by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Brutal: These Drinks are Heavy

Brutal: These Drinks are Heavy

by David Klemt

Marshall amplifier closeup

Several legendary and iconic heavy metal bands are stepping into the arena of the drinks industry, from beer to whiskey, and more.

You won’t find a celebrity rosé wine or mezcal on this list. Instead, you’ll find bourbon and rye blends, unique processes, full beer lineups, and small-batch releases.

Most importantly, these are products that deserve a place on your menus. These aren’t spirits and beers that rely on band names and their global recognition. Each of these can stand on their own.

In fact, one whiskey from Slipknot and an Iowa distillery won an award from Fred Minnick in 2019.


You may familiar with Blackened, a rye and bourbon blend that finishes in brandy casks. This limited-edition, super-premium whiskey is also subjected to the proprietary Black Noise process.

In short, each batch of Blackened is enhanced by the frequencies of curated Metallica playlists. This whiskey is a true collaboration. Legendary Master Distiller Dave Pickerell partnered with Metallica and Meyer Sound for the recipe and process.

However, Master Distiller and Blender Rob Dietrich has crafted a rye expression. Rye the Lightning is, as you can likely tell from the name, a rye whiskey. This expression also undergoes a very specific Black Noise process.

To craft Rye the Lightning, the live recording of Ride the Lightning in its entirety from Metallica’s Orion Music + More set is played to enhance the liquid. Taking things a step further, Rye the Lightning is finished in Madeira and rum casks.

Not content with just two expressions, there are also the Master of Whiskey Series and limited edition whiskeys available.

Iron Maiden

Iconic English heavy metal band Iron Maiden has steered heavily into the beer business. You won’t find a limited-release Lager here and a Pilsner there. No, Iron Maiden has a full lineup of beers in several styles.

Trooper, named for their song “The Trooper,” is the name under which the band crafts their beers in partnership with brewers like Bodebrown and Robinsons. You’ll find many beer styles under the Trooper label: Strong Bitter, English Extra Special, Porter, Golden, IPA, and more.


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Of course, there are limited editions. And why shouldn’t there be? Iron Maiden and there brewer partners want to have rock out, like they did with the Number of the Beast, a Bitter.


Since there’s a bourbon and a beer carrying the Motörhead name, you can create a Boilermaker honoring the heavy band. And as you may imagine, one-half of the Boilermaker is named after the song “Ace of Spades.”

In this case, Ace of Spades is a bourbon crafted in Fargo, North Dakota, by Proof Artisan Distillers. This distillery produced North Dakota’s first-ever bourbon, Crooked Furrow. Ace of Spades is a full-bodied, 90-proof high-rye bourbon with warm, sweet notes and a cinnamon finish.

For the beer, Motörhead tapped Madison, Wisconsin, brewers Ale Asylum. Röad Crew is a crisp, hoppy American Pale Ale with citrus notes.

Cannibal Corpse

This whiskey, Golden Blood, is actually the inspiration for this article and product roundup. Golden Blood by Cannibal Corpse, one of the heaviest bands on this list, is crafted in collaboration with Three Floyds Distilling.

Since opening their doors in 2017, Three Floyds has been known for doing things differently. In fact, the distillery itself says their approach is “not normal.” So, this collaboration with Cannibal Corpse makes a lot of sense.

According to Three Floyds, the band itself selected the liquid. A single barrel straight malt whiskey, Golden Blood was aged four years in new, charred oak. And the label is sure to draw attention on your back bar.


As the story goes, GWAR is not of this planet. Rather, GWAR is an intergalactic rock band that arrived on Earth via comet.

Well, when you have an origin mythology that incredible, you can’t phone in products tied to your name. I promise that you’ve never encountered a whiskey-crafting process like the one that produces Catoctin Creek Ragnarök Rye:

“The mad scientists at Catoctin Creek conducted experiments on aging the blood of GWAR in barrels made from the different types of wood scorched by the comet’s blast. They used the rarest of grains and watered their mash bill with the melted Antarctic ice to create a 92 strength rye whisky, pot stilled and then aged in charred new white oak. Members of GWAR then hurled the whiskey barrels into the orbit of the moon, causing contraction to take place as the barrels spun under the influence of the deathly coldness of space and the life-giving heat of the sun.”

Well, that’s different.


Cedar Creek Distillery in Iowa crafts two whiskey expressions for Slipknot. The first expression is Slipknot No.9, a four-year-old blend of straight bourbon and straight rye whiskeys.

Then there’s Slipknot No. 9 Reserve. For this special release, award-winning Cedar Creek bottles the same bourbon and rye blend at 99 proof. Fred Minnick named Slipknot No. 9 Reserve the Best Celebrity Whiskey in 2019. That’s no small feat.


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An equally daunting feat? Getting your hands on Slipknot co-founder and percussionist Clown’s Iowa Shine. If you can find it, this bottle is Clown’s very own moonshine.

Honorable Mentions

The Deftones have partnered with Belching Beaver to craft an IPA called Deftones Phantom Bride. This IPA, a collaboration between head brewer Thomas Peters and the Deftones’ Chino Moreno, is made using Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic hops.

And then there’s Bay Shore, New York’s Great South Bay Brewery. The brewery has honored Pantera with a limited edition beer called Vulgar Display of Lager. Obviously, this is intended to honor the 30th anniversary of the thrash metal band’s brutal 1992 Vulgar Display of Power album.

Image: Alexander Kampmann from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

TOTC 2022 Agenda and Tickets Now Live

Tales of the Cocktail 2022 Conference Agenda and Tickets Now Available

by David Klemt

Greetings from NOLA artwork

The time is now to grab your Tales of the Cocktail tickets and plan your trip to New Orleans for the last week of July.

Not only are tickets available for purchase via this link right now, you can also check out the schedule here.

Of particular note is the amount of complimentary programming available to 20th anniversary TOTC attendees.

Free to Attend

Attendees will have access to several activations and workshops that are free to attend.

Beginning Sunday, complimentary programming is available throughout the week. For example, the Day of Service on Sunday, July 24 is free attend and a way to give back.

Also on Sunday, the 11th annual Pig & Punch Volunteer Day of Service. This is another opportunity for those in the industry to do some good in the NOLA community.

The return of Pig & Punch was mentioned by an excited Lola Thomas on episode 72 of the Bar Hacks podcast.

On Monday, all attendees can attend the keynote address; Diversity Distilled Career Fair; the Welcome to Wellness! therapeutic stretch and self-massage session; and “#FromTheBarToTheFarm” sustainability workshop.

There are several more workshops—such as “Safe Bars: Crafting a New Culture of Safety and Respect” and the immersive “Mind Full” experience—that are free to attend on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Incredible Activations

More reasons to plan your trip around an action-packed Sunday? Speed Rack Redemption, the National Tequila Day Pool Party at the Royal Sonesta, and Ode to the Bowl.

The rest of the week is absolutely packed. From workshops to seminars, cocktail tours to tasting rooms, and all manner of activations, parties, and events in between, the 20th anniversary celebration of Tales of the Cocktail will be an experience to remember.

On the subject of cocktail tours, there are eight such experiences available during this year’s Tales. For example, attendees can register and secure tickets for Hunting Down the Sazerac, Downriver: Bars Beyond the French Quarter, the Big Gay Bar Tour, and Bourbon Street and How it Got that Way.

Learn More

To be honest, there’s simply too much going on at this year’s TOTC to list here. The sheer number of workshops, seminars, and activations must be checked out online.

And that’s to say nothing of the industry icons that will be presenting seminars and workshops, and hosting activations and special events.

Simply put, there’s programming for everyone. Health and wellness? Yes. Furthering your career? Absolutely. Perfecting technique and tasting new products? Of course. Business, culture, advocacy, diversity, inclusion, equity… Check, check, check, check, check, check!

We hope to see you at Tales of the Cocktail 2022! Be sure to check out the agenda and grab your tickets today.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Forward Progress: Trends by Venue Type

Forward Progress: Trends by Venue Type

by David Klemt

High contrast image of blue cocktail with lemon zest

One notable difficulty with considering new trends is that they’re not all necessarily a universal fit for all venue types.

For example, what may work well in an upscale restaurant perhaps won’t perform as well in a sports bar. Pursuing a trend that isn’t a good fit, obviously.

As any operator with experience knows, chasing fads and trends just to chase them can be costly. Doing so costs money (inventory, training, labor hours) and time deserving of better allocation.

However, failing to embrace any trends can also be costly. Watching a lucrative trend pass by can cost an operator guest engagement, perception, and traffic.

Take, for instance, the success of White Claw. Plenty of operators and consumers scoffed at the hard seltzer category as a whole at first.

Then, some people decided it was a drink category “for women.” As it exploded in popularity, hard seltzers proved immensely popular with men.

Basically, it’s an incredibly strong beverage alcohol category that resonates with a wide range of consumers. On some menus, hard seltzers are listed alongside beers.

So, hard seltzer, led largely by White Claw, showed itself to be a worthwhile trend to adopt.

Clearly, however, hard seltzer doesn’t resonate with all guests on all occasions in all types of hospitality venue types. For instance, generally speaking, a bucket of White Claws likely to be a top seller in a high-end restaurant specializing in seven- to nine-course meals.

Drink Trends by Venue

During Bar & Restaurant Expo in March of this year, Amanda Torgerson of Datassential presented 2022 drink trends operators should know.

One trend has essentially proliferated the industry. Really, it’s likely wise for us to all view this trend—hard seltzer—as mainstream now.

In the context of Torgerson’s presentation, Datassential is saying that hard seltzers are here to stay.

Among other trends, Torgerson shared Datassential’s data-backed view of drink trends segmented by venue category.

While every venue is unique and not every trend will work for every bar or restaurant in a given category, the results are no less intriguing.

Pubs: Dry-hopped beers, pastry stouts, and hard or spiked coffee.

Sports Bars: Mini-beers, hard seltzer, and reusable growlers.

Casual Bars: Seltzers with unique flavors, hard tea, hard lemonade, and drinks featuring local ingredients.

Upscale Bars: Negroni, wine-barrel-aged spirits, and flaming cocktails.

Nightclubs: Hard seltzers served with spirits, cocktails and punch bowls served with dry ice, and flaming cocktails.

Casual Restaurants: Wine cocktails, elevated brunch cocktails, and tea-based alcohol beverages.

Upscale Restaurants: Flaming cocktails (smoked may be better), all-natural wines, and made-to-order cocktail cart presentations.

Hotels, Resorts and Casinos: Made-to-order cocktail carts, alcohol vending machines, and drinks made with cold-pressed juices.

Interestingly, a few of the above trends identified by Datassential appear in multiple venue types.

The main things for an operator to keep in mind is what will resonate with their guests and what’s authentic to their brand. When it comes to trends, one size doesn’t fit all and an individual venue’s mileage will vary.

However, the above list should at least show operators what Datassential sees resonating with guests in an array of venues.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Who Was the Legendary King Gambrinus?

Who Was the Legendary King Gambrinus?

by David Klemt

Beer mug overflowing with foam and beer

Just who is Gambrinus, the cultural icon beer lovers honor and celebrate on April 11, King Gambrinus Day?

Most simply, he’s an excellent excuse to enjoy a pint. More importantly, he’s a fantastic reason for operators to execute a beer promotion to drive traffic and revenue.

But who was Gambrinus? And was he actually a king?

Let’s dive in!

A King?

Gambrinus may want a word with Budweiser. After all, they’ve claimed the title “King of Beers” since around the 1950s.

If one runs a search for Gambrinus and scans the results quickly, he was a king. Although, other sources identify him as a duke. Or maybe he was a count.

Intriguingly, he’s often referred to as the inventor of beer. Sometimes, he’s lauded as the patron saint of beer.

Gambrinus is also known as the embodiment of joviality, conviviality, and incredible feats of drinking. Legend has it, he could put away 144 beers in a single sitting.

And how did he become credited with this most magnificent of creations? In a completely natural way, of course.

As the totally reasonable story goes, Gambrinus was taught the secret to brewing beer over 500 years ago by the Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis.

However, a German historian has said this character was based on another mythical character: Gambrivius. This German king, who may also have been named Gampar, also learned beer brewing by Isis and Osiris.

In other words…Gambrinus very likely never existed.

Gambrinus, Cultural Icon

Real or (most likely) not, Gambrinus is deeply embedded in beer and brewing culture.

There are breweries, restaurants, and bars that feature Gambrinus—as a king, of course—around the world.

In fact, if one takes a look at a can of Victoria beer, they may find the fabled king in the logo. He’s wearing regal finery and holding a beer aloft, admiring it.

And should anyone find themselves in Porte Alegre, Brazil, they’ll find Restaurante Gambrinus. Guess who the restaurant’s name pays homage to.

Of course, the king has made it America. Reportedly, Pabst Brewing has commissioned at least three Gambrinus statues. The first iteration was crafted in 1967 and is named King Gambrinus, Legendary Patron of Brewing.

So, fine—King Gambrinus Day doesn’t honor a “real” king. Is that such a bad thing? What we’re really celebrating on April 11 is beer itself.

We’re paying homage to brewers, breweries, and beer lovers across the globe. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating what some call the nectar of the gods, and others call the drink of kings.

Before April 11, take a look at your beer menu and program. Review how your bar team pulls and serves a pint. Make certain you know what beer-loving guests want to drink, and have plenty on hand.

Let’s all raise a pint to Gambrinus, king, duke, count, or mythical figure. Cheers!

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Dame Hall of Fame Nominations Open!

Dame Hall of Fame Nominations Now Open!

by David Klemt

Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Dame Hall of Fame luncheon

Now in its tenth year, nominations are open for the Dame Hall of Fame, honoring individuals who have a positive impact on hospitality.

In particular, the Dame Hall of Fame recognizes people who move accessibility and intersectionality forward.

The Tales of the Cocktail Foundation (TOTCF) and Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) are accepting nominations until March 30. Currently, there are 42 DHOF members.

On July 29, three inspirational and influential Dames will join their peers. These three individuals will be inducted into the DHOF at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.

To nominate a potential inductee, please complete this form.

“We are so proud to be entering our tenth year of Dame Hall of Fame, which has become one of the most revered recognitions of Tales of the Cocktail Foundation,” says TOTCF CEO Eileen Wayner. “The collective magnitude of the Dames is unparalleled, and it is truly our honor to gather such a talented group of individuals, while inducting newcomers who are making a lasting impact on the hospitality community.”

Co-chairs Overseeing Process

The Dame Hall of Fame was first established in 2012. Since then, nearly four dozen of the most influential individuals have been inducted.

More than just an honor, the DHOF encourages continued mentorship. DHOF members seek to further diversity, inclusivity, and equity within the cocktail and hospitality communities.

In 2022, for the first time, two members will co-chair the DHOF. They will each take on this role for a two-term, effective immediately.

Additionally, the co-chairs will oversee this year’s DHOF nomination process. Learn more about each co-chair below.

Kirsten “Kitty” Amann

Kitty has more than fifteen years of experience in the beverage industry as a brand ambassador, cocktail book author, podcaster, publicist, bartender, and spirits writer. She is the New England Market Manager for Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey and author of Drinking Like Ladies: 75 Modern Cocktails from the World’s Leading Female Bartenders.
In her roles, she is honored to share untold stories of greatness and help the truth find the light. Kitty is a founding member of the Boston chapters of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC Boston) and the U.S. Bartenders Guild. As a frequent speaker on the history of women behind the bar and in the spirits industry, and has presented at Tales of the Cocktail, The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Portland Cocktail Week, San Antonio Cocktail Conference, San Francisco Cocktail Week, Speed Rack Academy, and at the Smithsonian. 
Kitty has taught yoga in Boston and around the world since 2010. She was among the first in the industry to introduce movement and breathwork to fellow bartenders, servers, and brand ambassadors to support their careers, and has presented at Tales of the Cocktail, The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Portland Cocktail Week, and for local restaurants and USBG chapters.

Tiffanie Barriere

The bartender’s bartender, Barriere is an influencer and educator who has been awarded some of the beverage industry’s highest honors. The Bar Smart graduate, she is a Tastemakers of the South award-winner who spent seven years as the beverage director of One Flew South, the “Best Airport Bar in the World.”
As an independent bartender, she is known for creative and innovative cocktail menus for pop-dinners and bar consultancy clients, hosting mixology classes around the nation, and connecting culinary and farm culture with spirits. As a leader, she is a member of the Tales of the Cocktail Grants Committee, the James Beard Beverage Advisory Board, and a member of the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.
Barriere and her cocktails have been featured in such publications as Imbibe Magazine (print and online), Forbes, Essence, The Bitter Southerner, Cherry Bomb Magazine, Washington Post, Eater, VinePair, Food Republic, and Garden & Gun.
In 2020, Tiffanie was featured on Food Network’s The Kitchen, honored as the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s Dame Hall of Fame U.S. Inductee, along with the cover photo of Imbibe Magazine for the “Top 75” issue. The Louisiana-Texas native is the trustworthy mentor of some of the best bartenders and mixologists in the world. Tiffanie’s main goal is education, service and fun with every pour.

Nomination Criteria

In 2022, the three inductees will receive individual awards. There will be a United States inductee, an international inductee, and a Pioneer Award inductee.

Woodford Reserve will present the first two inductees, while The Blend will present the Pioneer Award.

The criteria for nominations is below, provided by the TOTCF:

DHOF US and International Inductees Presented by Woodford Reserve:

In addition to being a woman, non-binary or trans individual, to be considered to be inducted into the US DHOF, nominees must:

  • be a person whose professional and personal accomplishments have shaped the beverage landscape and provide visible models of achievement for tomorrow’s leaders;
  • serve as a leader and mentor; and
  • reside in the United States of America.

In addition to being a woman, non-binary or trans individual, to be considered to be inducted into the International DHOF, nominees must:

  • be a person whose professional and personal accomplishments have shaped the beverage landscape and provide visible models of achievement for tomorrow’s leaders;
  • serve as a leader and mentor; and
  • reside outside of the United States of America.

The Pioneer Award by The Blend:

This award recognizes an individual who has encouraged mentorship and contributed to making the hospitality industry equitable and inclusive by working to remove barriers as it pertains to gender identity, race, religion, and socioeconomic status.

The Pioneer Award, which was named for hospitality trailblazer and New Orleanian Ruth Fertel, will be announced on June 21 in conjunction with the TOTCF Spirited Awards. The recipient of the Pioneer Award will also be inducted into the DHOF during the July 29 Induction Ceremony.

Click here to nominate an individual today!

Image: Corey James Photo

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Booze Brands Spent Buckets on Big Game

Booze Brands Spent Buckets on Big Game

by David Klemt

Brown Wilson football on a football field

Super Bowl LVI commanded ad prices of $7 million for just 30 seconds, and several brands scrambled to snap up these record-setting spots up.

But before we get into some of the brands that purchased ads, congratulations to the Los Angeles! And condolences to Cincinnati Bengals fans—that was a heartbreaker.

Personally, I had no skin in the game. However, I was eleven years old when the Bengals last made it to the Big Game in 1989. I wanted to see them win last night.

Speaking of the Big Game, a 30-second ad spot reportedly cost $675,000 during the 23rd championship. In today’s money, that would be $1,530,442.

So, who in the beverage alcohol world splashed out $7 million for ads during the Big Game yesterday? And why do we still have to play this name game when referring to “that” game?

More importantly, what does it matter to you who spent so much on commercials on Sunday? Well, with so many eyes glued to TVs yesterday, it stands to reason that some consumers will be influenced to seek out brands and new products.

In other words, you may find that guests are ordering or asking if you carry certain products. For example, the products below.


Would it be a…Big Game…without a Budweiser commercial? Technically, yes. But I think we all know it would feel weird.

Yesterday’s spot was sparse when it comes to beer. However, it featured a horse and dog best friend duo, and that’s just as good as beer. Perhaps it’s even better, because dogs are dogs and horses are huge dogs.

Bud Light Hard Seltzer Soda

When Guy Fieri shows up you can bet whatever he’s endorsing is big on flavor. So, since the Mayor of Flavortown (who I’m now crowning Lord of the Land of Loud Flavors) showed up in yesterday’s Bud Light Hard Seltzer Soda, operators should count on some guests asking for these five-percent ABV RTDs.

Bud Light NEXT

Oh, you thought Hard Seltzer Soda was Bud Light’s big reveal? Nope!

The brand purchased two spots and one revealed Bud Light NEXT, the brand’s new zero-carb beer. The compelling ad asks people to consider the benefits of eschewing norms

Busch Light

Ya gotta love a brand that leans into having fun in their marketing. Busch Light knows who they are as a brand and, more just as importantly, knows their audience.

I’m not gonna lie, their ad made me want to kick back, pop a top, and listen to the soothing sounds of Kenny G. Outdoors. By a river. At the foot of a mountain.

Cutwater Spirits

People love the “Here’s to the crazy ones” quote from Steve Jobs. Well, Cutwater Spirits is raising a can to the lazy ones.

Just watch it below, trust me. Of the alcohol commercials, this was my favorite.

Michelob Ultra

The sheer number of celebrity athletes that showed up in Michelob Ultra‘s ad spot was breathtaking. Just as impressive is the fact that their spot came in at one minute. So, Michelob likely spent $14 million on their ad.

Of course, as a The Big Lebowski fan, the biggest feature for me was Steve Buscemi’s appearance in a bowling alley. Donny lives!

Samuel Adams

Well, your cousin from Boston got a security gig at Boston Dynamics. In Samuel Adams’ “Your Cousin from Boston (Dynamics)” spot, your cousin introduces the robots to the new Wicked IPA Party Pack. Whaddya wanna bet shenanigans ensue?

There are four beers in the pack: Wicked Hazy, Wicked Easy, Wicked Double, and the brand-new Wicked Tropical.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

2021 KRG Holiday Bottle & Can Guide

2021 KRG Holiday Bottle & Can Guide

by David Klemt

Red and black gift boxes and bows on black background

We’re bringing you new products and gift ideas for the 2021 holiday season for your specialty menus, raffles, and employee incentives.

Whether because they’re unique or leverages eye-catching bottling, labeling and packaging, you can’t go wrong with the bottles below.

In fact, you should probably consider adding some of these to your inventory and seasonal menu. A number of these bottles will attract attention from guests when they spot them on your back bar.

And, hey, we won’t tell anyone if you decide to treat yourself to one of these gifts. You’ve earned it.


Few spirits shine more during the holiday season and winter months than brandy.

Château de Breuil Réserve Du Château 8 Year

This is the first entry in Château de Breuil’s “Hors d’Age” range, which means this Calvados is older than six years. The youngest Calvados in this release is eight years old, and there’s plenty of warming, comforting apple on the nose, palate and finish.

Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège x Julien Colombier Cognac

Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège x Julien Colombier 

This striking bottle, adorned with an original design by Julien Colombier, definitely stands out from the standard V.S.O.P Privilège.

Hine Cigar Reserve XO

This blend of 20 eau-de-vie is intended specifically to be enjoyed with a fine cigar. In particular, a fine Cuban cigar. A Cognac meant to help unplug, slow down, and enjoy the moment.


There is an incredible array of gins available that can sway even the staunchest “I don’t drink gin” drinkers out there.

Glendalough Rose Gin

The Glendalough distillery operates via three mantras: Wild foraged. Fresh distilled. Stand apart. Glendalough Rose Gin hits all those marks, particularly standing apart from other gins.

Hardshore Original Gin

There are a few ways to approach crafting a gin. Hardshore Distilling Company’s approach is to be simple in order to be complex. Just five botanicals are used in the production of Hardshore Original Gin: Tuscan juniper, coriander, rosemary, mint, and orris root.

New Junipero Gin bottle

Junipero Gin

With it’s striking new appearance, Junipero Gin’s bottle is now as bold as the liquid inside.

Mezcal & Tequila

The growth of the agave spirit category doesn’t seem like it will stop anytime soon. In particular, luxury mezcals and tequilas seem to be benefitting from consumers interested in spending more to drink higher-quality spirits.

Código 1530 Artesanal & Ancestral

As discussed on episode 57 of Bar Hacks with Collin De Laval, Código 1530 recently released two mezcals, super-premium Artesanal and ultra-premium Ancestral.

Sombra Reposé mezcal reposado bottle and cocktails

Sombra Reposé

This unique mezcal represents a world first: A mezcal aged in Bordeaux wine casks. It doesn’t hurt that the bottle is also attractive.

Tanteo Navidad

There are just 5,000 bottles of Tanteo Navidad, an ultra-premium añejo tequila infused with the flavors of the holiday season: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cocoa beans, ginger, and pequin chilis.


With so many hard seltzer and canned cocktail brands hitting the market, it’s difficult picking just a few standout RTDs.

Karbach Brewing Ranch Water hard seltzers in cans

Karbach Brewing

When it comes to RTDs, Ranch Water was basically destined to end up in cans. As a blend of Topo Chico, tequila and lime, Ranch Water has a legitimate claim to the hard seltzer throne. Karbach Ranch Water is available in Original, Grapefruit, Meyer Lemon, Prickly Pear, and Watermelon. It’s also produced by a brewery in a state that knows a little somethin’ about Ranch Water: Texas.

Speaking of Texas…

Shiner Tall ‘Tails

Texas’ famous brewer has entered the hard seltzer space with four expressions based on classic cocktails: Texas Mule, Mexican Martini, Watermelon Margarita, and Ruby Red Paloma.


Given how easily drinkable sake is, I’m surprised there aren’t more RTD sakes on the market. Four cans of Junmai Ginjo WESAKE equal one bottle.


It’s always exciting to come across something new in any spirit category. The two selections below are from countries people don’t often think of when the topic of rum arises.


How about small-batch rum from the Philippines, aged seven years and produced by Alexandra Dorda. If that last name sounds familiar it’s likely because Alexandra is the daughter of Tad Dorda, co-founder of Belvedere and Chopin vodkas.

Phraya Deep Matured Gold Rum

When’s the last time you sipped a rum from Thailand? The answer is most likely never. A beautiful bottle of Phraya Deep Matured Gold Rum—aged seven to 12 years—can certainly fix that.

Zanj Rum Ak Zanj "with angels" Haitian rum

Zanj Rum Ak Zanj

The name of this expression of Haitian rum translates to “with angels” in Haitian Creole. Made using only pure sugarcane juice (no sugar added) and aged exclusively in Limousin oak barrels, Ak Zanj is characterized by caramel, fruit, vanilla and honey notes. The bottle also looks great on a back bar or home bar.


All eyes may seem to be on tequila, mezcal and whiskey, but the vodka category isn’t resting on its laurels. There have been a lot of innovations in this space, such as revisiting traditional processes, playing with flavoring, and even sourcing very specific grapes for production.

Belvedere Heritage 176 vodka

Belvedere Heritage 176

As the name suggests, Heritage 176 is an homage to the old ways of producing vodka. To that end, this expression makes use of malting or kiln-drying rye for deeper, more complex flavors.

Hangar 1 Smoke Point

Produced in partnership with Crimson Wine Group, Hangar 1 used smoke-tinged grapes affected by Norther California’s disastrous Glass Fire to create Smoke Point vodka.

Wild Roots Vodka

This corn-based vodka is made in the Pacific Northwest and infused with more than a pound of real fruit. There are several flavors available in addition to the neutral expression, such as winter-friendly Apple & Cinnamon and Cranberry.


This category isn’t just immensely popular, it’s immense in and of itself. It was difficult to narrow it down to just three selections, particularly when it came to bourbon.

Glenmorangie A Tale of Winter Scotch bottle

Glenmorangie A Tale of Winter

Your guests, staff, family and friends aren’t the only people who wear Christmas sweaters. A Tale of Winter grabs the eye during the holiday season with a label that looks like it’s ready for your restaurant, bar, nightclub or hotel’s holiday party. This Scotch encapsulates the season with notes of cocoa powder, orange toffee, clover, ginger, and cinnamon.

High West High Country Single Malt

It may be an oversimplification to call High Country Single Malt an homage to single malt Scotch but it’s still an accurate summation. When producing the distillery’s latest release, High West uses “on-the-grain” distillation, along with fresh-charred and second-use barrels during maturation.

Redemption Cognac Cask Finish

Bottled at 99 proof, this high-rye bourbon is aged in Pierre Ferrand Cognac barrels. Expect bold but elegant flavors with baking spices, rye and sweetness on the palate.

Woodford Reserve 2021 Holiday Bottle

Woodford Reserve 2021 Holiday Bottle

Every holiday and Kentucky special edition bottle of Woodford Reserve has been a winner. However, I find the artwork on this year’s holiday bottle by Nick Hirst to the best yet.


Well, in particular, sparkling wine. When it comes to celebrating, it’s hard to beat the craving for bubbles.

Dom Maria

You can’t go wrong with Dom Maria Brazilian Sparkling Brut or Rosé. The packaging is sleek, modern and makes a statement. Both DM expressions are 60 percent Chardonnay, 40 percent Pinot Noir.


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Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs

It’s fair to say that most people are most familiar with Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Époque bottles, adorned as they are with Japanese anemone flowers outlined in gold. However, on episode 56 of Bar Hacks, Maxime Lecocq says that when he sees someone order a bottle of Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs, “they know what they’re doing.”

Yarden Blanc de Blancs

Looking for a Kosher blanc de blancs option for the holiday season? Look no further than Yarden Blanc de Blancs produced by the Golan Heights Winery, currently releasing their 2012 vintage.

Low- and Zero-proof

There are a number of high-quality alcohol-free spirts, beers and other beverages out there. With that number growing, the biggest challenge is deciding which brands and expressions to pick as gifts and add to your menu.

The County Soda Co.

Much attention is paid to the spirits in cocktails, and for obvious reasons. However, crafting the best possible cocktail requires using the best possible ingredients. The County Soda Co. crafts “soda pop for adults” by using real cane sugar and juice concentrates, and by eschewing artificial sweeteners. Proudly produced in small batches in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada, County Soda includes flavors such as Root Beer, Cola, Ginger Ale, Blackcurrant Lime, and Orange Cream Soda.


This innovative brand is named for a bird famous for it’s accurate mimicry of its avian peers, and for good reason. Lyre’s crafts zero-proof expressions that taste like their full-proof counterparts, including sparkling wine and RTDs. You can even purchase cocktail kits that provide everything necessary to make alcohol-free Negronis, Espresso Martinis, and more.

To learn more, fire up episode 28 of Bar Hacks with Tim Rita.

Partake Radler

Ted Fleming started Partake Brewing partially out of frustration. He made the choice to live sober but had no intention of giving up socializing in bars with friends. Unfortunately, the options for alcohol-free beer were incredibly slim. So, he founded Partake Brewing to produce 0.3-percent craft beer. The highly sought-after Partake Radler is back just in time for the holidays!

Learn more from Ted Fleming on Bar Hacks episode 31.

Q Tropical Ginger Beer

How does a tropical take on ginger beer sound? To me, it sounds refreshingly different. I’m a big ginger beer fan, so Q Tropical Ginger Beer, with its agave, mango, passion fruit, and pineapple notes, is intriguing.

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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

Here Comes National American Beer Day!

Raise a Glass to National American Beer Day!

by David Klemt

Array of craft beers arranged on a wooden board for sampling

American beer drinkers, rejoice! National American Beer Day arrives on Thursday, October 27.

Celebrating America beer on this holiday, as you’re likely guessing, is fairly simple.

After all, the most important element of National America Beer Day is enjoying—*gasp!*—American beer. This is the holiday your beer program has been waiting for!

However, that begs an important question: Does America brew its own styles of beer?

German Beer Styles

People tend to most closely associate beer styles with Germany. And why shouldn’t they?

Just look at the beers Germany pioneered or otherwise made famous, not to mention Oktoberfest and German beer purity law:

  • Altbiers
  • Berliner Weisses
  • Bocks
  • Dunkels
  • Dunkelweizens
  • German Pilsners (It’s widely accepted that the Czech Republic invented Pilsner, also known as Bohemian Pilsner. German Pilsner is normally more bitter than Czech/Bohemian Pilsner, and a bit lighter-bodied. Also, remember that all Pilsners are Lagers.)
  • Goses
  • Hefeweizens
  • Kölsches
  • Lager (This is the most popular style of beer in the world. Depending on who you talk to, Britain, Bavaria, Germany or Austria invented the first lager.)
  • Märzens
  • Schwarzbiers
  • Weizenbocks

That’s a whole lotta beer styles, and that’s not even every style of beer credited to Germany. Therefore, it wouldn’t have been right to simply jump into American beer styles.

American Beer Styles

So, did German brewers leave anything for Americans to invent or make their own?

Of course they did! Americans have taken to beer brewing like macaroni takes to cheese (what? just go with it):

  • American Adjunct Lagers
  • American Amber Ales
  • American Blonde Ales, aka Golden Ales
  • American Brown Ales
  • American Hefeweizens, aka American Pale Wheat Ales
  • American Pale Ales, aka APAs
  • American Red Ales
  • American Stout
  • Cream Ales
  • Imperial Pilsners
  • Imperial Porter
  • India Pale Ales (Before you aim your pitchfork at me, I know the first IPAs were brewed in Britain. However, there’s no denying that the American craft beer scene has put their fingerprints all over this style with a vast array of substyles.)
  • Session IPAs
  • Steam Beers, aka California Commons (Of all styles, this is considered a wholly American creation.)

Now, before the beer snobs say that brewers in the US can’t just put “American” in front of an established beer style and claim it as their own, that’s really not what’s happening.

American brewers find inspiration in the “original” beer styles. That’s undeniable. That doesn’t mean they don’t innovate; American brewers have made some styles even more famous.

As stated above, a perfect example is the IPA. American IPA is a distinct style, differentiating itself from the original style. Additionally, it has been joined by Black IPA, Double IPA, White IPA, and other creative variations.

Celebrate National American Beer Day

Unlike debating who first brewed what beers, which countries should get to claim which beer styles, and what constitutes a unique beer style (should triple and quadruple IPAs be seen as actual styles?), celebrating National American Beer Day is simple.

At this restaurant and bar holiday’s core, all you have to do is showcase the American beers you have on offer.

If you want to go deeper, highlight the village, town, city or state each beer calls home.

And if you’d like to really go hard, pair them with uniquely American fare. Truly go HAM by pairing select beers with their hometown delicacies.

Make sure your draft lines and glasses are beer-clean and beer-ready, tap your guest database to send out marketing emails and texts, promote your celebration on social media, and let the beer flow.

Image: Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Father’s Day Food & Beer Pairings

Father’s Day Food & Beer Pairings

by David Klemt

Burger with onion rings and beer

Father’s Day is right around the corner and while it isn’t usually quite as busy as Mother’s Day, this year could be different.

After all, states and provinces are reopening, and the weather is getting warmer. In fact, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that restaurants and bars are no longer subject to social distancing restrictions.

And hey, who isn’t looking for an excuse to get out and return to restaurants and bars?

Now, I’m going to assume that most operators who plan to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend have their promotions in place. However, to help give those promos a boost, I want to share beer pairings for classic Father’s Day menu items.

Of course, these pairings work well on any day of the week, and they’re in no way limited to dads. Anyone who enjoys beer will appreciate operators putting an emphasis on food and beer pairings.


One of the most popular foods, particularly for those seeking out comfort, burgers and an array of beers go together. For a classic hamburger, suggest an IPA, APA or Lager. Known for your mushroom and Swiss cheese burger? Brown ales, amber ales and porters work well. Pale ales go well with bacon burgers, and wheat ales and Witbier pair with veggie burgers.


Fried chicken is certainly right up there with burgers in terms of comfort foods. And it’s certainly great for Father’s Day. Suggest pairing fried chicken with a Kölsch, Märzen, Helles, and Hefeweizen. For barbecue chicken, recommend a light lager, Pilsner, Saison, Hefeweizen and Witbier. Honey glazed chicken (baked or as wings) work very well with a Kölsch.


If you have ribs on the menu, there are a few ways to go with beer pairings. Porters, stouts and German lagers are medium- to full-bodied and can stand up to bold, rich flavors and compliment smoke. On the other hand, pale ales and IPAs (lighter versions tend to work better) are lighter but can compliment barbecue flavors as well. Porters and American pale ales sip well with pulled pork sandwiches. A Märzen, Hefeweizen or Porter pairs nicely with pork chops.


Just like there are several cuts of beef for steaks, there are several beer types that pair well with steak. Brown ales, stouts, porters, IPAs, lagers and IPAs work well for different reasons. Cuts that are more flavorful (ribeye, top sirloin, porterhouse, T-bone) pair well with darker beers (generally speaking). But cuts like filet mignon, known to be lighter in flavor, work well with lighter beers (some lagers and IPAs).


Much like steak, seafood presents plenty of variety for beer drinkers. You’ll find that Pilsners compliment many different types of seafood. Generally speaking, lobster dishes pair well with a Pilsner or an IPA (that isn’t too assertive). Pilsners work great with an array of fish, so suggest one with your fish and chips or tilapia. When it comes to many crab dishes, lagers and—yep—Pilsners are excellent recommendations. Wheat beers pair well with mussels, and sours and Goses drink well with oysters.

Grilled Vegetables

When it comes to grilled and charred vegetables, dark beers with roast coffee, malty and chocolate flavors pair very well. Imperial stouts can certainly hold their own with grilled, roasted and charred veggies. However, black lagers and porters are lighter than imperial stouts with similar flavor characteristics, meaning they won’t overpower the vegetables.

Of course, the best way to make winning pairing suggestions is to try them yourself. Even better, include kitchen staff, servers and bartenders and get their feedback. There’s no substitute for being able to make pairing recommendations based on personal experience.

Image: Edward Franklin on Unsplash