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John Henry



April 10, 2011

New York City’s best cocktail minds muddled up their best efforts at Cocktail Jam
By Francine Cohen

Cocktail Jam, the proving ground for bartenders where exploration meets the truth, kicked off the drink festival season on March 28th at Astor Place with a gathering of one dozen of New York’s most professional bartenders laying it all on the line in pursuit of the greatest prize of all…bragging rights.

They call them the dirty dozen; 12 of the city’s top bartenders who promoted their newly concocted cocktails created with the finest spirits, mixers, and garnishes, as they vied for a $2,000 Founders Day package prize that sends them to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail (July 20-24).

The truth was revealed at this annual experimental cocktail laboratory when Justin August (British Gins), Damon Boelte (Prime Meats), Frank Cisneros (Dram), Duane Fernandez (Donatella), Rob Fuentevilla (Mayahuel), Moses Laboy (Red Rooster), James Menite (Fornino), Ivy Mix (Lani Kai), Michael Neff (Ward III, Rum House), Steve Schneider-Hadzismajlovic (Employees Only), Karin Stanley (Dutch Kills), and Hal Wolin (El Cobre)hopped behind the bar.

Originally created by PipeLine Brands in 2009, Cocktail Jam showcased the best brands on the market adeptly mixed by the hands of these dozen mixologists, and raised much needed funds for tsunami relief.

John Henry of PipeLine Brands says, “I am delighted to see President Jason Littrell and the USBG NY take our “CKTL JAM” creation to new heights–in fundraising, fun and by broadening the guild’s awareness. This is an annual tradition at Astor Center for the bartender community, run by the bartender community. May USBG membership thrive as a result. Our PipeLine Brands is a proud part of the team effort.”

The team effort to pull this event together was led by USBG NY President Jason Littrell who comments, “The USBGNY is very proud to be an organization of creative professionals with a social conscience. The Cocktail Jam represents some of the core values our organization; education and charity. With a ‘what you see is what you get’ approach to making cocktails, the level of skill required to make something delicious is pretty high, and all 12 bartenders really stepped up and blew some minds using only the provided ingredients. Without the cooperative efforts of a small army of volunteers, guest judges, spirit producers, bartenders, and especially Astor Center, none of this would have been possible.”

The participating bartenders pulled it off handily, each presenting their cocktail to the esteemed judges who possess some of New York’s most progressive cocktail minds: Giuseppe Gonzales (Painkiller), Stephanie Moreno (Astor Wines & Spirits), Phil Ward (Mayahuel), Thomas Waugh (Death & Co.), and Jim Wrigley (Santa Teresa rum). With cocktails circulating throughout the crowd during each round, every drink was also put to popular vote and, at the end of the night, Rob Feuntevilla of Mayahuel walked away with the big win and Steve Schneider of Employees Only was crowned “crowd favorite.”

The crowd of thirsty cocktailians were eager to allow the bartenders free reign to create, and rewarded that creativity, as excitement for the summer’s biggest cocktail event – Tales of the Cocktail – filled the room. Enthusiasm about drink creation and experimentation starts with the bottles on the back bar as new and favorite spirits come out to play and this year Absolut joined returning rum brand DonQ as well as Campari, Cherry Heering, Coffee Heering, Denizen rum, Dry Sack sherry, Four Roses bourbon, Fruit Lab Organic Liqueurs, Herradura tequila, Lillet, Michael Collins Irish whiskey, Nolet’s gin, Perfect Puree, Pierre Ferrand cognac, Sagatiba cachaça, St-Germain, Santa Teresa rum, Solerno, Tanqueray, and Tuthilltown whiskey, all having their bottles firmly planted on the bar and at tasting tables available throughout the evening. Uber Tools were available behind the bar, making the muddling go that much faster.

COCKTAIL JAM has done so much more than just muddled along since its debut as the brainchild of John Henry, PipeLine Brands partner. It’s become the ultimate annual battle with bragging rights as the prize and a plethora of spirits plus virtually every imaginable herb, spice, berry, fruit, and vegetable as the ammunition. Jennifer Smith, General Manager, Astor Center concludes, “What makes the Jam different and special is that it brings talent from all over the city together in one venue, for a full-bore, elbows-and-shakers swinging good time. It is equal parts creativity and competition, and results in a truly unique show for guests.”

**** Hear about Cocktail Jam from the winners’ perspective:

Rob Fuentevilla

The truth of the matter is that I didn’t treat it as a competition. Jason and the USBGNY committee had a great idea to do what we do best, and help people. I wanted to help raise money for a good cause, and just have fun with my bartending friends and family.

It’s not every day I get to work side by side with some of the best bartenders (and old friends) in New York like Damon Boelte, Steve Schneider, Frank Cisneros, Karin Stanley, Moses Laboy, James Menite, Ivy Mix and Hal Wolin. It was also a great time meeting and working for the first time (and hopefully not the last), with new friends like Michael Neff, Duane Fernandez, and Justin August. I had not worked with these three great bartenders before and they rocked it! 

It was a little hectic while getting everything ready, but most of us showed true professionalism, adapting, overcoming and helping the USBGNY team pull off another successful event.

Although, the win came as a complete surprise, truthfully I knew I had a good drink, but I was just trying not to embarrass myself in front of the esteemed judges. I knew with the caliber of bartenders there, it would be tough.

Blind Side
By Rob Fuentevilla

1.5 oz. Herradura Blanco Tequila
.50 oz. Dry Sack Sherry
.25 oz. Solerno
1 Barspoon Agave Nectar

Strain into Double Rocks Glass rinsed with Michael Collins Irish Whiskey
Lemon Twist (not dropped in)

Steve Schneider
It’s always gratifying to know that the masses have your back and are having a great time. The crowd is the pulse of any bar or event and I feed off of it. It is why this business will never get old for me. Like any event, my Employees Only comrades came in packs to support me, and for that, I am grateful. Grateful to work for a cocktail making machine with my family at EO.

I was inspired to make the Fo’selle cocktail from a dear friend and fellow EO bartender, the brilliant Robert Krueger. When you think of the ingredients, fresh grapefruit, fresh lime and hibiscus -it is a universally appealing blend. I decided to stick with my usual view of a quality cocktail which is: not too difficult to make, fast, efficient, and appealing to a wide variety of drinkers (sell! sell! sell!)

We, the competitors, lined up before the show and picked the brand we were going to represent out of a hat. I drew Four Roses Bourbon. We didn’t have much time, space, or supplies to create a cocktail – so we had to think fast, which was the beauty of it. I already knew I wanted to have a cocktail with crushed ice, as it’s always fun to bring out my obnoxious mallets and hammers to crush ice to a pulp. The crowd seems to dig the whole “Thor” show.
The judges, some of the most well respected men and woman in the business, were all a lot of fun to interact with. Not only do they push out a quality product at their respected establishments (Painkiller, Death and Co, etc), they know a quality one as well.

What better person to bring us a winning cocktail than Mr. Rob Fuentevilla. Rob is one of the most brilliant cocktail minds in the business, and sitting at his bar at Mayahuel is an absolute pleasure. Whenever I’m in a competition and I see his name on the card, the question isn’t “How can I win this competition?” It’s “How can I beat Rob Fuentevilla?” He delivered again and won on the judges poll with a much deserved cocktail featuring Herradura Tequila. He also was a prominent leader behind the scenes helping Jason to batch all of our cocktails for the crowd. I respect the hell out of him as a bartender and even more as a man.

All in all, I was honored to be invited to participate in this event by Jason Littrell and the USBG. After getting a chance to meet and hang out with the other competitors (most for the first time), I figured that if anyone didn’t belong with this star-studded group of bartenders, it was me. They are all amazing at what they do. Thank goodness the crowd reminded me otherwise. Voting me “crowd favorite” reminded me that I belonged amongst the top in their eyes, and in my heart! I’m glad I got the opportunity to represent Employees Only and the USBG at a spectacular fund-raising event and hope I get invited back next go-round!

Fo’selle # 2

An adaptation of the Roselle cocktail by Robert Krueger

By Steve Schneider, Employees Only

1 1/2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
1 oz Fruit Lab ‘Crism’ Organic Hibiscus Liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh ruby red grapefruit juice

Shake and pour over crushed ice in an old fashioned glass, garnish with a mint crown. Drink quickly and have another.



April 1, 2011

AKA the top 12 things I repeatedly hear buyers saying out there on the street
By John Henry

It’s fun being the Country Doctor of the business, out on the street, tending to our community of buyers, both on- and off-premise. It can also be like wearing a hairshirt in August waiting for the N/R train on a hot midtown subway platform, carrying an “emergency” hand delivery case of obscure booze which your distributor somehow didn’t deliver with the order…as the sweat drips down your back. Drop by drop.

Some topics, ideas, grunts, insights come up often. New Yorkers in the food and beverage business like to complain, it seems. I share them with you now. In no particular order. Hope you enjoy these juicy street nuggets. Like a crisp cased NYC street dog, cooked to perfection.

1. It is tough doing business in this town. Bloomberg, the SLA, Health Dept are all in my pocket and
it’s “pay to play now—not whether they’ll get you fined, but for how much…and on what payment

2. I don’t want 5 different sales guys, I just want Mark/Jake/Lou/Faye/Rob/Julie…You big guy
distributors take note. It is why we little guys are thriving. You get “me.”

3. The sales guys/gals are just begging for favors now/aka, “You know how much junk placements I
still have down in my office. I sit on a case of that rum as my stool” etc. Alternate gripes: How
many favors can I do?/I only hear from ‘em when they need a favor.

4. That (sales) guy is just an order taker. Ladies-take note I have yet to hear the female version.
God bless you.

5. They really botched that brand. Big suppliers take note when you take over a little brand. Let it
be! Just grow it organically. No highway billboards needed along the Major Deegan.

6. We need consistent case pricing on a new brand. Or as the brand hits maturity later on: I wish
they wouldn’t have jerked with the price after they made me buy deep. I usually see buyers’
forehead veins popping out on this one—makes me think of the CPR steps I learned in Red Cross,
just in case I need to practice them shortly.

7. Man it sure would be nice to be taken out to lunch again. I miss the old days. Aka
The broader lament: whatever happened to customer service?

8. Why didn’t they consult me/us before they came out with that wacky bottle? You think I can
actually pour this at my bar? Continue Reading…



January 31, 2011

Anticipating a spirited future for 2011
By John Henry

Photo by Ben Stechschulte

The revolution of brand building is upon us. From the street on up. 2011 is the year in which the artisanal brands will fully break through to mainstream; especially those with high value to cost ratio. Overall, a new rise in hospitality will come to the bar trade this year and its warm tides will raise the bar nationwide both on-and off-premise.

On the street, day and night, seven days a week (the PipeLine Team logged over 13,750 man hours on the streets in 2010), we presented our brands to buyers in the most enlightened way possible–making placements, developing cocktail lists, setting up window displays, conducting in-store tastings, meeting with influential buyers, listening to and engaging consumers, schmoozing at Tales of the Cocktail, leading staff seminars, making and pouring cocktails at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, mustering up bartender support, blitzing the market with distributor sales representatives, leading their sales meetings for our contracted brands and sampling the wares. We focused on “marketing through sales” and we led the charge for the emerging artisanal brands in the marketplace, on the front lines.

There are exciting trends emerging from the grass roots brand movement we see daily on the spirited front lines, in our home tri-state market and beyond. The PipeLine mission has always been about connecting consumers to great craft brands and we are proud to have been a part of the movement and to have made the connections. Now we are invigorated to move ahead into the mainstream with your eager support–trade and consumers alike.

We want to keep bringing you the next wave of “good stuff” –to promote great emerging brands through “sales deliverables on the street” — at the forward edge of the market. Our detailed and customized ANNUAL MARKET REVIEW, broken categorically down by region, level, type and Continue Reading…



March 11, 2010

NY State Liquor Store Owners and Supporters Rally in Albany Against Grocery Store Wine Sales

By John Henry

If you believe that wine belongs in liquor stores, and not stacked between the produce and the cracker aisles, then Albany was the place to be in NY on February 24th when over 800 store owners and industry amassed at The Egg Center for Performing Arts ( and lobbied state representatives against the pending bill to allow wine sales in New York supermarkets.  It was inspiring to see all store owners united on deck and making the rounds in small groups to lobby their respective local representatives. It’s all about their votes, after all. 

Upstate supermarket powerhouse Wegman’s appeared to be the only party on site in favor of the bill.   Some hissing ensued. Continue Reading…