I do not get very excited about many spirits presentations, but today I had one of the more interesting and well-prepared presentations since I have worked in my present capacity. Why is this important and or interesting to me and potentially you? Glad you asked.
The presenter was the Elana Effat, the Spirits Brand Manager for Martin Scott Wines, out of New York. Martin Scott Wines is also known as Winebow in Ct, and Stacole in Florida – so everyone can and needs to pay attention as most of these products are absolutely available in your market. This was one of the criteria that I placed on the reps and suppliers a few weeks back when I informed them that was in the process of developing a new plan for cocktails 2017 – The Warm Season. (Except Florida, of course, where it’s always warm, and the season is in full swing.)
Our local Winebow rep in CT, Jason Vocke, made sure to pay attention to my list of requirements when setting the appointment, and it greatly appreciated and noted that he had done so. Elana was very well informed and I would say could and will be a valuable resource in the future for trainings and other event needs, to which she is open.
Why was this meeting impactful to me? The items are all new to our little corner of the world. I am looking at and have been speaking about the fact that this year (and for some time now) we are coming under greater and greater pressure from competition, competition in drinks, service, food and style. Guests have many, many more options to spend their dollars and time with than ever before and we need to be on our game, in fact ahead of the game a bit I would say, to make sure we are leaders in this great market of ours. Otherwise, we stand to slowly see our market share diminish, and I for one am not about that. We have the resources, I have the ability, and you should have the desire to maintain your place at the front of the bus when it comes to developing the best bar programs around.
What you are going to continue to see is the market catching up with the things we have been doing for 6+ years, now. Why? Because the competition is learning and doing what we have been doing (and in some cases more), and these things are becoming more mainstream. Better skills, better selection of less-branded-higher-quality products, a diversity of ingredients, crafted ingredients with more combinations – in essence a ton of stuff that we discuss all the time, but not always continue to put into practice.
A few weeks ago I reached out to all the reps we have in the three markets and gave them a list of criteria I am looking for and to learn about, with the underlying premise that I am working on spring/summer cocktails and drink lists. This is true. The plan is to source a list of new and innovative products then make a list of recommended drink possibilities. Which brings me back to where I started.
The list of products below was as about compelling a list of new items as I have seen in a while. I have been on the band-wagon in CT for quite some time about the fact that Winebow/Martin Scott has one of the most underdeveloped portfolios in the market, and now that they are combined, I feel there is a huge opportunity with our program to develop and mine the items here.
The real thing that strikes me about what they presented is that the items, every item in fact, is not a mass-marketed brand. These are products that are some of the most quality oriented and thought-out products you will taste, and we have a great opportunity to work with them at the beginning, before anyone else gets them to market. Don’t get me wrong, some of the items are esoteric and there were a few duds, but not much. Mostly, these are delicious and well-crafted products that are setting the trends in NYC and other major markets. Pricing is another issue. Often when I get presented products that are interesting, they are often very expensive, and or have tremendous mark-up for split case purchases. This is not the case with Winebow/Martin Scott/Stacole. All of the items presented today are the unit case price + $0.16, when bought by the bottle. No other company does this in CT or any other markets we work in. This can make a huge difference to your costs (especially in Florida and Mass, but also CT).
As I stated above, I usually do not get all that worked up about a portfolio presentation, but today this one stood out and I am writing and passing my notes along to you as I feel it is well worth you time to read through and lets discover what can be done with these items.
Here are my notes...
Let me just start by saying that I do not pay attention to vodka very often. In fact, I basically refuse to deal with it, but there are so many choices out there and we sell so much of it that sometimes you just have to make sure you are paying attention. I do not go lightly into the vodka brands, but a few struck a serious chord here.
Boyd And Blair Potato Vodka
This is great vodka – it has flavor.
Do we need it? Of course not – we have a million vodkas and people only order Tito’s now, anyway, right? On the other hand. Put this in a cocktail on the menu and you will sell a high quality, American made potato vodka that adds dimension and character to your drinks. Good replacement for Chopin.
Polugar Rye And Wheat
Polugar Garlic And Pepper
This stuff was really cool – Bloody Mary Bar guys take notice (at least to the flavors). These are delicious vodkas. The Caraway was really cool. Garlic and Pepper tasted like a pizza.
Do we need it? Probably not, and the bottles are not very speed-rail friendly. But if you have a specific application these can good items.
Breckenridge Pear Vodka
Breckenridge Chili Chile Vodka
Breckenridge Espresso Vodka
I think this pear vodka should be the only pear vodka to carry. I already have at some locations, its tasty and really authentic, plus not too pricey. The Chile is spicier than St George Green Chile (again Bloody Mary Bars look out) and the espresso was ok.
Do we need it? As I said I think the pear is a must have. The others – by specific application, only.
Boomsma Jonge Genever
Boomsma Oude Genever
Not your grandma’s gin. I have never been a fan of Genever, but these we really good. Subtle Juniper impact, the Oude is aged in barrel and is closer to whiskey a little, but is definitely in a league of their own.
CACHACA / RUM
Novo Fogo Cachaca Silver
Novo Fogo Cachaca Chameleon
One of the best products of the day; especially the Silver. I have never had a cachaça that was so smooth and tasty – way better than Leblon. Chameleon is aged.
Do we need these? I would say that this is an area you can add depth to your list. A classic Caipirinha (and it is a classic drink) can be had when the warm weather hits, and with the subtle rich smooth texture here – it’s a no brainer.
Tremendous value. If you want to make money n your drinks – look to this .35/ounce killer. You do not need another cachaça except for the one above from Novo Fogo. These are way apart in style and application.
Thomas Tew Rum
Made by the Newport Distilling Co in RI, I used to not like this very much. A black molasses based rum, pretty good style now with more aged involved, and very local.
Do we need this? Probably not and there is a lot of pressure on brands, but it is a good local item. I prefer the Ragged Mountain Rum from Berkshire Mountain Distillers, though.
TEQUILA / MEZCAL
Tapatio Tequila Blanco
I cannot say enough about this item. In our program, I have positioned the base tequila as a reposado as I have always felt that this was the best example of the product – at least at the lower price points. The interesting thing about our positioning system is that the silver tequila in (most of) our locations is usually a premium brand (Patron or Don Julio). The tequila world has changed a lot in the past 5 years, and I see a place for an exciting, well made and affordable silver tequila that will enhance people’s view of the category, not make them puke and hate it forever. This is new to CT market, it is a leader in the tequila rage happening now in most major cities in the US.
Do we need this? Yes. El Jimador Repo should continue to be the go-to house selection, but for specialty margaritas on your spring and summer lists, this tequila should be set against the backdrop of fresh citrus and other concoctions that I know will come from you.
Tapatio Tequila Blanco 110 PRF
Not for the faint of heart, but the trick here is to use less in a margarita. Why? The lower water cut level allows the true flavors of the tequila to enhance and promote whatever it is mixed with. Or you can just make Mexican Firing Squads. It’s very cool, but you need to know the way to use it.
Calle 23 Blanco
Calle 23 Reposado
Calle 23 Anejo
Interesting and cool, but not really needed in my opinion.
Peloton De La Muerte Mezcal
I have been a proponent of the Fidencio, but I am feeling as though this should become our go to for Mezcal. High quality all the way through, but a little less expensive and readily available. Plus, I like the name and the authentic bottle is really cool.
Do we need it? I would say yes, this should definitely replace any Sombra still in the locations, and you should begin to switch from Fidencio as needed. This is good and mellow, but carries the flavor well.
WHISKEY / BOURBON / SCOTCH
Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon
Dave Pickerell is the master distiller here. You may know him from such brands as Whistle Pig (current master distiller) and Maker’s Mark (former Master Distiller). Great personality and speaker. I am working on getting him in for an event in April.
Do we need it? Only if Dave is coming into town, but this is some of the smoothest whiskey you may get to taste.
Rough Rider Double Casked Bourbon
Rough Rider Bull Moose Rye
Kind of interesting – the Bourbon more than the rye, but this could be good from a price point of view with a specific application.
Corsair Triple Smoke Whiskey
These guys make a lot of stuff, and we use some in a few locations. The interest factor here is that they are making their distillate from beer malts. These work really closely with beer pairings and side-by sides. The beer oriented locations could do well with these items. No too many whiskies out there like what these guys make.
Highland Queen Blended Scotch
Isle Of Skye 8 Yr Old Scotch
Kilchoman Machir Bay Scotch
Tullibardine 225 Sauternes Finish
I did not taste the first scotch on the list (blended, both), but the last two are well worth taking a look at. The Kilchoman is a from Isle and is made in the same stills as Ardbeg. Beautiful and rich in flavor, a newer still since 2005, so the style is still evolving. Very good though.
The Tullibardine is one of the few distilleries to distill, blend, age and bottle on site. The finish is in Sauternes barrels, and the overall style was super smooth. This is very good and not very expensive in the category.
COGNAC / ARMAGNAC
Darroze Grandes Assemblages
I am not sure we get a lot of call for this category, but I can see it on list for Max Downtown, Cooper and others. Very good item.
I also tasted the 2004 and 1980 Vintage Armagnacs. This is THE source for the category.
Bache Gabrielsen 3 Kors VS
Bache Gabrielsen Xo
The interest factor here is on the 3 KORS. It is a mark being discontinued by the distillery, and I on close out in CT. March 1 will will be $15 per bottle, and there are 15 cases in house. This is tasty and can make an excellent cognac for classic cocktails or a in sangria.
The XO is super delicious but how much XO cognac are you getting calls for?
BITTERS / SYRUPS / TONICS / VERMOUTH / and other cool stuff
Marolo Grappa And Camomile Milla
Wow. You all need ot get into these products. The Italian locations especially need to pay attention here an enhance you rback bar offerings. Very interesting cocktail applications as well.
There are a number of grappi manufacturers out there, but these guys have a wide range of very interesting and cool flavors to work with. Working on a dinner that pairs the grappa wine sources with the wine producers that grow the base juice.
Balsam Amaro Americano
Very small producer – this is a bartender form Chicago that makes his own Amaro. Its delicious.
Do you need it? I think everyone needs to explore Amaro more.
Del Professore Vermouth Dry
Del Professore Vermouth Rosso
Ok, so here was the winner of the day for me. The Traditional Italian (white vermouth, but you need to forget what you think about vermouth) is stunning. The Rosso is just a few notches behind but quite impressive in its own right. Made by a Bartender from Rome, these are about as perfect a drinking vermouth as I have come across. I want to see a drink called “Del Professore” with 2 parts Gin, 1 part vermouth and a few dashes of orange bitters (yes, I know it’s a martini, but it is so good and if you call it a gin martini then nobody will buy it – just tell them it’s a really cool cocktail and it will sell.)
Do you need it? The white – yes. If for nothing else to drink on your own. Also great for low-alc cocktails (another trned that is happening very much, right now).
Carlo Alberto Vermut Rosso Di Torino
Very good, but see notes above.
Vilya Spirits Extrait Absinthe Verte
We can stick with St George for all Absinthe needs, but let me know if you get tired of them – this stuff rocks.
Jack Rudy Sweet Tea Syrup
Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic Syrup
Jack Rudy Small Batch Grenadine
For those of you not making grenadine in house, you need to make grenadine in house. This is really good, but you can (and some of you do) make really tasty grenadine.
Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic Syrup
They recommend adding a shot to a glass of IPA – not sure how many takers we get on that one, but it is really tasty product. If you have made any drinks with French bitters, this needs a serious look. I like Breckenridge Distillery very much, and this is made with all locally sourced botanicals in the Rocky mtns.
Do you need it? I think some of you do. At least for specific applications on seasonal menus.
Link to my Old Blog:
Tweets by vintagevino Copy Code