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Canadians Preparing for NHL Opening Week

Canadians Preparing for NHL Opening Week

by David Klemt

Vintage tabletop hockey game toy

Now nobody can accuse me of showing any NHL teams favoritism. Go Knights Go!

As one should expect, Canadian hockey fans are preparing for the 2023-2024 NHL season opener, and those preparations include on-premise visits.

On Tuesday, October 10, three teams will face off to start the regular season.

First, the Nashville Predators take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then, the Chicago Blackhawks will face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Finally, after raising their brand-new, first-ever Stanley Cup championship banner, which they won just six seasons after their founding, the fastest an expansion team has accomplished this feat, the Vegas Golden Knights will welcome the Seattle Kraken to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

According to on-premise data from CGA by NIQ, Canadian hockey fans are planning to celebrate the start of the season at bars and restaurants. That means operators have less than two weeks to finalize plans to attract these guests to their venues.

In particular, operators in four provinces need to ensure their NHL opening week plans and promotions are good to go. Per CGA’s data, consumers in Québec are showing the greatest interest in watching this season’s opening games in bars and restaurants. Following and driving on-premise interest are British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta.

Of course, operators throughout the provinces who serve sports fans should be ready to welcome hockey fans.

For our Canadian readers, the Montréal Candiens will take on Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, October 11. On that same day, the Ottawa Senators face the Carolina Hurricanes; the Edmonton Oilers face off against the Vancouver Canucks; and the Winnipeg Jets will battle the Calgary Flames.

Click here for the full opening week schedule.

Why Does this Matter?

I may catch some flack for this but technically, any bar with televisions events can be a sports bar.

Yes, I understand that’s a very simplistic view. And yes, of course that comes with the caveat that sports should be authentic to a given concept. Also, showing sports should take into account the expectations of bar or restaurant’s guests.

In other words, most bars and restaurants can benefit from sports but they’d likely be a hindrance to some high-end cocktail bars and fine-dining concepts.

With that out of the way, operators who want to establish themselves as the go-to spot for sporting events need to nail opening week. That means having all of their ducks in a row.

Do they have the proper business TV packages in place? Will promotions and programming appeal to the target audience? Are the screens and audio system high quality for the best viewing experience? Does the menu offer sports fans what they want for great value? Is the team pulling out all the spots to make viewing fun?

Regarding the menu, CGA by NIQ has a couple of valuable insights. First, beer is the top beverage alcohol category among those planning to celebrate NHL opening week on-premise. Second, among those who plan to consume spirits, tequila is the top pick. Sounds like offering beer and tequila shot pairings could perform well.

However, operators should certainly take into account their own data. What F&B items are selling the best? Which items performed the best this same time last year?

Between 15 and 16 million Canadians follow hockey. That’s a vast pool of potential customers to convert to loyal guests. The importance of becoming their sports home base, their third spot, cannot be overstated.

This coming opening week, lay the groundwork to become the go-to place for hockey fans, fantasy sports competitors, and sports bettors.

Image: cottonbro studio via Pexels

KRG Hospitality. Gaming. Entertainment. Consultant. Food Service. Bowling Alley. Golf. Simulator. Arcades. Eatertainment.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Durham Distillery’s Pandemic Pivot

Durham Distillery’s Pandemic Pivot

by David Klemt

Durham Distillery Navy Strength Gin in a snowbank

Distillers throughout the world are experiencing supply chain issues affecting their ability to produce and bottle their spirits.

One particular issue impacting distillers—and therefore the businesses that sell their products—is a glass bottle shortage.

Obviously, bottles are every bit as important to a brand as the liquid inside. We would all likely ace a quiz calling for us to match bottle silhouettes and brands.

Of course, other issues are also confounding producers, and the restaurants and bars that rely on them.

Labor challenges throughout the world reduced spirit, beer, and wine production. Using a particular spirit as an example, an agave shortage is impacting tequila.

However, consumption hasn’t slowed. Therefore, many distillers, brewers, and winemakers find themselves unable to meet demand.

The situation is dire enough for some retailers and even entire municipalities to ration certain products.

Pandemic Pivot

A distillery in North Carolina is turning a necessary pivot (everyone’s favorite pandemic word) into a limited-edition run for two of their products.

Durham Distillery, located in Durham, NC, produces CONNIPTION Gin. There are two core expressions, both crafted using traditional methods but with a modern approach.

CONNIPTION Gin American Dry is, of course, crafted with juniper berries. However, there’s also Angelica root, cardamom, cucumber, honeysuckle, Indian coriander, and orange peel.

Durham’s Navy Strength expression of CONNIPTION is crafted with bay leaf, caraway, cardamom, fig, Indian coriander, juniper berries, lemon, and rosemary.

Fans of these gins, along with craft spirit aficionados, are familiar with CONNIPTION’s signature bottle shape: American Dry and Navy Strength use rectangular bottles (see image above).

Faced with either slowing production due to an inability to obtain signature bottles or using a more readily available bottle, Durham Distillery chose the latter.

Durham Distillery CONNIPTION Gin Pandemic Pivot American Dry cylindrical bottle

“Given the global supply chain issues so many of our friends and colleagues here in North Carolina and beyond are currently facing, we knew we had two options: give in or lean in and make the best of the situation while keeping our focus on continuing to deliver our award-winning gin to our amazing, loyal customers throughout the state,” says Durham Distillery co-founder and CEO Melissa Katrincic. “The supply chain had an actual conniption and we’re pleased we could be nimble to pivot to solve for our needs.”

Like Durham’s Cold Distilled Cucumber Vodka, both CONNIPTION expressions are available in a cylindrical bottle. Of course, this is only for a limited time.

In fact, the labels on the round bottles read, “same delicious gin but round,” “NC Exclusive Pandemic Pivot,” and, “Temporary Due to Glass Shortage.”

Durham Distillery CONNIPTION Gin Pandemic Pivot Navy Strength cylindrical bottle

This particular pandemic pivot is deceptively simple. Altering packaging may seem like no big deal but it’s a gamble for established brands.

In the case of Durham’s CONNIPTION, this pivot seems like a fun and engaging win.

Image: Hayes Potter on Unsplash

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Yes, Some Tequilas Have Additives

Yes, Some Tequilas Have Additives

by David Klemt

A shot of tequila served with salt shaker and lime wedge

The subject of additives in tequila—and lack of transparency on labels—isn’t new but recent social media posts are shining a light on the topic.

In particular, there are posts circulating about tequila producers using vanilla flavoring. Doing so, it turns out, is well within the Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) rules.

However, revealing it on labels? With some caveats, it’s also well within the rules not to mention additives.

Understandably, people want to know what they’re putting in their bodies. Increasingly, this has grown to include alcohol.

So, there are bar owners, bar managers, bartenders, and bar guests who want to avoid serving and consuming additives whenever possible. Of course, there are also guests out there who don’t care about additives in the spirits they drink.

Interestingly, though, there’s a collective of tequila distilleries committed to producing clean spirits. They have no interest in using additives.

Chris Wirth alludes to these producers on episode 66 of the Bar Hacks podcast. He and wife Camila Soriano produce world-first clean tequila seltzer Volley.

Are There Additives in Tequila?

First, let’s be clear: Several categories of spirit permit the use of additives. Labeling transparency falls under the jurisdiction of different governing bodies.

So, it’s not like the use of additives is a scandal or exclusive to tequila. And, again, some consumers and hospitality professionals care, some don’t.

Additives become a problem when producers who use additives choose language on their labels and in marketing that suggest otherwise.

You see, tequila producers aren’t required to include additives on their labels if they don’t exceed one percent of total volume. NOM permits the use of glycerin, caramel coloring, “sugar-based” syrups, and oak extract in all tequilas except blanco.

However, there appears to be a loophole in NOM rules showing the use of additives in blancos is indeed permitted.

For those who don’t want to consume tequilas that use additives, brands that claim to be additive-free in their labeling and marketing present a problem. That’s because at best they’re just following the rules, but at worst they’re using the rules to be deceptive.

Why Does this Matter?

According to some in the industry, tequila may just kick vodka off its throne this year. In America, anyway.

Undeniably, that indicates increased consumer focus on tequila. It follows that a number of restaurant, bar, and nightclub guests will come across the topic of additives.

Some will want to know which brands are additive-free. This is where this topic should matter to operators and their bar teams: Guests don’t want to hear, “I don’t know.”

Luckily, there’s a resource out there that will help: Tequila Matchmaker. Hit that link, click the “Types” tab, and select “– Additive Free” from the dropdown.

As of this writing, you’ll find 266 bottles of additive-free tequila. Some of the brands you’ll find on this page are Código 1530, Tanteo, Fortaleza, El Tesoro, ArteNOM, Tears of Llorona, and Patrón.

Once more, this isn’t a scandal. Rather, this is an opportunity for operators to ensure they have some tequilas on their menu that are additive-free.

It’s likely the topic will come up and being prepared with a few recommendations will improve the guest experience.

Image: Francisco Galarza on Unsplash

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Launch of the Irish: Whiskeys You Want

Launch of the Irish: Whiskeys You Want in 2022

by David Klemt

Jameson Orange Irish Whiskey bottle and cocktails

Tomorrow is National Irish Coffee Day. What better time to take a look at the Irish distilleries and releases to look out for in 2022?

From the looks of things, Ireland’s distillers are set to unleash a flood of enticing whiskeys this year. This bodes well for whiskey lovers, Irish coffee and St. Patrick’s Day fans, and your menu.

Below you’ll find ten bottles to update the Irish whiskey section of your menu. Sláinte!

Jameson Orange ($24.99 SRP)

From arguably the most recognizable name in Irish whiskey comes Jameson Orange . You can check out the bottle in the image above. With natural orange flavor, Jameson says Orange works well neat, on the rocks, and in cocktails. In particular, simple drinks like Jameson Orange and Cranberry.

Bushmills Causeway Collection 27-Year-Old Bourbon Cask ($745 SRP)

You can take two things away from this Bushmills bottle’s name. First, this ultra-premium Irish whiskey comes with hefty price tag. Second, the maturation process involves bourbon barrels. In fact, the first 21 years of maturing takes place in first-fill bourbon casks from Kentucky.

Tullamore DEW XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish ($39.99 SRP)

Looking to switch things up with your tiki or nautical bar menu? Want to offer a new take on tropical drinks? Replace the rum with Tullamore DEW XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish. To craft this unique expression, Tullamore DEW finishes their whiskey in former demerara rum casks, which impart notes of bananas, dates, and raisins.

Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Kylebeg Wood, Tree No. 2 ($352 SRP)

An important element of the whiskey experience—all spirits, ideally—is getting a taste of the region from which originates. With Dair Ghaelach, which translates to “Irish oak” in Irish or Scottish Gaelic, Midleton aims to deliver a taste of the heart of Ireland. They do this by finishing this expression in casks made from virgin Irish oak from, of course, Kylebeg Wood.

Method And Madness Single Malt ($95 SRP)

Micro Distillery in Midleton, Ireland, which you’ll find in County Cork, first laid this whiskey down in 2002. The liquid matures in bourbon casks before finishing in Fresnch Limousin Oak barrels. Expect cereal malt notes on the nose; barley, ice cream cone and cinnamon stick on the palate; and bon-bons on the finish.

The Pogues Single Malt ($24.99 SRP) and Blended ($28.99 SRP)

Yep—the Pogues. The Celtic band teamed up with Master Distiller Frank McHardy to craft two Irish whiskeys. Single Malt, packaged in a bold red bottle, offers a smooth sip with notes of chocolate, cinnamon, marshmallow, nougat, wood, and spice. The Pogues Blended Irish Whiskey combines grain and malt whiskeys, delivering dark chocolate, citrus, dark fruit, and spice on the nose and palate.

Roe & Co. ($29.99 SRP)

Straight out of Dublin, Roe & Co. produces creamy smooth, warm and inviting blended Irish whiskey. This bottle just may become a favorite among your guests on St. Patrick’s Day this year.

Micil Inverin Small Batch ($51.99 SRP)

This bottle comes from the first distillery to open legally in Galway, a coastal town on the west side of Ireland. Founder Pádraic Ó Griallais is a sixth-generation poitín (very generally speaking, “Irish moonshine”) distiller. The Scotch drinkers among your guests will appreciate the charred wood and peat characteristics of Iverin Small Batch. I would definitely try this in a Penicillin.

Sailor’s Home The Journey ($51.99 SRP)

Hailing from Limerick, Ireland, Sailor’s Home crafts four expressions of Irish whiskey. For this roundup, I’m sharing The Journey, a Gold Medal winner at the 2021 International Spirits Challenge. As the distillery suggests, this may become your guests’ new go-to Irish whiskey, and likely in short order. First, whiskey is aged in virgin American oak casks. The liquid is then moved to American bourbon barrels. Finally, that liquid is combined with malt Irish whiskey that was matured in American bourbon barrels and finished in Jamaican rum casks. As the distillery says, “No other Irish whiskey is made like this.”

Shanky’s Whip ($24.99 SRP)

Fine, this isn’t strictly an Irish whiskey. Shanky’s Whip is a blend of liqueur and Black Irish whiskey. Perfect for shooting, in a highball with cola, or dropped into a pint of stout.

Prices in USD. Image: Jameson 

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Fever-Tree Cola: Set Aside Your Soda Gun

Fever-Tree Cola: Set Aside Your Soda Gun

by David Klemt

Fever-Tree Distillers Cola bottle and cocktail

Fever-Tree, the company elevating mixers since 2005, is now focusing on producing the finest cola.

Like the entirety of the Fever-Tree portfolio, Distillers Cola honors spirits and enhances cocktails.

And, like its mates in the lineup, the newest Fever-Tree product is made only with premium ingredients.

Commitment to Quality

Fever-Tree’s founding principle has always been producing high-quality mixers with high-quality and exotic ingredients. Co-founder Tim Warrillow and CEO of Fever-Tree North America Charles Gibb search the globe to find and partner with the best producers possible.

Much of that drive is down to the brand’s focus on honoring distillers and their spirits along with cocktail programs and bars.

In the mid-2000s, Warrillow and Gibb made a stark realization about spirits and cocktail. Distillers were crafting incredible spirits but most mixers were either standard or substandard.

Obviously, that changed with the launch of Fever-Tree, undeniable leaders and innovators in the mixer category.

Exotic Cola

For years now, today’s consumer has been drinking better. With unfettered access to information, social media and brands, they’ve been learning more about spirits and cocktails.

Intriguingly, the pandemic didn’t change that, and all signs point to a continued dedication to quality drinking.

Also, great bartenders want to tell, as Gibbs says, the best stories through the best cocktails. In doing so, they’ve taught their guests how to drink better.

Of course, part of improving one’s drinking is seeking out products produced with quality ingredients.

According to Warrillow, Fever-Tree is excited to finally take on “the biggest mixer of them all, cola,” the most-popular soft drink flavor in the world. He says people have been asking for Fever-Tree to craft their own cola for quite some time now.

It should come as no surprise to any Fever-Tree fan that Distillers Cola is produced with a commitment to craft.

The kola nuts are grown wild in the Caribbean sweet, earthy, and a natural source of caffeine. Large Tahitian limes from Mexico—the Yucatán province specifically—are bold but not overwhelming. Jamaican pimento berries (allspice) imbue Distillers Cola with flavors of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and pepper. Madagascan vanilla—the “most prized” vanilla, per Warrillow—is intense, sweet, and lends to a creamy mouthfeel.

Distillers Cola, being a mixer and not a soft drink, is high in carbonation but reins in its sweetness.

A Mixer with Intent

Now, Fever-Tree Distillers Cola is meant to elevate bourbons and dark rums. Of course, that doesn’t mean its use is limited.

In fact, Speed Rack co-founder Lynnette Marrero suggests mixing up a Gin & Distillers Cola. Certainly, that’s a much different direction than Rum or Whiskey & Colas.

And Marrero’s Going Back to Kalimoxto, which she describes as “the spritz meets sangria,” calls for 0.5 oz. Cognac, 0.5 oz. Fernet, 3 oz. red wine (nothing too tannic: think Pinot Noir or Beaujolais), and 3 oz. Fever-Tree Cola. Simply stir and serve with a lemon wheel.

Indeed, this brand-new Fever-Tree product is practically begging for cocktail experimentation.

Reposado, añejo, and extra añejo tequilas, some mezcals, amaros, Scotch and rye whiskeys… A new mixer opens up a world of menu possibilities.

However, the best place to start is likely two of Fever-Trees intended cocktails: an elevated Rum & Cola or Whiskey & Cola. In fact, Warrillow and Gibbs say it was developed with Bacardí Cuatro in mind.

Interestingly, Allen Katz of New York Distilling Co. tasted “about 15 barrels” of their Ragtime Rye with Distillers Cola. According to Katz, the cola pairs very well with a whiskey with more fruit, less cedar and spice. In fact, he likes it so much he has committed a single barrel to a special Distillers Cola release—be on the lookout, whiskey hunters.

Also, since Governor Andrew Cuomo has lifted Covid-19 restrictions, people can visit New York Distilling’s Shanty to try a specialty cocktail made with Distiller’s Cola.

Holster Your Soda Guns

Yes, soda guns have been de rigueur for decades. They’re convenient in terms of service, particularly in a high-volume setting.

They’re also often perceived as being perpetually dirty. And, in many cases, that perception is reality.

Of course, in other cases it’s simply what guests have been taught from myriad articles and blog posts.

When I asked Gibbs how he expects to convince operators to hang up their soda guns and choose Distillers Cola instead, his answer was compelling. On the bar side, he points to the fact that bartenders want to craft and serve the best possible cocktails. To do that, they need high-quality ingredients. Along with that, many guests know Fever-Tree and seek it out.

That’s all well and good, but what about the operator side? Gibbs notes that bars across the country are ripping out their soda guns. Clearly, this is a response to health-conscious guests who perceive what comes out of the gun to be unhealthy or subpar in quality.

Those same operators, therefore, aren’t buying and storying bags of syrup. Instead, they can purchase higher-quality ingredients that deliver on consistency. Consistency and quality are key elements of the guest experience. Gibbs also says that operators can charge more for a drink made with premium ingredients like Fever-Tree.

Of course, the next step is for operators and their front-of-house teams to try Fever-Tree Distillers Cola for themselves. Not only will it elevate their bar programs, it certainly enhances to-go cocktail kit options.

Image: Fever-Tree