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BETTING ON BEVERAGES AND BITES: How a fledgling cocktail festival builds brand loyalty

June 19, 2019

By Francine Cohen All images courtesy of Foxwoods Resort Casino

Most people go to casinos to gamble. And, if they are honest with themselves, they count on losing; just as much as they dream of winning big.

But today, casinos are about much more than dropping your bank account on a blackjack hand. For guests, they’re a place for learning. For the hotel and its suppliers, it’s about brand building.

More than just fun and games and staying up all night you say? Well, when the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe opened Foxwoods Resort Casino in the Connecticut woods 33 years ago, they were on to something new; offering guests more to see and experience at Foxwoods.

In 1986 the notion of a casino in the middle of all those trees was enough to draw plenty of attention to the biggest casino on the east coast. The view of the forest outside was touted as much as the casino’s games and amenities inside, and the resort’s advertising theme song, “The Wonder of It All” invited guests and gamblers to “meet where the trees are standing tall.”

It took another 20 years – to 1986 when Red Rock Canyon Resort was built – and then another three after that for Aria to land on the Las Vegas Strip in 1989- before a casino was designed so radically as to allow the outdoors in through windows that let light, and real world distractions, into the gaming areas.

Today, that real life distraction is cocktails. More specifically, the second annual “Wonder of the Cocktail” event that kicks off today and runs through June 21. https://cocktails.foxwoods.com/

With pop-up bars throughout the resort offering Mimosas, Bloody Marys and the latest in lifestyle energy drinks included in ticket packages to keep the festivities going and refresh spirits, Wonder of the Cocktail taps an audience that might otherwise scoff at a casino vacation. They’ll find themselves drawn to this resort-wide culinary and cocktail celebration of free-flowing spirits, epicurean experiences and master class seminars that unfolds delightfully and is led by global experts for food and beverage professional, drawing spirit enthusiasts and foodies alike.

On June 20th a series of master classes are scheduled so industry professionals and spirit enthusiasts can learn the rich histories of liquor brands with intimate and interactive tastings.

Obviously, the audience dedicated to learning and exploring is exactly the crowd you want at your bar, restaurant or buying your brand. Not to mention it’s this guest who Foxwoods hopes to delight into returning again and bringing friends.

Who better to count on as future brand champions than someone seeking out a spirited experience in this setting? Christina Clifton, Foxwoods Resort Casino Vice President of Food & Beverage, says, “You can count on the right audience here. Their enthusiasm for last year’s event made this year’s possible. And it promises to be even better. At Foxwoods, we are known for offering it all, from fine dining, nightlife, gaming and entertainment, to retail, adventure and more. The Wonder of the Cocktail brings together the best of the best,”

She continues, “Last year’s inaugural event was such a success, and we are thrilled to host even more esteemed mixologists, brand ambassadors and chefs this year to provide this one-of-a-kind experience.”

We sat down with Clifton to find out more about the unprecedented opportunities for meaningful brand engagement. And just what you can expect if you attend. We’ll see you amidst the trees. Tix: https://cocktails.foxwoods.com

IF&B: How did this event come to life?
Christina Clifton: Guests are increasingly expecting the best of the best in food & drink offerings and we wanted to highlight the sophisticated beverage program we have at Foxwoods and bring a premier event to New England. Other similar cocktail events have guests running all over an entire city, but Foxwoods is a city in itself at 9,000,000 square feet, so Wonder of the Cocktail is three days of focused mixology all under one roof.

IF&B: What do you hope to achieve by hosting it?
Christina Clifton: We want to entertain and educate our guests and deliver a one-of-a-kind experience, while also introducing them to the resort’s overall beverage program.

IF&B: Who is it aimed at?
Christina Clifton: Wonder of the Cocktail is aimed at the general public who want to come out, have a great time and taste some exceptional cocktails and spirits they may not normally try. We marketed to our casino guests as well as potential new customers, who may not have ever visited Foxwoods. We’re also targeting food & beverage industry professionals who can hone their craft and increase their knowledge from top experts at our master class seminars, ranging from technical in-depth explorations into tequila, mezcal and agave and how different soil samples can affect the terroir, to a hands-on bending experience with Johnnie Walker to create your own customized blend.

IF&B: How are you getting brands, and chefs and suppliers interested and supporting? (I.e. what’s the hook that’s making them say “yes!”?)
Christina Clifton: We have the best brands and suppliers on board, including Highland Park, Macallan, Don Julio, the portfolios of Remy and Diageo and others. We’ve built excellent relationships with them over the years – I think Connecticut gets overlooked by New York City and Boston when it comes to cocktail programs, so they were excited to partner and support to bring recognition from the rest of the country.

IF&B: How will this year’s event differ or build upon the past?
Christina Clifton: In addition to the extra master class seminar, we’re changing the theme. Last year’s was a Gatsby theme, and this year will be the five senses – so expect lots of Instagrammable moments to see, live music to hear, and of course tasting all of the cocktails and food.

IF&B: How, can and why does programming like this drive guest loyalty?
Christina Clifton: Our motto is “The Wonder of It All” and this event only supports that by delivering what they want in an engaging way. Guests can plan their vacations around Wonder of the Cocktail and make a whole week of it.

IF&B: Can it change or aid in your perception amongst the trade?
Christina Clifton: We certainly think so – we are doing some really unique things at the resort and hosting this event will bring light to those. We hope this will continue to grow to the same level as other renowned cocktail festivals.

IF&B: Is there anything else that you want to share?
Christina Clifton: Foxwoods is a fully integrated resort that has so much to offer. We think the Wonder is the Cocktail is another exciting event that guests can expand their knowledge or just have a blast tasting the latest cocktails in the world of mixology.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

Welcome Reception – Wednesday, June 19: Kick off the festivities with chef-crafted hors d’oeuvres, signature cocktails and wines from all over the globe.

Booze and Bets – Wednesday, June 19: Enjoy premium cocktails from Johnnie Walker Black Label and Salute American Vodka while experiencing world-class gaming at Foxwoods’ table games including blackjack, roulette, craps and Texas Hold’em.

Sip-Savor-Swagger – Thursday, June 20: Dine around on fabulous cuisine from some of Connecticut’s premier chefs with expertly paired cocktails while listening to a jazz trio perform live.

Splash Into Summer Pool Party – Friday, June 21: Make a splash on the luxurious pool deck with featured spirits, food and fun in the sun.

Grand Tasting – Friday, June 21: Raise your glass for the grand finale that encompasses every facet of The Wonder of the Cocktail featuring the world’s finest spirits. Upgrade to a VIP package for access to the Luxe Room, featuring hand-selected brands that truly belong beyond the velvet rope.

Seminars:
The Art of Blending: An Exploration of Diplomático Rum’s Unique Distillation Methods – Diplomático Rum’s National Ambassador, Manny Peña, will lead guests in a unique hands-on blending workshop and tasting of the Distillery Collection to demonstrate the many faces of rum making through the lens of one of the world’s most iconic producers.

Agave Lab – Diageo Reserve’s National Educator of Latin Spirits, Jorge Raptis, will review the rich history of Mexico and tequila, with focus on highland tequilas Don Julio and DeLeón. Besides tequila, guests will delve into the amazing world of mezcal and its process by tasting cooked agave to understand the complexity of flavors that exist in the raw material and looking at different soil samples from the most important regions in Jalisco to understand terroir in the agave world. Guests will also sample different herbs and fruits from various regions, aging periods and casks as they explore the formation of flavor in Mexican spirits and get a firsthand look at the most unique varieties.

Westland: American Single Malt – Ambassador Jason Cousins will provide an in-depth look into Westland, where he will debunk the myth that Westland is a replica of Scottish Whiskey and prove how the brand is leading the emergence of an entirely new category of single malt whiskey. Guests will learn about Westland ingredients, explore the traditional and newly forged traditions, and wrap up with an exploration of the production and taste profile with a tasting of each expression.
Johnnie Walker Blending Lab – The Johnnie Walker Blending Lab will be an educational and hands-on blending experience to learn about the art of blending and all things Johnnie Walker. Guests will then have the opportunity to create their own customized blend.

Participating brands (list in formation)
General Admission
Bully Boy Distillery
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack
Hiro Junmai Ginjo Blue
Hiro Junmai Red
Stoli Lime
Bribon
Charmucos
Patron Roca Silver
Patron Roca Anejo
Patron Roca Reposado
Patron Pineapple Citronge
Lillet
Avion
Altos
Absolut Elyx
Absolut Grapefruit
Campo Veijo Cava Brut
Bacardi Lime
Bacardi 4 Year
Bacardi 8 Year
Bacardi 10 Year
Blood, Sweat & Tears Vodka
Tom of Finland Organic Vodka
Aviation Gin
Sipsmith London Dry Gin
Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle
Basil Hayden Bourbon
Basil Hayden Dark Rye
Roku Japanese
Haku Japanese
Toki Japanese
Maker’s 46
Laphroaig 10 Year
Heaven’s Door Whiskey Line
Stolen Whiskey Line
Tanteo Tequila: Jalapeno, Chipotle and Habanero

VIP LUXE ROOM
Brugal 1888
Highland Park Magnus
Highland Park 12
Highland Park 18
Highland Park Valknut
The Macallan Double Cask 12
The Macallan Triple Cask 15
The Macallan Triple Cask 18
The Macallan Rare Cask
Glenrothes 12
Glenrothes 18
Glenrothes Whiskey Makers Cut
Partida Blanco
Partida Reposado
Partida Anejo
Partida Elegante
Don Julio Real
Don Julio 1942
Johnnie Walker Blue
Cragganmore 12 Year
Oban 14 Year
Caol Ila 12 Year
Mortlach 16 Year
Dalwhinnie 15 Year
Clynelish 14 Year

Features

The Road to Bedlam

March 30, 2019

For many people, finding the perfect partner is the holy grail. They feel that life will be much better with the right person walking by their side. This may or may not be true (just think about the proliferation of dating apps, and the divorce rate); but, when it comes to spirit brands, getting into the right relationship is everything. It really is the key to a happy, and successful lifespan of a brand.

Nobody knows that better than 2017 WSWA Brand Battle winners, Bedlam Vodka. From their Greybeard distillery established in the heart of Durham, North Carolina in 2016 this award-winning long-grain rice based vodka derives its name from Bedlam, Ireland, and blends the American grown raw material with an old Irish family recipe.

Brandon Evans and his team have quickly achieved many pivotal milestones in just a few years, and with such a unique, high quality spirit.

Tying together the concept of family and trusting in those you know you can count on is what has gotten Bedlam’s co-founders Brandon Evans, Sam Searcy, Ron Templeton, Scott Russ, and Brad Evans this far and enabled them to find distribution in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey fairly swiftly. They’re committed to being involved every step of the way, especially as consumers are ever more concerned about the origins of the food & drink they consume. As Searcy says about their production process that starts with a local farmer, “From rice paddy to bottle.”

The small, brand born in Ireland and realized in North Carolina rice field offers a unique grain taste and made big waves when it won Brand Battle, and many high profile opportunities have come their way since that day. Brandon Evans comments, “A lot of it kicked off at WSWA. Winning Brand Battle gives a lot of visibility.”

But that visibility and the enviable high profile opportunities that came after the win – including being an exclusive spirit at the ESPYs, participating at the CMAs, and a partnership with Harley Davidson – haven’t deterred Bedlam’s founders from focusing on what they believe is the perfect equation for growth…finding the right partners. Evans notes, “We have been successful in picking the right distributors. For us it’s key as we are a unique spirit. So, we weren’t just looking for rapid distribution.” Searcy adds, “Relationships are everything.”

It’s that attitude that won them the collaboration with Harley Davidson when the iconic motorcycle company was looking for a partner to help break into a new demographic. And it’s that attitude that led Bedlam to recently announce the addition of a new investor and member of the Board of Directors, Bob Keegan, former CEO and Chairman of Goodyear, and former Chairman of Xerox. Evans explains how the man running some of the most well-known global companies suddenly took an interest in an emerging spirits brand. He shares, “Loyd Builders, where Bob is a partner, is building my new house. We met during the construction process, discussed our business activities and had an immediate professional connection. At Bedlam, we are committed to continuously fostering growth and always finding new opportunities for success. He shares with us a growth orientation which is invaluable as we poise to expand nationally.”

Connections like that don’t come around all the time. But when they do, they make a big difference; for all parties. Bedlam kicked off 2018 with an intent to bring sips to lips and a goal of educating consumers about alternatives to their normal call. Evans notes, “Bob has had a host of major experiences building global brands, and he combines this consumer brand building success with operational expertise. Looking through that lens, Bedlam’s strategic direction aligned with his core belief that the key ingredient in developing a power brand is a superior and differentiated product that fills a sizeable gap in the market space. He is obsessive with creating our industry’s highest end-to-end product quality.”

Keegan adds, “Engaging with the Bedlam brand is very exciting for me.” “Brandon Evans and his team have quickly achieved many pivotal milestones in just a few years, and with such a unique, high quality spirit, there are many attractive growth prospects. As a whole, this industry is gaining momentum quickly, and I’m eager to lend both my consumer product and general management insights to further expand the success of this brand as we move from a regional to a national level.”

Evans concludes with a thought about why his newest addition to the team is both the right fit and part of the promise of a bright future, “In terms of translating his business success and acumen to the vodka industry, Bob believes that consumer product businesses have much in common. All require consumer behavior analysis, segmentation decisions, the development of impactful marketing and pricing programs, distribution channel selection, supply chain management and an ability to allocate capital effectively. The market dynamics may differ by industry but the skills to succeed are not unique. Through our collective leadership, we plan to bring Bedlam to new heights during such a dynamic time in the spirit industry.”

Features

UNIQUELY UNICO 20˚87˚ HOTEL RIVIERA MAYA – RESETTING THE BAR ON HOTEL BEVERAGE PROGRAMS

August 14, 2018

By Francine Cohen
All photos courtesy of Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya

When Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya opened in 2017 everything they did, from sense of arrival to decor to room
rates to retail, restaurants, and included activities were truly unique at this adults-only all-inclusive boutique property that envelopes guests in local culture, luxuriously.
That fresh take on operations, driven by maintaining an enhanced guest experience, also touched the bars.
In the past when you found yourself at the bar at an all-inclusive property, no matter if it was a swim up bar or one where the drinks were wetter than the guests, the back bar was pretty uniform; filled with the same bottles you’d find anywhere. That’s not the case at Unico 20˚87˚. Land at this property and you’ll find that each cocktail is prepared with the same care, attention and creativity as you’d find at the world’s finest cocktail bars.
Bar Balam_2
This is all thanks to ownership’s creative vision and the personal passions of Beverage Manager, Luis Felipe Vallejo, who has more than 20 years behind the bar and a lot of perspective on what guests want and need. So, when the time came to fashion his own program the vision he had was expansive, and innovative in the region. He shares his vision for the program that integrates both property wide outlets as well as in-room cocktailing. He explains,” To take the program to another level, by using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and by implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing. “
Being unique in the all-inclusive space didn’t just stop with the liquor. As any self-respecting bar professional would, be focused on every component of his drinks. Vallejo notes, “By using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing.”
Jade
Vallejo’s passion for the craft, and great guest service shines through; in interactions with him and his staff and in the cocktail menu itself. When evaluating new hires Vallejo says the most important things he looks for are “people who are committed and passionate in this profession.” He takes that passion, pairs it with the carefully chosen spirits he’s selected for their high quality, texture and flavor, and then takes a hands-off approach with his staff since he knows the best way to make a great barman is to, “Let them be themselves, showing pride in local culture and surprising our guests.”
Guests are also always pleasantly surprised by the property’s wine list which he oversees. It’s a mix of Mexican wines and those from other regions around the globe, all chosen to specifically pair well with each of the property’s unique restaurant menus.
They’re also pleased by how much cocktail & spirit knowledge they can glean at one of Vallejo’s afternoon cocktail classes. Taught four times a week with different subjects in each one, starting with the origin of the distillate, history and origin of the cocktail, preparation of the cocktail and then the guest recreates each cocktail this is more than just a refreshing respite from the afternoon Mexican sun; they’re a serious, and seriously fun, hands-on education designed to guarantee that home bars are getting better after vacations at Unico 20˚87˚.
For guests not consuming alcohol while on vacation, or after they return home, there’s no shortage of excitement in the glasses they’re handed upon arrival or across the bar during the stay. Local, authentic experiences are the focus on property from decor to activities to drinks, and it is delivered at every turn. Vallejo concludes, “I created these drinks to boost the local flavors and culture and have our guests try something new and exquisite.”
Xke Ban
Xkeban (Sinner)
2 oz. Vodka Infused with Chile de Arbol (sun-dried pepper)
1 oz. Lemon Juice
1 oz. Agave Honey
1.5 grams Strawberries
3 Basil leaves
3 Mint Leaves
Chile de Arbol for garnish
Lemon twist for garnish
Method:
Add vodka, lemon juice, strawberries, mint, basil, agave to a shaker and muddle
Add ice and shake
Strain into a chilled martini glass
Garnish with lemon twist and Chile de Arbol

Features

ONE TALE OF THE NEW TALES OF THE COCKTAIL

July 13, 2018

Words and some pictures by Francine Cohen
Cow photograph courtesy of William Grant & Sons/Image by Jennifer Mitchell Photography

Photo by Francine Cohen

Photo by Francine Cohen

As we go racing towards Tales XVI talesofthecocktail.com and all plan to land in New Orleans next week it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on the past year.

My oh my have things changed! Sadly, some beloved members of the community are gone. New ownership has taken over the event, topics that weren’t generally discussed out loud in the past are now front and center on the schedule where they belong, and new programming like we’ve never seen before at this cocktail conference, awaits us.

And as if that all wasn’t enough, the 2018 edition of Tales of the Cocktail coincides with the city’s tricentennial celebration 2018nola.com. Three hundred years is a long time for anything to go on and time can take its toll, but New Orleans has proven resilient and renewed in its glory year after year, century after century. This city known for its architecture, charm and hospitality is also America’s birthplace of cocktails and a bastion of good times. So, it is fitting we gather in the Crescent City to celebrate the spirits industry old and new.

Celebrating the cocktail, spirits education, and one another’s company is both an old and new reason that people think of when they head for Tales. And, of course the parties. This year is no different. Or is it?

Over the years William Grant & Sons www.williamgrant.com has thrown memorable bashes at Tales. More than 10 years ago they invited us to gather at a Garden District mansion. And who can forget the one at the WWII museum where the team from EO www.employeesonlynyc.com shucked oysters and a cow patiently allowed itself to be milked in order to produce the ultimate á la minute Ramos Gin Fizz? And then there was the camel at the airport…

Photo by Francine Cohen

Photo by Francine Cohen

But perhaps the most memorable one of all may be the one that hasn’t happened yet. Yet everyone’s already talking about it…this year’s portfolio party that won’t have any of the portfolio brands served. That’s right…an entirely non-alcoholic party kicking off the world’s biggest cocktail conference.

Honestly, like many of you, we here at INSIDE F&B, have been skeptical about this event and the need to have it be all or nothing. But we’re embracing this new era at Tales; it fits in with our long held belief that Tales, and our business in general should you want to make a career of it, is a marathon, not a sprint.

So, to squash our skepticism we turned to Charlotte Voisey, Director Brand Advocacy at William Grant to explain why, where, and how they’re throwing a party that’s already on everyone’s mind. It’s only got a little bit to do with Tom Cruise and we’re not sure about the four legged friends. But more on that in a moment.

This evening already sits well in the mind of Sother Teague, the Beverage Director at Amor y Amargo www.amoryamargony.com and partner in Blue Quarter (and the soon to open Windmill –you heard it here first). Teague comments, “Do I think it’s strange to be putting on a party at a huge cocktail convention and not serve any cocktails? In any other city, I might. But in New Orleans, which is steeped in cocktails and cocktail culture? I think it’s the perfect place! We as a whole should focus on what we offer; which is service and hospitality. Somewhere in my handwritten employee manual I say, ‘we sell the lighting kept at the right level…, we sell hospitality – all that other stuff comes with it.’”

He continues, “We sell experiences. I don’t have to get you drunk to achieve that experience. But who knows how many people will be willing to suspend their disbelief and attend. Let’s hope they do, especially in a city that is known so much for drinking but has so much more than that to offer.”

Voisey and her team are excited to put every aspect of William Grant & Sons on offer; the brands and the people. And Neal Bodenheimer, one of the new owners of Tales of the Cocktail, is hoping that moving forward people will continue to appreciate Tales for the community tool that it is. Including the economic benefit it brings to his hometown.

So, without further ado, let’s hear what Charlotte has to say:

IFB: The press release says, “William Grant & Sons guarantees a truly unforgettable experience at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail festival – kicking off the week with a spirited, yet spirit-free, portfolio party. Getting back to the roots of education and focusing on responsible consumption for the bartender community, the independent family-owned Scottish distiller will throw a party with all its expected revelry and signature high-concept experiences – without serving alcohol.”

And Neal was quoted in the release saying this, ““We see a big opportunity for a fresh beginning with Tales of the Cocktail this year, and we’re ready to truly focus on what’s important to us – access to proper education, the welfare and wellbeing of bartenders and the importance of responsible consumption,” said Neal Bodenheimer, Tales of the Cocktail Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors. “We can think of no better partner than William Grant & Sons to join us in this effort, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in New Orleans this year.”

And the entire industry instructs, “Please drink responsibly.”

So how is not drinking at all/no alcoholic beverages provided “drinking responsibly”? Is abstinence the best and only answer?

CV: The decision to go dry is simply about proving that we can get together as industry peers and professionals, network, learn, see what’s new and interesting and have a good time without the need to drink alcohol to do so. With industry events often lining up back to back every day of the week even outside of ‘Tales week’ we have to be able to do this. The William Grant & Sons portfolio party in particular is one of the first events of Tales so the idea of being able to enjoy what is arguably a “must-attend” event without any obligation (intended or otherwise) to drink is a responsible gesture from us to bartenders who have a full week of learning and networking ahead of them. We are not promoting abstinence, we will be promoting our brands on the night, we very much still want our guests to consider our brands for use in the bars when they return from Tales. The objective of this party remains the same since the first year we did it: throw a party to thank bartenders for their support during the past year.

IFB: How should we be looking at this alcohol free event — in a vacuum or cumulatively over the week of William Grant & Sons’ offerings?

CV: I think it is best to look at our full ‘dance card’ of events at Tales 2018. William Grant & Sons have a total of 13 events that allow us to participate and interact with the industry in a variety of different ways: straight up education in the seminars, trial of our brands in the tasting room, supporting the CAPs at breakfast time, sharing creative ideas at the spirited dinners and celebrating at the Spirited Awards and parties such as Beach Monkey and the Reyka Pool Party.

IFB: Last year you made a commitment to refreshing people with the departure lounge. I know it was open to just a select group of people. Is this another way, on a larger scale, to deliver a balanced Tales experience?

CV: You will be pleased to hear that The Hendrick’s of Ministry of Relaxation will be open at Tales this year again, on Sunday from 10am -5pm and it will be open to a larger number of people with our Ambassadors on hand to take reservations for some of the sought after ‘treatments and diversions’ that will be on offer. And yes, I would agree that the spirit-free party allows us to deliver even more of a balanced Tales experience to visiting bartenders, that is a lovely way to look at it.

IFB: What’s your answer to those who say, ‘how can a spirits company not promote their spirits and what does that say about what it is they produce, i.e. alcohol”?


CV: We will still be promoting our brands at the party. We are lucky to have a rich portfolio of not only spirits, but brands to bring to life, not to mention our team of Ambassadors who embody those brands. Furthermore, we recognize that a well-rounded bartender should be proficient in many areas of beverage, including spirit-free cocktails so we actually anticipate an opportunity to educate and inspire at the party, we want bartenders to leave feeling motivated to improve or start a spirit free cocktail section on their menu, alongside alcoholic cocktails.

IFB: Could you have imagined doing something this bold in past years? If not, why is now the right time? If so, why did it take 16 years of Tales?

CV: We have always strived to be bold and interesting with our parties and always considered the needs of the industry each year. For example, In 2014 we recreated the travels and writings of Charles H Baker to expose a younger set of bartenders coming up in the industry another slice of cocktail culture history, last year our mission was to celebrate diversity in the industry which is why we chose Studio Be as our venue with its striking, statement making artwork. Unfortunately, there were complications at the last minute and we had to switch venues but carried on the idea of inclusion by celebrating Love Supreme as our theme. In the early years it was more about introducing our brands to bartenders as they were lesser known 12 or so years ago. This year it was all about ‘how does the industry need supporting now, this year?’ or ‘what can we do to contribute to a positive environment’ and the idea of really getting behind responsible consumption seemed very appropriate, something we are very passionate about.

IFB: Will the drinks be a mix of sweet and savory? What can we expect to be sipping?

CV: I am thrilled to be working with the very talented Julia Momose, from Chicago, on the drinks for the party. Julia has made a name for herself as an authority in spirit free cocktails, so I approached Julia to consult on the menu for the event. Julia has been working with our Ambassador team to come up with cocktails that are still inspired by our brands yet remain spirit free. There will be a range of styles and flavors and even some of everyone’s favorite New Orleans classic cocktails to try, all with this year’s twist! We will also be working with our dear friends at the Chef’s Garden using their beautiful and flavorsome ingredients and garnishes. Most top chefs around the world have The Chef’s Garden on their supplier list and it is high time that that is the case for bartenders too.

IFB: What sort of activations do you plan to have going on that will encourage conversation when people are used to having drinks in hand that provide if not just a conversation piece, but also some liquid courage?

CV: There will still be plenty of drinks in hand and nibbles, we will have music and dancing and we will have various stations throughout the party where our Ambassadors will bring our brands to life in a variety of ways fitting our theme. There will be photo opportunities, a game of two, a speech and, most importantly, lots of merriment!

IFB: Can you tell us where the portfolio party is being held and what the theme is?

CV: Our venue this year is the iconic Mardi Gras World www.mardigrasworld.com. We have a great space right on the water with half of the party tented outside and half inside in the cool air conditioned space. And our theme this year is……. We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the cult movie ‘Cocktail’! our activations will bring to life certain scenes from the film as we follow the world’s most famous bartender from New York City, to the dreamy beaches of Jamaica.

IFB: Will there be animals?

CV: I couldn’t possibly say.

IFB: Is there anything else about the William Grant & Sons opening portfolio party being non-alcoholic or the entire slate of programing that is a fresh approach to a new world of Tales that we didn’t ask about and you want to tell us about?

CV: To surmise, just as in years past we are very excited to be coming to Tales to connect with, listen to, support and ultimately enjoy the company of our extended bartender family. Our simple gesture with the party is one of support, a break from the norm. People have come to look forward to this party for new ideas and creativity and we intend to deliver once more.

This party, along with other fresh additions to the schedule, delivers a signal loud and clear that there’s something new going on in our industry. A change that is long overdue; a positive message about balance in light of excess; enjoyment and appreciation; exploration and a little abstinence. And embracing every way of life that walks through this industry like you never have before.

Looking forward to seeing y’all down in New Orleans where we will be embracing one another, (and maybe a cow or Tom Cruise), and this brave new world.

Photo by Jennifer Mitchell Photography

Photo by Jennifer Mitchell Photography

Features

NOTHING BUT FLOWERS: Spring’s Garden to Glass Moment

June 1, 2018

By Georgette Moger

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger - Nasturtium-Capucine (002)

Talk about a floral fantasy. This spring, cocktails made with fresh blossoms are spreading like wildflowers.  Whether plucking from their own backyards, from rooftop gardens, or just neighborly sharing of their fortuitous abundance, bartenders are serving up a bounty of blossoms to cocktail enthusiasts.  From restaurant bars to cocktail bars to hotel lobby and pool bars floral garnishes of jasmine flowers and hibiscus have been spotted on the west coast, while across the pond in London capucine capers take center stage and in the south of France a bounty of bougainvillea premiers in a punch.  All proving that no matter where you wield your tins and mixing glass the garden is merely an arm’s reach away.

Join us as we take a gander to see what’s sprouting up at home and abroad.

In Los Angeles, the neighborhood of Brentwood holds a veritable Eden of earthly delights. Nick Westbrook, In-House Mixologist at Farmshop, finds the humid nights of spring lingering with the scent of jasmine. “One night when I left work, I took a big indulgent inhale and babbled something about how much I love jasmine.” Farmshop’s sommelier, Aida Parsa, overheard Westbrook’s sigh, and brought him a beautiful bag of wild Persian jasmine from her mother’s backyard. Westbrook sensed cocktail magic on the horizon. “The flowers were so fragrant and the buds so vibrant, I created an infusion with some scented tea pearls from China. The tannins from the tea reinforce the subtle bitterness of the jasmine but the Lillet brings it back to the floral—the Porto Branco lends a touch of fruit.”

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger Nick Westbrook drink IMG_6873-02-01-01

Que Soraya Soraya, Nick Westbrook, Farmshop, Los Angeles, CA

2 oz. Jasmine-infused Soju vodka*

1 oz. Lillet Blanc

1 oz. Porto Branco, or white port

1 Jasmine ice globe*

1 thin peel of seasonal orange or small citrus, expressed and rubbed around the rim

 

Build all ingredients in a rocks glass, including jasmine ice globe. Before stirring the drink, take a paring knife to the part of the orange rind that was just peeled. Make a deeper cut into the citrus, peeling off a section with pulp. Squeeze that part over the drink, adding a touch of fresh juice. Stir with a bar spoon 10-15 times and serve.

 

Jasmine-Infused Soju

1 750 ml bottle Soju vodka, with 4 ounces reserved

1 tbsp. Chinese Jasmine Pearls

3 sprigs Wild Jasmine

Add Chinese jasmine pearls plus several sprigs of wild jasmine to the bottle of vodka. Strain after six hours. If the infusion is more bitter than floral, dilute with the reserved vodka until a balanced flavor is achieved.

 

Jasmine ice globes

Use a silicone mold and distilled water that has been boiled for several minutes and allowed to cool. Add the flowers to the molds and fill only half full with water. Once frozen, fill to the top and return to the freezer until solid.

**Photo by Molly Posey

 

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger Omni Rosebiscus vertical 06 for edit_Rosebiscus Cocktail_Omni

 

Every April, the city of Carlsbad is awash in blossoms whether pouring out of window boxes, spreading over sprawling resorts or tied in bundles at farmer’s markets. From April 5th to the 15th, local bars and restaurants have a chance to show off Carlsbad’s new blooms with the Petal to Plate Festival, where attendees have a chance to taste culinary creations that feature a flurry of fleurs. At the Omni La Costa, Director of Food & Beverage, Patrick Sarte creates a unique menu of libations, fresh from the flower patch. “It’s easy to be inspired by the lush landscape of the resort,” says Sarte. “For this drink I looked to our iconic Omni hibiscus logo and used the subtle aroma of rose water, the refreshing citrus twist in the vodka and a hint of lemon and hibiscus syrup—spring in a glass!”

 

 

Rosebiscus, Patrick Sarte, Omni La Costa, Carlsbad, CA

1 ¼ oz. Ketel One Citroen Vodka

¾ oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz.  Wild Hibiscus Company Flower Syrup

¼ oz. Rosewater

1 oz.  Lemon Juice

2 oz.  Club Soda

 

In a shaker, pour the vodka, St.-Germain, hibiscus syrup, rosewater and lemon juice. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Fill Collins glass with ice. Strain the shaker into the glass and top with club soda. Stir and garnish with a hibiscus flower.

**Photo courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

 

Chefs Garden Flower - Nasturtium Flower- Red

In London, over at Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour where cream cakes and gin concoctions are the call of the day, Bartender Paul Carpenter has combined the delicate flavors of the season’s capucine flowers (Nasturtium) with the piney, meadowsweet botanicals of a Norwegian mountain gin. “This drink is basically a twist on a dry martini,” says Carpenter. “The gin itself is really fresh and herbal, the Cocchi Americano brings some sweetness and some texture to the drink, while the vermouth infusion adds depth and sharpness. The flavor of the capucine flowers lends a touch saltiness and a refined floral finish.”

 

Cousine Capucine, Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour, Paul Carpentier, London, UK

1½ oz. Vidda Torr Norway Gin

½ oz. infused dried capucine capers Dolin Dry Vermouth*

½ oz. Cocchi Americano

2 dashes Orange Bitters

 

In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine gin, vermouth infusion, Cocchi Americano and orange bitters. Stir until sufficiently chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Float one capucine flower atop cocktail or garnish with a caper.

 

Capucine Vermouth Infusion

1/3 oz. of fresh, dried, non-treated Nasturtiums flowers

16 oz. of Dolin Dry Vermouth

Rinse flowers and dry thoroughly. In a glass container, combine flowers and vermouth. Store covered in refrigerator for three days, then filter into jar.

 

Casting aside tales of punsch-swigging buccaneers, Emmanuel Balestra, Manager of the Bar Galerie Le Fouquet at Le Majestic in Cannes, set out to create a refreshing, low ABV cocktail to keep spirits high while ensuring no one goes overboard. “Pirates were the first to mix tafia, the predecessor of rum, with fruit juices and sugar to create an explosive cocktail to serve young sailors in the Royal Navy to get them drunk,” says Balestra. “I recently revisited these ingredients to create a cocktail that was lighter and more refined, beginning by replacing the sugar with pineapple water. Using fresh leaves of rose geranium, abundant in the south of France, and at the Majestic, the floral aromas deliver a delicate, honey note.”

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger - Majestic Punch (002)

Majestic Punch, Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s Cannes, Emmanuel Balestra, Cannes, FR

2 oz. Grand Arôme white rum

3 oz. Pineapple Geranium Water*

Dried pineapple and rose geranium leaf garnish

Pour rum and pineapple water into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir. Serve in an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with dried pineapple and rose geranium leaf.

 

For the pineapple water:

Cut a whole pineapple into cubes. Place into a 2-liter pot and cover with 2½ cups of cold mineral water. Add 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add 25 green leaves of rose geranium. Stir. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. Filter into jars. Yields approximately 5 cups.

**Photo by Alban Couturier

 

Friends & Family

Romantically Rediscovered: Carmenère Month Celebrates the Resurgence of the Chilean Wine Varietal

February 23, 2018

By Kristen Oliveri

I am ChileFor over 100 years, the French Bordeaux varietal known as Carmenère was thought to be extinct, only to be rediscovered in 1994, that it was, in fact, alive and well in Chile.

The story is straight out of a vinicultural fairytale. It begins in Chile in the mid-1800s, where the grape was first introduced by the French. Shortly thereafter, it was labeled extinct following an epidemic that swept through European Carmenère plantations. Fast forward to the year 1994 and enter French Ampelographer Jean Michel Boursiquot. While he was carefully evaluating vines and grapes that he was innocently told were Merlot, a sinking suspicion crept into his mind.

His gut did not steer him wrong.  He became known for making the joyous discovery that these Merlot grapes were in fact Carmenère. Subsequently, Carmenère was back on the wine scene after many years if living an undercover existence.

Today, the Wines of Chile celebrate November 24th as National Carmenère Day, honoring a special grape with medium tannins and good acidity that makes it a breeze to pair with food. The price points for these wines are extraordinary in today’s wine market, offering elegant, drinkable wines that are accompanied with a romantic back story, perfect for dinner party banter.

What makes this wine and others like it interesting is the viniculture of the Chilean wine region. What some might see as geographic barriers, Chilean winemakers see as heavenly gifts. The region is surrounded by the Atacama Desert in the North, the Andes Mountains in the East, the ice fields of Patagonia in the South and the Pacific Ocean to the West.

So, here’s the lowdown on three Chilean wines that should be on your radar:

Ficha EnveroThe Apaltagua Gran Reserva Envero is comprised of 90% Carmenere and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes hail from the vineyards in Apalta in the Colchagua Valley. The wine itself has tasting notes of ripe blackberries, tobacco and spice. Perfect to pair with food, it is a combination of ripe fruit notes, oak and vanilla.

santa-digna-carmenereThe Santa Digna 2012 Reserva Carmenère is a deep cherry colored wine that is aged in French Oak. When tasting this wine you may sense hints of leather, spices, with touches of eucalyptus coupled with mandarin oranges. Pair this wine with bold dishes comprised of veal and beef, or spicy dishes that pack a punch.

MontesAlphaCA14The Montes Alpha Carmenère is made with selected grapes from our Colchagua Valley vineyards grown under the vineyard’s “Dry Farming” philosophy. What that means is that the winemakers allow mother nature to focus on irrigating the vines in hopes that it increases the quality of the grapes.  This bold wine produces aromas of ripe red and black fruits, reminiscent of jams and desserts. Some may also notice a hint of vanilla and coffee on their palates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Features

GREETING GENEVER: Genever In Today’s Marketplace

December 24, 2017

By Frank Caiafa

Genever Frank Caifa cocktail photo flamingo title

Photo by Frank Caiafa

 

By the time Bols re-launched its Genever in the United States in 2008, it joined the ranks along side many other defunct, turn-of-the-last-century ingredients (old tom, navy strength gins, absinthe and even kummel (!) just to name a few) to finally make it to the menus of our most ambitious bars around the country. For someone like me, whose inspiration and guidebooks came from a sepia-toned era, Genever was going to fill a lot of holes recipe-wise and I think that its popularity has yet to be fully realized.

Rutte Genever bottle with cocktails photo by Margaret Pattillo

Photo by Margaret Pattillo

Brands as varied in flavor profiles and distillation processes as Bols, Rutte and the newly released Old Duff, all vie for the consumer’s attention. For those willing to be adventurous, there will be rewards. After all, by the middle of the 19th century, Genever was the most imported and consumed spirit in America until improved distilling techniques paved the way for more botanically led spirits to gain favor among the tippling public. In other words, it’s been hot before.

One connection I’d like to see go away is its forced relation to standard gins. Since it is a multi-grained distillate blended with malt wine, it bears more of a link to un-aged whisky than to any gin we are familiar with today (with the inclusion of juniper being the common denominator). It’s one of the things that have made it a tough item to market. I’d rather see it on a bar or in a retail shop somewhere between un-aged whiskey and blended Scotch. I think that the consumer interested in those products will have the shortest leap into the Genever category.

Education is a key issue as well. Although younger generations make the time to educate themselves to the point of geekdom, the older guard has had years of simply describing it as the ‘original gin’. Certainly there is some truth to that but I think that it does a disservice to its provenance and its potential.

As for the spirit itself, the Genever that makes it over to the U.S. is typically made in two styles; ‘Jonge’ (young), a 20th century distillation process resulting in a clear spirit utilizing a lower percentage of malt wine, and ‘Oude’ (old), the older practice using significantly more malt wine and botanicals in its distillation process, making for a light-whisky flavor profile and less neutral than the ‘jonge’ style. Both of these expressions have their uses for sure.

Old Duff bottle shot with Sother blurry in the background - DSC_0154 jpg

Photo by Greg Buda

Traditionally served ‘boilermaker’ style (neat, with a beer chaser – a personal favorite), many pre-prohibition cocktail recipes featured Genever as their lead ingredient and it’s easy to see why. It’s malty flavor profile lent a bit of complexity to uncomplicated cocktails that allowed it to shine. I am not in the least bit surprised upon visiting cocktail bars and seeing Genever paired in both simple and complex recipes. A ‘Jonge’ expression makes for an intriguing ‘Sour’ or paired with your favorite soda or tonic. A classic ‘Old Fashioned’ or ‘(Dutch) Negroni’, presented with an ‘Oude’ Genever as the star will definitely be added to your cocktail shortlist.

Genever can also add the ‘what is that?’ quality that most of the best recipes possess. Daring and creative bartenders like to be the first on the block and using an off-the-beaten-path ingredient like Genever is just the ticket to get the conversations going. With its classic, historically significant brands (Bols, Rutte) and its ‘indie cred’ up and comer (Old Duff), Genever is the type of product that can continue to be discovered for years to come.

 

divider-doodle

 

 

 

Genever Frank Caifa cocktail photo flamingo title

Photo by Frank Caiafa

Soho Flamingo

2 oz. Genever

1 oz. Pineapple Juice or Puree

3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

1/4 oz. Grenadine (home-made preferred)

1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters

 

Method:   Add all ingredients to mixing glass (except bitters). Add ice and shake well.  Strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with one long dash of Peychaud’s bitters across the top of drink.

The ‘Flamingo’ first appears in the cocktail book, “Bottom’s Up” (Saucier, 1951). It was originally rum based. The genever and Peychaud’s are my idea. Enjoy!

Frank Caiafa is the former beverage director of Peacock Alley and La Chine at The Waldorf Astoria NYC and author of “The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book” a 2017 James Beard Award Finalist. His F&B consultancy ‘Handle Bars NYC/Global Inc.’ can be found here:  handlebarsnyc.com

Columns, Features

TRY ANOTHER SIP – PINOT GRIGIO

June 2, 2017

By Susannah Gold
Vineyard with road tracks courtesy of Terlato winesWelcome to the first in INSIDE F&B’S new grape series, “Try Another Sip.” This new column, written by wine expert Susannah Gold, sets out to explore a variety of interesting alternatives to some of the bland and unimaginative wine offerings that populate wine lists everywhere.

No better place to start than with the workhorse of white wines, Pinot Grigio. Though often considered an easy-sell wine with little personality this grape, if grown on optimal terroirs at higher elevations, and handled properly, can yield compelling, complex wines with lots of pizzazz and flavor.

When Pinot Grigio is great it offers up interesting textures and beautiful white stone fruit flavors and aromas. Yet these exciting Pinot Grigios are mostly absent, sadly. For many years, what we have seen is a race to the bottom for much of this varietal.

This varietal pops up on US wine lists most often under the Santa Margherita label. They can legitimately boast that theirs is the most widely selling Pinot Grigio here in the States. Other brands, trying to get in on the list, have not always sent competitively worthy wines.

However, there is a lot going on today with Pinot Grigio including wines made from single vineyards and growing grapes at higher elevations. Grapes grown at higher elevations tend to have higher acidity levels and the wines that are made from these carefully selected grapes have a better overall balance between acidity and alcohol. In turn, these factors are bringing better examples of Pinot Grigio to market.

Rather than emulating those ABC types who shy away from Chardonnay–Anything But Chardonnay-make time to seek out Pinot Grigio again. Otherwise you are sure to miss out on some great wine list opportunities. A well-made Pinot Grigio offers versatility to your wine list with an ability to please a variety of white wine drinkers. It can be made in many styles; some dry and others with considerable residual sugar. A lot of that depends on the winemaker and his/her regional traditions and preferences.

Terlato vineyards Friuli

Pinot Grigios are known by that name across the globe. In addition to finding it in Italy, lots of Pinot Grigio is also grown in California, Australia and Germany. When you find it in France, or in Oregon or in New Zealand, it is often called Pinot Gris. Yet it’s made from the same grape, a member of the Pinot Nero family. In these places outside of Italy, where it is called Pinot Gris, it seems to signal more careful attention to detail in the winemaking process. Is this a bias against traditionalism or just a new trend cloaking a familiar wine? Certainly, in places like Oregon or New Zealand they seem to be carefully signaling that they want to identify with French Pinot Gris rather than Italian Pinot Grigio.

That may soon change due to the new activity in Italy’s Pinot Grigio regions that warrant us taking another look at this familiar grape. Italy’s Pinot Grigio comes principally from three regions: the Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige. Recent trade tastings revealed numerous examples of memorable Pinot from the Colli Orientali del Friuli, Grave, and the Collio, as well as from the Isonzo DOC. These are much higher quality wines made with carefully selected grapes and close attention to vinification. In these areas, Pinot Grigio has a history and tradition. It is not grown merely because it is widely loved in the USA.

If you want to expand your US dining customers’ horizons what should you be keeping your eye on to find some of the most interesting Pinot Grigio wines available? For sure keep track of these two Pinot Grigio fanatics -Marco Simonit and Pierpaolo Sirch. Known as the “Super Pruners” because of the work they do worldwide on pruning techniques. They come from Friuli and are working to create a Pinot Grigio district in the Colli Orientali del Friuli.

They believe so strongly that Pinot Grigio grown on hills in their region is completely different than those mostly found on wine lists in the USA that they have bought more vineyards there and are expanding their holdings. Sirch family has had a winery for many years. Wines made on the hills tend to have soils with good drainage, and larger swings in thermal excursion between day and night and better exposition to the sun. Additionally, because it is harder to farm on the hills, producers tend to put grapes they care about there. Simonit and Sirch also believe that Pinot Grigio is a grape that does not necessarily produce better wines when yields as severely restricted.

Together with Terlato Imports, Simonit and Sirch, their partner in the new Pinot Grigio challenge, are working to create a signature variety for Friuli that will pay off for farmers and producers alike. And that will justify the slightly higher prices than Pinot Grigio typically commands.

Vineyard Terlato Vineyard Sirch handling vines

These new and improved Pinot Grigio wines are going to face a daunting initial challenge. They will be priced higher than the typical $10 range that guests are used to seeing in a by the glass program. How to justify it? Your bar and floor staff will have to enlighten your guests and show them that the wine is of higher quality and made from hand selected grapes. Producers are hopeful that consumers will pay a little more for a better quality of something they are already intimately familiar with once they understand what’s really in their glass.

This hand-sell educational process isn’t without precedent. It has worked. Alsace has done a terrific job in getting guests to pay a slightly higher price for a Pinot Gris by the glass. They have built an exceptional reputation thanks to the heavy hitters in the Alsatian wine world, who have long been in the USA and have undertaken great marketing campaigns. Hugel & Fils, the wine producer, is a case in point.

The Alsatian experience suggests that Pinot Gris can age well also, making it seem more valuable to customers than some young wine just weeks from being grapes on the vine. The Pinot Gris wines from Alsace generally tend to have more residual sugar than those from Italy. The acidity in Pinot Grigio can be pronounced. It’s also got some weight on the palate. In Italy, Pinot Grigio tends to have an almond note on the finish, like many Italian white wines.

We have all had plenty of glasses of Pinot Grigio that have been dull or insipid. This no longer has to be the case. It is time for beverage directors to rethink their Pinot Grigio by the glass offerings, and see if customers like some of the producers they may not know as well.
These new Pinot Grigio entries are exciting and racy and great for an aperitivo or a first course. So, while it is said that familiarity breed’s contempt, it is time to put preconceived notions aside because, luckily in the wine world, what is old can be new again.