Spirits

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Thanksgiving Eve by the Numbers

Thanksgiving Eve by the Numbers

by David Klemt

Two shot glasses garnished with salt rim and lemon wedges

Tonight, guests will be looking to celebrate a bar holiday that’s traditionally lucrative for operators: Thanksgiving Eve, a.k.a. Drinksgiving.

It’s difficult to imagine that any operator or hospitality worker is unaware of Thanksgiving Eve’s status.

Sure, some mark the start of end-of-year celebrations with Halloween or Thanksgiving. However, I feel Thanksgiving Eve truly ushers in the holiday season.

I’d also argue that while retailers have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, operators have the night before Thanksgiving. Yes, New Year’s Eve is also huge, but Thanksgiving Eve is considered the busiest night of the year for bars.

Interestingly, this is a holiday that benefits bars across the nation. In fact, it’s not exclusive to destination cities.

After all, the reason it’s so big, traditionally, is that people are traveling back to their hometowns. And while Thanksgiving is for their families, Thanksgiving Eve is for catching up with childhood and high school friends.

Obviously, there are fantastic bars located in cities outside of their destination counterparts. Hot take, I know.

So, does Thanksgiving Eve deserve its hype ?

The Evidence

Unfortunately, data from 2020 isn’t readily available, for obvious reasons.

However, we do have some data, largely thanks to restaurant management and POS platform Upserve.

One of the simplest ways to analyze Thanksgiving Eve’s impact is to compare it to the previous Wednesday.

Per Upserve, guest counts rose 23 percent in 2018 when compared to the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving Eve.

Looking at data from more than 10,000 restaurants and bars, Upserve found that guest count totaled 496,883 on November 14, 2018. One week later, that number rose to 643,637.

As Upserve content marketing coordinator Stephanie Resendes says in her Thanksgiving Eve article, “More people = more money.”

Of the 10,000-plus Upserve clients whose data was analyzed, net sales were $17.250 million on the Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving Eve 2018. That number jumped to $22.296 million.

So, looking just at a relatively small sample size from 2018, Thanksgiving Eve’s impact doesn’t seem overblown.

The Drinks

According to Upserve, beer was the year-over-year winner through 2018. It saw the most growth by far on Thanksgiving Eve 2018 when compared to the Wednesday prior and the same period in 2017.

Spirits and wine, at least for Thanksgiving Eve 2018, were nearly tied for second place.

Now, looking at the data for Thanksgiving Eve 2019, spirits saw the most growth overall. Resendes shared that shot sales increased 173 percent on Thanksgiving Eve 2019 when compared to the Wednesday prior.

Tequila led the charge for spirits, rising 156 percent. Vodka saw a 144-percent boost, rum increased 120 percent, whiskey went up 65 percent, and gin saw a lift of 47 percent. For its part, beer sales rose 65 percent.

Not content to simply look at traffic and sales numbers, Upserve also split their clients into four regions. In this way, they identified who parties hardest on Thanksgiving Eve and who needs to ramp things up.

The four regions and their net sales growth from Thanksgiving Eve 2019 compared to the Wednesday prior are below:

  • Midwest: 34 percent
  • Northeast: 34 percent
  • South: 33 percent
  • West: 22 percent

Clearly, there was still growth in the Western region. However, the Midwest and Northeast led the way, with the South just behind them.

We’ll have to wait to see how Thanksgiving Eve 2021 plays out. We’re still waiting on the numbers from 2020. However, Upserve’s data shows that Thanksgiving Eve remains crucial to restaurants and bars throughout America.

Image: Alena Plotnikova on Unsplash

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

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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.

Image: Billy Huynh 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

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

6 Bottles for National Mezcal Day

6 Bottles for National Mezcal Day

by David Klemt

Blue agave plant, overhead view

October 21 is National Mezcal Day, the perfect time to introduce guests to the wide range of agaves producers use to make this rustic spirit.

This bar holiday is also a great time to dispel the myth that all mezcals are simply smoke bombs that overwhelm the palate. Indeed, there are expressions that are incredibly light on smoke and heavy on mineral, vegetal, floral, citrus, and savory notes.

If you’d also like to work tequila into your mezcal celebration, check out recommendations from this year’s National Tequila Day.

Below are six bottles of mezcal to recommend to your guests, representing six types of agave. ¡Salud!

Arroqueño

Also known as Agave Americana, this variety of agave can grow to massive proportions and take anywhere from 20 to 30 years to mature. As such, some producers are implementing sustainability projects to protect Arroqueño.

El Jolgorio Arroqueño

El Jolgorio crafts a wide range of mezcals focusing on the rare, wild and semi-wild, Arroqueño among them. Owing to sustainability efforts, this is a small-batch expression and can be difficult to find. Expect tropical notes balanced by minerality, agave, and grass.

Espadín

This is the most common type of mezcal. In fact, some estimates regarding how much mezcal carries the Espadín designation reach as high as 90 percent.

Mezcal Vago Elote

As the bottle’s name suggests, corn plays a significant role in this mezcal’s production: elote is Spanish for “corn.” Made from Espadín agave, Mezcal Vago Elote undergoes a toasted corn infusion. The result is smoke with toasty notes of corn.

 

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Salmiana

Known as “the green giant,” this wild agave tends to imbue mezcal with less smoky notes. Instead, these mezcals impart vibrant earthy and vegetal notes.

Derrumbes San Luis Potosí

Guests seeking to try something other than the typical Espadín mezcals will appreciate this bottle. First and foremost, this expression of mezcal imparts agave flavor rather than overwhelming them with smoke.

Tepeztate

Another agave that takes a long time to mature—25 years or more—its use in mezcal also has producers concerned about sustainability. Perhaps owing to this agave’s penchant for growing on dangerous cliffsides, the flavors it produces are intense and rich.

Bozal Tepeztate

Similar in their mission to El Jolgorio, Bozal specializes in producing mezcals from a wide variety of agaves. Your guests really can’t go wrong with any Bozal expression, and Tepeztate is no exception. Guests can expect an intriguing mix of floral, citrus, spice and mineral notes, along with smoke.

 

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A post shared by Bozal Mezcal (@bozalmezcal)

Tobalá

If your guests are seeking rare and complex mezcal, you want to offer them a Tobalá. This type of mezcal, referred to by some as “the king of mezcal,” is made from an agave that’s hard to find and hard to grow.

Montelobos Tobalá

This is a joven expression, meaning the liquid is either bottled right after distillation or is aged for less than two months. To give guests a general idea of what to expect from Montelobos Tobalá, you or your bartenders can explain that it has characteristics of both Espadín and Salmiana mezcals: there’s smoke but there are also vegetal notes.

Tobaziche

If savory, herbaceous notes appeal to a guest, recommend a quality Tobaziche mezcal.

Del Maguey Tobaziche

The Scotch drinkers among your guests will find that this bottle resonates with them. If they enjoy Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Talisker, they’ll appreciate the peat, smoke and earth from Del Maguey Tobaziche.

Image: Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month: October

5 Books to Read this Month: October

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills this October.

To review September’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Restaurant Marketing That Works: Back to the Basics: Before, During & After the Pandemic

Bar Hacks podcast guest and expert restaurant marketer Matt Plapp’s most recent book provides everything you need to supercharge your marketing and engagement efforts. Matt makes understanding the basics, collecting guest data and building an effective database, and boosting engagement easy. This is the best $7 (for the paperback) you’ll ever spend.

Spirits of Latin America

Revered James Beard Award-nominated bartender and operator Ivy Mix takes readers on a cultural and historical journey through Latin America’s spirits and cocktails. Spirits of Latin America is the 2021 Spirited Award for Best New Book on Drinks Culture, History or Spirits and features more than 100 recipes.

Drinking French

This book is the winner of the 2021 Spirited Award for Best New Cocktail or Bartending Book. Author David Lebovitz dives deep into French drinking culture through 160 recipes and beautiful photography. Readers will learn how to drink like the French do through classic and modern drinks, snack pairings, and stories.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Author Angela Duckworth explains why grit, not talent, is the best indicator of perseverance. Grit is the book Jennifer Radkey references in her most recent article for KRG Hospitality. If you want to change the way you hire and build teams, this is the book for you.

Death & Co Welcome Home

The third book from Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan, the team behind Death & Co., features more than 400 recipes. Now, while this book targets home bartenders, it’s also beneficial to bar professionals as it delves into the Death & Co. cocktail development program. Is that worth a $35 investment? Absolutely.  Death & Co. Welcome Home is available now for pre-order.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The 30 Days of Bourbon Challenge

The 30 Days of Bourbon Challenge

by David Klemt

Bourbon barrels resting in Buffalo Trace rack house

Today marks the start of Bourbon Heritage Month, the celebration of America’s native spirit.

Unlike National Bourbon Day, which takes place in the US on June 14, September provides us with a monthlong bourbon celebration.

I, for one, couldn’t be more excited to revisit some of the bottles in my home bar.

But there’s another way to celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month. And operators can participate.

Bourbon & Banter

In 2011, bourbon devotee and advocate Patrick Garrett founded Bourbon & Banter.

A team of devoted contributors soon followed and developed.

Bourbon & Banter’s initial mission was simple but powerful: “to spread the Bourbon Gospel.”

However, over the course of ten years, that mission has evolved. A robust community has formed around Bourbon & Banter. Today’s mission is to continue building that community while helping others “drink curious.”

Bourbon & Banter reviews bottles, keeps readers and followers current with relevant news and events, sells merchandise, and more.

But there’s something else this dedicated bourbon bunch does. Something that celebrates Bourbon Heritage Month.

30 Days of Bourbon

Normally, the first of the month is reserved by KRG Hospitality for a roundup of weird holidays. However, we’re disrupting our regular programming in the name of bourbon.

Bourbon & Banter is challenging bourbon aficionados, casual bourbon drinkers, and the bourbon-curious to participate in a monthlong challenge.

The premise of 30 Days of Bourbon is simple: drink a new bourbon every day for the entirety of September.

Equally as simple are the rules:

  • Only bourbons count. Sure, drink whatever you want. But only bourbon counts toward the challenge.
  • Tennessee whisky counts, as technically it’s bourbon. We don’t make the rules for whiskey or this challenge, so don’t @ us.

Speaking of technicalities, Bourbon & Banter provides the following in terms of what differentiates one bourbon from another:

  • Mash bills within a single brand: Each of Four Roses ten mash bills are unique and therefore count as individual bourbons. The same holds true for their limited editions and Small Batch blend.
  • Single barrel bourbons: Using Blanton’s as the example, the stoppers don’t indicate separate bourbons—the barrels do. So, look for different barrels or they don’t count as different bourbons.
  • Proof: Bourbon & Banter says Evan Williams Black and Green Labels are the same but that White Label is different due to the rules for bonded bourbons.
  • Non-distiller producer (NDP) bourbons such as those from MGP count as the final products differ from one another so greatly.

Accept the Challenge

Bourbon & Banter have created a convenient 30 Days of Bourbon calendar. beyond that, they’ve also made logo overlays for participants to use as they post about their progress.

Operators can participate by offering a special or otherwise highlighting a different bourbon each day in September. Encourage guests to return and track their progress using Bourbon & Banter’s calendar.

Use social media to announce the day’s bourbon or mark personal progress. Operators and participants should use the hashtags #30DaysOfBourbon and #BourbonHeritageMonth.

Obviously, operators should give credit to Bourbon & Banter for this challenge and their calendar, so make sure to tag their accounts: Instagram, Twitter and, Facebook. Also, visit them on YouTube and check out their Patreon.

Additionally, Bourbon & Banter has been asking participants to donate $30 to the charity of their choice during the 30 Days of Bourbon challenge for the last five years. Founder Garrett has also been rewarding participants with bourbon-related prizes randomly.

Of course, operators can also come up with their own rewards for completing the challenge at their venue.

Cheers!

Image: Josh Collesano on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Bar Hacks: Tales of the Cocktail

Bar Hacks: Tales of the Cocktail

by David Klemt

Bartender pouring cocktails on bar

Tales of the Cocktail returns next month not only in a new format but with all-new features for 2021 and beyond.

Running from September 20 through 23, Tales of the Cocktail 2021 will be a hybrid event. The digital/in-person industry show is free for attendees this year.

Eileen Wayner, CEO of Tales of the Cocktail, and Neal Bodenheimer (a board member and operator) drop by the Bar Hacks podcast for this week’s episode to talk about the 2021 event.

Learn more below.

Hybrid Format

The 19th annual Tales of the Cocktail will offer something for everyone in the industry.

So, those who wish to visit New Orleans for Tales can do so. Also, the show will be accessible to attendees more comfortable with a digital experience this time around.

Anyone attending in person needs to know two things: First, Tales will adhere to New Orleans mask and vaccine mandates and policies.

Second, Hurricane Ida made landfall this past Sunday, knocking out power to more than a million people. In-person attendees should monitor the situation and be sensitive to what people in New Orleans are experiencing.

Intriguingly, Tales 2021 will feature brand activations not just in New Orleans but in other cities as well. Pop-ups are on the schedule for New York City and London. Tales will announce more as details emerge.

Tales Evolves

For obvious reasons, Tales will be different this year. However, that isn’t a negative—the event is evolving.

For instance, the Spirited Awards will take place this month. Acknowledging that it’s simply not fair or possible “to honor every award category for 2021,” this years awards will be different.

At this year’s event, the following categories will be awarded:

  • Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Pioneer Award
  • Timeless U.S. Award
  • Timeless International Award
  • Best: Cocktail & Spirits Publication; Cocktail & Spirits Writing; New Cocktail or Bartending Book; New Book on Drinks Culture, History or Spirits; and Broadcast, Podcast or Online Video Series

Of course, there are other new event features. On Sunday, September 19, Tales will host the Diversity Distilled Career Fair. A direct response to so many in the industry losing jobs and the current labor shortage, employers will post job listings; review resumes; and more.

Listen Today

Wayner and Bodenheimer share more details in this week’s Bar Hacks episode.

So, to find out what to expect about this year’s Tales of the Cocktail (and a bit about the future of the event), listen to episode 48 today.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor.fm, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Cheers!

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Let’s Talk About Rum Styles

Let’s Talk About Rum Styles

by David Klemt

Havana Club Mojito rum cocktail

Last Monday, August 16, was National Rum Day. Of course, millions of people drink rum every day. So, there’s really not a bad day to learn more about the many styles of this versatile spirit.

Obviously, we love restaurant and bar holidays. Just review Exhibits A and B, National Tequila Day and National Scotch Day.

But, we also love learning and teaching others about spirits and cocktails any day of the week. Today, let’s dive into rum!

Cheers!

Molasses vs. Juice vs. Syrup

There are three main types of rum in terms of the main ingredient distillers ferment to make this classic spirit.

First, the more common source: molasses from sugarcane. Then, there’s fresh sugarcane juice. Finally, rum can be made with sugarcane syrup.

However, there are also spirits like aguardiente made from the distillation and fermentation of fruit. Additionally, beet sugar can be an ingredient. However, many countries—including the US—require rum to be made from cane sugar.

Light Rums

Generally speaking, rums can be broken down into two characteristics beyond molasses, juice or syrup: light rum and dark rum.

White / Clear

It doesn’t get much lighter than clear, does it? Simply put, the production method for making a white or clear rum includes filtering out the color. Contrary to what some assume, these rums aren’t necessarily unaged: many rest for one or two years.

Again, speaking generally, these light rums are often less flavorful than other styles. Daiquiris, Mojitos and Piña Coladas tend to be made mostly using white or clear rums. Of course, it can be profitable to upsell those classics with golden, pale, dark, and premium aged rums.

Gold / Pale

One way to think about gold or pale rums is that they’re a step up in flavor profile. They also tend to receive longer aging times than their white and clear counterparts.

However, since they’re not normally the rums that are rested for particularly long times, they’re usually affordable.

Dark Rums

Dark

So, let’s kick this section off with the creatively named dark rum category called…dark.

To be clear, this category can include gold and pale rums, technically. When people refer to dark rums, that’s an awfully broad description. So-called “dark rums” can run the gamut from aged a couple of years to aged for incredibly long times. Not only do these rums not undergo a filtering process to remove their color, distillers may actually add color.

Black

Now, this is a more specific categorization among the catch-all “dark rum” descriptor.

When one encounters a black rum, they can expect several elements: dark in color, rich and bold flavor, a full body, and a rum made from molasses. Often, the barrels used to age black rums are given a heavy char.

Navy

This is another full-body rum. Arguably, this is the most traditional form of rum that harkens back to the 1600s.

It bears the name “navy” because it’s the style of rum that British Royal Navy sailors made famous. As many people are aware, rum was a staple ration on the Royal Navy’s ships.

Specialty

Drilling deeper, there are several categories of rum that are too specific to simply bear the label “light” or “dark.”

Flavored / Spiced

Prepare for amazement: This category of rums receives enhancements from spices and/or flavorings. Shocking, I know.

Coconut is among the most common rum flavorings. However, you’ll also find apple, pineapple, and even gingerbread.

In terms of spiced rum—hello, Captain Morgan—common spices are cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

Overproof

I’m willing to bet this label isn’t difficult for most people to figure out.

Speaking generally once again, most rum in the US and Canada weighs in between 40- and 50-percent ABV. Overproof rum, then, is a high-proof spirit.

Cask strength for rum can reach as high as 84.5-percent ABV, or 169 proof. Interestingly, the US prohibits rum over 155 proof from entering the country (in most cases).

In Canada, up to 190-proof spirits are legal.

Funky

This is an incredibly fun and unique style of rum hailing from Jamaica.

Jamaican funky rums offer the drinker the opportunity to try something different, bold, and that embodies the island country’s terroir. To make these unique rums, distillers often add what’s called “dunder” during the fermentation process. Dunder it leftover material from previous distillations, and when added in large quantities, it can be referred to as “muck.”

Get heavy in the muck and the rum gets truly, unforgettably funky.

Rhum Agricole

At the top of this article are the three main sources for rum: sugarcane molasses and sugarcane juice. Distillers produce rhum agricole by distilling pressed sugarcane sugar directly.

Also, rhum agricole was created in the island nation of Martinique. Now, many people have likely read that only Martinique distillers can make rhum agricole. The reality is more nuanced.

For a rhum agricole to be labled “Rhum Agricole AOC Martinique,” the product must meet specific requirements.

Cachaça

There’s a saying well-known by bar professionals across the globe: “No Negroni without Campari.” Well, there’s no Caipirinha without cachaça.

Also known as the National Spirit of Brazil, cachaça must be made from fermented sugarcane juice. The use of many species of trees throughout Brazil give distillers the opportunity to produce cachaça with terroir and distinctive flavor profiles.

Image: Christo Anestev from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

10 Bottles for National Tequila Day

10 Bottles for National Tequila Day

by David Klemt

Shots of tequila surrounded by lime wedges and salt

This Saturday we celebrate the world’s most famous agave spirit: the one and only tequila.

National Tequila Day takes place this weekend on July 24.

Of course, there are still those out there who view tequila as a low-quality, high-proof spirit that leads to bad decisions.

Luckily, years of education are turning that around. People across the world are now aware of high-quality sipping tequilas.

Those in the know are drinking better, although that doesn’t preclude them from making bad choices afterward. Indeed, we can no longer blame the tequila, only ignorance of higher quality expressions.

Just like we did for bourbon and Lambrusco, we’ve rounded up bottles operators should consider for National Tequila Day and beyond.

Cheers!

Blanco

Arguably the tequila most people associate with cheap shots and cocktails. Distillers don’t age blanco and they bottle the liquid soon after distillation. However, the explosion in the growth of tequila brings with it new brands and higher standards. Many blancos taste excellent and make great cocktails.

Mijenta Blanco

This blanco represents the antithesis of the mainstream stereotype of blanco tequilas. Tequilera Maestro (Tequila Master) Ana Maria Romero approaches the process of making Mijenta Blanco with the same care and attention to detail as she does reposado.

Teremana Blanco

Yes, this is a “celebrity tequila.” Yes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson owns Teremana. Being a celebrity spirit doesn’t discredit the quality of this brand. Teremana Blanco is a silver tequila that aims to drink like a luxury expression.

Joven

An interesting and rare (currently) category, joven is unaged tequila blended with one or more aged expressions.

Viva XXXII Joven

Described as a “modern sipping” expression by the distillery, Viva XXXII Joven is made with estate-grown blanco and the brand’s extra añejo. Expect crisp flavors of lemon peel, yerba buena (an aromatic mint), and white pepper.

Casa Dragones Joven

When Casa Dragones first entered the market in 2009, this was their debut expression. Five years later, they released their first blanco. In the case of Casa Dragones Joven, blanco was blended with extra añejo. Not only is it proper to include one of the first joven tequilas on the market on this list, this expression has earned its place.

Reposado

Combine the bold flavors of younger blanco tequila with the smooth, refined characteristics of aged añejo. That will give you an idea of what to expect with a reposado, which is aged between two and twelve months. Equal capable in shots and cocktails or for sitting and sipping.

Volcán De Mi Tierra Reposado

Made from agaves that take well over 3,000 days to ripen, Volcán Reposado captures the terroir of the state of Jalisco. The liquid is aged in American and European oak barrels, which helps to make this a smooth expression.

Clase Azul Reposado

Arguably the most recognized bottle on the back of any bar. Clase Azul Reposado draws the eyes of guests with its unique appearance and keeps them coming back with its unique flavor profile and incredible smoothness.

Añejo

This category must be aged for one to three years in oak. Of course, añejo can be enjoyed as a shot or in a cocktail, just like any spirit can be. However, these tequilas are often best when sipped slowly to appreciate every flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel characteristic.

El Tesoro Añejo

This añejo is aged between two and three years in ex-bourbon barrels. The result is intriguing, to the say the least: Master Distiller Carlos Camarena says El Tesoro Añejo, due to vanilla and maple notes, would pair well with pancakes.

Casa Dragones Barrel Blend

Known as a small-batch producer of luxury blanco and joven tequilas, Casa Dragones is finally producing an añejo. Casa Dragones Barrel Blend is aged in Quercus Sessile French oak and new American oak barrels, both of which undergo custom toasting. The result is a smooth, luxurious sipper with spice, oak, berry, and agave notes.

Extra Añejo

Once a distiller passes the three-year mark aging tequila, they have free reign to experiment. The extra añejo category is where people find truly unique and rare (and expensive, of course) expressions.

Herradura Selección Suprema

It may interest people to know that Herradura gets the credit for creating both the reposado and extra añejo categories. So, it’s only fitting that they be on this list in one of those categories. Herradura Selección Suprema rests for 49 months—four years and one month—in American white oak barrels.

Tears of Llorona No. 3 Extra Añejo

Master Distiller Germán González initially created Tears of Llorona to for his friends and family. However, the five-year-old extra añejo Maestro Gonzalez produces are sometimes made available to the public. The current private stock offering, Tears of Llorona No. 3, is aged in Scotch, brandy, and sherry oak barrels.

Image: Xavier Espinosa from Pixabay

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