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BETTER DRINKING THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

August 31, 2012

By Francine Cohen

When the local drug store chain starts stocking multiple flavors of packaged beverages that turn into instant cocktails once you freeze them it is hard not to take notice. As a spirits industry professional you both want to applaud the fact that cocktails have gone mainstream to the extent they’re shelved next to the shampoo, and shudder as you wonder who, if anyone, is helping these drinkers educate their palates. Certainly not the cashiers.

While the drugstore cashier may not be any help in terms of putting great spirits in front of shoppers our pop culture mediums are doing their part; in the last few months, on USA Network alone, the nod to drinking well has been extensive. (www.usanetwork.com) First there was the very evident bottle of scotch sitting in Marshall Pitman’s office during a tense scene in Necessary Roughness and then there was White Collar FBI agent Peter Burke submitting to bartender training so he could go undercover (best line:”Neal, do we have bitters?”). And of course there’s the very prominent focus on a DonQ (www.donq.com) bottle during the Seth McFarland silver screen hit Ted. And let’s not forget about Sheldon “accidentally” imbibing a Cuba Libre in Big Bang Theory and banging out an enthusiastic rendition of “L’Chaim” from Fiddler on the Roof.

All of this leads one to believe that Americans care more and more about beverages to the point that it’s practically become the new pastime. But, just as a true baseball fan had someone explain the rules of the game to them so the nuances made sense, so too do the new breed of drinkers need some guidance.

Enter the drink sherpas; those editorial sites and apps that dispense wet wisdom while celebrating the rising tide of drinkdom.

Ian Stanczyk, co-founder of the OnTheBar app (www.getonthebar.com), comments on the rising interest in drinking and how it follows patterns the hospitality industry has seen before, “The drinking is following along the whole celebrity chef movement that started 15 years ago and now has gotten so mainstream. What happened in fine dining is what’s happening with fine drinking.”

A great thing for the spirits industry no doubt, and those who demystify it. Outlets like Hooch Life (www.thehoochlife.com), Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards winner Liquor.com (www.liquor.com), OnTheBar, and ShakeStir (www.shakestir.com) exist to guide imbibers through enjoyable (and responsible) alcohol enjoyment; and they do it well. Creating hope for better drinking (and spirited learning) everywhere.

Liquor.com Editor-in-Chief Noah Rothbaum is an industry veteran who has seen a significant change in consumer understanding and appreciation of alcohol over the years. Accordingly, he designs his content so that the site is the best educational tool it can be as it presents spirited knowledge for the youngest drinkers and oldest bartenders alike. Liquor.com handily spans the breadth of audience because they understand their readers’ needs and expectations. He explains, “We live in an age where people are no longer satisfied with just showing up at a restaurant or bar without doing prior research. Part of the eating and dcrinking experience is not just about going out. People derive a lot of joy in planning their outing. Everyone is trying to find the perfect restaurant or bar and now, with the resources on the internet, you can find something about the menu, the bartender, the chef, their feelings about cooking and mixology and what spirits they like to use. People are walking into a restaurant and bar with arguably more information than they’ve had before. It has gone far beyond eating and drinking for sustaining reasons. It transcends food, it’s entertainment. They aren’t just looking for a drink – they are looking for an experience.”

He continues, “That’s where we come in, trying to provide our readers and professional and home bartenders tips from the world’s best bartenders that are helpful to anyone of any skill level, sussing out trends, bar news that is both interesting and useful for them.”

When Liquor.com began they were pretty much a lone voice in the wilderness. Rothbaum remarks, “There was a void in the world for a place where people could get stories written by the best spirits writers and top mixologists. A place where they could also get great cocktail recipes in one place. That information you could find in different places piecemeal. To bring it together was something the people needed. The type of resource that as they get more sophisticated they need and they want.”

Reaching the increasingly interested drinker was an impetus for Hooch Life coming online. The site aims to provide engaging drinker edification that results in smart and informed choices. Marshall Altier, a founding partner and Senior Contributing Editor, comments, “I really like the concept of empowering the consumers by giving them an insider track into the opinions of insider pros. This goes back to what we did with How to Booze (his book); it was about demystifying the process and showing that you can do it at home.”

He continues to explain Hooch Life’s approach, “It’s intended to be smart and lifestyle driven. With [articles and input from] an elite network of people throughout the country offering opinions of where to go readers can tap into the mind of the professional bartender. We’re sort of offering people the chance to learn if they want to but not spending their entire day researching a topic. We want it to be a quick read but to make you feel like you’ve learned something and then feel empowered to go to the bar and learn more.”

While Hooch Life is inspiring readers to visit bars for more education and a good drink, the popular app OnTheBar is helping them decide just which one to choose; based on who is working that night.

This is proving to be beneficial to bars, bartenders and brands. Stanczyk explains, “The app is building loyalty with regulars, giving them means to keep track of their favorite bartenders. The more people who come in to see a specific bartender that’ll mean more tips. On the brand side the app gets itself in between two purchasing decisions: 1) ‘Where am I going to go? 2) Now I know where I’m going to go, now what am I going to drink?’ We see ourselves uniquely positioned to influence that.”

The brands definitely see the value in supporting an app that drives decision making in a closely targetted way. Scott Goldman, President Combier USA (www.combierusa.com), embraces the technology that provides real opportunities to influence consumers and move product. He says, “The spirits industry has always been an old man’s industry and is coming to the point where it’s coming into the 21st century. With advertising and PR I’m finding it’s more effective to do something online versus hiring models in short skirts to walk around with shot glass. There are more effective ways to reach your target audience. You could go into a bar to hire people to do a shot program but there’s a good chance that half the people in the bar wouldn’t be interested in your product. When you go online you can customize your audience.”

The audience to be influenced straddles both sides of the bar so it’s a good thing technology has caught up. On the trade side the result of harnessing this technology is strong community and business building. Goldman shares the thinking behind ShakeStir, “We’re setting up a community to share ideas and talk with one another. To advance the careers of bartenders and the industry in general by that sharing of ideas.”

He continues with an example, “What if I’m in Minneapolis? If I’m in Minneapolis I can get an idea of what’s going on in the rest of the country. These bartenders sometimes needed to wait for another issue of a magazine to come out to see what they’re doing across the country. Someone in Madison doesn’t need to wait for the next issue to come out to be inspired with a new cocktail idea – they can be inspired instantly by getting on ShakeStir.”

Stanczyk is inspired to learn his app is a useful business building tool. He notes, “Inspiring guests to visit a particular bar is the business building tool that OnTheBar provides to bars, restaurants, and bartenders. Anecdotal evidence comes from bartenders who use the app telling me about instances in which a customers come in for a drink when they normally wouldn’t because they received a notification that so and so bartender was on the bar.” Don’t believe Stanczyk? It’s true. Proof comes from
Rob Cryan, bartender at Osteria Morini (www.osteriamorini.com) in NYC who says, “A guest came in and told me she had just been walking by the restaurant when she got the notification I was on the bar. So she turned around and came in for a drink and a bite to eat. As she said, ‘I’m here. Why not?!’”

Cryan isn’t the only bartender who has harnessed the power of this app to build his business and inspire America to drink better. Michael Ray, the beverage manager and a bartender at Forum in Boston (www.forumboston.com), says, “I think these guys have designed a marketing tool that will explode in the near future. I have taken to the viral self marketing of social networks. It is the best free way to get my name and the place I work at and for out there in the public eye and what I consider my market socially and business wise. OnTheBar allows me to check in when I get to work and email notify my followers ( guests I hope and not stalkers) and it also links to my FB and twitter accounts so any and all know that I am at work. I would say that as the spectrum of local users grow and the people who pay attention to tweets and Facebook. It works.

I would say at least twice a week someone or a group of someones come in and say ‘I saw you were on the bar and came to say hi and have a cocktail.’ I love seeing who is on so I can do the same when I’m out.”

Out and about or in for the evening, there are now myriad opportunities to learn how and why to drink better and do more business. While these apps and sites are not necessarily a formalized cocktail college (though that sure sounds like fun) they are on the forefront of making sure America drinks better. Better than you’d guess when considering that people can easily spend minutes standing under the fluorescent lights debating which daiquiri flavor to throw in their basket along with the conditioner.

Don't Miss

FETE, AND FEED, DAD

June 15, 2011

A grown up boozy soufflé to celebrate Father’s Day (and every day through July)

Though your father probably doesn’t look like George Washington and isn’t exactly the forefather of our nation he does have a couple of things in common with ol’ George… that’s being old enough to drink, telling you truths to help you have a better life, and being the forefather of your own personal nation.

So, while we’re not advocating spreading rumors that your dad chops down cherry trees you can treat him to an historically inspired (and appropriately liqueured up) dessert at Capsouto Freres (www.capsoutofreres.com).

Hitting the menu once again is the Roi René Rouge Cherry Soufflé. It’s the second year that Tribeca’s mainstay French bistro, Capsouto Frères has partnered with Combier USA (www.combierusa.com) to produce this one-of-a-kind dessert and it’s the perfect gift at $10.50, not another expensive barbecue tool that’s going to gather dust. Plus, you (and mom and your sisters and frères if you have them) can enjoy it too.

Capsouto Freres is known for their soufflés, and this tasty option is a specialty created by one of the frères who own the restaurant, Jacques Capsouto. Jacques has incorporated fresh cherry jam, crème anglaise and Rouge cherry sauce made with Roi René Rouge Cherry Liqueur.

Roi René Rouge’s all-natural recipe is comprised of a blend of handpicked guignes and morello cherries for their bitter and sweet flavors. Never modified from the original process created by the Reverend Mother Gautron of the Benedictine Abbey of Saumur, France, in March 2010, the Spirit Journal 2010 rated Roi René Rouge Cherry Liqueur the “Highest Recommendation.”

That sounds like enough to warrant us telling you this is a “Don’t Miss”!

The soufflé is available for $10.50 from this Father’s Day through July 2011.

Don't Miss

DON’T MISS – DRINK LIKE A PRINCESS

April 29, 2011

Struggling to keep our eyes this morning to watch the royal nuptials got us thinking that a bright and refreshing cocktail was exactly what the occasion (and this 4:00 a.m. hour) needed.

And, in homage to the strange mixed up feelings of excitement and stress all brides feel while walking down the aisle, we whipped up something Princess inspired that was both delicious and nerve steadying.

Though our golden enveloped invitation got lost in the mail and therefore we can’t report as fact that Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge, as if a Princess title isn’t enough) was actually fighting off butterflies in her stomach, we’d like to imagine this was a drink she’s always whipped up for her best girlfriends from Buckleberry and that today she’d enjoy this cocktail to remain calm, deal with her new in-laws, and get ready for her next big event…yep, Cinco De Mayo.

You are cordially invited to enjoy the Royal Margarita. Today, May 5th, and on all 363 other days of the year. The Royal Margarita is an elevated classic that with offers up a touch of herbal intrigue that perks up a meal whether it’s pomme frites at the palace or tacos on the beach.

ROYAL MARGARITA
1 ½ oz. silver tequila
1 oz. fresh lime
½ oz. Royal Combier
½ oz agave nectar

Shake with ice and serve.

Don't Miss

DON’T MISS

July 14, 2010

Roi René Rouge

On a recent episode of Top Chef James Beard Award winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini joined Gail Simmons and Padma Lakshmi as they put the cheftestants to the test of making a pie. Seems reasonable, it’s stone fruit season. Yet, not one of them reached for the cherries.

Had they had a bottle of Combier’s Roi René Rouge Cherry Liqueur (www.combierusa.com) in their pantry for inspiration this may have been a whole different sort of competition. The exquisite cherry fruit that makes up this liqueur (a blend of Guignes and Morello cherries) is spiked through with a hint of pepper creating an intense, rich flavor that lingers on the palate and warms the lips.

We love the layered depth this liqueur offers, and it works equally well in cocktails or sipped neat. We’re told it’s made with 100% natural ingredient; no artificial essences or dyes. And it seems that the original recipe was created by a nun in 1632 and that the product hasn’t changed since. As their advertising says, “How much more pure can you get?”

Rouge Ryder
Brandon Josie, 15 Romolo

1oz Combier Roi Rene Rouge
.75oz Rittenhouse 100
.5oz Carpano Antica
.5oz Lemon
.5oz Tangerine Rhubarb Gastrique

Gastrique: 5 lbs. tangerine juice, zest of 5 tangerines, 5lbs. chopped rhubarb, dry vermouth, champagne vinegar, cane sugar, Indonesian long pepper, grains of paradise, toasted coriander

Directions:
Build in Collins. Top with soda water and ice. Garnish with lemon peel.

Events

SHAKE IT FOR THE CAMERA

May 15, 2010

You know what they say about the face a bartender makes when he/she is shaking…they’re really concentrating on making the most delicious drink they can.

Stop by Chinatown Brasserie (380 Lafayette Street, just across from Astor Center) and show off your shaker face.

Then go on line to www.shakerfaces.com and vote for your favorite shaker (yes, we know you’re going to vote for yourself).

The good folks at Combier (www.combierusa.com) will make it worth your while. The winning shaker face reaps a $500 prize just for looking so good with that tin in their hand.

Shake it up from 12-2 on Saturday 5/15, Monday 5/17, Tuesday 5/18.

Events, Features

SPIRITED SEMINARS

February 19, 2010

Culinary and cocktails intersect at the Restaurant Show
By Francine Cohen

Photo by Jennifer Mitchell/Courtesy of Beam Global

Mixing it up at The International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York’s beverage seminars February 28th through March 2nd at The Javits Center (www.internationalrestaurantny.com) – Marcy Blum, Jonathan Forester, Chef Carmen Gonzalez, Jason Littrell, James Menite, Heidi and Junior Merino, Douglass Miller, Raphael Reyes, and Erin Williams.

Join these beverage, culinary, and special event luminaries and you’ll learn how to maximize operational efficiencies and enhance the guest experience through an integrated and thoughtful beverage program approach that is effective both in restaurants and for special events.

Bar Loves The Kitchen: Culinary Cocktails (a hands-on/interactive demo) Demo Theater/Booth 1957
Sunday, February 28, 2010 12:00 – 12:45 pm
Monday, March 1, 2010 3:15 – 4:00 pm

Creating Signature Cocktails For Your Clients
Tuesday, March 2, 2010 10:00 – 11:00 AM Room 1C01

Continue Reading…

Events

COCKTAILS FOR A COUNTRY

February 13, 2010

Spirited sipping leads to $5,800 raised at the Hearts & Cocktails for Haiti Benefit

By Francine Cohen

Photo courtesy of Lush Life Productions

Who said people drink just for pleasure? Sometimes they drink to help those in pain. At least that’s what was going on at Bar Celona in Brooklyn on Sunday, January 31st when hundreds of spirits industry professionals and cocktail enthusiasts gathered to raise a glass and some much needed funds for Haiti.

Haitian American Ray Raymond of Leblon Cachaça and Dave Catania of Chairman’s Reserve organized this important evening and welcomed their industry friends and cocktail lovers to join them for cocktails created especially for the evening by some of New York’s best mixologists. Continue Reading…