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Program for Unique Holidays: March 2024

Program for Unique Holidays: March 2024

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you think about your March holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and this month is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our February 2024 holidays list, click here.

March 5: Cinco de Marcho

Supposedly, this holiday is meant to “train the livers” of people planning on getting slightly wild on March 17. They have 12 days to get ready to party.

Well, we at KRG Hospitality think this sounds a bit irresponsible. We don’t want any operators or their teams to run into any legal trouble. So, I recommend offering a spin on the Coronarita as a nearly two-week-long LTO.

Build a Margarita with Irish whiskey, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and agave syrup. Serve it in a salt-rimmed pint glass, schooner, or mason jar. Invert a Harp Lager, Smithwick’s Pale Ale, or Guinness Blonde Lager in the glass.

March 7: National Crown Roast of Pork Day

Here’s a fun one based on a culinary classic. Put simply, a crown roast is anywhere from a dozen to nearly two dozen pork rib chops. When arranged in a circle, they look like a crown.

It’s old school, and it’s certainly a shareable dish. Dress this LTO up with a wine pairing, or dress it down with a bucket of beers.

March 8: National Proofreading Day

Your menu is a billboard. It’s a crucial marketing and branding tool. So, it can be embarrassing when there are typos and other issues on your menu.

If you don’t want to proofread it yourself, or you just want to engage your guests, put a “bounty” on misspellings and grammatical errors on your menu. Watch how quickly any mistakes are found, if any exist.

March 14: National Potato Chip Day

Housemade potato chips are among the best appetizers and sides. If your kitchen team is up for it, consider housemade chips as an LTO side. Think about making them a permanent (or semi-permanent) addition to your menu if all goes well.

March 18: National Sloppy Joe Day

So, it’s March 18. Some people may have gotten after it pretty hard for St. Patrick’s Day. They need comfort food.

If your kitchen team can make delicious Sloppy Joe’s from scratch (maybe served with housemade potato chips), they may be just what the doctor ordered.

March 19: National Poultry Day

Does your restaurant or bar serve dishes featuring poultry? Guess what you should do on this day…

March 21: World Vermouth Day

The days of low-quality vermouth are gone. For a few years not at least, people have discovered that premium vermouth makes a great cocktail base. This holds particularly true for low-ABV drinks, like reverse cocktails.

March 22: National Goof Off Day

This year, National Goof Off Day falls on a Friday. Really, that timing couldn’t be much better.

Encourage your guests to set aside their responsibilitiesas long as it won’t get them firedand goof off at your bar.

March 29: Smoke and Mirrors Day

When a cocktail is served with smoke, people take notice. Often times, when one is served, people watching the show want one of their own.

This is the perfect holiday to show off your smoking cocktails. To really embrace the holiday, smoke and serve them in a glass and chrome smoker box. By the way, these boxes work well when it comes to smoking food items, too.

March 31: National Tater Day

Much like poultry day, I bet you can figure out what to do on National Tater Day. Celebrate the potato! Tater tot nachos? Done. Sriracha French fries? Awesome. Fully loaded potato skins and baked potatoes? Classics.

Get creative. The humble potato is a fantastic canvas for enticing dishes.

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

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Update Your Margs with Mezcal and Sotol

Update Your Margaritas with Mezcal, Sotol, and More!

by David Klemt

Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal bottle on a drinks tray

We all know how to make a classic Margarita, so for this National Margarita Day we want to put some new recipes and ingredients on your radar.

The cocktail recipes below swap out the tequila for mezcal and sotol.

For a quick refresher, all tequila is mezcal in a technical sense. Mezcal is made with agave plants. Tequila producers use a specific agave plant, Blue Weber. Further, tequila must be produced in one of five Mexican states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, or Tamaulipas.

Then we have sotol. You may have seen sotol thrown in with agave spirits on cocktail or spirits roundups. To clarify, however, sotol is a typo of shrub known as the desert spoon, and it’s not an agave plant.

So, all tequila is mezcal, mezcal is agave, and sotol is…sotol.

Swap Out the Tequila

Being National Margarita Day, you certainly need to have a classic Margarita on your menu. It’s all the better if your bar team makes them so well and so consistently that really, your top-selling Marg is one of your signature cocktails.

That said, it’s also a good idea to play with classics to give your guests new drinks to discover. The two recipes below are two great examples of riffs on the classic Margarita that should get your and your bar team’s creative wheels turning.

Allow me to introduce you to Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal and Nocheluna Sotol, if you’re not already acquainted.

Contraluz lays claim to the title of “world’s first cristalino mezcal.” Made from 100 percent espadín agave, this is a crystal-clear, small-batch reposado mezcal. On the nose, expect aromas of agave, along with citrus and floral notes. You may also detect smoke, cedar, and honey. In terms of flavor, Contraluz delivers notes of vanilla, clove, cacao, and cooked agave, with a sweet, long finish.

The second cocktail below is made with Nocheluna Sotol, which is crafted using 100-percent wild sotol from Chihuahuan desert. This particular sotol is the result of a collaboration between a fourth-generation master vintner, and a master distiller.

A unique spirit, Nocheluna delivers a delicate balance of sweet, herbal, dried fruit, and mineral notes. These notes come through via both the aroma and taste, although you may detect oak and smoke as well. Interestingly, Nocheluna says the finish may include a taste of pecan wood, along with wet earth.

 

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A post shared by Nocheluna Sotol (@nochelunasotol)

But Wait, There’s More!

Along with Contraluz and Nocheluna, you’ll see three bottles that may be new to you below. The Light and Soul cocktail calls for Alma Finca Orange Liqueur, Nixta Licor de Elote, and HAGAVE Spiced Nectar.

The first is an orange liqueur produced by the same company that makes Montelobos Mezcal. The second liqueur, Nixta Elote, is essentially liquid elote seasoning, and it comes in a fantastic corn-shaped bottle. Finally, HAGAVE is exactly what it says on the label: a premium, spiced agave mixer.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely plan to get my hands on each of these bottles. Just imagine what you can do to engage with your guests by introducing them to a crystal-clear, artisanal mezcal, an expertly crafted sotol, and liquid elote in a corn bottle.

Cheers!

Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal, Light and Soul cocktail

Light and Soul

  • 2.0 oz. Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal
  • 0.5 oz. Alma Finca Orange Liqueur (or a triple sec or different orange liqueur if unavailable)
  • 0.5 oz. Nixta Licor de Elote
  • 1 oz. Lime cordial
  • 0.5 oz. HAGAVE Spiced Nectar

Place a large ice cube or sphere in a rocks glass. Add all liquid ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into the prepared rocks glass. Garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.

Nocheluna Sotol cocktail, the Sotolita

Sotolita

  • 1.5 oz. Nocheluna Sotol
  • 1.0 oz. Triple sec
  • 1.0 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. Apple juice
  • Apple slices to garnish
  • Chiltepin salt for rim (sea salt blend with chiltepin peppers)

Prepare a rocks glass by adding quality ice and rimming it with chiltepin salt. Add ice to a shaker, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake well, then strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with an apple-slice fan.

Images provided by LaFORCE

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5 Books to Read this Month: February 2024

5 Books to Read this Month: February 2024

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

Our inspiring and informative February book selections will help you and your team transform your operations, business acumen, and F&B programming.

This month, we look at books covering an array of topics: design; learning to negotiate better; learning cocktail balance and build techniques; and finding your inner chef.

To review the book recommendations from January 2024, click here.

Let’s jump in!

Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life

This book was co-authored by the late Stephen R. Kellert, one of the developers of the biophilic design methodology. To learn more about biophilic design, click here. Then, pick up this book.

From Amazon: “This book offers a paradigm shift in how we design and build our buildings and our communities, one that recognizes that the positive experience of natural systems and processes in our buildings and constructed landscapes is critical to human health, performance, and well-being. Biophilic design is about humanity’s place in nature and the natural world’s place in human society, where mutuality, respect, and enriching relationships can and should exist at all levels and should emerge as the norm rather than the exception.”

The Cocktail Balance

Written by Stanislav Harcinik, The Cocktail Balance is about more than building cocktails. Readers will learn about the role senses play in cocktails and balance, along with presentation and service.

From thecocktailbalance.com: “My work isn’t focused solely on experienced bartenders, students are part of the target group. By including potential new bartenders, this book wishes to push the upcoming students into a broader, more creative mindset. The book itself is divided into 3 main sections – theory, practical part and legacy from the best bartenders in Slovakia. Theory, contains the basics and building blocks that allow the development of a professional approach, it also focuses on how to present yourself and how to take care of guests. Whereas in the practical section, readers will be able to learn to price a cocktail and to effectively go through a structured creative process. Other chapters also include gastrophysics and neurogastronomy. In other words how an aroma, a physical characteristics, a sound as well as visual stimulation affect the final flavour of a cocktail, and create a comprehensive and unforgettable experience for guests.”

Pick up your copy today.

Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers, and Classics Hacked with Science

Some bar professionals and guests like to understand the “why” behind what they consume. Why does this taste good? Why and how do certain processes affect spirits? Kevin Liu’s book answers these questions, and more. On top of that, there are 65 recipes to try.

From Amazon: “In Craft Cocktails at Home, you’ll embark upon a one-of-a-kind journey as you learn how to make some of the world’s most innovative, unique, and delicious cocktails. Taste scientists, engineers, and talented bartenders with decades of experience all contributed their expertise to create this must-have guide for novices and professionals alike. Ever wondered what makes water taste good? Curious about what really happens during the barrel-aging process? Interested in which “molecular” ingredients have the best texture? These questions and more, answered inside.”

Order the paperback here.

The Forgotten Chef

Simply put, this book is intended to inspire younger generations to pursue cooking as a career. If you know someone who has an interest in cooking but hasn’t taken steps to become a chef, this is the book you should gift them.

From Amazon: “The book moves quickly through food stories, tips and techniques to inspire and ignite the passion of its targeted reader. Through anecdotal food related stories, the book covers important topics such as the right mindset for cooking success, quality over quantity, kitchen organization (mise en place), kitchen tools (the Dirty Thirty), the celebrity chef conundrum (why people get discouraged in their cooking journey), introduction to knife skills/care, cookbook basics, food preservation and safety and other fun chapters such as saving Grandma’s recipes from extinction, the lost art of sharing (food), and the new-old method of cooking, sous vide.”

Click here to order the paperback.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Everyone needs to know how to negotiate. It’s a valuable skill not just for business but for life in general. Getting to Yes is a how-to manual that teaches you the art of negotiation, a skill you’ll need to develop if you’re an entrepreneur, aspiring business owner, or professional looking to progress in their career. And, as I’ve already said, it will help you in situations you’ll find yourself in outside of business.

From Amazon: “Getting to Yes offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight- forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry-or getting taken.”

Get it today.

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The Drink to Dethrone the Espresso Martini

Will this Drink Dethrone the Espresso Martini?

by David Klemt

A coffee cocktail sitting on top of a bar

If we’re to take what industry pundits and cocktail aficionados are saying, 2024 may be the year that the Espresso Martini falls from grace.

Alright, that may be a bit dramatic. However, maybe we won’t read about how the Espresso Martini is having yet another “moment” this year.

Instead, it’s possible that 2024 will be the Year of the Carajillo.

This incredibly simple cocktail is receiving as muchif not morehype than the Negroni Sbagliato did in 2022. Only this time, bartenders may not roll their eyes whenever they hear someone mention it.

Before I dive into the Carajillo, a bit of clarification. I’m not anti-Espresso Martini. It isn’t like I think I’m above enjoying one of these not-Martinis from time to time. And I’m sure it makes registers ring plenty at bars around the world.

However, it seems like we’re told we’re in the midst of the Espresso Martini’s latest moment every time fall or winter comes around. Look, this is a modern classic that has been around for decades. It’s not “having a moment,” it has simply reached ubiquity.

So, the idea that a perhaps lesser-known coffee cocktail can have its moment this year is exciting. (And a bit of a relief.)

Let’s cannonball into the Carajillo!

Not So Simple

When you do a cursory search for the Carajillo you’ll encounter quite a few absolutes.

For example, there are people who say the drink only and always consists of hot espresso and Licor 43. You may read that the ratio is always one to one.

However, there’s more nuance surrounding the Carajillo.

This deceptively simple cocktail comes to us from Spain. From what I can find, it’s often a cold drink that varies from country to country, region to region. In Spain, it’s commonly coffee and brandy in a two-to-one ratio. Order one in Cuba and it will likely be a rum cocktail rather than brandy. In Mexico, while Licor 43 is said to be the standard, it’s not uncommon for mezcal or a coffee liqueur to accompany the coffee.

Now, as I’ve said, you’ll come across sources that say a Mexican Carajillo is espresso and Licor 43. So, let’s go with that recipe for now.

It’s a simple build: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add two ounces of hot espresso or other hot coffee and two ounces of Licor 43. Shake until well chilled, then strain into a rocks glass. The shake should form a foamy head. Some people garnish with three coffee beans.

Make it Yours

Of course, there’s room to play with this recipe. You and bar team can change the ratio, change the garnish, experiment with glassware, replace the Licor 43 with another liqueur, add an ingredient…

As an example of the latter suggestion, Cazadores produces a coffee liqueur, Cazadores Café. This can replace Licor 43 or work alongside it.

Just know that if you replace the original liqueur, you’re missing out on a blend of 43 botanicals. That means your Carajillo will taste much different than the standard Mexican build. In that case, is it still a Carajillo?

Well, that’s up to your guests to decide, I suppose.

There are bars that make their Carajillo with cream, brandy, and Licor 43. Some serve theirs with a small bowl of sugar so guests can sweeten them to their liking.

At some bars, the build calls for heating the liqueur or base spirit with lemon and sugar. Others make Carajillos with mint and amaro.

So, you and your bartenders can do what has been done with the Espresso Martini: Alter the Carajillo to create your signature version. You can also simply serve the traditional build.

Or, and this is my recommendation, you can serve traditional Carajillos and offer one or more signature variations.

Cheers!

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Drink Donnybrook: Brandy Alexander

Drink Donnybrook: Brandy Alexander

by David Klemt

Bartender straining cocktail into glass

The classic Brandy Alexander cocktail, which we celebrate at the end of this month, is slowly approaching a century since its first appearance.

That is, of course, if we go solely by the first time this creamy cocktail’s recipe was printed in a book. For the curious, the book is Cafe Royal Cocktail Book by William J. Tarling. And that book was first published in 1937. Notably, Tarling’s book was published by the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild.

Now, since you’re reading this you know this is a new entry in the Drink Donnybrook series. So, you know that the Brandy Alexander’s history is unclear. You also know, if this isn’t you’re first time reading one of these articles, that I love a cocktail with a shadowy origin.

We do know, however, that the Brandy Alexander belongs to the Duos and Trios cocktail family. Per Gaz Regan, a Duo is a base spirit plus a liqueur. Add a cream or cream liqueur to the Duo and you get a Trio, which describes the Brandy Alexander.

Let’s dive into this creamy cocktail’s creation.

Firsts

The Brandy Alexander is itself a riff on a cocktail that predates its appearance in Cafe Royal Cocktail Book by twenty years.

First, there was the Alexander. This predecessor is made with gin. According to my deep dive, the gin-based recipe first appeared in Recipes For Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin in 1917.

As time went on and more cocktail recipe books were published, something interesting happened. The gin-based recipe would commonly be referred to as Alexander #1, or the first recipe. As you may have already guessed, the brandy version would be listed as Alexander #2.

Per Tomas Curras, cocktail books seem to have changed the naming convention to Alexander and Brandy Alexander some time in the 1970s.

Of the two recipes, it appears that the Brandy Alexander is the more popular. So, while it didn’t show up first, it has taken first place (allegedly) among the Alexander cocktails.

But there’s another first within the Alexander lore, as you’ll see below.

Who Done It?

Prepare to have your mind blown: We don’t know.

At best, we think we know the creator of the gin Alexander, a.k.a. Alexander #1. I say “think” because better cocktail historians than I can’t say for certain that we know the Alexander’s creator.

However, the assumption does make a great deal of sense. It’s believed that Troy Alexander—check out that surname—invented what could be the eponymous cocktail in New York City at a restaurant called Rector’s.

This would place the first Alexander’s creation some time between 1899 and 1918, the years Rector’s was in operation. Rector’s, by the way, was the first restaurant in NYC to feature a revolving door.

Alexander created the cocktail for a party celebrating a successful ad campaign featuring the fictitious character Phoebe Snow. Snow, white…white cocktail.

But who was the first person to swap out the gin for brandy in the Alexander? It’s feasible that it was Troy Alexander, of course. If it wasn’t him, well…we don’t know who decided to substitute brandy for gin.

There’s more mystery surrounding the drink’s name, as well. Some say the Brandy Alexander is a nod to Russian tsar Alexander II. Or perhaps it honors Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary. The classic could also pay homage to critic Alexander Woollcott (a claim he made himself) or Grover Cleveland Alexander, pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1911 to 1917.

So, there you have it: a mystery to share with your guests when they come to your bar or restaurant for your Brandy Alexander Day promotion on January 31. Cheers!

The Recipe

Interestingly, there’s some room to play with this classic. Some people follow the equal parts rule, some add a bit more brandy than creme de cacao or cocoa. Others double the amount of brandy.

You and your bar team should play with the measurements to create your signature take on the Brandy Alexander.

At any rate, fill a shaker with ice then add one, one-and-a-half, or two ounces of brandy, one ounce of the creme de cacao of your choice, and one ounce of cream. Shake until well chilled, then strain into cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

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Irish Distilleries You Need to Know

Irish Distilleries You Need to Know in 2024

by David Klemt

7-Year-Old Single Malt Mizunara Finish in Wicklow, Ireland

On Thursday, January 25, we honor a simple but delicious cocktail that can trace its roots back to Europe and the middle of the 19th century.

A bartender can serve this drink hot, chilled, or iced. And until somewhat recently, a bartender usually makes this cocktail with a spirit from one of just a few producers.

I’m talking about the venerable Irish Coffee.

Now, this could make for an interesting Drink Donnybrook. However, I’m going to focus on shining a spotlight on some Irish distilleries and labels you and your bar team should have on your radar.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making an Irish Coffee with one of the usual suspects. Indeed, it’s perfectly acceptable—traditional, even—to make yours with Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, or Powers.

But while there’s nothing wrong with playing to expectations, making the choice to offer something different can set you, your team, and your venue apart.

As our buddy Chef Brian Duffy says, operators can charge premium menu prices only if they innovate. Pairing a lesser-known Irish whiskey with a local coffee roaster’s coffee would be an innovation that falls in line with Chef Duffy’s approach to pricing.

There are other ways to build an Irish Coffee as a premium cocktail. The quality of the whipped cream, for instance, is a consideration. For example, whipping the cream in front of guests is a premium touch.

Not the Usual Suspects

A lot is going on with Irish distilleries. We have more choice than we’ve had in several decades.

Check these Irish distilleries out today:

Several of these distilleries also produce other spirits, such as gin and vodka. And, of course, not every distillery produces spirits that are available to the US and Canada, currently.

Still, it’s good to be aware of these distilleries and their brands so we can encourage suppliers to bring them to North America and beyond.

To learn more about Glendalough Distillery in particular, please listen to the Bar Hacks podcast episode below:

Hot Coffee

Let’s assume you’re going to with piping hot coffee, not serve your Irish Coffee on ice or frozen.

You’re going to want to ensure your glassware is heat resistant, of course. Let’s not burn the hands of our guests.

To that heat-resistant glassware, add one-and-a-half to two ounces of Irish whiskey. Next, add two to four teaspoons of sugar, or a half- to two-thirds-ounce of demerara syrup. Add three to four ounces of hot coffee, then top with quality whipped cream. When I say add the cream, I mean an inch or so, not just a wee bit.

You’ll notice that I’m using ranges of measurements. This is because you’re going to want to play around with your Irish Coffee to make it one of your signatures. That includes selecting your sweetener, whether that translates to brown sugar, syrup, or something else.

Now, if you’re after something different, check out the Frozen Irish Coffee from Erin Rose in New Orleans, or the recipe for the Dead Rabbit‘s Irish Coffee.

Cheers!

Image: Glendalough Distillery

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The Shrinking Globe: 2024 Food Trends

The Shrinking Globe: 2024 European Food Trends

by David Klemt

Loaded sweet potato fries bowl

It should come as no surprise that 2024 F&B trends are similar throughout Europe and the UK to those taking hold in North America.

Why do I refer to Europe and the UK separately? I’m aware that the UK is part of Europe. Regionally, one can think of the nation as northwestern Europe.

However, while geographers consider the UK part of Europe, many citizens of the UK don’t see things that simply. So, that’s why I mention the continent and nation separately.

With that out of the way: 2024 F&B trends. People like to say that the world is getting “smaller,” that the devices in our hands are making everything more accessible. That certainly seems to be the case with food and drink.

What you’ll likely notice is that the trends below follow what experts predict for North America rather closely. As David Allison says, people have far more in common with one another than they have differences.

The Consumer

Plants

I think it’s fair to say that plant-based diet mockery is defined by two characteristics.

One, people seem to aim their ridicule toward Americans. And two, it’s cliché at this point.

Much of the world already embraces plant-based diets. That doesn’t mean they’re only either vegetarian or vegan, either.

Estimates for how much of the world consists of flexitarians can reach over 40 percent. This particular diet limits or restricts the intake of animal-based foods. However, it’s not like veganism; flexitarians do consume some animal products. One can say that it’s a very individual diet. In fact, I doubt many flexitarians actually refer to themselves with that label.

Interestingly, though, plant-based brands must innovate if they’re going to succeed with consumers in Europe and the UK.

Hey, what do you know? That’s how it is in North America.

Now that plant-based protein alternatives are here to stay, people want to see innovative analogs.

They’ve seen nuggets and fingers. Burgers and patties aren’t anything new. People want plant-based counterparts for everything: seafood, steak, pork, etc.

Health & Wellness

Here’s a frighteningly hot take: People in Europe and the UK are concerned with their health. Shocking!

For the past few years, much has been made about North Americans and their “renewed” focus on their health and wellness. This is, of course, for obvious reasons.

Well, we can say the same about Europeans and Britons.

Generally speaking, people are trying to reduce their intake of processed foods. This ties to the section above in that many plant-based foods are highly processed. Brands will need to address this to achieve long-term success.

Along with avoiding processed foods, consumers in Europe and the UK are seeking out dishes that are higher in protein and fiber.

Across generations and Europe, people realize that a healthy diet is the top factor in feeling healthier.

The Operator

Happy Balance

Europeans and Britons have centuries upon centuries of history and tradition to contend with throughout their countries.

In some markets, this can lead to conflict or the misconception that operators can’t innovate.

This is, of course, an outdated way of thinking.

Whether operating in the UK or Europe, operators are embracing tech and finding ways to honor tradition while experimenting with the modern.

From the back of the house to the front, chefs and bartenders are drawing inspiration from culinary traditions. However, they’re also getting creative to put their own spins on the menu.

Perhaps more importantly, the guests they’re serving want to try these innovations.

From consumer-facing tech that enhances their visits to creative menu items that find inspiration from around the world, today’s guest is hungry and thirsty for what’s new. This is true regardless of how old and traditional a location may be.

Color

Just a few months ago, Frankfurt, Germany, played host to Food Ingredients Europe 2023.

One of the takeaways from last year’s show that stood out to me is the interest in color.

According to one market development specialist, it appears that Gen Z in Europe and the UK are over boring, bland shades. Instead, they want to be colorful.

From interior and physical menu design to food and drink items, European and British operators can deliver on that desire.

Of course, taking one’s concept in a more colorful direction necessitates knowing one’s guests. So, this is where exceptional service despite concept or category and robust tech platforms come into play.

If bold color is authentic to a concept and resonates with the guests, it could be time to reach out to an interior designer.

Speaking of reaching out, if you’re in Europe or the UK, have a concept you want to open or are already open and need some assistance, KRG Hospitality is excited to announce that we’re entering markets within both regions. Please contact uswe’re here to help.

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The Sixth: Art of ITALICUS Returns

The Sixth: Art of ITALICUS Returns for 2024

by David Klemt

ITALICUS bottle surrounded by citrus fruits

Your bar team members have the opportunity to participate in the sixth-annual Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge and win an invaluable prize.

There are multiple prizes, really. For example, national finals winners take the title of ITALICUS Bar Artist for their country, for 2024. They also walk away with a ticket to the global finals, which take place in Rome.

After the global finals, one winner will earn the title ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024. However, taking nothing away from this title, there’s another prize that I feel should drive every competitor to truly outshine their competition.

The ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year will head to the incredible Cafe La Trova in Miami to participate in a mentorship program. Given that Julio Cabrera is such an influential member of the hospitality world, this prize represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Now, as an operator or leadership team member, you may wonder what this news has to do with you. It’s simple: Encouraging your bartenders to participate in this competition and others like it shows you care about their career progression.

Bar team members who want to take part in competitions get to show off their creativity to a wider audience, become known to brands, and network with peers outside of their local communities. They can also discover and bring back tips, techniques, and lessons to your bar, restaurant, nightclub, or hotel.

In this case, one bartender will return to their bar or restaurant with lessons from the Cafe La Trova team. That’s priceless insight that will benefit their entire team.

For crucial competition details, please read the Art of the ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge press release below.

Good luck to all of the participants!

ART OF ITALICUS APERITIVO CHALLENGE RETURNS FOR 2024 IN PURSUIT OF THE BEST ART-INSPIRED APERITIVO COCKTAIL

New York, NY (January 9, 2024) – Today, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge returns for its sixth edition, inviting bartenders from around the world to create an original and unique aperitivo cocktail inspired by any form of art and crafted using ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto.

The Winner of the renowned industry challenge will be crowned ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024 and win a trip to Miami for a once in a lifetime mentorship program with Cafe La Trova by Julio Cabrera. Nominated in 2023 as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars, Cafe La Trova is the true embodiment of hospitality, welcoming guests with impeccable warmth, attention to detail and service, crafting a truly memorable experience for anyone who visits. The “cantinero culture,” which is synonymous with the venue, embraces the most important values of the cocktail industry, making it the perfect inspiration for the new Art of Italicus participants. As part of the prize, the 2024 ITALICUS Bar Artist will have the opportunity to experience what makes this bar truly special and discover one of the most vibrant art cultures in Miami’s iconic surroundings.

Reflecting the brand’s passion for Italian art and design, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge is built on the belief that bartenders are artists and offers them the opportunity to expand their creativity whilst experimenting with new ingredients, techniques and glassware to showcase the versatility of ITALICUS. Each recipe must be in an aperitivo style and can be inspired by any form of art such as sculpture, painting, fashion, music, architecture and much more.

The competition will welcome entrants from 13 countries including Croatia/Slovenia, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Swiss, United Kingdom and the United States. Bartenders from other countries will be able to apply through a Wild Card entry, offering them the opportunity to win a spot at the global final in May in Rome.

Giuseppe Gallo, founder and CEO of ITALICUS, comments:

“Now in its sixth year, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge celebrates aperitivo culture while encouraging bartenders to express their creativity, looking to art in its various forms as way of inspiration. Meeting with the industry’s emerging talent through this program gives me a great deal of pride and is something I hope continues for many years as a way of keeping our community connected, working together and empowering one another.”

The 2024 Competition

Competitors are tasked with creating an original aperitivo cocktail using a minimum of 40ml (1.5oz in US) of ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto and a maximum of five ingredients. Participating bartenders must upload their unique recipe alongside an image of their creation including measurements, garnishes and glassware recommendations to the competition website before February 20, 2024 in order to be in with a chance of winning. Competitors are also required to share their inspiration and the story behind their aperitivo cocktail and encouraged to suggest food pairings for their recipe.

Applications for The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge 2024 will be open from January 9 through February 20. Recipes can be submitted via the website: https://imbibemagazine.com/art-of-italicus/.

Entrants are also encouraged to share their creations on social media ahead of the competition, using the following hashtags: #ITALICUS #ROSOLIODIBERGAMOTTO #ARTOFITALICUS #AOI24

National Finals

The national finals will take place throughout March and April (March 4 – April 12) where the eight shortlisted bartenders will present their cocktail creation to the judging panel across eight minutes and including at least three serves. The winner of the national final will receive the title of ITALICUS Bar Artist of their country 2024 along with a ticket to participate in the global final which will be held in Rome.

Global Finals

On May 12, the national finalists will compete against one another in Rome in a bid to earn the coveted title of ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024 as well as a once in a lifetime opportunity and mentorship with one of the world’s most influential bars, Cafe La Trova by Julio Cabrera. During the trip to Miami, the winning bartender will be accompanied by a film crew who will document their experience and create a documentary video which will later be released on social media.

For further information on The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge, please visit www.artofitalicus.com.

Image: ITALICUS

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

WhistlePig Launches Dank January

WhistlePig Launches Dank January

by David Klemt

WhistlePig Dank Dank & Dry Old Fashioned Cocktail

You’ve heard of Dry January but WhistlePig Whiskey wants to usher in Dank January, and they’re giving back to bartenders to make it happen.

The craft whiskey producer, a finalist in the second annual Liquor Awards for Sustainable Producer of the Year, has released a head-turning new alcohol-free expression.

Already sold out at the time of publication, the limited edition Dank & Dry Old Fashioned promises a unique drinking experience. Luckily, we secured our Hot Box Bundle (information below) prior to this terpene-supercharged bottle selling out.

This eccentric bottle features reverse-distilled WhistlePig Piggyback Rye, which becomes Rye Non-Whiskey. WhistlePig blended the alcohol-free non-whiskey with barrel-aged maple syrup. Of course, that in and of itself would make for a fantastic bottled craft cocktail. However, its another ingredient that really stands out.

WhistlePig added what they’re calling Old Fashioned Terpenes to the non-whiskey and syrup. These terpenes were cultivated from cannabis that had been grown in whiskey barrels. To create the Old Fashioned Terpenes, the terpenes from the barrel-grown cannabis were isolated by Satori Premium Cannabis, a producer located in Vermont.

Before anyone rushes to any conclusions, no, Dank & Dry won’t get you high. Terpenes are aromatic compounds, not psychoactive. So, this limited edition bottled cocktail won’t get you drunk, high, or otherwise buzzed.

What it will do, I suspect, is deliver a truly unique flavor experience. I’ll report back with my thoughts after it arrives and I get to sit with it for a bit.

This bottle is also helping bartenders as 100-percent of Dank & Dry proceeds are set to go to Turning Tables. With any luck, WhistlePig will be inspired to bring this bottle back for every Dry (or Dank) January going forward.

Dank January is the New Dry January with WhistlePig’s Non-Alc, Terpene Maple Old Fashioned

World’s First Dank & Dry Cocktail Puff-Puff-Passes 100% of Proceeds to Bartenders

SHOREHAM, Vt.–WhistlePig Whiskey, the leader in independent craft whiskey, is highjacking Dry January with a Limited Edition Dank & Dry Old Fashioned Cocktail. Known for pushing the boundaries of whiskey making to craft the world’s best and most interesting whiskeys, WhistlePig is elevating the non-alcoholic cocktail experience with the addition of non-psychoactive cannabis terpenes to its signature Barrel Aged Maple Old Fashioned recipe. 100% of the proceeds of this Dank January Limited Edition will benefit the bartending community.

Crafted with 100% Rye Non-Whiskey, Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup and Vermont Cannabis Terpenes, the new terps non-alc is a salad bowl of superior ingredients never-before-seen in a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned. WhistlePig’s reverse distilled PiggyBack Rye ‘Non-Whiskey’ is balanced with Barrel-Aged Maple and locally sourced Old Fashioned Terpenes for a chronic non-alc cocktail experience. The non-psychoactive terpenes were cultivated from cannabis grown in whiskey barrels, and isolated by Satori Premium Cannabis in the Green Mountain State.

“At the intersection of non-alc and cannabis trends, terpenes offer a new frontier for flavor that we couldn’t resist experimenting with,” said Meghan Ireland, WhistlePig Head Blender. “The results are fire, with terpenes adding aromas and mouthfeel that are often missing from non-alc innovation. Whether you’re still walking the hog, enjoying the electric lettuce, or abstaining altogether, WhistlePig fans do not have to miss out on a great tasting Old Fashioned this January.”

WhistlePig’s Dank & Dry Old Fashioned Cocktail is available as both a ‘One Hitter’ (single 750ml bottle) for $49.99 MSRP or in the ‘Hot Box Bundle’ with the addition of a pig-shaped cocktail smoker and ‘dime baggie’ of cocktail smoking chips for $64.20 MSRP. Each bottle is presented in a Reefer Madness inspired gift box emblazoned with WhistlePig’s original logo (since retired) with the pig wielding a left-hoof-cigarette.

As a toke-n of thanks for bartenders who work their tails off during the holiday season only to be left high and dry in January, WhistlePig is puff-puff-passing 100% of Dank & Dry Old Fashioned proceeds to bartenders through Turning Tables, a New Orleans based non-profit whose vision is to cultivate leadership, create real opportunity and change the face of hospitality by establishing a model and standard for equitable access for the Black & Brown hospitality community of New Orleans.

WhistlePig Dank & Dry Old Fashioned is available online while supplies last.

To learn more about WhistlePig Whiskey, visit whistlepigwhiskey.com. You can also check out WhistlePig Whiskey on Facebook, X and Instagram.

About WhistlePig Whiskey

Located off the grid on a 500-acre Vermont farm, WhistlePig Whiskey is crafted by a new generation of whiskey distillers and blenders driven to reinvent and unlock the flavor of Rye whiskey. Through their rebellious pursuit of experimenting and pushing boundaries in the industry, WhistlePig has become the leading independent craft whiskey brand for innovation. WhistlePig is committed to becoming the best whiskey on and for the planet, starting with its locally sourced ingredients and sustainable supply chain and distilling process. For more information, head to whistlepigwhiskey.com.

About Turning Tables

Turning Tables was launched in 2019 by industry leaders and mentors who found a thirst for community and opportunity among Black and Brown hospitality professionals looking to take their careers to the next level. The Turning Tables 12-week intensive program connects each cohort of individuals with a foundation in spirits, cocktail and wine knowledge with access to career pathways within the three tier system, restaurant and bar management, trade advocacy, marketing, and hospitality leadership. Their process is both experiential and classroom-oriented. They partner with employers, brands and like-minded individuals who recognize pervasive racism and inequity in the industry and want to join them in challenging it.

Image: WhistlePig Whiskey

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Can It? NA Canned Cocktail Performance

Can It? Zero-proof Canned Cocktail Performance

by David Klemt

Moth Margarita canned cocktails stacked on a black, wood table

Veylinx, a behavioral research platform trusted by some of the world’s biggest brands, has turned their attention alcohol-free canned cocktails for a recent study.

They’ve researched demand for non-alcohol before. In fact, you can find our analysis of their 2022 study here. We’ve also covered their look into the effectiveness of Super Bowl ads.

For their latest study, consumer demand for non-alcoholic canned cocktails, Veylinx showed how seriously they take research and methodology.

Conducted between November and December of 2023, the platform created a fictional canned cocktail brand, Elixir. This was done to account for brand bias.

Further, the “brand” produced two benchmark products—alcohol and alcohol-free—and four variations. These non-alcoholic variants offered four different benefits: CBD, mood boost, zero-calorie, and natural detox.

All participants were 21 or older:

  • 21 to 25
  • 26 to 35
  • 36 to 45
  • 46 to 55
  • 56 to 65
  • Older than 65

Half of the study identified as male, and the other half as female. Most, 73 percent, were alcohol drinkers, while 27 percent were not.

For the study, Veylinx had each participant, 410 in total, bid on the six Elixir products with their own money. The bidding took place in randomized, sequential auction.

After the auction, the participants completed a questionnaire. The following is a sample question:

“What would be the main reasons for you NOT to buy non-alcoholic beverages? Please select all that apply.”

Possible answers to that question were: Limited availability, Limited variety, Flavor, and/or Other.

With methodology explained, let’s check out the results.

Canned Cocktails by the Numbers

While demand for non-alcohol canned cocktails appears to be growing, their counterparts remain most popular.

Per Veylinx, demand for Elixir’s alcoholic canned cocktails surged by 20 percent in their study. In comparison, average demand for the fictional brand’s non-alcoholic benchmark and variants canned cocktails increased by four percent.

Further, the full-proof and zero-proof CBD products garnered the most interest. The alcoholic version saw an uplift of seven percent, and CBD saw a three-percent uplift. Consumers showed the least interest in non-alcohol, zero-calorie variants.

Comparing 2022 to 2023, demand for “standard” alcohol-free canned cocktails is up 14 percent. This is followed by the CBD variant with four-percent growth in consumer demand. Next, non-alcoholic canned cocktails with a “mood-boosting” benefit, which grew by two percent. Natural detox saw an increase in demand of just one percent. And consumer demand for zero-calorie, zero-alcohol canned cocktails fell by one percent.

So, today’s consumer, at least according to research conducted by Veylinx, is most interested in alcoholic canned cocktails. Still, there’s growing interest in alcohol-free canned cocktails, something for operators to keep in mind.

Changes in Behavior

Speaking of interest in zero-proof, Veylinx uncovered some other interesting information.

In 2022, around 56 percent of consumers expressed interest reducing their alcohol consumption. That number fell by 18 percent to 38 percent in 2023. That’s still a significant percentage of consumers looking to make a big change in their lives.

Forty-one percent of consumers aged 21 to 35 are trying to reduce their alcohol intake. That number drops slightly to 36 percent for those aged 36 and older.

Veylinx also found that half of consumers would drink less alcohol if one simple change took place. All it would take is better-quality, non-alcohol versions at better prices to hit the market.

In fact, per Veylinx, consumers cited flavor and price as the two top influences on their decision to consume zero-proof canned cocktails. So far, energy drinks are the go-to for most consumers trying to drink less alcohol.

If they’re smart, brands with an interest in producing successful non-alcohol canned cocktails will work to improve costs, flavors, and health benefits, if this Veylinx study is taken to heart.

To review this study in its entirety yourself, click here. The press release for the study is below.

The Year of Canned Cocktails: Consumer Demand Increases for Non-Alcholic and Alcoholic Variations

NEW YORK, December 20, 2023 —  According to a new, year-over-year study from behavioral research platform Veylinx, consumer demand is increasing for both non-alcoholic and alcoholic canned cocktails. Using Veylinx’s proprietary methodology—which measures actual demand rather than intent— the study found that demand for non-alcoholic canned cocktails grew by 4%, while demand for alcoholic canned cocktails surged by 20% over last year.   

While interest remains strong for non-alcoholic alternatives, the percentage of people trying to reduce their alcohol consumption fell by 18%, to 38%. This decline from 2022 could lead to lower participation in abstinence events like Dry January. 

Half of respondents claimed they would drink less alcohol if better non-alcoholic alternatives were available, showing opportunity for yet more innovation in the beverage sector. Those looking to reduce their alcohol consumption are 50% more interested in non-alcoholic cocktails.

In 2022, “Never tried before,” was the top reason consumers gave for not buying canned non-alcoholic beverages. That is no longer the case in 2023, suggesting that non-alcoholic canned cocktails increased their market penetration over the last year. Flavor and price are now the primary reasons people don’t buy non-alcoholic cocktails.

“Even with fewer people trying to reduce their alcohol consumption, demand for non-alcoholic canned cocktails continues to grow,” said Veylinx founder and CEO Anouar El Haji. “Drinkers and non-drinkers alike are receptive to ready-to-drink alternatives that are better for their health and wallets.”

The study also measured demand for non-alcoholic cocktails enhanced with functional benefits like mood boosters, detoxifiers and CBD. Demand for the standard non-alcoholic version increased 14% from last year, while the enhanced variations increased only slightly and the zero-calorie version fell by 1%. This suggests consumers might be losing interest in what they perceive as marketing gimmicks. The CBD version saw a 4% increase in demand, remaining the most popular non-alcoholic variation. 

Additional key findings: 

  • The optimal price for non-alcoholic canned cocktails that maximizes revenue for brands is $12 for a four-pack

  • The brands consumers have tried the most are: 1) Mocktail Club, 2) Wild Tonic, 3) Spiritless, 4) DRY,  and 5) Hella Cocktail Co

  • 44% of people expressed support for an additional 10% tax on alcohol as a public health measure for reducing consumption 

  • For those aiming to drink less alcohol by replacing it with other beverages, energy drinks experienced the greatest increase in popularity

  • Physical Health and Cost are the two most popular reasons for reducing alcohol consumption

  • Grocery stores are the most popular place to buy non-alcoholic canned cocktails

  • Flavor options have the most influence on which brand consumers choose

  • A lower price would convince 20% of consumers to buy more non-alcoholic cocktails

To download more detailed results from the 2023 Non-Alcoholic Canned Cocktail study or for more information about Veylinx, visit https://veylinx.com/canned-cocktails

About the research 

Unlike typical surveys where consumers are simply asked about their preferences, Veylinx uses behavioral research to reveal how much consumers will pay for a product through a real bidding process. Consumers reveal their true willingness to pay by placing sealed bids on products and then answering follow-up questions about their reasons to buy or not to buy. The research was conducted in November and December 2023 among U.S. consumers ages 21 and over. It is a follow-up to a similar study Veylinx conducted in October 2022. The 2022 study can be found at https://info.veylinx.com/non-alcoholic-cocktails

Image: Ambitious Studio* – Rick Barrett on Unsplash

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