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October 4, 2013

How the US government’s shut down is wreaking havoc with the spirits industry
By Francine Cohe

Washington DC with monument in background quiet

Think that just because you’re not one of the 800,000 “non-essential personnel” furloughed during the government shut down this week that you and your hospitality/liquor industry brethren and the customers you serve won’t feel the sting? Think again.

While you’re all still expected to be at your job as normal, and it doesn’t seem evident that anything much has changed on a day to day basis, OND sales numbers, product innovation, and revenue (brand and tax revenue) is going to be down this year. Not to mention the possibility of product shortages. There’s no telling yet just how hard we’ll be hit. But it’s certain you’ll see the impact in some way.

Though it is highly unlikely you’re in the same boat as Allison Evanow of Square One Organic Spirits ( and Brian Facquet of Prohibition Distillery (, two craft distillers in the delegation organized by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States ( to present their handcrafted products to VIPs at Berlin’s Bar Convent next week who were just notified that the venue had changed from the American Embassy to the Berlin Hilton thanks to our legislators not coming to consensus, the impact of this government shut down won’t go unnoticed.

Maybe it’ll be noticeable bare spots on your shelves because imported products are tied up at port. That’s a problem that Lizzie Asher, President of Macchu Pisco (, is presently facing. Or maybe you’re a retailer awaiting holiday VAPs to fill your shelves in one of the busiest selling seasons of the year and those new products simply aren’t available. Producers who live and breathe for those on and off premise account sales are certainly feeling it now. Jason Johnstone-Yellin of Single Cask Nation ( notes, “Single Cask Nation has product sitting at the Glenfarclas distillery that cannot be imported before TTB approval is received. Further, our US-sourced Chanukah releases are delayed while we wait to Continue Reading…

Rocks Stars


November 1, 2011

LIQUOR LIBERATED Founder Introduces Millions of Readers to Better Drinking
By Francine Cohen

It’s a good thing that in his 1922 poem The Wasteland TS Eliot referred to April as the cruelest month; because if he had written “November is the cruelest month” he would have confounded the next generation’s sociologists as they look back into culinary history to pinpoint the moments when Americans suddenly became food and drink obsessed and embraced terms like “foodie” and “cocktailian.”

Why confusing to call November cruel? Because if one tracks factoids about the hospitality industry’s history and progress then they know that November is a monumental month worth heralding. It’s in this month that the two media launches which entirely changed the face of how modern day Americans find pleasure in food and drink, and how they interact with chefs, farmers, purveyors and bartenders, happened; in November 1993 we saw the first Food Network broadcast (then called Television Food Network) and November 2009 marks the date the month that launched, opening up a whole new world for spirits aficionados.

In our book, there’s nothing cruel about any of that. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There’s great reason to celebrate the immediate embrace of’s content and the site’s rapid growth to over 100,000 email subscribers since launch (not to mention hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans and strong partnerships with other media outlets such as Huffington Post that drives the number up to touching 1-3 million consumers per month); it all has proven to be a boon for the entire hospitality industry. And, though the food revolution has been going on for a while, it took the introduction of a spirited website to drive that passion for good drinks and quality alcohol to the forefront.

Funny that the website which makes better spirit knowledge accessible all started over a late night beer. But then again, great ideas often do. founder Kit Codik explains how he arrived on the scene and unknowingly changed the face of drinks appreciation, “I went to Tales (>) two years ago before I started – I didn’t know anyone. All I was there to do was to learn the industry. I met Noah [Rothbaum – current Editor of] there and we had an Abita ( in a plastic cup at Absinthe House from 5-6.”

At the time that Codik and Rothbaum were bonding over Abita didn’t yet exist. This past year was the festival’s largest media sponsor, but back then, over that beer, Codik was in New Orleans strictly on a research mission to see what was percolating in the spirits industry and determine how he could tap into it in a way that opened up the marketplace to consumers in a consolidated and compelling way they’d never seen before while exposing brands to potential new consumers.

The serial (and successful) entrepreneur came to the cocktail festival with a name in mind for his website and realized he needed to do more research into the booze business. Codik admits that his approach to building is not the traditional way to get a business off the ground. But it seems to be working just fine. He comments, “In 2008 I was scratching my head and wondering why when it is an industry generating $60 billion at retail and $20 billion at wholesale, the brands’ digital advertising spends were only 1 to 3% of their marketing budgets versus the 10 to 12% that other categories were already spending on digital marketing.”

He continues, “You don’t normally do this, but I actually built this backwards with a name. Usually you start with a market problem or opportunity and that seeds the project. Instead we started with a name and determined whether there was an opportunity to build the tremendous brand without a capital outlay. It was a tough time to raise capital, but I had been in the start-up world for a long time and had enough people in my network and it went from there. My business partner and I met the guy who owned the domain name. He pitched us to work with him on a different business plan and, while we loved the name and loved the guy, we didn’t love the plan. So we went our separate ways. He called us again later and ended up saying he’d take $4.5 million for the domain name. had just sold for $3 million and had just sold $5 million. We knew the domain is valuable and it’s a huge industry so we said to him ‘you give us the domain and you’ll get a seat on the board, and equity, and we’ll set a finite timeline to research the industry.’”

This arrangement worked. And, despite Codik’s admitting he was more of a wine drinker than a spirits guy prior to the launch of and had no real knowledge of the industry at the time he undertook this venture, Codik took to it quickly and intensely. He says, “It’s funny how things come together. I’m so passionate about building the business and, while I think about as a digital business, fundamentally we’re in the spirits industry. It permeates everything we do and I’m very passionate about it. I feel like I found my home.”

His home was centered on a vision that he explains as this, “Let’s build an email centric business that has a highly targeted audience.” Codik envisioned a site that was both approachable and authoritative. To that end he created a “dream team” board of industry advisors Continue Reading…