Vodka

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Possess this Scary Spirit for Halloween

Possess this Scary Spirit for Halloween

by David Klemt

Harridan Vodka Paranormal Reserve hero

If you truly want to imbue your cocktails and the guest experience with the otherworldly this Halloween, you need this spirit.

In fact, this bottle likely contains the most “spirit” forward spirit one can possess. It’s also one of the rarest. Oh, and it took a rest for 30 days inside the Occult Museum.

On October 13, Harridan Vodka will launch their Paranormal Reserve officially. And if you’re after a true small-batch vodka, you’ll want to keep an eye the Paranormal Reserve countdown timer.

This is your opportunity to create and host a frighteningly unique Halloween LTO promotion.

Conjuring the Halloween Spirit

Does the Occult Museum sound familiar to you? If so, you’re likely a horror film fan or into the supernatural.

For those who don’t know, the Occult Museum was started in 1952 by Ed and Lorraine Warren. The two paranormal investigators collected a vast array of artifacts that they claimed came into contact with evil.

One of these objects is Annabelle, a cursed Raggedy Ann doll. According to lore, the doll is so dangerous it’s kept inside its own glass case. A sign attached to the case reads, “Warning, Positively Do Not Open.”

So, what could possibly be frightening about a Raggedy Ann doll? Well, this one is said to have an interesting “attachment.” That is, a demon in search of a human host that has attached itself to the doll.

To keep the demon from achieving its goal—which it reportedly began pursuing in 1970—Annabelle’s case has been blessed. The case has inscriptions of the Lord’s Prayer and Saint Michael’s Prayer. Also, it’s said that Ed Warren would recite a binding prayer over the case from time to time to ensure the demon couldn’t escape.

Supposedly, Annabelle nearly killed a priest who mocked it when he visited the Occult Museum to scrutinize the Warren’s claims of its demonic possession.

This story and more are told in The Conjuring movie series. In particular, Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation, and Annabelle Comes Home. Given that it’s October, it’s the perfect time to watch the first installment and doll-focused movies of The Conjuring universe.

In fact, this would be the month to design a promotion around The Conjuring watch parties with themed LTO cocktails.

A Frightful Rest

Okay, so I can already hear some of you asking what this has to do with Harridan Vodka. Well, calm down—I’m getting to it.

The Warren Occult Museum, located in Monroe, Connecticut, closed to the public in 2019. In other words, if you didn’t get to visit prior to its closure, you’ll most likely never have the chance to see Annabelle or the other occult artifacts contained within.

But you can purchase a bottle of 44-percent ABV vodka that rested for 30 days inside the Occult Museum: Harridan Vodka Paranormal Reserve.

Just 666 bottles are available, and 665 took their 30-day slumber right next to Annabelle. These bottles will retail for $199 on Thursday, October 13.

 

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Obviously, that leaves one bottle we need to address. Bottle number 666 was rested inside Annabelle’s case. And while the other 665 bottles are housed inside black Ouija-themed boxes, number 666 is contained within a glass case similar to Annabelle’s.

Of course, this unique bottle comes with an appropriately otherworldly price tag: $13,000. And, hey, the person who makes this bank-balance-slashing purchase might just be in possession of the world’s only vodka infused with evil.

If you’re one of the few who manage to get their hands on these Occult Museum-rested Harridan Vodka bottles, it’s fair to say you can name your price for the opportunity for guests to buy an ounce.

Happy Halloween, ya filthy animals!

Images: Harridan Vodka

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month: May 2022

5 Books to Read this Month: May 2022

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

These engaging and informative book selections will help you develop next-level beverage skills and motivate you throughout May, 2022.

To review April’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s jump in!

Rum Rebels: A Celebration of Women Revolutionizing the Spirits Industry

Written by authors Martyna Halas and René van Hoven, Rum Rebels raises a glass to women in the rum world. Readers will learn the inspiring stories of Lorena Vasquez from Zacapa, Joy Spence of Appleton, and more women driving rum forward and shaping this iconic spirit’s flavors, aromas, and textures.

In addition, this book serves as a masterclass in rum production, from tasting to aging. And since that’s enough for these incredible and ambitious authors, Rum Rebels also contains rum cocktail recipes.

Drink Lightly: A Lighter Take on Serious Cocktails

Operators, bar managers, and bartenders should see value in the driving ethos behind this cocktail book. Drink Lightly, authored by Nitecap bartender Natasha David, pairs precision drink-building techniques with a relaxed drinking experience.

Drinking lightly doesn’t mean sipping drinks bereft of complexity and depth. Along with 100 recipes, readers will enjoy a foreword by Alex Day of Proprietors LLC, whose concepts include Death & Co. and Nitecap.

Call Me Chef, Dammit!: A Veteran’s Journey from the Rural South to the White House

Hospitality is rooted in sacrifice and a commitment to serving others. Chef Andre Rush and his story embody service. Call Me Chef, Dammit! is the inspiring story of Chef Rush.

The storied chef has led an incredible life which includes a career in the US Army that spanned 24 years, advocating for military personnel and veterans, and winning multiple awards as a chef. Oh, and Chef Rush and his 24-inch biceps have also worked in the White House for four US presidents.

While there are no recipes in this book, there is one hell of an inspiring story in these pages.

The New Kindred Spirits: Over 2,000 All-New Reviews of Whiskeys, Brandies, Liqueurs, Gins, Vodkas, Tequilas, Mezcal & Rums from F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal

Anyone looking for a spirits bible need search no further. F. Paul Pacult’s The New Kindred Spirits includes over 2,400 in-depth reviews spanning a wide range of spirits. This tome evaluates a massive number of brandies, gins, liqueurs, rums, tequilas, vodkas, and whiskeys.

This all-encompassing compilation of spirit evaluations doesn’t just cover the usual suspects. The New Kindred Spirits also takes a deep dive into the craft side of the beverage industry.

Drinking & Knowing Things

Author and certified sommelier Michael Amon would like to know a couple things from those considering picking up Drinking & Knowing Things. “Do you want to uncork a bottle of whoop-ass on every winedouche and uppity sommelier?” And, “are you too lazy to spend any time whatsoever learning things?”

Anyone who answered “yes” to either or both questions needs this book. Amon says that readers who commit to spending five minutes reading the weekly wine recommendations found in Drinking & Knowing Things will give sommeliers a run for their wine-knowledge money. Wine intimidation? Not after reading this book.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

XDar Vodka Resumes Ukraine Production

XDar Vodka Resumes Production in Ukraine

by David Klemt

XDar Vodka distillery in Ukraine

Over the past several weeks, the people of Ukraine have shown the world their resilience, tenacity, and refusal to submit to Russia.

The sovereign European nation has endured attacks and atrocities that began on February 24 of this year. Nearly six weeks since the invasion, Ukraine has resisted and repelled the vaunted Russian military.

There’s no end in sight. The world is learning daily about the atrocities and possible war crimes being perpetrated in Ukraine.

Because of this, any good news coming from Ukraine is welcome.

“Gift of Grain”

Incredibly, Ukrainian distiller XDar Vodka is resuming production. The brand, whose name translates to “gift of grain,” is reopening their distillery.

Now, this is all no small feat: XDar Vodka’s distillery is in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine. So, when I say XDar Vodka is a Ukrainian product, I mean they distill their spirits in Ukraine.

This wheat vodka is made using the region’s artesian water. Impressively, the result is a clean vodka that scored 92 points in the 2016 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.

Further, XDar Vodka flies in the face of the “definition” of vodka. Supposedly, vodka is meant to be odorless, colorless, and flavorless. Not XDar.

Instead, tasting notes include wet sand, floral notes, vanilla, cotton candy, burnt sugar, and a touch of sweetness.

And yes, XDar does have distribution in North America via Liquorum Imports, Inc. In addition, XDar can be purchased through Royal Wine Merchants.

Those who want to try XDar Vodka as well as support this tenacious Ukrainian brand can also place orders through Drizly.

Bittersweet Anniversary

2022 marks XDar’s 20th anniversary. Obviously, this is bittersweet for the brand and its 4,400 employees.

To that point, XDar stopped production when Russia attacked Ukraine. However, the distillery continued to pay its workers.

“The people at XDar are committed to their employees,” says Natalya Kolosok of Liquorum Imports, Inc. “They are some of the strongest people in the world.”

XDar Vodka production line

Now, the brand is resuming production. According to the distillery, XDar is doing so safely. According to a statement from Kolosok, this is in part due to the desires of the distillery’s team.

“The employees, while grateful for the assistance, don’t just want a check, they want purpose,” says Kolosok. “They want to work, which is why, as safely as possible, XDar opened up their facility to resume production.”

That’s resilience. That’s tenacity. And those characteristics exemplify the people of Ukraine.

Images provided by KLG Public Relations

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

National Cocktails: Canada & America

National Cocktails: Canada & America

by David Klemt

Sazerac cocktail and mixing glass on bar

We’re taking a look at two cocktails that can trace their roots to America and Canada for this year’s National Cocktail Day.

Further, KRG Hospitality has a headquarters in each country. So, we’ll be focusing on the cocktails for which Canada and America are known.

Celebrate National Cocktail Day, March 24, with the recipes below. Cheers!

Canada’s Official Cocktail

Let’s kick things off with Canada. There’s no cocktail with as close an association to the Great White North as the Caesar.

In fact, it’s Canada’s national cocktail. So ubiquitous, it’s woven into the fabric of Canadian pop culture.

Consider this Letterkenny exchange as exhibit A:

Darryl: “I’d have a Bloody Caesar.”

Wayne: “Do you wanna know what? I’d have a Caesar, too.”

Squirrely Dan: “I could have a Caesar if you guys are havin’ Caesars.”

Darryl: “Hard to see a Caesar and not want a Caesar.”

Wayne: “That’s actually how they market Caesars.”

According to cocktail lore, the city of Calgary and province of Alberta get to call themselves the home of the Caesar.

Disputed Origins

As the story goes, Walter Chell invented the cocktail in 1969. Chell was a restaurant manager at the Calgary Inn, now a Westin property.

Oh, wait. There’s also Walter Winchell and the Smirnoff Smiler cocktail. Tracing mentions back to 1953, this drink is made with vodka, tomato juice, clam juice, and Worcestershire sauce.

Hang on… In 1959, Charles Addams—y’know, the creator of the Addams Family—said he created the Gravel Gertie in Manhattan, New York. This cocktail calls for vodka to be mixed with tomato juice, clam juice, and Tabasco sauce.

Well, Chell was onto something when he combined every ingredient in the Smiler and Gertie. To me, this an original that stands far above any perceived predecessors.

Chell also crafted the recipe using a “rule of four”:

  • one shot of vodka;
  • two dashes of hot sauce;
  • three dashes of salt and pepper; and
  • four dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Prepare a glass with a celery salt or salt and pepper rim. Add ice, then add the above ingredients. Top with Caesar mix (Clamato juice, these days), and garnish with a celery stock and lime.

America’s Unofficial Cocktail

Now, onward to America. So, we don’t have an official national cocktail here. Clearly, our neighbors to the north know how to have more fun.

We have a native spirit—bourbon—but that’s where it ends.

However, we do have New Orleans. And in New Orleans we have the birthplace of American hospitality.

We have something else in New Orleans. In 2008, the Louisiana state senate passed a bill that named an official cocktail for the city.

That cocktail? The Sazerac.

Two Bases, One Drink

Cocktail historians will tell you that there are essentially two recipes for the Sazerac. They’ll also tell you that the origins of this cocktail are under dispute.

Are you beginning to see a pattern with cocktail history? It’s never clear, is it?

First, let’s address the original, assuming it’s America’s first (or at least oldest known) cocktail. From the 1850s to 1870s, it was made with Cognac. And not just any Cognac, Sazerac de Forge et Fils.

Depending on who you ask, either bar owner Aaron Bird or Antoine Amedie Peychaud invented the Sazerac. The cocktail recipe includes two dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters, so it’s easy to understand why some credit Peychaud with creating this drink.

Then, there’s the version that took off in the 1870s. Again, depending on the source, either American tastes changed or a phylloxera outbreak affected Cognac production. Perhaps both are true, converging to alter the Sazerac recipe.

Either way, rye whiskey replaced absinthe, and Herbsaint replaced the absinthe. Some bartenders also substitute bourbon for the rye.

The Recipe

It’s not difficult to make a Sazerac, just like it isn’t difficult to find one in New Orleans.

You’ll need two Old Fashioned (aka rocks) glasses, or one Old Fashioned and a mixing glass.

Rinse a chilled glass with absinthe or Herbsaint, and add ice. In the mixing glass or second glass, add ice, two ounces of Cognac, rye whiskey or bourbon, a half-ounce of simply syrup, and three dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters. Stir until well chilled.

Before straining, discard the ice and any excess absinthe or Hersaint from the prepared glass. Now, strain into prepared glass, express a lemon peel, and use that peel as garnish.

Alternatively, you can split the base and do Cognac and rye or bourbon, paying homage to each version of the Sazerac.

Image: Johann Trasch on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Hang On: That Drink Probably Isn’t Russian

Hang On: That Drink Probably Isn’t Russian

by David Klemt

Three clear vodka or gin cocktails

In response to the invasion of Ukraine, some restaurants and bars are pouring out spirits or renaming cocktails they believe are Russian.

Doing so is one way some operators are showing support for Ukraine.

However, people may want to do some research before they pour out a bottle or rewrite their menus. The reason is simple: That bottle or drink may not be Russian.

White or Black Russian

This classic cocktail has zero Russian roots. It was created by a Belgian bartender. Further, the bartender, Gustave Tops, created the drink at a hotel in Brussels.

Unfortunately, that hotel operated for 125 years before closing in 2020.

According to cocktail historians, the drink only has “Russian” in the name because it’s made with vodka.

In fact, people have created riffs on the White/Black Russian just by replacing a single ingredient. Variants include the White Belgian, White Cuban, and White Canadian.

Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule is 81 years old. And it was born in…Santa Monica. One of the most notable things about Santa Monica is that it’s located in California, which is in America.

As the story goes, a salesman representing Smirnoff strolled into the Cock ‘n Bull Pub. The owner of the pub had purchased a bunch of ginger beer he was having trouble moving.

In the 1940s, supposedly, it was difficult to sell vodka or ginger beer. But what about vodka and ginger beer? According to legend, the two men created the Moscow Mule in a mutually beneficial sales move. The rest is cocktail history.

Obviously, the name has Russian roots. Smirnoff vodka was at one time a Russian vodka (more on that below). But no, the cocktail isn’t a Russian cocktail in so far as it was invented in America.

There are companies that have made copyright claims but they’ve largely gone nowhere.

Smirnoff Vodka

Pouring out bottles of Smirnoff isn’t going to stick it to any Russians. The brand is now owned by Diageo, a British company.

The vodka itself is produced in several countries, including Canada, Ireland, and the US. Not a drop is made in Russia.

Originally, the vodka was produced in Moscow. Pyotr Arsenyevitch Smirnov founded the distillery in 1864. However, Smirnov had to sell the brand in 1904 after Tsar Nicholas II nationalized the Russian vodka industry.

Smirnov and his family fled Russia in 1917 in response to the October Revolution.

In reality, with the exception of very specialized bars and off-premise shops, it’s not common to come across authentic Russian vodka. Beluga, Jewel of Russia, Mamont, Russian Standard, and Zyr are some of the few people may come across at a restaurant, bar, or liquor store.

The Problem

It may seem like a middle finger to Russian president Vladimir Putin to erase the country from menus. Renaming cocktails or removing Russian brands feels like a show of solidarity, on the surface.

In reality, doing so is dangerous. It’s a vilification of all Russian people, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Pulling certain brands may put a dent in someone’s bottom line. However, “sanitizing” a menu by removing everything Russian may send an irresponsible, unintended message: Russian people are bad.

We don’t have to look far back into history at all to see what can happen when we vilify an entire group of people. Violence, harassment, discrimination… In these tense, divisive times, it’s all too easy for people to become desensitized and even engage in truly horrible behavior.

I’m appalled by what’s happening in Ukraine. Everyone at KRG Hospitality is horrified by Putin’s invasion. A single drop of blood spilled is too much; Putin’s hands are covered in innocent blood.

But I’m not going to show my support by declaring or otherwise acting like all Russians are bad people. One person—and his complicit inner circle—is responsible for the ongoing attack on Ukraine.

Let’s not forget that, and let’s not forget that words and actions have consequences. It’s all too easy for people to take things too far and for innocent people to get hurt.

Image: Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The Cocktail that Won’t Die

The Cocktail that Won’t Die (Hint: It’s not the Zombie)

Brewing a shot of espresso

With Cafe Au Lait Day coming up toward the end of this week, let’s revisit a coffee cocktail that seems to see a resurgence every year.

When it comes to this drink, it seems to experience massive popularity for several weeks. Then, people seem to get sick of hearing about (and making) it.

From there, its popularity seems to fade, waiting for guests and bartenders to revive it once more.

And no, I’m not talking about the Zombie or a Corpse Reviver. I’m talking about the Espresso Martini.

Resilient, Revered, Reviled

Of course the Espresso Martini isn’t the only cocktail that can cause a bartender’s eyes to roll toward the back of their skull completely.

The Mojito, layered shots and cocktails, the infamous AMF, the Vodka Martini regularly find themselves on most-hated cocktail lists.

However, with its resurgence in 2021, the Espresso Martini is once again getting attention. Obviously, not all of it is positive.

While the origins of this drink are debatable, it sprang from the mind of a bartender in the ’80s. The caffeinated cocktail saw a spike in popularity in the ’90s. And at various points throughout the 2000s, people have “brought it back.”

Looking back at just the last few years, the Espresso Martini was woken from its slumber in 2018. Then, it rose like a phoenix in 2019. And last year it saw yet another surge.

So, is it a trendy cocktail? A mainstream drink? Are bartenders “bringing it back” every year or two now to rickroll the industry?

Or is this just a tasty cocktail that appeals to a wide range of guests, a modern classic that deserves its place on menus? Perhaps it doesn’t deserve all the hate it receives.

Why the Hate?

Of course, it’s possible that some of the hate aimed toward the Espresso Martini is clickbait fodder that won’t die. Maybe people just expect to find it on most-reviled lists, and it’s no more complex than that.

However, it’s possible that the Espresso Martini has earned a bit of the negativity thrown at it. When it makes any list, the ingredients themselves and build time are cited as reasons why bartenders dislike it.

According to these lists, bartenders also dislike having to shake hot espresso. Still others, supposedly, are offended that coffee flavor dominates and covers up the vodka, Kahlúa, Tia Maria, or other coffee liqueur.

Moreover, the Espresso Martini isn’t really a Martini: there’s no vermouth, no gin. So, it’s possible the negativity emanates from that technicality.

At any rate, you may want to dial in your Espresso Martini for Cafe Au Lait Day (Thursday, February 17).

No, there’s no milk in a traditional Espresso Martini build. But, as I stated just a moment ago, there’s no vermouth or gin in this cocktail either. Why not play fast and loose with yet another technicality on this bar holiday?

Image: Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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.

Brandy

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.

Gin

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.

RTD

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.

WESAKE

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.

Rum

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.

Kasama

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.

Vodka

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.

Whiskey

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.

Wine

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.

Lyre’s

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.

Image: Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash

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

The Next Spirits Billionaire?

The Next Spirits Billionaire?

by David Klemt

Close-up of one hundred dollar bill

A recent deal involving a whiskey brand is set to help welcome another member to the exclusive Celebrity Spirits Billionaire’s Club.

Three-division UFC fighter. Two-division champion. Entrepreneur. Billionaire? Conor McGregor may add another comma to his bank account.

Proximo Spirits and Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey will continue their relationship long-term after agreeing to a nine-figure deal.

The terms of the Proper-Proximo agreement are confidential. However, the consensus is that Proper No. Twelve is going to make MMA star Conor McGregor a billionaire.

Money McGregor

One detail that isn’t exactly confidential is the overall value of the Proper-Proximo agreement.

McGregor and his business partners sold their majority stake in the popular Irish whiskey brand. It’s believed the deal is worth up to $600 million, or nearly €500 million.

However, how much of that $600 million is going to McGregor is unknown at this time.

To be clear, McGregor has a ways to go before he becomes a billionaire. Of course, he’s closer than most of us

Per reporting from The Irish Post, Proper No. Twelve is going to make McGregor the first billionaire Irish athlete.

“The terms of the agreement are confidential, however, the most important thing is Conor McGregor will remain a stakeholder of Proper No. Twelve, the brand that will make him a billionaire,” says Karen Kessler, a spokesperson for the former MMA champion.

Rapid Growth

It’s important to remember that Proper No. Twelve is just a few years old. That detail highlights the impressiveness of this deal.

Remember, Proper No. Twelve only launched in 2018. Since then, the brand has shipped over six million bottles. Proper No. Twelve is set to enter additional international markets moving forward.

Mike Keyes, president and CEO of Proximo Spirits, certainly seems to believe Proper No. Twelve isn’t “just another” celebrity spirits brand.

“It is rare to see a celebrity impact a brand the way Conor McGregor has Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey, and I have not seen many brands in the spirits industry catapult to this level of success in such a short period of time,” says Keyes. “This agreement is a vote of confidence in the incredible potential of this brand and a testament to the incredible work of Conor, Audie, Ken and the Proper No. Twelve team, as well as the efforts of Proximo and its distributors, who have all made this success possible.”

Celebrity Spirits Billionaire’s Club

Before proceeding, it must be mentioned that McGregor doesn’t consider himself a celebrity. According to him, “I’m not a celebrity. I break people’s faces for money and bounce.”

Regardless, the face-breaker money-maker is among an elite group of celebs with stakes in lucrative spirits brands.

We’re all well aware of George Clooney’s success with Casamigos, the brand he and his business partners sold for $700 million. There’s another $300 million in it for them if the brand hits performance goals over the next several years.

Diddy’s collaboration with Diageo, which includes CÎROC Vodka and DeLeón Tequila, is pumping up the artist and entrepreneur’s net worth. It seems quite likely that when he reaches billionaire status, it will be in no small part to the success of the Diageo brands.

Like McGregor, Ryan Reynolds got involved in spirits brand ownership in 2018. Retaining his ownership stake in Aviation Gin may catapult the actor, entrepreneur and social media slayer to billionaire status.

Jay Z is a wildly successful entrepreneur. In 2019, the empire he built made him a billionaire. Ace of Spades (Armand de Brignac) reportedly made Jay over $300 million midway through June 2019. D’USSE scored him an estimated $100 million. Jay Z launched luxury cannabis brand Monogram, sure to add much more to his net worth.

Why Should You Care?

Operators, their employees, and their friends and families continue to struggle in 2021. Our industry has fought endless battles. America’s operators just began the process of receiving specific relief yesterday.

So, it can be difficult to discuss the net worth of celebrities given what people are going through. The topic can come across as insensitive. That is by no means lost on me.

Were any of the brands in this post reliant solely on celebrity endorsement, I wouldn’t bother including them. The fact is, the success of these brands relies on consumer demand.

Celebrity endorsement only goes so far—if the product sucks, the shine will wear off and consumers will move on. And today’s consumer moves on quickly. There’s always something shinier, always a celebrity name with more gravitas.

Proper No. Twelve, Aviation, Casamigos, DeLeón, CÎROC, D’USSE, and Ace of Spades are past the honeymoon phase of brand adoption. Consumers have spoken, and these are among the brands they want and expect to see on menus. Your menus.

You certainly don’t need to stock these or any other celebrity brands. Just don’t be surprised if guests become frustrated if they can’t get them at your restaurant or bar.

That goes for any brand. Listen to your guests and what they’re asking for from you. Charge your front-of-house team with doing the same and encourage them to report back to you what they’re hearing from guests. One of the easiest ways to inspire repeat visits and refresh your menu is to simply listen.

Image: Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Multi-gen Recipe Becomes RTD

Multi-gen Recipe Becomes RTD

by David Klemt

Fishers Island Lemonade cans and flavors

Not just another RTD, Fishers Island Lemonade is a premium brand that transforms a multi-generational recipe into a can cocktail.

Now, the brand is launching four new expressions, right in time for summer.

Let’s take a look at these craft RTD cocktails.

A Recipe with History

There’s only one place to drink on Fishers Island in New York, the Pequot Inn. The restaurant and bar is known for its signature cocktails.

One intrepid member of the Shillo family, who owned the Pequot for more than two decades, is putting her spin on one of the signature cocktails into cans.

Bronya Shillo tended bar at the Pequot when it was under her family’s ownership. She launched Fishers Island Lemonade (FIL) in 2014.

FIL’s original expression is a 9.0-percent blend of premium vodka, barrel-aged whiskey, lemon and honey. Now, the Original spiked lemonade has four new friends: Spiked Tea, Pink Flamingo, Fizz, and Frozen Spirits Pops.

Brand Expansion

Like Original FIL, the brand’s new lineup consists of signature cocktail recipes. In fact, you’ll find several FIL recipes on the brand’s website.

FIL Spiked Tea and Pink Flamingo both ring in at 7.0 percent ABV. The former is the original recipe with black tea, while the latter is made with cranberry.

Fishers Island Fizz is the lower-ABV version of Original FIL, coming in at a more sessionable 5.0 percent ABV.

Fishers Island Lemonade Frozen Spirits Pops

Perfect for summer, FIL Frozen Spirits Pops are exactly what they sound like: popsicles made with Original FIL.

Finding FIL

Currently, FIL is available in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

However, the brand is utilizing direct-to-consumer sales to reach consumers across America. FIL is also available on Drizly.

A four-pack of FIL RTDs have an SRP of $15.99. The Frozen Spirits Pops come in ten-packs with an SRP of $27.99.

Images provided by Fishers Island Lemonade

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