wine-barrel finishes… Obviously, throughout the world of whiskey this has become a popular element of production.

One caveat, though, is that distillers and blenders must avoid stunt finishing. If the finish doesn’t enhance their signature bourbon it’s inauthentic and consumers will turn their backs.

Bottled in Bond

Hey, look—more history! Bourbon, as we all know, has quite the past.

Adulteration—putting crap in the bottle that doesn’t belong there—was such a problem centuries ago that governments chose to step in. (I mean, it’s still a problem but we don’t have the time right now.)

The US government got involved in 1897 to protect consumers with the Bottled-in-Bond Act. Boiled down, a bottled-in-bond whiskey:

  • must be produced during a single distilling season; and
  • made by a single distiller; and
  • has to be crafted at a single distillery; and
  • the whiskey needs to be aged in either a federally bonded warehouse; or
  • otherwise aged under federal supervision for a minimum of four years; and
  • then be bottled at 100 proof.

Oh, and I learned that a distillation season is either January through June or July through December. ABC: (A)lways (B)e (C)learning. Don’t you judge me…

Obviously, the bottled-in-bond requires a large investment of both money and time. And obviously that investment is a barrier that distillers must consider carefully. No doubt, however, that investment can pay off with consumers.

Single Barrel

Let’s call this bourbon trend what it is: The trend.

For the past few years single-barrel bourbons (and other spirits) have been sought-after by restauranteurs, bar owners, private clubs, retailers, consumers, and collectors.

Again, this is a trend that requires a significant outlay from distilleries. But it’s clear that the time and money is, at least for now, worth it.

In most cases, single-barrel pours command higher menu prices. And with the luxury category continuing to grow, single-barrel bourbons should enjoy a boom for quite some time.

Anyone who has visited Woodford Reserve, as an example, can see how popular their single-barrel program has become. There are some incredible names on that list…

MGP

The following three letters once drew the ire of any whiskey drinker: MGP.

Back in the day, which was maybe two or three years ago, a brand “sourcing” their whiskey rather than distilling it themselves was sacrilege.

MGP was attacked for pumping out low-quality liquid regularly. Blogs, social posts, conversations in bars… For years, MGP was on its way to pariah status.

Now, the turns have tabled. As long as a brand is transparent—which may be the real trend here—about the liquid in their bottles, sourcing whiskey is no longer a negative.

In fact, according to some spirits sites and publications, there are consumers seeking out MGP-sourced brands.

So, these are some trends to consider when building out your bourbon program. Happy National Bourbon Day, and cheers!

Image: Zhivko Minkov on Unsplash

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