Continuing my quest to find you the newest, coolest and bestest, I have had another series of meetings this week with suppliers. This is part of my Spring/Summer cocktail list development, which means i have been meeting with a number fo my suppliers to see what they have in hteir portfolio that is not "standard" stuff! I sent them all an email outlining my requirements and desires for new item presentation and some have done a great job in digging a little deeper and finding items that are different.
This meeting was specifically with MS Walker (a Mass distributor) On Premise Director, Roger Biron, and their Craft Spirits Portfolio Manager, Ben Sandrof.
The particular message I delivered to my guys this week is fairly similar to the one I have been preaching for years, and that is there is a world of great product out there beyond the standard 50 brands. I know it is a fine line between distributor and consumer pressure to buy/sell the popular brands verses the explosion of great crafted products that are now on the market.
One of the things this series of tasting has driven home for me is continued need to broaden our (my guy's) collective horizons and not just continue to make the same old, with the same old. If you happen to get yourself to any large market, such as Boston, NYC or Miami, you will see that there are very few high performance, progressive bar programs that rely on the standard 50. I am well aware that many of these hipsters-types shy away from brands, but they set the tone for the rest of us. There are also plenty examples of smaller market success with non-big-brand programs. It may take a few years to trickle down to our markets, but these are the trends, and if your longer term goal is to attract and keep younger drinkers, then evolution needs to be your path.
I will repeat – I know this is not easy and sometimes the guest just wants the 800th (fill in the brand) vodka martini of their life. But more and more, we are selling great quality, great tasting drinks that are not relying on the brand name to carry. You and your bar team should be the reason people buy drinks in your restaurants, not the over-priced brands.
Here are the highlights from MS Walker…
Hanson of Sonoma Organic Vodka – ASG in CT and RNDC in FL
Two items presented – regular and cucumber
Not another vodka! But every one of these guys cannot help but bring a vodka or two. Do we need them? No, of course not. Do I need to know what is out there? Of course.
This product is actually pretty good, from Sonoma and made from a grape base. Lighter and fruiter than a lot of vodkas, pretty tight cut on the still, so super smooth. Not bad stuff if you need a well packaged and good tasting domestic vodka.
Also tasted me on the cucumber – decent, but I think we can make out own infusions, better.
Gin Lane 1751– Brescome in CT, Park Street in FL
Two items presented: London Dry and Pink Gin
The London Dry was a more delicate style of gin, with easy and smooth floral notes. No wow factor, though.
Pink Gin – this is a style based on the actual cocktail recipe. You can make pink gin by adding some Angostura and a dash of lime juice to any gin. In fact, that might make a nice cocktail addition to a summer menu??
I also tasted the Old Tom with Worldwide in CT, the next day. Decent, but very mild and soft (perhaps the point), but i think there are better examples out there.
Malfy Gin – CDI in CT
This is an Italian, lemon flavored gin. we currently stock at one of my locations, and it is a good addition or alternative for a citrus vodka in some cocktails. Definitely a place in warm weather drink making.
Plantation Rum – HP in CT, SWS in FL
Two items presented – 3 Star White and Original Dark, plus we already basically stock 5 year as our go to premium house rum. The rum production for Pierre Ferrand has now become larger than the cognac and other distillates they make. This is a great brand from a taste and value point of view. Did you know the rums are made in the Caribbean and then transferred to Cognac, France for finishing and aging in Cognac barrels?
The white is delicious, and the dark is a mild, rich molasses based rum that is not super dark as it does not have any caramel coloring added. Juts pure sweet cane aged in barrels. Good stuff.
Don’t forget the Pineapple Rum and the Pierre Ferrand Curacao from them as well.
I am planning on a Tiki dinner event later this year with Plantation and PF brands.
Rittenhouse Rye – Brescome in CT, SWS in FL
Bottled in Bond 100 proof Rye
This is the go-to Rye for many top level bars, such as Drink in Boston.
The higher proof actually brings out the flavors of any items mixed with it, and you can actually use slightly less product to account for the higher abv. Its nuanced cocktail production, but it works. Traditionally difficult to come by, they have now caught up with the Bourbon demand and have available regularly.
Pikesville Rye – Brescome in CT, SWS in Fl
Another higher proof rye at 110
Super smooth, backbar style rye that is pretty cool.
Elation Pear – Fratello Hazlenut Liqueurs
Not sure if these are in CT/FL, but will find out if interested.
Ok, so we have a lot of success with Pear. Pear vodka as a base for “'tinis”, or Pear Liquor such as St George for mixed drinks. It is a really good, and attractive flavor for many people. Here is a fabulous liquor based pear that can be used instead of St George (although my preference is still probably with St George).
The Fratello, on the other hand, easy substitute for the ubiquitous Frangelico. Much dryer and more streamline in its flavor profile – this stuff is great and easy to make drinks with. Cheaper, too.
Chareau – I think I tasted this at Stacole tasting in FL, last fall, but can check if interested.
This is a crazy item. Aloe is the base, but with spearmint, citrus and other flavors. It is pretty much like nothing you have ever tasted. Mix with drinks, white wine, totally summer in a bottle. Recipes online.
Really great line of bitters with interesting blends, such as Jamaica #2, Cherry Barrel aged, and Trinity
I can see if available in the local market, but always available on line.
More notes to come, meeting with Brescome and Worldwide later today.
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