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Posted by on in September 2016 Editions

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When people talk about the worldwide whiskey renaissance, the first word that comes to most minds is bourbon. Sure, other styles are on fire at the moment—Irish, American rye, even Canadian—but the one that’s got most of the globe talking is America’s native spirit. A couple of decades ago, producers could barely give the stuff away—it was “grandpa’s drink” after all—but today bars in the most far-flung corners of the world (even Scotland!) have multiple shelves dedicated to the U.S.-made, corn-based whiskey.

Where is it produced?

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Posted by on in September 2016 Editions

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As bartending continues to grow as a career and attract the attention of aspirational achievers, the standards on display in the many and varied competitions held throughout the year have improved as well. A trip to a distillery or a hefty check are great prizes, but today, bartenders are just as keen for the accolades that an intense, multi-day competition can bring them.

Now in its seventh year internationally and fifth including U.S. participants, the lengthy test of skills produced in collaboration with the United States Bartenders’ Guild, USBG World Class Sponsored by Diageo, is a global training program and internationally recognized competition that aims to elevate the craft of the bartender and build careers in the drink industry.

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Posted by on in September 2016 Editions

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KarashiIt’s the Japanese word for working oneself to death.  Whether you realize it or not, some of your bartenders may be committing karoshi on a nightly basis.

A nine-year study recently published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine cited bartenders as having a higher risk of heart attack due to job-related stress than the 243 other occupations reviewed. California Occupational Mortality, a report compiled at the University of California at Davis, found that the heaviest drinkers by occupation were bartenders for men and waitresses for women.

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"Sometimes we feel like cowboy pioneers out here!" exclaimed Judy Crow, who co-owns Crow Vineyard and Winery with her husband, Roy.  Located in Kennedyville, Md., just west of Middletown, the property has been a family-owned farm for three generations and began growing grapes and bottling New World-style wines about six years ago.

"It actually started eight years ago when Roy and I got married," she recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We were looking for a way to reinvent this 365-acre farm.  Phase one was to renovate the main 1847 farmhouse into a farm-stay bed and breakfast.  We did that.  And then we planted grapes.  We have five sons between us.  One son, Brandon, came back and became the vineyard manager.  Then, we went to a winemaking seminar with John Levenverge, and we eventually hired him to be our winemaker consultant.  Soon after, we took an equipment shed and made that into our 5,000-case production winery."

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Todd Collins of Platinum Reputations doesn’t take “days off”. In fact most everything he does has a purpose and that purpose is the client. The company hashtag #educateevolvedefend lends itself to the idea that this industry is ever-changing and always improving. The strategy and theory behind every service offered proves exactly that concept.

Platinum Reputations is a reputation management company that helps restaurants and other hospitality industry members manage and maintain a positive online presence. The company offers a wide variety of services including videography, email marketing, website management, and social media reputation support.

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Posted by on in August 2016 Editions

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Fortunately, the plight of female oenophiles has improved since the second century A.D., when Roman women faced severe punishment for consuming alcohol. Yet gender associations remain embedded in the world of wine. It’s easy to notice once we start looking for it: Richer, heavier wines are “masculine,” while delicate ones are said to be “feminine.” Formal wine service is ingrained with a gendered code of conduct (all too often, men still get handed the wine list; ladies get their glasses poured first). And the dominant image of a wine collector is still unflinchingly male.

Specific aspects of gender in wine are naturally evolving. Women continue to enter all corners of the industry. And presumptions of wine preference are flexing; to wit, the term “brosé” being used to capture rosé’s current surge of popularity with men—a situation practically unthinkable a decade ago.

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Posted by on in August 2016 Editions

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Close your eyes and picture a winery. Maybe you see a stately chateau. Maybe a rustic barn, or perhaps a high-tech marvel nestled in a hillside. And no matter which scenario, you most certainly can picture the winery surrounded by rows of manicured grapevines.

Whatever you imagine, it’s almost certain to be different from the set-ups presented by today’s urban wineries, set in the bustling heart of some of our most active cities, which are casting aside assumptions of what a winery ought to look like, or where it even needs to be.

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Posted by on in August 2016 Editions

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Producers have been tinkering with the spirits-aging process for about as long as distilled liquids have been stored in barrels. Techniques that have endured include using smaller barrels (which increase the amount of contact between the liquid and the wood); creating a solera (adding new spirit to already-aging product); and using wood chips or staves for oak “flavoring.”

Lately, the tinkering has aspired to an even more dramatic level, bolstered by new technologies. At the Catskill Distilling Company in Bethel, NY, proprietor Dr. Monte Sachs uses a technique he calls “accelerated aging” he learned from the late Lincoln Henderson (Brown-Forman, Angel’s Envy). Four specially designed, heat-cycled warehouses emulate seasonal heating and cooling, but at a faster rate.

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Bob Wiggans is the Senior Director of Membership for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA).  In that position, he is primarily responsible for the strategic direction and management of day-to-day operations of the association’s membership development, recruitment, retention, member services, and benefits.  In addition, he is a bit of a tech head, managing and maintaining the organization's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database to meet staff and member needs.

Wiggans sat down with us recently to discuss his job, what it's been like coming from outside the beverage industry, and what has him excited for the future.  

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Professional restaurateur, amateur wrestler and owner of Jimmy's Famous Seafood located in Dundalk, John Minadakis knows what it takes to be the best because he was recently named the best. But to him, being the best is far more important and intricate than making the most and opening hundreds of locations.

Jimmy's was recently honored as the 2016 Best Bar and Best Restaurant in Maryland by the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM). John and his extended family of "Team Famous" found ways to make it look easy both in and outside the bar. The brand and all-around experience at Jimmy's is something that John dedicates himself to everyday.

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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Vodka may have emerged from Eastern European distilling and drinking cultures, but as far as spirits are concerned, it’s probably the closest to the Wild West anyone’s going to get. That’s because there’s no clear standard mandating from which starchy or sugary bases it must be fermented. That’s not to say there aren’t some standards in place. The European Union, for instance, sets the vodka ABV minimum at 37.5% (75 proof). On these shores, the TTB sets the ABV Vodka may have emerged from Eastern European distilling and drinking cultures, but as far as spirits are concerned, it’s probably the closest to the Wild West anyone’s going to get.

That’s because there’s no clear standard mandating from which starchy or sugary bases it must be fermented. That’s not to say there aren’t some standards in place. The European Union, for instance, sets the vodka ABV minimum at 37.5% (75 proof). On these shores, the TTB sets the ABV floor at 40% (80 proof). The U.S. regulatory agency defines the spirit as “neutral spirits distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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Barely half a decade ago, the vodka category’s flavored segment seemed to be dominated by headline-grabbing concoctions that infused the spirit with the artificial essences of everything from dessert confections to popular breakfast foods. Whipped cream, blueberry pancakes, marshmallow fluff and gummy bears were all fair game, as far as beverage developers were concerned.

The unconventional flavors, proved—for a little while at least—to be a dependable way for established, mature vodka brands to grab a little more shelf space, and add a little incremental volume to their mostly flat trademarks. For lesser known brands, it generated press and put them on the radar. But the novelties quickly wore off as consumer tastes evolved. Those brands were good for driving trial, but they generated few repeat purchases.

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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Overcrowded shelves, you say? The proliferation of new distilleries and brands may seem already to have created an bulging-at-the-seams market, but there are plenty of signs that the expansion has only just begun. As more states see the value in changing laws to ease the way for these small spirits businesses to open and, crucially, to sell wares directly to visitors, industry watchers can only expect newer to follow the new.

Currently it’s difficult to pinpoint its size, but according to the recently launched Craft Spirits Data Project [CSDP, led by the American Craft Spirits Association (ASCA), International Wine and Spirits Research, and Park Street], craft spirits represent about 3.8 million of the nearly 211 million cases of spirits sold annually in the U.S., with the average craft distiller selling about 3,200 cases per year here—tiny compared to the 80 percent of volume the top 15 suppliers represent. Today there are more than 1,300 active craft spirits producers operating, with the number of production facilities in the U.S. more than tripling since 2007.

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The makers of Don Corleone Vodka are hoping this is one spirit customers in our area can't refuse.  Produced by Distillerie Francoli in Italy and inspired by "The Godfather" movie franchise, MJ Licensing Company launched the label back in February of this year in the New York Tri-State area.  Ever since, the company has been rolling out the vodka nationally and in select international territories with the help of Brand Ambassador Gianni Russo.

Does that name sound familiar?  It should.  Russo played Carlo Rizzi, the no-good, wife-beating son-in-law of mafia boss Don Corleone in the original 1972 "Godfather" film.  It was his first movie, and he went on to appear in over 40 other motion pictures (everything from "The Freshman" to "Any Given Sunday" to "Seabiscuit").  He also ran one of Las Vegas' most happening restaurants in the Rat Pack heyday of Sin City.

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Baltimore has changed a lot over the last few decades, but Danny Coker is one man who has remained pretty constant throughout his life growing up here in Charm City. From his days of playing shortstop at Calvert Hall, to now co-owning Bartenders on Boston St, Danny embodies the spirit of the city and the industry. Just five minutes and five customers into opening it is easy to see how entrenched in the fabric of the community he really is.

Danny is well known by locals who grew up with him as a fun-loving and loquacious "Highlandtown boy" from Clinton St. Now he has become better known for his work behind the bar with his wife Dana; and still for that unending energy.

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Posted by on in June 2016 Editions

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Everyone loves a good tropical drink—be it at a tiki bar, on a Caribbean cruise or at some island resort. Sweet and cold, yet refreshing. The real star of this lush liquid genre, is rum. Though it comes in many iterations, all rum can be traced back to sugarcane—so abundant in island climates. The song that island-hopping pirates sing isn’t “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of gin,” after all. 


Perhaps befitting its relative lack of regulation, rum has long been a renegade spirit, from pirates of yore to rum-runners of Prohibition. Whether on high seas or through back doors, rum has remained an American favorite in many forms and formats. A sense of adventure is still palpable in many brands, by tattoo or barrel or cane or pirate map. From a simple base of sugar, a many-splendored spirit has evolved.

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Carl Nolet Jr. is part of the 11th generation of the Nolet family, makers of the ultra-premium Ketel One Vodka at the historic Notel Distillery in the Netherlands.  His official title is executive vice president of Nolet Spirits U.S.A., a position he has filled since 1996.  But he has held several jobs of increasing authority within the family-owned company for over two decades now, proving himself particularly adept at new product development and market introductions.

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Sitting in the Mt. Vernon Marketplace is a sensory experience. Between the noises, smells, and sights the variety of vendors offer a cornucopia of different tastes and experiences. This open-air warehouse feel provides a desire to explore and the expectation of finding something new and exciting just around the corner.

Among the dozen-or-so vendors in the marketplace are several bars and small restaurants. Perhaps the most unassuming but obvious is TAPS Fill Station. On first approach, owner Will Glass has designed a simple, barebones bar front. A wood grain bar top, generic red and black tap handles, and ten barstools highlight the streamlined look. Between the repurposed warehouse turned marketplace and the sleek design, TAPS has found a perfect home.

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Posted by on in June 2016 Editions

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Demand is not a problem. It seems that no matter what hits the shelves, it sells. It’s an enviable position for any spirit, and it encapsulates the unrivaled comeback tale of rye whiskey. According to figures from the Distilled Spirits Coincil, rye sales exploded—609% from 2009 to 2014—with growing supplier revenue jumping from $15 million to $106 million over the same time period, representing over $300 million at retail. And last year, once again, rye sales leapt by nearly 20%.

Rye is still a very small piece of the American whiskey trade, about 675,000 cases. But Canadian rye also increased by about 100,000 cases last year. Numerous brands—from Whistlepig and High West to Templeton, Hochstadter’s and others—continue to emerge.

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Posted by on in June 2016 Editions

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Will the third wave of Cachaça be the one that finally establishes the Brazilian spirit as a respected category in the U.S.?

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Winston Churchill once declared, “The Gin and Tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” A Gin and Tonic is the only good cocktail you can have on an airplane in coach class. It’s also a gourmet obsession in Spain that has made its way to the trendiest American cocktail bars. And because a G&T doesn’t require any fancy syrups or shrubs, you don’t need to be much of a mixologist to make one at home. 

As with wine, the gin market is hot at the high end and cool on the bottom shelf. Gin is still a small percentage of the total spirits market, about 4% according to Nielsen. But sales by value are growing while sales by volume are actually dropping. So this is a good time to switch inventory away from the super-cheapies and to branch out into some of the new gins coming onto the market. And a classic, refreshing, deceptively powerful G&T could prove to be your MVST (Most Valuable Selling Tool).

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The Washington, D.C., drinking scene definitely has its share of rock-star bartenders.  But few rock harder than Justin Hampton, the man behind the taps at Poste Moderne Brasserie inside the Hotel Monaco.  After graduating a decade ago from San Diego State University with a degree in Social Science and a focus on economics, he went into restaurant management.  His first gig?  The Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego.

"I had worked my way as a waiter through college," he recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "At the Hard Rock, the bartenders were walking out with several hundred dollars for working half the hours I did.  When I saw that, I said, 'What's that all about?!'  Those guys looked like they were having a lot more fun.  I wanted to hang out with them, and I wanted to make that money."

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Posted by on in May 2016 Editions

American craft distillers have led the movement toward less juniper, more diversity & higher price points.

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What a difference a century can make. London Dry ruled the 1900s, but the craft boom of this century has used London Dry more as a blueprint of how not to make gin. This movement has often become particularly important at the higher end of the price spectrum: While the total gin category saw volume shrink about 1.8% last year, to fewer than 10 million cases (DISCUS), super-premium gins actually rose 37.8%.

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Since DiPasquale’s opening in 1914 the DiPasquale family has provided Baltimore with an authentic Italian market that has metamorphosized into what it is today. Currently the store features a full deli, brick oven, homemade pastas, oils, fine wine and spirits, and more. 

Affectionately, third generation owner Joe DiPasquale struggled to define the store saying, "This is insane. I can't cookie-cutter what this place is."

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Conundrum was born 25 years ago, and today it still stands for doing things your own way and daring to explore. Its inspiration came from Charlie Wagner, Sr. – co-founder of Caymus Vineyards and father to winery owner Chuck Wagner – who would sit at the dining room table and mix wines to create the “perfect glass” to pair with his meal. At the time, blending wines was considered almost unthinkable, and even Charlie Sr. had no idea that his bold experiment would help usher in a whole new trend. 

Today, Conundrum is as original as ever.  They continue to source their fruit from some of the most sought-after California winegrowing regions to ensure both quality and diversity: Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Tulare Counties. While the exact blend remains under wraps, with every vintage they include Chardonnay for its weight and complexity, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for crisp acidity, Muscat Canelli for floral qualities and Viognier for lush texture. Taken together, they add up to a wine that’s amazingly versatile, pairing well with everything from salmon to spicy food, or enjoyed on its own as an aperitif. 

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Rebecca Spicer is Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA).  It's an impressive job ... eh, to everyone but Rebecca.  "I don't get hung up on titles," she said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal from her office in Alexandria, Va.  "The really fun thing about working in an association is that everybody pitches in.  Associations are built around people coming together, and that's certainly reflected in our work atmosphere here.  We don't have job descriptions per se that are written in stone, because you never know what's going to come up."

Spicer came to NBWA from TV news.  The Nashville transplant scored an internship with her local news station when she was just 16 and became hooked.  "Every day a reporter went out on a story or a producer put together a newscast, and you had no idea what you would be covering that day," she recalled.  "I think that desire to learn about new issues and new people and never really knowing what was going to be scripted is part of the excitement I love in the association world."

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Cross-selling remains a potent strategy for retailers in the digital age.

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Consumers today have more options than ever for new wine recommendations. The long reign of wine writers and published ratings has been joined by mobile apps like Vivino, Wine Ring and Delectable. The wine world is wired now; anyone can follow the preferred palates of friends and industry pros, or receive suggestions specific to their taste, all with a few swipes on a smartphone.

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Alaska Distillery is a small batch distillery located in the foothills of the Alaska Range, where they handcraft spirits with ultra-pure glacier water and the finest grains and ingredients. Having developed a reputation for superior spirits with their Flagship Ultra-Premium Vodka, Permafrost, Alaska Distillery continues to blaze new trails with flavors and inventive spirits indigenous to a state famous for extreme beauty, untamed wilderness, and pristine scenery.

You can catch Toby and the entire Alaska Distillery gang every Thursday night on the Animal Planet channel’s new hit show ALASKA PROOF.

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New Liberty Distillery, located in Philadelphia, PA, is reinterpreting some of the famous, but forgotten, Pennsylvania and Maryland brands that once formed the foundation of the U.S. whiskey business.  As Michael Jackson, the renowned international whiskey critic, commented, “American whiskey had its beginnings in Pennsylvania and Maryland.”  Many of the region’s brands were lost to Prohibition or Americans’ changing tastes after World War II that led to the rise of light mixable spirits like vodka.  

“Our Heritage Collection is made up of whiskeys we are reintroducing and New Liberty is honored to make them once again available to consumers,” stated Thomas Jensen of New Liberty Distillery.   “We introduced our first Heritage Collection release, Kinsey, in 2014.  Kinsey is a famous Pennsylvania-based whiskey that was once nationally known for its witty advertising and easy drinking style.   We currently are launching our Maryland Heritage Series exclusively in Maryland and The District of Columbia.  Maryland rye was a softer rye whiskey usually with a 51% rye content, unlike Pennsylvania rye which was usually 95% rye and very spicy.  At the turn of the century, the Baltimore area was home to numerous distilleries which are now long closed.  After extensive research, we decided on three distilleries that played unique roles in making Maryland whiskey famous.  Our master distiller, Robert J. Cassell, sought existing whiskey stocks that could be used to create the easy drinking style of pre- and post-Prohibition Maryland whiskey, and we hope you can taste the history in every sip.”  

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Posted by on in April 2016 Editions

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Welcome to our newest series, Back to Basics! Every month we'll provide you with a 101-style feature about a different spirit that not only goes in-depth, but can be electronically shared and/or printed out and given to your staff. Let the educating begin with...Tequila!  

 
Click this link and go directly to the PDF that you can view, print and distribute to your staff... CLICK HERE.
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Posted by on in April 2016 Editions

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At a key moment in "The Shawshank Redemption," Morgan Freeman's good-hearted convict friend, Red, posed the question: "Seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?"  Well, anyone who hung around Shane McCarthy in January and February of this year likely looked at his footwear quite a bit.  The assistant general manager and beer manager at Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse in Bel Air wore pink boots day in and day out to promote a very special event his store hosted on February 26 to raise money and awareness for the Pink Boots Society.

Some of you reading this may be asking, "What is the Pink Boots Society?" It is an international organization of women that was created to empower female beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry, chiefly through education.  The organization also seeks to teach women beer professionals the judging skills necessary to become beer judges at the Great American Beer Festival and other competitions.  Society members include women who own breweries, who design beers, serve beers, package beers, and write about beer.  The group currently has more than 3,000 members and counting. 

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Posted by on in April 2016 Editions

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Dennis and Alice Kistner are the Bar and General Managers, respectively, at Mahaffey's Pub in Canton and are married in "real life". The two proud parents also have an 18 month old baby keeping them busy at home, but that doesn't stymie their dedication to the bar one bit. If anything the youngster has driven them to reach for greater success.

The pair couldn't help but show excitement, and borderline elation, whenever talking about "Little Dennis". Alice described early motherhood with the youngster saying, "It's fun. We take him with us everywhere. He's a good baby, he makes us laugh and now he's doing so many things, it's entertaining."

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"I love the creativity aspect of my job.  I love the autonomy that I have and the challenges I've been given to come up with new drinks."

So said Erin Ivey, bar manager at Lincoln on Vermont Ave., during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  Ivey, who has been tending bar at various area establishments for the last decade, has become known for her craft cocktails.  "What drew me to craft cocktails is I really love the integrity of the drinks as far as fresh juices and ingredients," she stated.  " I enjoy making twists on an Old Fashioned, different syrups and such.  I love being able to play and bring a different and unique element to drinks."

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After a long career working for everyone from RNDC to Southern Wine & Spirits, Barry Cregan moved to the supplier side about a year and a half ago to serve as East Coast Vice President of Carolina Wine Brands USA. The company handles mostly South American wines for the U.S. market for Carolina Wine Brands, one of Chile's main winemaking groups owned by the agro-industrial group Watt's SA.

If you've seen Cregan or any of his colleagues lately, you can tell they are riding a real high. That's because the company's flagship winery, Santa Carolina in Chile, recently won the New World Winery of the Year 2015 honor from the Wine Enthusiast. Cregan traveled to New York City in late January to attend the awards ceremony.

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Taps are running dry and doors are closing at neighborhood bars across the country. That has left the remaining ones to try to find ways to stay afloat.

One in six bars closed between 2004 and 2014, according to market research firm Nielsen. More than 600 close each month, with just 334 opening.

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At the Jameson-centric Barrelman Tavern in Chicago, Irish whiskey keeps getting reinvented.

There may be venues that pour more Jameson Irish whiskey than Barrelman Tavern in Chicago, but it’s hard to imagine that any pour it with more enthusiasm. “We’ve always had a special thing for Jameson,” says the bar’s owner, Blake Itagaki. And his regulars are on board too; instead of ringing in 2016 with a Champagne toast at midnight, the crowd at the Barrelman raised shots of the brand new Jameson Caskmates expression.

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Posted by on in March 2016 Editions
The Case for Vino Nobile

New Reasons to Rediscover Montepulciano’s Noble Wine.  

In the Tuscan trifecta of great wines, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano suffers from middle child syndrome—it’s largely ignored and often passed over. It’s a dramatic role reversal for a region that once dwarfed its neighbors—Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino—in both pedigree and esteem.

Vino Nobile (Vee-no NO-bee-lay), Montepulciano’s most important wine, got its name in the 1800s from the Medici family (it translates as “wine for nobles”); and the small region in Southeast Tuscany was the first in Italy to attain the prestigious DOCG status, in 1980.

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Posted by on in March 2016 Editions
Stadium Size Service

Tim Graham Looks to Score With Beverage Service at M&T Bank Stadium

If you've ever owned, operated, or tended bar at a sports-themed restaurant or tavern, you know there is always the risk that some customers may get a bit out of hand if their team is losing.  Heck, even when the Ravens, Redskins, Orioles or Nationals are doing well, the atmosphere can get rowdy.  Chances are, you only have to be concerned about a few diehards getting too distraught over a final score.  Tim Graham, Beverage Manager at M&T Bank Stadium for concessionaire Aramark, has to worry about a few thousand!

Graham has held his current job since last June, having previously served as Beverage Manager at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  He wasn't there when the Ravens had their Super Bowl run a couple of years back.  But he was there for this past season's injury-plagued, 5-11 disappointment.

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Posted by on in March 2016 Editions
Too Cool for School

What You Don’t Know About Ice

Shine a bright light in the eyes of an accomplished mixologist and he or she will eventually admit that ice is the most important ingredient in cocktails. It impacts every aspect of mixed drinks and does so with little cost and no marketing or packaging. In a time when success behind the bar is measured one drink at a time, outfitting your bar with the most advantageous type of ice is essential.

Its contribution goes beyond lowering the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature of around 37-38˚F. While only the genuinely obsessed would stick a thermometer into the drink to ensure it’s sufficiently chilled, the fact remains that cocktails rapidly increase in temperature moments after hitting the glass. Ice plays a crucial role in postponing the inevitable. 

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Green Shoots on the Emerald Isle

Irish whiskey is undergoing an unprecedented wave of new distilleries.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, the saying goes. But investment is pretty high up there, too. For years now, Irish whiskey has been posting noteworthy gains on a small base. Now the supply side of this phenomenon has jumped in with real capital, and big plans.

Here is most of what you need to know about the growth trajectory of Irish whiskey: In 2011, there were four distilleries operating in Ireland, and now, at least 14 are up and running with nearly 20 more in various stages of planning. And make no doubt about where distillers expect most of their new whiskey to be flowing: to the United States, their number one market.

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Julian Demiri: An Unexpected Ascension

Julian Demiri arrived in the United States in 1996 as a young 19 year-old from Albania. He arrived speaking no English. He arrived with no job. He had however, just won the lottery.

Every year the United States offers around 50,000 temporary green cards to applicants from around the world. While this may not be the lottery you had in mind, it is in many ways just as important in the lives of those who are picked. What those "winners" do with such an opportunity makes all the difference. 

Speaking French and Albanian, Demiri hit the ground running at a now defunct bar in Fells Point. After five years, Demiri earned full citizenship and sought a job at the Inner Harbor staple, the Rusty Scupper. The Scupper has become a well-known landmark in Baltimore with an impressive history and an award-winning wine list.

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Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey

The Teeling Whiskey Company has expanded its premium Irish whiskey portfolio with the launch of its award winning Irish Single Malt.  This Single Malt, was recently named World’s Best Irish Single Malt at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards.

Teeling Single Malt is the third release in the Premium range of Teeling expressions completing their full range to form the Teeling Trinity of non-aged statement of Irish whiskeys. To add a unique depth of character and flavor, Teeling Single Malt consists of aged malt whiskey up to 23 years old that has been matured in five different wine casks including Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon. This combination of cask maturation techniques has never been done before in Irish whiskey and creates a truly innovative Irish whiskey bursting with personality. Like all the Teeling whiskeys, it is bottled at 46% with no chill filtration allowing for all the natural flavors of the whiskey to be retained. 

Jack Teeling, founder of the Teeling Whiskey Company, commented, “We are delighted to be able to release another expression of Teeling whiskey that helps expand consumer choice and challenge existing perceptions of Irish whiskey. Our new Teeling Single Malt proves Irish whiskey can have big bold flavors that appeal to Single Malt drinkers without losing its distinctive Irish identity.”

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Distilled Spirits Growth Continued in 2015

Distilled Spirits in the United States have enjoyed a gain in market share for the sixth consecutive year.  The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has reported another year of steady growth in 2015 with supplier sales up 4.1 percent and volumes up 2.3 percent.  Distilled spirits suppliers and marketers also marked the sixth straight year of increasing their market share relative to beer in 2015. 

“The positive performance of distilled spirits is the result of many factors including market modernization, product innovation, consumer premiumization and hospitality tax restraint,” said DISCUS President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz.

DISCUS reported strong growth in every whiskey category for the second straight year, with revenues rising 8 percent.  Super premium whiskeys were particularly popular among American consumers with luxury Bourbon, Scotch, Canadian and Irish whiskeys all recording double-digit gains.  Other categories performing ahead of the distilled spirits average growth included Tequila, with another exceptional year of 9.4 percent sales growth, and Cognac, with sales growth of 16.2 percent.

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Posted by on in February 2016 Editions
Protect Your Livelihood

Get Involved...Stay Involved   

The Maryland 2016 Legislative session begins in two days (it is January 11th as I type this) … There is no doubt that Chain Store legislation is a concern of the entire industry as is Dram Shop legislation.  As in year’s past, you can expect these industry hot topics to arise during this year’s session.  Chain stores being allowed to enter the Maryland marketplace is a dangerous prospect to the independent beer, wine and liquor retailer.  As in year’s past, I am again iterating how important it is to get as many industry members involved and be prepared to defend the independent store-owners’ position to the state representatives.  Many of you are involved and are familiar with the process of protecting your business from harmful proposed legislation.  However, too many are not.  Below is my annual ‘How To’ on getting involved and protecting your livelihood …

First, you need to know what proposed legislation is coming down the pipe and how it would affect your business.  Becoming a member of your county association as well as the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) would be a great start.  The MSLBA was formed, in part, because the association's leaders understood that actions in the Maryland State House directly impact the operations of your businesses.  The MSLBA tracks proposed legislation that will have an effect on its members’ businesses.  They do this right at their web site, www.mslba.org.  

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Posted by on in February 2016 Editions
Caught In the Draft

Cocktails on tap are no longer just a fad ...  

 

When Anton Baranenko, owner of Draft Choice, a New York-based company that customizes draft systems, began installing cocktail lines in 2010, the response from his bartending peers was hostile, even Luddite, with accusations that he was cheapening the value of craft cocktails, and could put bartenders out of work.

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Breakthru Beverage Group Launched

Charmer Sunbelt and Wirtz Beverage Begin New Venture

Breakthru Beverage Group, an innovative beverage wholesaler formed by Charmer Sunbelt and Wirtz Beverage, was established on January 1 and has launched in 19 markets including Maryland and The District of Columbia. 

“Breakthru Beverage is built upon the best of our legacy operations while setting a new path and approach forward,” explained Greg Baird, Breakthru Beverage President and CEO.  “Our vision for the future is focused on excellence and how we can be a stronger and more innovative partner for our suppliers and customers in all of our markets.”

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A Look at the Best New Mezcals

Artisanal mezcals are on the charts with a bullet.  Consumers and mixologists actively looking for spirits loaded with character and authenticity have struck gold with the expanding roster of artisanal, 100% agave mezcals. Stringent production standards have been put into place within the industry to ensure the utmost degree of quality such that the mezcals of today bear little resemblance to the worm-laded mezcals of the past.

These are indeed the glory days for the Oaxacan spirit. There are now more high quality mezcals being marketed in the United States than ever before. Demand for the spirit has caused the category to expand another 4.9% in volume to roughly 50,000 cases in 2014. Nearly all of the growth is attributable to the high-end, super-premium segments of the market—those with a retail price above $22—this according to the 2014 Technomic’s Adult Beverage Resource.

The differences between brands of 100% agave mezcals are years in the making. From cultivating agaves—also referred to as maguey—to the un-barreling of an añejo, the production cycle can easily exceed 18 years. It is a time-honored process, one in which every decision made along the way ultimately will impact the finished mezcal.

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Posted by on in February 2016 Editions
The Way North

Paced by Rye, Flavors and Strong Branding, Canadian Whisky is Mounting a Rally ... 

 

Finally, it seems, the whisky renaissance has shone a spotlight on Canadian. It’s not that Canadian whisky hasn’t long been popular in the U.S.—whiskies from up north are second only to bourbon here, though more than half the volume, according to 2014 numbers from DISCUS, occurs in the lowest price tier.

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Posted by on in January 2016 Editions
The 21st Century Bartender

Balancing technical skills with the (lost?) art of hospitality.

There may never have been a better time to be a bartender. The information age has streamlined access to cocktail lore, training options abound, most restaurants are in need of skilled drink makers to create recipes and train staff, and career horizons have opened wide.

But none of that means customers have found the current level of bar service to be correspondingly elevated. True, there are now numerous bars in almost every city that serve well-crafted classic cocktails and complicated modern drinks. But in conversation with some of America’s cocktail luminaries, it becomes clear that although today’s technical skills and knowledge may never before have been as sharp, significant hospitality issues—indifferent attentiveness, glowering greetings, excess geekery, and a sneaky sense that bartenders believe some orders are beneath them—need to be tackled.

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A Look Ahead at the 2016 Maryland Legislative Session

The next General Assembly Session is just around the corner, and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) will once again be taking a lead role in looking out for the beverage industry's interests.  This means guys like MSLBA President David Marberger and his close colleagues are expected to step up and drive the discussions.

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"We're at the rough and ready every year at this time," said the proprietor of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis.  "In 2016, we plan on working very diligently at getting a really good relationship going with the Maryland microbreweries, the distilleries, and the wineries.  We really need to forge together as a cohesive unit.  There will always be some issues that we won't see eye to eye on.  But all of us coming together in this industry as an industry so we can move forward is a must and something we really want to focus on."

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