Blogs from Edward "Teddy" Durgin - Beverage Journal, Maryland and Washington, DC http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/blogger/listings/teddy Sun, 02 Aug 2015 10:18:06 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb National Beverage Brokers http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/national-beverage-brokers-increases-the-diversity-of-md-and-dc-s-drink-choices http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/national-beverage-brokers-increases-the-diversity-of-md-and-dc-s-drink-choices

Increasing the Diversity of Drink Choices

Maryland is definitely a diverse state.  The population is diverse, the geography is diverse, and the drinking preferences are most definitely diverse. The Hagerstown-based National Beverage Brokers (NBB) knows this and seeks to cater to that diversity. For a company that specializes in finding boutique to mid-sized importers, producers, and distributors seeking access to both the Maryland and Washington, D.C. beverage markets, that means representing everyone from the small Bordeleau Winery in Eden, Md., on the Eastern Shore to France's Original Gangster XO Brandy, which is fronted by rapper/"Law & Order SVU" star Ice-T.

At NBB's helm is owner Alan Emery, who has been in the sales business for nearly 10 years.  "Our company is a group of salespeople -- eight of us total -- who represent several small distributors," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "The concept behind this is a salesperson has a difficult time working for a small company.  There is just not enough product to sell usually.  What we've done is gotten some small companies together and we represent them in the state of Maryland and in D.C., as well.  We also help them find new products that we think will work well."

NBB's top seller is the Amore Frutti line of sparkling flavored Moscatos.  There are currently 16 flavors in all.  Another line that NBB has had much success with is Grand Moscato.  "There is a red and a white, and they are 16 percent alcohol," Emery noted.  "Later this summer, they will come out with a sparkling Grand Moscato that will also be 16 percent alcohol.  Then, in about three months or so, we're going to start receiving flavors of the Grand Moscato.  We also sell the Old Barrel Vodka, which is a highly unique vodka in that it has been aged in cognac casks.  It has a similar flavor profile to cognac.  It's very nice, very drinkable, with just a hint of sweet."

According to Emery, the most challenging part of the job for him and his sales force is getting the buyers to understand that NBB represents more than one company and that the companies they do represent ship separately, invoice separately, and so forth.  "Once people understand what we do and why we do it," he said, "they all say it makes a lot of sense and that it's great having one person representing four companies as opposed to four different sales reps taking up a lot of their time.  But it is initially a bit confusing to people, so we make sure to explain our role properly."

Emery continued, "It's a whole lot of fun building brands.  It's been a great experience seeing the Amore Frutti line go from a couple of flavors to 16.  This is a product that is distributed by Red Ink Imports [in Kensington, Md.] that we represent.  They're now to a point where they are direct importing it as opposed to buying it from an importer in the States."

Having been in sales and the beverage business for the better part of a decade now, Emery said the biggest change has been people shifting their buying preferences to less expensive wine.  He says this is a lingering effect of the economy going south in 2008 and the ensuing recession.  "Suddenly," he recalled, "people weren't spending as much money on wine.  They were still buying as much wine, but they started looking for less expensive wine.  I think it was a great thing for the industry, in a sense.  Obviously, nobody likes a downturn in the economy.  But people became a lot more aware of less expensive products out there that are fabulous.  You can find wine in Spain and Portugal and Chile and Argentina that is just an incredible value."

For the foreseeable future, Emery says NBB is not interested in representing any more companies.  The firm's philosophy is to stay focused on its small number of clients in order to do the best job possible for them.  In addition to Red Ink Imports and Bordeleau Winery, these companies include Stefano Selections and Dog Beverage Company, a small craft brewery out of Westminster, Md. 

Emery concluded, "The most important thing in this industry is building relationships.  Proving yourself to be trustworthy to the buyers and the different stores and restaurants is of the utmost significance.  And it's so important to sell them wines that are going to succeed.  There's nothing worse than bringing a wine into a store and it not selling.  You can't control everything.  But it's important to show wines, liquors, or beers that you believe are good quality.  Your most important goal should be to help their business." 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) August 2015 Editions Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:26:32 -0400
Frank Cheplowitz... http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/frank-cheplowitz http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/frank-cheplowitz

...Has Found a Home at Paul's Homewood Café.   

Annapolis certainly has its institutions that have been around for decades.  The U.S. Naval Academy.  The Maryland State House.  St. Anne's Church.  And Frank Cheplowitz.  Wait ... who?  Those who know the state capital's wining and dining scene know who.  Cheplowitz has been a professional waiter there for nearly four decades.  One of his first gigs was at the old Harbor House restaurant in the City Dock area. That was followed by a nearly 27-year stint at the Maryland Inn, where he did everything from serve guests to manage staff to order the wine.

He made the switch to Paul's Homewood Cafe nine years ago and has served as its head waiter ever since.  The key to his longevity?  "I still love learning about the business!" he exclaimed, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I love learning about food, about drinks, and about myself.  It's really never too late to learn things.  I also don't stress out about things as much as I did even just a couple of years ago."

As part of his continued education, Cheplowitz has recognized the value in staying close to youth.  To this end, he has formed a bond with Chris Green, the head chef at Paul's Homewood Cafe.  "He's not a kid, but I call him a kid," Cheplowitz said, with a slight chuckle.  "Chris has brought in a lot of new ideas to this restaurant and is creating new sauces, mastering different preparations, and serving up some amazing dishes.  I'm 62 and he's 27.  But the remarkable thing is I am learning from him, and he's learning from me."

Cheplowitz went on to state that he and Green spend a considerable amount of time on food and beverage pairings.  "Last night, we had a bone-in pork chop entree that had a little spice to it.  So, we opened a couple of bottles of wine to see what would pair with that.  If the customer is smart, they'll listen to you.  Fortunately, our customers are pretty smart."

With regards to the restaurant's clientele, Cheplowitz says he has been impressed as of late with the sophistication of the younger generation, especially when it comes to their beverage choices.  "More and more are drinking their parents' drinks," he stated.  "They're going for the good Scotches and bourbons.  They like the mixers and the Knob Creek.  They're not abusing it either.  They just want a nice drink with dinner.  They'll come in and say, 'My dad had a glass of Worthy.  Do you have that?'  And they're telling me about all these new types of martinis out there.  I've never seen so many different types of martinis!  It's crazy."

In terms of providing quality beverage service, Cheplowitz is a firm believer in not being overly aggressive with the guests.  He prefers listening to and sizing up customers, especially those who are not regulars.  He said, "I tell all of our waitstaff, 'Never push alcohol.'  You just don't push a customer.  If they're interested, they're interested.  If not, just let it go.  You can ask, 'Would you like a cocktail,' and if they are interested, then you try and suggest different things pared with an appetizer or their choice of entree. I also don't like to push the most expensive wine.  I'd rather sell a $7 glass of wine, because I know the chances are better that I'm going to get a second and even a third glass out of the customer than if I had recommended a $15 glass of wine."

Even at 62 in a profession most regard as a young person's game, Cheplowitz has no plans to retire anytime soon.  He firmly believes that what he does for a living is not a job, but a calling.  And he especially loves serving his fellow residents.  "I was born and raised in Annapolis," he said, "and I've seen it change from an almost small town to a major competitive market with so many restaurants and wine bars.  It's still a great city where you can raise a family and enjoy a good life."

He concluded, "I think of this restaurant as my home away from home.  Many of our customers do, too.  In the winter, people will actually walk to it when it snows  People say I'm dedicated.  THAT is dedication!"

FAMILY: A wife, two grown sons, and three teenage grandchildren.

FAVORITE MOVIE: "The Godfather"

CAN'T MISS TV SHOW: "The Chew"

DREAM GIG: "I love Mario Batalli! I'd love to just work with him in a restaurant  for one weekend."

ALTERNATE PROFESSION HE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE TRIED: Professional boxer

GO-TO VACATION SPOTS: Rehobeth and Dewey Beach, Delaware

BEST BEER: Heineken

HIS COCKTAIL OF CHOICE: Bloody Mary

FAMOUS PEOPLE HE HAS SERVED: Harrison Ford, Vincent Price, Cal Ripken Jr., and former Baltimore Colts great Bruce Laird

DREAM CUSTOMER HE'D LOVE TO SERVE: Robert DeNiro


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2015 Editions Wed, 17 Jun 2015 12:57:01 -0400
Donal O'Gallachoir Explains http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/donal-o-gallachoir http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/donal-o-gallachoir

How Glendalough Is Preserving Ireland's Whiskey Heritage.   

Donal O'Gallachoir was one of five friends who found that they had a shared passion.  No, not for sports or automobiles or a particular brand of music.  What brought them together was a quest to revive the heritage of craft distilling in their home country of Ireland.  

As late as the 19th century, there were more than 200 licensed distilleries in Ireland in addition to countless unlicensed ones.  Until recently, that dropped to a small handful.  But the five friends' Glendalough Distillery is now looking to be a part of a true revival.  Named after one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Ireland, Glendalough Distillery is looking to make a name for itself abroad, but especially here in the States. Initially, the founders started with poitin, the first-ever spirit distilled.  Since then, they have moved on to whiskeys (the Glendalough Single Grain Double Barrel has become an especially hot seller), Irish Single Malts and four wild botanical gins for each season.  

O'Gallachoir handles all U.S. sales and marketing for the brand.  He visited Maryland (at a Baltimore whiskey haunt called Of Love and Regret) in mid-May to talk up Glendalough Distillery and its products, and the Beverage Journal was fortunate enough to get an interview with him. What follows is our chat:    

BEVERAGE JOURNAL: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers, sir?

DONAL O'GALLACHOIR: I first started in the drinks industry at the tender age of 17, doing on-premise activations for some of the big brands around Ireland.  I did that throughout college. When I finished university, I went to work for an Irish whiskey brand.  We ended up taking that national across the U.S.  All the while, I used to meet up with my cousin, Barry, and the other guys, and we used to talk about setting something up for ourselves.  We eventually jumped into this two feet first.  What we really wanted to do was bring back some of Ireland's whiskey heritage.  There were independent craft distilleries in Ireland before "independent" and "craft" were even buzzwords.  Every town had a couple of distilleries, and there was a wealth of different styles.

B.J.: What is your current job title?

D.O.: That would be "Whiskey Slinger."

B.J.: Awesome.

D.O.: No, I am the national sales manager.  I look after growing the business in the U.S., everything from distributor relations and opening new markets to training our sales team on the ground and developing campaigns and POS materials.  Anything that gets our whiskey out there and gets our whiskey selling, that would be my neck of the woods.

B.J.: You're based in Boston, right?

D.O.: For my sins, yes.

B.J.: So, as a visitor to our region, what is your impression of Maryland and Washington, D.C., as whiskey markets?

D.O.: I think it's a great whiskey market with a lot of opportunity for Irish whiskey.  I am impressed that the people are very knowledgeable. I've met people who are 21, 22, 23 who ask questions like "Is it column distilled?"  On the retail side, there are a lot of terrific specialty stores that are doing a great job educating and up-selling consumers.  I think there is also a good cocktail scene in both Baltimore and D.C.  From my experience dealing with people on the ground, people are just delighted that there is something new and interesting coming from Ireland, because for a long time there wasn't.

B.J.: Can you talk about the early days of going into business for yourself?  What was that like?

D.O.: When we started self-distributing in Dublin, it was me in a beat up Volkswagen Golf driving around with hand-written invoices. I got my car broken into a few times.  It was very humbling.

B.J.: How often do you get back to Ireland?

D.O.: About twice a year.  In fact, I am going back this week for an engagement party.  There's no rest of the wicked, right?

B.J.: You've gotten high marks for your bottle design.  Is there a story behind this rather striking label?

D.O.: Where we are from is Wicklow, just south of Dublin. Where we settled next to is Glendalough. Glen is a valley, da is a short Irish word for two,  and lough is a lake.  Glendalough is a 6th-century monastic settlement that still stands in all of its glory to this day.  ... It was founded by St. Kevin, who looked a bit like Bear Grylls.  St. Kevin was born into nobility in Ireland in the 6th century.  He was supposed to be a king.  But he turned his back on that to go his own way in the world.  He wanted to carve his own path, so, he did a bit of soul searching, and he gets to this one point at the top of a mountain, looks down, and he sees these two pristine lakes at the bottom of a valley.  He goes between the two lakes and sets up shop.  At that point, he became very religious.  Because of his strength of character and his preaching, everybody wanted to live around this holy man. To this day there is a 6th Century monastic settlement that will stands there 1400 years later.

The image on the bottle is him.  St. Kevin used to pray up to his waist in ice-cold water.  Monks were into that kind of thing at the time.  They would pray with their hands stretched towards the heavens.  It is said that he was so harmonious and one with nature that a blackbird flew down from the mountain and landed on him.  And the blackbird was so at peace, that she laid her eggs and St. Kevin stayed like that for two weeks until the hatchlings hatched.

B.J.: So, the bottle is both a nod to where there was such early distillation in Ireland and to this guy, St. Kevin?

D.O.: It was a nod to a guy who could have done it the easy way, but he choose to make his own way.  He and we have that independent Irish streak.  What we like to think we're doing is carving a new path in Irish whiskey.

B.J.: So having been in this business since you were 17, what have you learned?

D.O.: (laughing) I've learned that no good conversation starts with "You know what you should do?"  Seriously, though, in this business, it's not what you tell someone about your brand and your story.  It's what they tell their friends that really matters.  And always do what you say you're going to do.  It's not about the orders.  It's about the re-orders.  That's really what this industry is about.

B.J.: And is there any advice that you have for anyone reading this who may, one day, hope to do start their own business?

D.O.: Get people from every skill set that you don't have.

B.J.: And what specialized skill set do you possess?

D.O.: Talking ... and drinking!

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2015 Editions Wed, 17 Jun 2015 12:28:59 -0400
Golia Vodka http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/golia-vodka http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/golia-vodka

Looks to Be a Horse of a Different Color...

The first thing I noticed when I went to crack open my first bottle of Golia Vodka, the latest hot import from Asia, is the majestic label featuring a winged horse.  While I am quite certain the owners of American Pharoah poured more than their fair share of vodka and other spirits upon winning the Triple Crown recently, I was a little iffy as to what a similarly legendary beast had to do with vodka.  So, I went to the source, Golia Vodka Chairman David Solomon.

"It's a Pegagus to Americans, but called a Wind Horse in Mongolia," he stated.  "In Mongolian folklore, the Wind Horse is conjured up by shamans to take the spirit on its journey to Heaven.  So, what we want people to think of when they are drinking Golia is that they are ascending to Heaven.  You'll see that we also incorporated the Mongolian sun, mountains, the water, and the wheat into our version of this Wind Horse."

Golia Vodka has been incorporated into packaged goods stores throughout Delaware, New Jersey, New York State, Quebec, and Pennsylvania so far and is now making inroads into Maryland and Washington, D.C., thanks to distributor Southern Wine & Spirits (SWS).  It's an 80-proof product that hits the lips and gums with a slightly sweet mouth feel, then quickly fades into a quite dry flavor with hints of sea salt, licorice, and even a bit of mint leaf.  

Maryland and D.C. vodka lovers are going to embrace this product for a number of reasons.  First, the company uses only organic and all-natural ingredients.  "We don't put anything man-made into the bottle," Solomon touted.  "We don't use chemically treated water.  It's pure H2O from our own deep underground mountain well water source in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia and fed from a place called the Khuiten Peak. Where our well water is, there are lakes in that area where you can literally see lake fish up to 50 feet below the surface. You just can't source ingredients like this anywhere else on the planet that I know of."

He continued, "The second key is the grain. We don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  Mongolia is often called the world's last unexplored frontier, unspoiled and totally magnificent.  You have three million people, 20 million goats, and land as far as the eye can see from the Gobi Desert in the south to the Altai Mountains in the north."

In addition, each batch is distilled at least six times.  That's the starting point.  That's the minimum.  If Golia's master distiller feels a particular batch needs more distillation to be even smoother, he has permission to go up to as many as nine times.  

The company's filtration process goes above and beyond, too. Most vodkas will be filtered through one, maybe two types of filters at most.  "Our vodka goes through four different types of filters," Solomon stated.  "Each batch has gone through charcoal, quartz, silver, and platinum filters, because we find that each one removes different types of impurities and makes it that much smoother."

Solomon has proven to be an ultra-smooth businessman in the States, founding the Redbox DVD vending machine concept and owning a 20-store Toys "R" Us franchise.  What took him to Mongolia?  A friend, Lee Cashell, went on a junket to the country when it was first opening to the West. He fell in love with his tour guide, got married, and never left. Today, the husband-and-wife team's companies own many different things in Mongolia from a cement factory to apartments to the largest real estate brokerage company. 

Solomon went to visit him. "I also fell in love with the country; the people; and, most importantly for this story, the vodka.  We saw a real opportunity to bring this kind of quality spirit here."

The company is now looking to expand distribution of Golia Vodka throughout America, with Maryland and the nation's capital being their current hot target. "I am extremely optimistic about the Maryland and D.C. market," Solomon concluded.  "We're based just outside of Philadelphia.  So, it's a market we can cover very easily, and it's a place I can personally go to for tastings.  I also think the Maryland and Washington customer, in general, is knowledgeable and appreciates finer spirits, particularly craft spirits like ours.  This is an opportunity for us to come in with a fantastic vodka at a competitive price point.  We have a good story to tell, too.  It's just kind of crazy that Mongolians and Americans are working together in Mongolia making great vodka. I'm sure you don't read about that every day in the Beverage Journal." 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2015 Editions Wed, 17 Jun 2015 11:51:36 -0400
Have a Seat... http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/have-a-seat-and-a-blue-chair http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/have-a-seat-and-a-blue-chair

...and a Blue Chair Bay Rum:  

On country superstar Kenny Chesney's current U.S. tour, fans can walk through the singer's American Kids bus.  Inside, there are displays that tell the story of the singer's music; his lifestyle; and, most importantly to Beverage Journal readers, his line of flavored Blue Chair Bay Rums imported and bottled by Chesney's Fishbowl Spirits LLC.  "There is an opportunity to taste, as well," said Fishbowl Spirits President David Farmer.  "So fans can come to understand what these rums are all about."

First and foremost, what Blue Chair Bay Rums are about is lifestyle.  Chesney is selling an island vibe that comes through in many of his most popular tunes.  Created at a small distillery in Barbados and launched in April 2013, there were the three initial selections: Blue Chair Bay White Rum, Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum, and Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum.  Before long, Blue Chair Bay Banana Rum came along and was also a hit.  In June, the company is launching Blue Chair Bay Vanilla Rum and Blue Chair Bay Banana Cream Rum.  

This reporter tasted both of the new releases.  If I had one word to describe their overall taste profile, it would be "clean."  Sometimes flavor-infused spirits have a sort of artificial taste to them.  Some, quite honestly, go over the top.  One of the great things about Blue Chair Bay is the lack of an overbearing taste.  This is a very fresh line that is obviously a testament to Chesney's insistence that the rums be as natural as they could be.  Farmer remarked, "This is his rum.  It's not a sponsorship.  It is a labor of love for him."

The singer's influence is most evident in the design of the bottles.  "He wanted it to look like the beach, he wanted it to feel like something you got at the beach," Farmer said.  "He loves the worn look, so that's why you see the lettering have that faded, worn look.  And you also have the lyrics of his classic hit 'Old Blue Chair' on there that connects him and the bottle."

Blue Chair Bay doesn't come across as particularly masculine or feminine in its taste or its marketing and point of sale materials, but instead finds a sweet spot right in the middle.  The products mix well with the traditional colas and diet colas, but splashes of fruit juice -- pineapple and orange, in particular, with soda water -- bring out a popping array of tastes.

Of the four releases already out, my personal favorite is Blue Chair Bay Banana, in which the company took its classic beach-made white rum and added caramelized banana with just a hint of island spice and toasted coconut.  It makes for a truly great Banana daiquiri, but also mixes well in such up-and-coming cocktails as the Grilled Banana Punch and Bananas Fostertini.  I also enjoyed Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum with its delicate, yet smooth blend of coconut, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove.  I sipped it on its own, mixed with club soda and a sprig of fresh mint, and it was delightful.

Food pairings are also proving quite important to getting this brand out into the public consciousness.  Farmer says he is aware of several restaurant menus across the country that have a Bananas Foster with Blue Chair Bay Banana Rum in the mix.  "We have a great relationship with Logan's Roadhouse," he added.  "They sent me a menu just the other day of some food options that they're going to run using our product.  They have a Blue Chair Bay Rum-glazed barbecued salmon salad, a rum glazed salmon, and a glazed flatiron steak.  They've done a great job with those, and it definitely gets Blue Chair Bay out there."

Farmer is also excited about the ongoing 50 ml program, featuring a line of little bottles that are getting more and more people to try the product. "With this being a premium rum, we're asking a lot for someone to pull an $18.99 or $19.99 bottle down off the shelf and buy it," he acknowledged.  "We feel it's a great rum, a premium rum.  But for consumers, we felt it was important to give those who are not quite sure of it the opportunity to at least test the brand.  Hopefully, this will push more people in the right direction ... our direction." 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) June 2015 Edition Thu, 21 May 2015 21:56:24 -0400
360 Vodka ... http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/360-vodka-connecting-with-wounded-veterans http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/360-vodka-connecting-with-wounded-veterans

...Connecting With Wounded Veterans:   

It's perfectly fine to buy one's self a drink because you just want to feel good.  Well, if you buy 360 Vodka's latest limited edition bottle, you will more than feel good.  You'll be doing your patriotic duty!  AND, as always, buying 360 Vodka also means you are doing right by the environment as each bottle is made with 85 percent recycled glass, 100 percent recycled paper for the labeling, and the distillery where it was made has its own water treatment plant.

But back to the patriotism part.  The limited edition, 1.75-liter package hit shelves in April, and $1 from each bottle sold is being donated to the Connected Warrior Foundation.  The Annapolis-based organization provides tablet computers and other services to injured soldiers so they can stay connected with their families, friends, and the world when in the hospital or in a rehabilitation program.  A tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, the Connected Warrior Foundation was founded in 2012.  The group has delivered everything from Kindle devices to Nexus tablets to wounded veterans during their stays at such facilities as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the San Antonio Military Medical Center, and Balboa Naval Hospital.  Connected Warrior serves veterans -- whether newly-injured or on the path of recovery over an extended period of time -- who have suffered physical and/or emotional invisible wounds (PTSD) that were received during the course of combat on behalf of the United States.

Larry Brookman of Active Marketing and Sales LLC represents the product in Maryland and is excited about its drinkability, apart from the very important tie-in promotion.  "It's a very clean, 80-proof vodka," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "It's six times distilled and five times filtered from American grain -- the biggest advantage of that being the smooth taste that the consumer gets with the distillation process.  It takes out the impurities. We have a retail price point of just under $20 for the 1.75-liter bottle."

The packaging for the limited edition product is quite striking, too.  Brookman commented, "We settled on a distinctive red, white, and blue package with an emphasis on stars.  The most distinctive part is the swing-top cap.  360 Vodka is all about the environment, reducing waste and being eco-friendly.  They have a program called Close the Loop whereby if the consumer mails back the swing top, it will get re-used.  They recycle everything.  They then donate $1 to Global Green USA for each swing top . . .  and they've received over 50,000 swing-tops!"

Brookman believes the product will continue to cut across all demographics, too.  "The consumers now are very educated on vodkas," he stated.  They know what they like, and they can really tell the difference between the different vodkas out there."  

He is especially heartened by the number of female drinkers that have been gravitating to 360 Vodka.  "I did a tasting last week," he recalled.  "Would you believe I had more females purchasing than men?  The women not only like their vodka, they know their vodka.  So, you better be known to them.  They also tend to respond to products more emotionally than men, so it's good we have a product like this that tugs at the heart strings a little.  And the limited edition is good for getting retailers on board, especially those who want to do more than just sell product but also make a difference.  They can tell their customers, 'Hey, not only is this a great tasting vodka, but a portion of what you're spending is going back to a great local foundation.  One dollar per bottle to Connected Warrior adds up to $6 for every case that rolls through retailers' doors."

He added, "We kicked it off on April 10 with a meeting where Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) got their sales force together.  We had a massive 50-case display showing all of our POS that highlighted the partnership with Connected Warrior.  We brought in Jim Leckinger, Director of Programs & Engagement for Connected Warrior, to tell the sales team exactly what his organization is all about.  The sales team was pumped when they left.  Since then, we've had a lot of big retailers step up to the plate.  It's in the stores now."

Leckinger says the promotion is definitely increasing Connected Warrior's visibility.  He believes it's a win-win for not only his group, but also for the retailers who stock the product and the customers who buy it.  In a separate interview with the Beverage Journal, he remarked, "By having this product and promotion in your stores, you are helping local veterans as we are a Maryland-based veteran services organization, or VSO.  You have the opportunity to see what the money you are raising can do on a day-to-day basis in helping our injured veterans recover, rehabilitate, and get them back into the world with the best physical and mental health possible."

He continued, "The way we start is when they get injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, in the hospital system, we send them an Android-based tablet computer they can hook through the WiFi.  What happens is when they get injured, things happen very quickly.  They are literally in Germany the next day and then the United States a day or two after that.  So, within 72 hours, they are completely detached and isolated from everyone they know and have come to trust so much.  By giving them these tablets, they can connect with the outside world.  The tablets also become very helpful once they get out of the hospital system.  It helps them with organizing their schedule, keeping their medical appointments, arranging their medicines, educational stuff.  There's an app for everything.  That is what we do nationwide.  We've sent out over 3,000 tablets in the last two and a half years." 

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) June 2015 Edition Thu, 21 May 2015 21:44:02 -0400
The New Maryland Distillers Guild http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/the-new-maryland-distillers-guild http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/the-new-maryland-distillers-guild

Guilds come in all shapes and sizes these days, and they have varying missions.  The Screen Actors Guild, for instance, represents the interests of thespians worldwide who appear on the big and small screens.  The Newspaper Guild is a labor union for journalists and other employees of newspapers and currently boasts more than 30,000 members across North America.  The much smaller Lollipop Guild, meanwhile, is tasked with doling out sweet treats as a form of welcome to visitors of the magical Land of Oz's Munchkinland precinct.

The recently formed Maryland Distillers Guild is looking to be all those things -- an industry representative, a de facto labor union, and a welcome wagon -- and more for those artisanal distillers statewide who craft whiskeys, rums, vodkas, and other spirits. Boutique whiskeys and other spirits are surging in popularity with consumers both in Maryland and across the country. Unlike wines whose quality and character are shaped by such things as climate and soil type, spirits can be distilled anywhere with raw materials like barley or sugar to be shipped in if need be.

The distribution model now in place in Maryland basically allows a distiller to sell a limited amount directly to the customer -- three bottles per person each visit.  In addition, distillers can go to distributors to retail their products or apply for a wholesaler’s license themselves.  Of course, each distiller needs state and federal permits. One person who has navigated this process and wants to help others do so is Guild President Jaime Windon, who is also co-owner, along with Ben Lyon, of Lyon Distilling in St. Michaels.

Windon stated in a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "The guild will help bring existing distilleries together; encourage new distillers to open; and, through legislation and our education and marketing efforts, we'll be able to shape future opportunities for the entire industry.  Once you do those things, you'll be able to foster jobs, agriculture, tourism, and so forth.  This is an industry that will benefit the state on so many levels."

She continued, "It's exciting for me as a distillery owner, because we have wanted for that camaraderie ever since we opened in 2013.  It's also exciting to be president of the guild this first year and help shape our industry and to help my fellow distillers thrive.  An industry can't thrive with just two or three full distillers.  If you go to a small distillery, buy a craft spirit, and it's not very good, you are much less likely to go out and purchase a craft spirit from any state.  But when you walk into a small distillery and have a fantastic experience, you meet some passionate owners, you take a tour, you try a spirit that completely opens your eyes to something new, then you are far more likely to take a chance the next time you have the opportunity to visit a craft distillery or see a craft beer on the shelf.  We're all working for the betterment of our industry.  There is so much room for growth."

Beside creating their own guild, Maryland's distillers recently hired Kevin Atticks and his firm, Grow & Fortify, to manage the organization, lobby in Annapolis, lead promotional campaigns, and generally help the industry grow.  In beverage circles, Atticks is best known for leading the Maryland Wineries Association since 2002 and has played a key role in expanding that group from 15 to 70 wineries.  He has also proved particularly adept at pushing for revisions to state and county alcohol laws.  The Maryland Distillers Guild joins the Maryland Wineries Association and Brewers Association of Maryland as clients of his firm.

Atticks remarked," The number of wineries who were trying to get brewery and distillery licenses was on the increase, and there were no real reference points for them.  They were calling the state, and the state was saying, 'Give Kevin a call.' Or, 'Give other breweries and distilleries a call.'  It occurred to me that there was a need to organize and create a professional face for the distilling industry and to help the brewers, as well.  So, in December, I formed a firm and converted my relationship with the wineries, brought them onboard as clients, and they were fully in support of this idea. I then approached the active distilleries and convened a meeting of them.  We got together in late January, and we came to an agreement about me helping them form an organization.  The guild wants to promote directly to the customers, both in and out of state, that Maryland is a great place to come and visit, take a distillery tour, and refresh people's memories of the history of Maryland distilling."

Windon definitely believes the guild has history on its side. Maryland was known for its rye whiskey and rum during colonial times.  Prior to Prohibition, the Old Line State produced the fifth-most alcohol in the country.  "What many people don't realize is that Maryland has this illustrious distilling history," she confirmed.  "Rum was the first spirit ever distilled in Maryland back in the 1600s.  The colonists made and drank a lot of rum!  The industry got decimated when the public's tastes changed, and rye whiskey fell out of fashion in the 1950s and '60s.  In 1972, the last big Maryland distillery distilled its very last drop of whiskey, and we had a 40-year drought.  So, it seems like a new thing to anyone under 40.  But anyone in their 50s and 60s remember when Baltimore smelled like rye whiskey.  Distillers were pumping it out.  We want to bring back that recognition."

Atticks noted the guild is tackling its first big challenge right now: organizing. This includes developing bylaws and setting a legislative agenda.  "We'll be testifying in Annapolis on behalf of the guild to create some events opportunities, allow distillers to attend some events away from the distillery.  These won't be big sales opportunities, but they'll be great to promote products. Distillers should also have the ability to support charities and worthy causes through the donation of some of their product."

For those reading this who are dreaming of joining the growing ranks of distillers in Maryland, Atticks was quick to offer his advice: "Step one, we recommend calling the Guild. So much of what a start-up distillery goes through involves forging new ground at the local municipality or county level. In most places around the state except in the very specific instances where there are operating craft distilleries, the county and municipality will have no idea what to do with a request.  For a start-up, that can become a quagmire that can go on for years.  We'd like to be able to walk someone through that process, make calls to the county, go to meetings with them to make sure that it's done right so that we don't have bad precedents put into place that could cripple a local distillery or the local industry."

Windon concurred, adding, "Make sure you are getting into this for the right reasons.  Have a passion for this and bring something unique.  The only downside to an industry growing so quickly is that it can grow recklessly with people not adhering enough to quality.  While it's always exciting at first to jump in and we certainly encourage people to get started, pay attention to the quality of what you're making, make sure you have done your due diligence, and make sure you have honed your craft before you launch your business.  While we are excited to see new businesses open, we want them to be stellar distilleries.  We want the reputation of Maryland be known not just for many distilleries, but to be known for quality distilleries.  It's not so much about numbers as it is about quality."

The sizes of the state’s distillers are indeed fairly small.  Lyon, for example, uses a 26-gallon still and produces only between 400 and 600 bottles a month.  Right now, there are four spirit-only distilleries in Maryland, three of which are also wineries, and another four operations still in the planning stages.  By comparison, Washington state has 90 distilleries up and running.

Atticks remarked, "I think in 12 months, the industry will have doubled. It will have at least 12 distilleries operating.  I think we'll have some small towns really excited to have a new distillery bringing jobs and lots of tourism.  We will have Maryland distilling on the map again."

Windon concluded, "Craft distilling is all about experimentation and innovation.  That's what we're passionate about at Lyon Distilling, making really great things that are unique.  We love it when people come in and try a rum and say, 'Wow, I've never had a rum like this before!'  That is what craft distilling is all about.  It's about expanding what people think a spirit can be." n

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2015 Editions Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:39:27 -0400
Billy Reilly...Making a Splash in the Fishbowl http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/billy-reilly-making-a-splash-in-the-fishbowl http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/billy-reilly-making-a-splash-in-the-fishbowl

One of country superstar Kenny Chesney's biggest hits was "When the Sun Goes Down."  Well, in the beverage biz, the sun has definitely not gone down on Billy Reilly yet.  He's the new Maryland-D.C.-Virginia Territory Manager for Fishbowl Spirits LLC, an independent spirits company wholly owned by Chesney.  Their signature product is Blue Chair Bay Rum.

Reilly believes he's the man to bring this premium-blended spirit, distilled in Barbados and inspired by the singer's relaxed island life, to market in our region.  After all, he was the owner and commissioner of the Fastest Bartender Contest for many years, putting on exciting competition shows all over the Maryland-D.C. area.  He sold that business to some members of his staff.  "It has stayed in the hands of the people who have actually run it, and I am really happy for them," he said proudly, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.

Reilly also operated a small consulting firm which specialized in "out of the box" marketing.  His clients included a number of bars, restaurants, and small businesses.  "I was never far from the business," he remarked.  "I heard about this job opening.  I immediately inquired online, and I made the most of my interview opportunity and landed the position."

In his new job, he is responsible for both on- and off-premise sales.  His first day was April 1.  We chatted on March 31.  "I am most looking forward to getting back and seeing a lot of the bars and restaurants that I've become very fond of over the years," he said.  "I can't wait to see all of those friends who were waiters, waitresses, and busboys who have since assimilated into management and ownership.  It will be great visiting territories where we used to have shows and to bring a fantastic premium product to their doors."

Asked if he was daunted by the work ahead of him, Reilly was quick to reply that his mindset doesn't allow him to see challenges.  Ever.  "I only see opportunities," he stated.  "My theory in life is that there aren't any problems, there are just solutions.  How can I be a part of those solutions?  Honestly, the only obstacle I expect is overcoming established products that have been in the market for a while."

Reilly is thrilled to have the name recognition of such a major celebrity behind the brand he is touting.  So far, he has marveled at the level with which Chesney has been involved in everything from marketing decisions to color schemes to taste profile.  "Everything is Kenny!" declared Reilly.  "He's not just lending his name.  This is his deal.  He's the new hardest working man in show business.  And if we, his staff, can put as much energy into this product as he does into his shows, then I predict much success."

Reilly is one of those beverage industry professionals who has always prided himself on living and working by a code.  "Be loyal to your establishment," he said.  "Seek to make a difference and have an impact.  Bring an excitement level, do what you say you are going to do, and make sure you follow through.  The key to longevity in this business is you have to be productive, and you have to stay relevant and focused on the needs of the retailer, the bar owner, and the restaurant owner.  Your name sticks with you.  Hard work does pay off, and I am a living example of that."

In his nearly quarter-century in the business, the biggest change that he has seen is the shift from old-school bartending to the new trend of mixology.  "Bartending is now much more than a job than when I started.  It's a craft.  People are studying and aspiring to be great bartenders now.  It's not just a job that leads to another job.  I also see a big upswing in spirits versus beers.  Spirits are really gaining a lot of ground, and premium products have a very good opportunity in this market to establish themselves."

He concluded, "I am so looking forward to the year ahead.  It will be a great year if I am successfully able to take this fantastic brand that has legs, move it into an exciting market, and get the name out.  It's just an exciting time to give an old war horse like me one more great run!" 

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Wedding Crashers"

ANY KIDS:  Two sons.  Colin, 13, and Will, 11.

IF HE'S NOT LISTENING TO CHESNEY, HE'S ROCKIN' TO: Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger

HE COLLECTS: Cocktail shakers.  "I am a collector of the craft.  I probably have the single largest cocktail shaker collection in the U.S.  Thousands of them!"


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2015 Editions Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:54:47 -0400
Babak Pakravan Anything But Common at Penn Commons http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/babak-pakravan-anything-but-common-at-penn-commons http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/babak-pakravan-anything-but-common-at-penn-commons

Most people who I interview for this column have come to the bar business with similar stories.  "I started bartending in college and fell in love with it" or "My dad owned a tavern, so I grew up in the business."  That's not the case with Babak Pakravan, head bartender at Penn Commons in D.C.  A first-generation Iranian-American, his family's travels took him back to Iran where he had to eventually be smuggled out in 1983.  He tried university life, but dropped out to join the United States Marine Corps. from 1985 to 1989.  After those four years, he went back to college before becoming an officer in the U.S. Army.

He didn't get his start in hospitality until 1995, working various taverns and restaurants in Chicago.  A year later, he moved to the District of Columbia and continued his service in our sector.  "I was on the periphery early on," he recalled.  "I was a dishwasher.  I became a barback.  I worked security.  I worked at Timberlake's for 13 years.  When Timberlake's closed, I came over to Passion Food Hospitality, the group I'm with now."

He initially started working at 10 Penh, a Pan-Asian restaurant, then went to Saba.  He was the bar manager there until it closed, which brought him to Penn Commons, the newest restaurant in the company.  Pakravan believes he has found a home.

"Penn Commons is a very high energy bar," he stated.  "We have 38 craft brews on draft.  We celebrate American distilleries and American craft breweries.  We also have Jameson's and a lot of the other traditional stuff guests look for.  But we like to guide the customer into the American equivalent of whatever spirit they're seeking.  Our location is right by the Verizon Center.  We're literally attached to it.  So, before games, people of all ages come in and have drinks.  It gets really loud, sometimes like a rock concert in here."

Pakravan says what he loves most about his job is the guest interaction.  "I've always been a talker," he said, "and I  like meeting and hearing people's stories.  The challenge, which is also fun, is when I am trying to come up with a new cocktail for them.  I actually like to revitalize classic cocktails, but not for the sake of, 'Oh, look at what I'm doing!'  I'm really interested in enhancing ingredients to create a better experience for the guests.  I also like to feature drinks where a person can go home and recreate it in their own home bar, as well."

Currently, he is using Purity Vodka and infusing it with watermelon radish and horseradish.  "It's really aromatic, and we're using it in our Bloody Mary," he stated.  "I'm doing a martini with it, as well, with some ginger puree, some sweetened lemon, and grapefruit bitters.  It's very earthy, but very nice."

He also enjoys using FEW Spirits' various products and brands.  "If you haven't tried FEW Spirits' Rye, try it!" he exclaimed.  "It's very special.  They're based out of Evanston, Ill., and Chicago has always been special to me having worked the bar scene there in '95.  I carry two of their gins, the regular and the barrel-aged gin that I use in a classic daiquiri to give it depth.  I really can't wait to see what they put out next."

Pakravan believes the world is seeing a revival of the Golden Age of cocktails.  He is especially impressed with some of the young people coming up now and their passion and creativity.  But tending bar is work, he's quick to point out.  "This is a profession," he said.  "Treat it as such, really like what you are doing, and good things will come.  There is a creative process, an artistic component, to what we do that I really enjoy.  You're not just copying, you're creating."

Looking ahead, Pakravan said he was most excited about rolling out Penn Commons' brunch cocktail menu in early February.  He concluded, "I like to change things up as the seasons change.  If there is anything new that comes out that is different in the market, we try to carry it at Penn Commons.  Right now, for example, we are carrying a beer that is made  by monks in Massachusetts, and this is how they support their monastery.  Our bar is a testament to Ben Franklin's old saying, 'In beer, there's joy!'" 

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Casablanca"

IN HIS SPARE TIME:  "I like checking out the Washington bar scene and seeing what my colleagues are doing."

PRIZED POSSESSION: "I was a model builder as a kid, and I have the wooden airplane that is on the cover of one of the Tin Tin books."

DOES HE HAVE A HIDDEN TALENT? "I do, but not one I can talk about.  It goes back to the Marine Corps!"

IN HIS SPARE TIME:  "I like checking out the Washington bar scene and seeing what my colleagues are doing."

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2015 Editions Sat, 21 Feb 2015 16:33:07 -0500
What Glitters is Gold at Heavy Seas Beer http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/what-glitters-is-gold-at-heavy-seas-beer http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/what-glitters-is-gold-at-heavy-seas-beer

When this journalist suggested to Joe Gold that he was a "beer nerd," the Sales Manager at Heavy Seas Beer in Halethorpe chuckled and replied, "Yeah, I guess I am."  Then, he thought for a moment and proudly declared, "Actually, I'm more of a 'beer explorer.'  I go on beer hunts.  What I do is I keep a beer journal, and I travel the globe looking for fun things to visit beer-wise -- taverns, brewpubs, historic sites.  I tend to plan my trips around beer.  For instance, when I'm on the road for work, I'll do some research as to what's happening that weekend with beer.  If there's a festival or some sort of pub I've never heard of, I'll stay over the weekend just to check it out."

Sorry, Joe.  That pretty much qualifies you for "beer nerdom."  Not that there's anything wrong with that!  After all, how many people get to turn their life's passion into a full-time job.  Gold earned his first paycheck in the brewing business in 1986, working for Young & Co.'s Brewery in London.  His younger days as a lacrosse player had moved him from Baltimore to England three years earlier.  When it came time to get a job, the beverage business there beckoned.

"So much has changed from when I first got involved," he stated.  "I used to walk into taverns in the '80s and say, 'I have this phenomenal beer. It's fantastic. We just came out with it.' And the buyer would say, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. Get out of here!' I go in today and tell the buyer, 'Hey, we came up with this new batch of beer. It's fresh off the line.' And the buyer says to me, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. I'll take three kegs!' It's the weirdest professional shift I've ever lived through!"

Gold has found a kindred spirit in the products he sells today.  "Heavy Seas is in our 20th year," he noted. "The branding of the pirate theme, the popularity of the Loose Cannon brand, and now with our year-round CrossBones beer, it all speaks to adventure. What people look for in a craft beer is to identify with a theme. It has more to do with your heart than your head. When you try a craft beer, it needs to resonate with you."

He continued, "What sets us apart is we do a lot of traditional things. We give it all a Heavy Seas spin, but we stay within some boundaries. We sell balanced beer. We're not looking for the odd or quirky. We're looking for quality."

In addition to his job at Heavy Seas, Gold is the founder and one of the driving forces of Baltimore Beer Week.  He is already hard at work planning the 2015 event, which will be celebrating its seventh year this October.  

He says the tradition is just one of the things that makes Maryland such a great "beer state."  He elaborates, "The breweries and the beer drinkers in our state are as diverse as anywhere on the planet. We happen to also possess a port that allows anything from anywhere to get to us quickly. So, honestly, our beer drinking scene offers the consumer more choices than any other market in the U.S., I believe. I would also say that the consumer in Maryland probably has a little less loyalty to any particular brand, because there is such a plethora of things to enjoy. If you go to places like the Pacific Northwest or New England, those brands that are made in those neighborhoods get the lion's share of sales. Here, we have as diverse a portfolio as anywhere, and it makes it challenging to become a staple."

While the Old Line State has embraced craft beers, the same can't be said for the rest of the country.  He notes that craft beers still account for just under 10 percent of the total market share.  "The fact that 90 percent of the beer that's drunk in the United States isn't even made by one of the 3,000 craft brewers, that's a shame.  And not in the business sense, but more in the 'Why would you drink that?!' sense."

For Gold, though, the uphill battles are still the ones worth fighting.  And he believes Heavy Seas will continue to push forward with new and exciting products.  He concluded,  "I've met a lot of passionate people along the way in my career.  From them, I've learned that if you keep your passion and your focus, you're going to move the needle."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Chariots of Fire"

GO-TO RESTAURANT:  Akbar on Charles Street in Baltimore ("I'm an Indian food fan!")

HOBBIES--SPECIAL INTERESTS: "Travel, coaching lacrosse, and keeping up with my 13-year-old son"

FAVORITE WINE: "I am a fan of port.  I don't drink a lot of it.  But, every once in a while, I love a good glass of port."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2015 Editions Sat, 21 Feb 2015 16:26:45 -0500
Black Momma Vodka to Show the Market 'Who's Your Daddy' http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/black-momma-vodka-to-show-the-market-who-s-your-daddy http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/black-momma-vodka-to-show-the-market-who-s-your-daddy

You've heard that Secret deodorant is strong enough for a man, but made for a woman? Well, after that woman freshens up her underarms and heads out for an evening on the town, Vanessa Braxton hopes she'll be drinking Black Momma Vodka.  Braxton is CEO and President of the new label, which launched in 2013 as a division of B4MC Group Inc.  On the homepage of her website, she describes Black Momma as "made by a woman for women and still strong enough for any man ... OKAAAY!"

Yes, indeed.  This vodka comes with some sass and five different variations.  There is the popular Straight Vodka, which is filtered from corn through crushed diamond lava rocks; along with a Sour Sop Tea Vodka; a Chai Tea flavor; a Green Tea infusion; a Pomegranate Tea infusion; and, finally, a Peach Tea variation. Braxton stated, during a recent Beverage Journal interview "Women are different, and I wanted to make something that is for us and by us.  It's a male-dominated industry, and that's fine.  I love men!  But our palettes are very different.  I'm a tea drinker, and I always have been.  At the same time, I love vodka.  This is THE product!"

All of the Black Mommas are five times distilled and five times filtered, giving the finished product a clean finish and a most pleasing taste.  "A lot of people think that vodkas all taste the same, but they don't!" Braxton noted.  "We don't add any sugar, there aren't any chemicals, it's all-natural. So, you get that natural sweetness.  I suffer from headaches.  Our process is such that it minimizes headaches that sometimes comes from drinking vodka.  Also, the corn base helps it to be naturally gluten-free."

She continued, "We don't like to say 'flavored.'  We like to say 'naturally infused.'  I choose to do an infusion because I'm an engineer.  Chemical engineering is my background, so I can write formulas.  I get my own blends directly from the tea manufacturer, and that makes the final product very smooth.  It's hand-crafted with a lower alcohol content.  It allows us women, or really any guy who doesn't want to get plastered, to enjoy a hard alcohol product that still gives you that little kick.  There's no mixing necessary."

Braxton's managed construction and engineering contracts worth more than $350 million for the New York State government prior to her retirement.  Since then, she has lived her dream of becoming the first African-American female owner and operator of a nationally distributed vodka in the United States.  In 2015, Black Momma Vodka will be in 32 states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

"D.C.-Maryland is a great market as far as spirits are concerned, especially with vodka," she stated.  "People in D.C. and Maryland are on the go, and nobody has time for anything.  A lot of people walk into bars and say, 'Give it to me straight.  Give it to me fast.  Give it to me on the rocks or with a splash of orange juice or ginger ale.' Vodka is an easy spirit to drink, especially Black Momma."

And the name?  Braxton laughed.  "I couldn't think of anything else I liked.  I said, 'Hmmmm, what am I going to call it.  OK, I'm black, I'm a momma, and I love vodka!  That's it!"

Next came the bottle design.  What catches the eye immediately is that all of the usually important stuff -- the lettering, the logo, etc. -- are upside down. "It's an upside-down heart, or as some men like to say, 'It looks like a woman's behind.'  When you turn the bottle upside down, it's now a woman's corset.  It's playful.  Then, people ask, 'Well, why are the words upside down?'  Because that's so you can read it when it's being poured.  Also, in California and some other places, there are those dispensers at the bars that keep the bottles upside down.  People can read the product's name."

Looking ahead, Braxton is set to make at least a few appearances locally in the new year.  She is also looking forward to working closely with her local distributor.  "Much praise goes to Southern Wine & Spirits," she concluded.  "They have believed in me and the product and have been so great.  They have a vision, and they have the contacts.  They've told me they are going to make me very proud in 2015!"


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) February 2015 Editions Wed, 21 Jan 2015 19:11:29 -0500
Active Marketing and Sales http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/active-marketing-and-sales http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/active-marketing-and-sales

Movie fans are definitely looking forward to Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher reprising their "Star Wars" roles after 32 years when "The Force Awakens" hits theaters this coming December. And just this past week, Sylvester Stallone took to social media to confirm that he would not only be playing Rocky Balboa again, but also John Rambo in a sequel to be subtitled "Last Blood."

Well, the local beverage business has a similar tale of longtime heroes returning to action to tangle with today's young guns. They are Emery Coccia and Larry Brookman. The former has never left. He has been running his Maryland-based independent brokerage, Active Marketing and Sales LLC, since 2005. Overall, he has been active in the beer, wine, and spirits industry since 1971. Brookman, meanwhile, was basically retired after career stints at several companies, the last being Constellation Brands where he was a part of their Spirits Division for 10 years. But late last year, he bought into Active Marketing, and now the two are full partners.

Brookman stated, "God willing, if we stay healthy, Emery and I can do this for at least the next 10 years or however long we want. We're a lot alike. We do business in much the same way, and we know a lot of the same people. His and my goals are very similar. It's not all about the money, especially at our point in the business. We can still make a difference. Emery and I have cloned ourselves. We've duplicated. If both of us are working effectively, we should be able to cover a LOT more territory and build a LOT of brands!"

The company currently represents such brands as Exclusiv Vodka, Midnight Moonshine, Senor Sangria, and J.R. Ewing Bourbon. A couple of new wines named Manuscript and Match are set to kick off in February. The Manuscript Wines will feature a medium to full bodied Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. The PS Match Wines are a collaboration with Patti Stanger of "Millionaire Matchmaker" on Bravo.

Coccia remarked, "Are we going to take a brand like Exclusiv Vodka and make it the next Absolut or the next Smirnoff? One day, we might. Lightning could strike the bottle. But in the meantime, we can build a nice, solid brand by talking to the retailers, doing some promotions, doing some in-store tastings. The bottom line is hustling and bringing it to the attention of the retailers and the consumers."

Coccia indeed started in September of 1971 as a salesman at Quality Brands where he worked his way up to management. He then moved over to management at F.P. Winner, which is where he and Brookman first met. For his part, Brookman got his start in the business with the Milton S. Kronheim Company in D.C. in 1975.

"We were both managers at F.P. Winner at the same time," Coccia recalled. "I stayed there until 1995 when I went on to the supplier end of the business. I started at Barton Brands and went on to Domecq Importers, which became Allied Domecq. They sold out in 2005 to Pernod Ricard and Jim Beam. At that time, I started my own brokerage, Active Marketing and Sales, and I have been an independent broker ever since."

Brookman thought he had left the business behind in 2013. "I totally planned on working on my golf game and playing with my grandkids, and that was going pretty well. But after a year, my golf game got worse and my grandkids and wife got tired of seeing me! And I did miss the action of the industry and was itching to do something to get back into it. I just needed something that would keep me driven on the back 9 of my life. I got used to reading a lot of stories to my grandkids and being back in the business will allow me to tell the stories of the brands we represent."

He and Coccia started talking this past summer about a possible team-up. At that point, Brookman hadn't worked in over a year. "I told him, 'When I grow up, I want to be like you!' He had this great, thriving brokerage business. What I did was buy into it. We're now equal partners effective Nov. 1."

Expansion is very much on the mind of both men. Coccia is especially excited for the new year ahead. "My original boss was Harvey Kasoff. He was the vice president of the old Quality Brands. He was always great with slogans and motivational things. And he told me, 'The only thing that makes money standing still is a parking meter.' I've been using that slogan ever since! The bottom line is you have to get up and get out every day, form and maintain good relationships with retailers, and always respect them and what they do. And follow up and follow through! If [an account] agrees to sell four or five cases of J.R. Ewing Bourbon, we'll back it up by doing an in-store tasting on a Saturday or a Friday night. Introducing the brand to the consumer and letting them see what it is all about is so important in today's world. But it also shows the retailer that 'Hey, we're here to support you.'"

He continued, "Here is what success is to me. Our company now represents five really nice suppliers. Success for me and for the company is to maintain and grow the business for those current suppliers and also be selective in anybody else that we choose to do business with. In other words, I think both Larry and myself as partners believe that we're not here to take on anything and everything that comes our way. We want to be selective in saying, 'Hey, that looks like a brand that could be fun. That looks like a brand that has some potential and could fit into our portfolio and blend in as part of our family."

Brookman agrees with that philosophy. He is particularly excited about the company's move into the wine side of the business with Manuscript and Match. "Up until now, it's pretty much been all spirits," he noted. "So, we're excited. Both are very good California wines that will have an appeal to pretty much the entire wine market."

So with over 80 years of combined experience in all things beverage, does the industry still have the ability to surprise them? "Every day!" Coccia was quick to answer. "When I started in the business, we were selling $3 and $4 bottles of blended whiskey. Brands like Three Feathers. I tell young salesman that today, and they look at me and say, 'You were selling what? Three Feathers? What is that?' Now, brands like Four Roses is making a comeback at eight or nine times the cost! Now you have Four Roses Special Blended Hand-Crafted Reserve. But guess what? Consumers are picking it up at $25 or $30 a bottle. Consumers are not afraid to spend that much for a nice bottle of bourbon or blended whiskey."

For Brookman, he says a big key is keeping on top of Maryland's changing demographics. "More and more," he stated, "demographics are playing a factor in Maryland. It's tough to get something to sell throughout the entire state. You really have to know the different markets and the stores where you can best play up and be able to capitalize on your products' growth. What sells in Prince George's County, it's not for sure that it will play in, say, Baltimore County."

In addition to Maryland, Active Marketing and Sales covers Washington, D.C., and Delaware for its brands. To help provide optimal service, Coccia and Brookman employ a well-trained group of promotions personnel. Looking ahead, Brookman commented, "The good thing about our brokerage is that we can really offer more of a hands-on approach. We can be out there more ensuring that the brands are growing properly. The biggest thing that we're going to try and do in 2015 is continue to effectively manage the brands that we have, but we're also going to be looking to expand. As long as it's a smart expansion and the brands make sense to our portfolio, we should be successful."

That smart growth strategy is already happening for Coccia and Brookman. It was recently announced that effective Feb. 1, their company will represent the McCormick Distilling Company, one of the oldest distilleries with a portfolio that attempts to touch every spirit segment.

 And Brookman is eager to re-connect with all of the clients he had spent years forming valuable relationships with. He's already been welcomed back in ways that only our industry is known for.  Laughing, he said, "I get compliments like, 'I thought we were finally rid of you' and 'You're like a bad penny. You keep showing up!' I tell you, it has been great coming back and seeing everybody again."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) February 2015 Editions Wed, 21 Jan 2015 18:52:52 -0500
Trevor Frye Sizzles as Jack Rose's Beverage Director http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/trevor-frye-sizzles-as-jack-rose-s-beverage-director http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/trevor-frye-sizzles-as-jack-rose-s-beverage-director TrevorFrayeJackRose 8.jpg - 71.31 KB

The hardest skill to teach a new bartender is how to bite your tongue.  I can teach you how to stir, I can teach you how to shake, and I can teach you drink recipes.  But there are customers who are, by their nature, just plain difficult.  You could make them the perfect drink based off of what they said, and it's just not going to be good enough."

So laments Trevor Frye, Beverage Director for the Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.  But that's about the only lament Frye has these days.  According to him, he is in his dream job.  "I'm one of the lucky people," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I actually feel happy when I'm going to work."

He started in the industry as a busboy at age 15.  Since then, he has worked just about every job in the business, from barback to server to bartender.  He even briefly owned a private event bartending and cocktail consulting company. "I eventually threw in the towel about four years ago and went full-time with bartending," he recalled.  "I had reached a point in my life where I was ready to take a leap of faith and go with my real passion, and it's been awesome."

At Jack Rose, he runs the entire beverage program serving the establishment's five different bars.  "We have about 2,000 whiskeys in house, which is really where a lot of my time is spent, making sure they're all up to date.  I really have one of the best jobs.  I get paid to drink the best whiskey in the world."

He continued, "We opened Dram & Grain [a cocktail bar located in Jack Rose's basement] in February of this year.  We're open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Thursdays, it's first-come, first-served.  Fridays and Saturdays, we do three reserved seatings each night at 6:30, 9 p.m., and 11:30 p.m.  It's a small space.  We're talking 20 to 25 people at most.  There are two bartenders.  It's very intimate, with lots of intricate cocktails served and some great conversations with our guests.  We have some rare spirits down there, as well -- bourbons from pre-Prohibition and things like that.  Owner Bill Thomas basically told me, 'Here's your little room.  You do it the way you want to do it.'  It's been a true blessing."

And the proprietors of Jack Rose have been grateful to him for bringing a high level of prestige to their business.  Not only has Frye represented D.C. on the national level at such competitions as the GQ and Bombay Sapphire Bartender series and Liquor.com's Master Manhattan, he is also one of the featured mixologists on the Spike TV show "Bar Rescue" -- a gig that happened when one of its producers came into Jack Rose after a concert and the two ended up in a two-hour conversation about cocktails and whiskey. 

Frye stated, "I guess my appeal is I'm kind of old school.  I love making drinks, and I love coming up with drinks.  But, at the end of the day, it's all about hospitality.  I think that gets lost when you have bartenders that are starting to be at the level of executive chefs.  It's weird to me when you see bartenders getting endorsement deals now!  These are guys that require managers and they're flying on private planes.  That's all awesome.  But for me, at the end of the day, it's still all about the guests and their experience."

And as a people-first man, Frye has also come to love interacting with various local beverage industry professionals.  One of his favorites is Shannon Crisp of FEW Spirits.  Frye concluded, "At Jack Rose, we love to support brands and distillers that do business the right way.  It's very hard to get into the whiskey distilling game because the distilling of whiskey calls for an aging process.  If you want to be called straight bourbon, you have to sit in a barrel for two years.  With a company like FEW, we literally carry every single product that they make.  They take such pride in what they do.  There is so much more flavor that comes from a whiskey than any other spirit that comes from a still."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "The Boondock Saints"

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS:  Motorcycles and exercise.  "I'm one of those people who will go and work out before starting a 12-hour shift."

WHERE HE TAKES PEOPLE FROM OUT OF TOWN: "As touristy as it sounds, the monuments! They're beautiful, they're historic, and it's a good walk through the city starting at the Jefferson on up to the Lincoln and the Washington."

JOB HE WOULD LOVED TO HAVE ATTEMPTED: The military.

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE AS A CUSTOMER: Amelia Earhart ("She was such a bad-ass and a pioneer. Also, I just want to know what happened!")


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2015 Editions Sun, 21 Dec 2014 14:14:11 -0500
A Beverage Biz Look Ahead at the 2015 Legislative Session http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/a-beverage-biz-look-ahead-at-the-2015-legislative-session http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/a-beverage-biz-look-ahead-at-the-2015-legislative-session MD Flag Button.jpg - 48.11 KB

The next Maryland General Assembly Session is scheduled to convene in January, and it will be one marked by change.  Big change, in fact, as a very large turnover of elected officials is about to happen.  Yes, indeed, Annapolis is getting an influx of new faces, not the least of which is Governor-elect Larry Hogan.  The Republican defeated Anthony Brown back in November, running on a platform in which he promised a new era of hope and bipartisanship in the Old Line State.

Beverage industry interests are hoping also for a new era of cooperation and recognition of their contributions to Maryland.  The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) is poised to be especially active in tugging the ears of Hogan and others.  In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, attorney and MSLBA lobbyist Steve Wise acknowledged, "There is going to be a 'settling in' period.  We have a lot of new legislators.  We have a new governor, and there will definitely be some turnover on the various committees that we deal with.  The first thing we'll be doing is assessing all of that."

MSLBA President David Marberger concurred, "I think the number one issue for our industry in 2015 is to make inroads with all of these newly elected officials.  Building relationships and building them early is the key component of what we do.  With the turnover that we just saw, there are a lot of new people that we need to get to know."

MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani is personally looking forward to seeing how things will be different with a member of the GOP occupying the state's top office.  Will Hogan's Republican roots favor the beverage business?  "I would think so," he said.  "I would think that there will be even more emphasis on the small business person and what we have to go through.  That said, I think the Legislature is going to drive most of our issues.  That's why it is so important for our members to get out there and do some educating."

On the issues side, Wise, Marberger, and Milani all expressed certainty that there will again be a push by the larger retailers and grocery store chains to allow them to sell beer and wine in the state.  "We've always had that issue to deal with," Wise lamented, with a bit of a sigh.  "But I think it may be even more prevalent over the next four years.  Now, whether that begins in the first year of Governor Hogan's term or not, I don't know.  But we fully expect it.  . . .  Allowing beer and wine sales in grocery stores?  If we can once again defeat that,  I would consider that a successful year."

Recycling should also be up for further discussion in 2015.  "There are always issues that fall under the recycling heading, and we'll deal with them, too" Wise asserted.  "Not a year goes by where we don't see some activity on the recycling front."

Milani, who has co-owned Monaghan's Pub in Woodlawn since 1990, pointed out, "You can do single-stream recycling in businesses now.  For years and years, it was the cardboard dumpsters that you saw.  A lot of folks had them, and a lot of that has evolved from there.  Everyone I know, they're hauling single-stream now.  So, we're trying to educate our members that it is cheaper, you'll definitely save a couple of dollars, and you're doing the right thing."

For his part, Marberger believes that minimum wage will be among the potential hot-button issues the MSLBA and alcohol industry will have to weigh in on.  Marberger, proprietor of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis, stated, "I think most of us in this industry, off-premise anyway, probably pay our employees a fair wage.  I, of course, can only speak about us here at our location.  But we pay everybody at the new rate as it is."

Milani believes another priority may end up getting lottery agents, among them packaged-goods store operators, better compensated.  The Arundel Mills Live! casino in Hanover with all of its fancy slot machines and other games of chance along with the recently opened Horseshoe casino in Baltimore have had an impact on these MSLBA members.  "Scratch-offs, Keno, and the other instant-gratification games are down and are still trending that  way," Milani stated.  "It wasn't a mystery when the casinos opened that it was going to affect many of our members.  We just need to figure out how to get the lottery agents [better taken care of]."

A lot will depend on which officials will get tapped to chair which committees in Annapolis.  For instance, whoever eventually heads up the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the state Senate will play a vital role in what happens with future legislation that affects the alcohol industry -- legislation like dram shop liability, which Maryland's highest court rejected by a scant 4-3 margin in the summer of 2013.

All three men interviewed for this article agreed that the key is for store, restaurant, and bar owners and their staffers to get more involved in the political process.  Wise stated, "There is really no better time for readers of the Maryland Beverage Journal to reach out and establish contact with their local legislators.  There are a lot of new ones, and they may not be aware of how widespread the industry is and how many businesses that relate to the alcohol industry are run in their districts.  Pick up the phone, and invite them out!"

Milani agreed, "It's about working together to solve issues.  I personally would love to see the chain threat go away.  I'd love to see alcohol distribution handled by Maryland citizens who live in the community and raise their families in the community.  I think they are more invested in how things work.  Preserving small business is so important!"

Marberger described the state's beverage industry as a fabric of small-business owners who are all Maryland corporations.  "We're the ones here in the shops every single day, and our perspective on things is a real-life scenario," he stated.  "So, reach out and shake your elected official's hand and let them know your perspective.  Introduce yourself.  It's truly no different than creating and building a relationship with your customers.  This is an industry of relationships, and politics is the same way.  The more you gain somebody's trust, the easier it will be to have those conversations that really matter.  To get somebody who is listening, you not only have to pick up the phone and say, 'Hey, this is not right,' you have to also call them when it's appropriate to say, 'Good job!'"

He concluded, "As with everything, we just hope our seat at the table is a welcome seat and people understand the value of what we bring.  We really are where the rubber hits the road.  We're not making decisions in a boardroom without absolute knowledge of the inner workings of the systems.  We're the ones out here doing it day in and day out.  And when we say, 'Hey, wait a minute.  That doesn't make 100-percent sense,' it's because we see it, we feel it, and we touch it on a daily basis."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2015 Editions Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:27:23 -0500
Herlihy Tells Us More About Tullamore D.E.W. http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/herlihy-tells-us-more-about-tullamore-d-e-w http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/herlihy-tells-us-more-about-tullamore-d-e-w T Dew_Tim.jpg - 152.82 KB

People tell me all of the time that I have a great job, writing about beer, wine, and spirits for the Beverage Journal each month.  No argument there.  But do you know who has a REALLY great job?  Tim Herlihy, the National Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey.  And he knows it.

“I am in the very lucky position that I get to travel from coast to coast, city to city, and always with a bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. in my hand,” he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  “It’s a nice way to travel, by the way! I’ve been lucky enough to go to 27 states and [Washington, D.C.] in my three years in this role, and I’m still absolutely baffled that I’m fortunate enough to get paid to enjoy my favorite Irish whiskey. My role is basically to introduce and re-introduce people to our liquids.  So, I host a lot of different tasting events. Unfortunately, although I am an ‘ambassador,’ that doesn’t mean I have any diplomatic immunity.  So, I have to behave!”

His travels often take him to the Maryland and Washington, D.C., markets.  For instance, Tullamore D.E.W. had a major presence at Maryland’s 41st annual Irish Festival at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium in early November.  “I attended last year and fully enjoyed it.  There was great music and plenty of Irish wolfhounds, as well!  This year, I sent Eimear Keller, who is also a Brand Ambassador for us. It was her first time there, and she did six tastings of our whiskey over the course of two days.”

He continued, “For us, the Maryland Irish Festival and others like it is a spotlight.  It’s a chance for us to showcase our whiskey.  It’s a chance for us to introduce people to the Tullamore D.E.W. brand and explain what makes our liquid different” 

If Herlihy could come up with one word to describe the Maryland and Washington whiskey-drinking markets it’s “enthusiastic.”  He elaborated, “What is interesting about the D.C.-Maryland area is the number of ‘explorational’ drinkers, people who are starting to trade up.  They’re drinking the Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix and the Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Year Old Special Reserve.  There is this huge movement towards Irish whiskey, in general, and a lot of it is the taste profile.  Irish whiskey tends to be triple distilled. It’s a really smooth, friendly, and approachable spirit that is appealing to the new wave of drinker who is starting to move to bourbon, to Irish whiskey because of the taste profile.  When you think of Irish whiskey, there are no rules to it.  You can drink it whatever way you enjoy it.  There’s no pretentiousness to it.”

Herlihy concedes that there is still a certain intimidation factor where whiskey is concerned.  People often ask him questions like: “What’s the right way to drink whiskey?” “Should it be on the rocks?” and “How many drops of water should I add?”  “Scotch is the most intimidating,” he remarked.  “I think when people think of Scotch, they think of sitting at home, swirling it by the fireplace, and plotting the downfall of their enemies.  Whereas when you think about Irish whiskey, you’re not at home.  You’re at a bar with friends.  You’re toasting.  You’re enjoying it.  That is the ‘No Rules” factor to Irish whiskey, which often overcomes that intimidation element.”

Prior to becoming National Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W., Herlihy was an egg farmer back in Ireland.  He recalls his first few industry events as being a bit awkward as he tried to find his footing.   “I just had to remember to be myself,” he said.  “This is kind of a role where you can’t fake it.  You can’t pretend.  You can’t get into some character.  You have to be yourself and be enthusiastic and passionate about what you do and the liquid in each glass and each bottle.”

He concluded, “I’m also very lucky in that I get to do things that I would never, ever get to do in another job.  One of my favorite things I’ve done is take part in a boxing event at Madison Square Garden!  I had the chance to stand in the square circle.  I didn’t compete, of course.  But I got to introduce a few fights on the big microphone.  I often say to people, ‘I was bare-knuckled in Madison Square Garden!’”


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2015 Editions Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:24:28 -0500
Winemaker Notaro Recently Made a Stag's Leap to the MD/DC Markets http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/winemaker-notaro-recently-made-a-stag-s-leap-to-the-md-dc-markets http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/winemaker-notaro-recently-made-a-stag-s-leap-to-the-md-dc-markets Marcus Notaro (l) with Kevin Bonner; The Center Club.

Pretzels and beer are an unbeatable combination.  So, too, are whiskey and rye.  And certainly wine and cheese.  Just before Thanksgiving, another unbeatable combo hit the Maryland-Washington, D.C. market in the form of Marcus Notaro of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and our own Fran "Pineapple" Schmitz.  Schmitz ushered Notaro around to several major accounts to press the flesh and talk up the Stag's Leap label.

"Every time I've come to the market," stated Notaro, during an interview with the Beverage Journal, "I've had the privilege of working with Mr. Pineapple. He has never failed to deliver me to some world-class establishments. When I have done wine dinners here, the folks who attend are very passionate wine consumers. They are very knowledgeable, and they travel. People in the D.C.-Maryland area not only know about Napa Valley wines, but wines from around the world.  There's also a surprising number of our wine club members here.  So for me to be out in their market and to be able to tie them back closer to our winery is pretty special."

Among the stops this time around were presentations at Le Diplomate and The Palm in Washington, D.C., along with a luncheon at Baltimore's Center Club and a wine dinner at the Maryland Club.

Notaro was named winemaker for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in May of 2013.  He brought with him over 10 years of experience producing top-quality Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines.  "Wine drinking is very cyclical," he stated.  "There's the growing season.  There's fermentation.  There's blending, bottling, and then you start up a new year the next year.  Every year is unique and exciting.  No two years are ever alike.  You should remember what you did and what worked in the past.  But you have to have an open mind."

Prior to joining Stag's Leap, he was the winemaker for the prestigious Col Solare winery, a partnership between Ste. Michelle Estates and Marchesi Antinori located in Washington State.  It was there that he came into Schmitz's orbit. It wasn't long before Pineapple had him visiting our market.  "These trips are not something that I regularly do," he said.  "It's pretty seasonal.  Obviously, during the growing season and harvest, my primary responsibility is to be at the winery.  For me, what I like about getting out and into the market is that it gives me the chance to connect with consumers.  I love to make wine.  It's what I do.  It's my passion.  But obviously I make wine for people.  I make it for them to enjoy and to consume, and I love and need to hear feedback from folks who are fans of our wine.  I want to hear what they think of our wines and the pairings."

He continued, "It's also great to educate folks about what is happening back at the winery.  There has been a lot of curiosity on this visit as to what our season was like, and what is the 2013 vintage like?  People have heard about the drought.  They've heard about the Napa earthquake.  So, they're very interested in hearing the intricacies of that."

Among the questions he most commonly fields at the various wine dinners and tour stops are "What was the best vintage in the last 10 years?" and "Where can I buy the wines?" and "When is a wine ready to be opened?"  He stated, "Especially fans of ours who do collect our wine, I get asked a lot: 'I have a 2000-and-whatever in my cellar.  When should I drink it?  When should I open it up?'"

As for the most challenging part of his job, Notaro was quick to talk about the unpredictable nature of weather, agriculture, and the grapes themselves.  He concluded, "In wine-making, you always have to strive to make the best quality wine that you can.  But you have to be flexible and open-minded as to what Mother Nature holds for you so you can react to it.  When I went to college, I studied Engineering.  In the engineering field, there is usually a definite answer to most problems.  But with wine, often times there is not.  A lot of it hinges on decisions you often have to make based on a gut feeling -- particularly decisions in the vineyard.  You can't really predict what Mother Nature is going to give you.  I know I've never made a perfect wine."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2015 Editions Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:11:56 -0500
Lucien Smith: Taking Orders in Annapolis ... Just Not at the Academy http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/lucien-smith-taking-orders-in-annapolis-just-not-at-the-academy http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/lucien-smith-taking-orders-in-annapolis-just-not-at-the-academy LucienSmithOsteria177 10.jpg - 195.79 KB

Lucien Smith didn't come to Annapolis in 2003 to be a bartender. He came because he was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy. But a sailor's life was not for him. He ended up voluntarily resigning from the Academy to pursue other interests. But there was something about Maryland's capital city that kept this former Californian around. He took a job as a catering bartender in Timonium, then found work right back in Annapolis as a bar-back at the Castle Bay Irish Pub on Main Street. By then, he was hooked on the biz!

In 2007, he was hired at Osteria 177 to be their service bartender. He's been there ever since. "It was here I began to extend my cocktail knowledge through self-study and a desire to continue on this career path and to excel in it," he recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "I'm now a Certified Mixologist through Bar Smarts and Pernod Ricard. "

Over the years, Smith has managed to develop a personal beverage philosophy that he's only too happy to share. "I believe that quality comes from not only presentation and how you make the drink, but to the spirits that you use," he stated. "You should emphasize the classics and the original ways of preparing things, but then you need to adapt them to difference palettes. I think it's good to have a balanced cocktail and not something that is too sweet or too tart or has too much going on in it where you can't taste the base. It needs to accentuate the base of the cocktail."

Smith has been accentuating the base of many cocktails at Osteria 177 for the past seven years. The restaurant was created by executive chef and proprietor Arturo Ottaviano, who had a vision of opening a fine-dining restaurant in the heart of Annapolis that would have an emphasis on Northern Italian and coastal Italian dishes.  "I think we serve the best Italian in Annapolis," Smith said proudly, "including some of the freshest seafood you can get in all of Maryland."

For Smith, the biggest perks of the job are personal ones. He likes being a positive part of people's afternoons and evenings. He knows that sometimes just getting to his bar, his eatery, has been the thing that has gotten some customers through some tough days. He remarked, "I love serving a guest a drink, watching them take a sip of it, and then watching a smile come over their face.  That means I did my job well and I made someone happy. Osteria 177 excels at pleasing our guests."

He continued, "You should always strive to make the customer happy. But don't be afraid to tell the customer, 'Maybe you should try something else instead of this,' and move them in a different direction. Elevate their palette and help them realize that it's sometimes about finding new things and trying new things. But it's also about having someone with the capability behind the bar or behind the line in the kitchen to make something that's good that the guest will enjoy trying out."

Smith recalls his early days as a midshipman and how he marveled that there were lines around every bar in downtown Annapolis. Being a bartender in Maryland's state capital was and still is a coveted position. He commented, "You have to work your way from the ground up as a dishwasher, a bar-back, whatever it takes. You have to learn the craft in order to advance and get the good shifts. You have to be passionate about it. There are a lot of career bartenders in Annapolis, and the majority of them are good friends of mine. I love and respect them all. We all do different things, and we all have our own way of doing  things. Our ways are right for our particular establishments. That's what brings variety to Annapolis. Annapolis just isn't a town anymore with draft beer and crab cakes. We're becoming a town with dining establishments that people really want to visit and enjoy their food and drinks."

As for his advice to young bartenders just coming to town? "Show that you care," he stated. "Show up for each shift, work hard, and study on your time off. That's right. Read, read, read, read!"

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Legends of the Fall"

SPORT HE LOVES TO PLAY: Golf

HIDDEN TALENT: "I make a killer coconut cream pie!"

PRIZED POSSESSION: "My great-grandfather's pocket watch from the late 1800s-early 1900s that he had with him when he came over from Sicily."

FAVORITE AREA TOURIST SPOT: The Mall in Washington, D.C.


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) December 2014 Editions Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:50:21 -0500
Marc Zahorchak Has the Beverage Pulpit at Teddy & The Bully Bar http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/marc-zahorchak-has-the-beverage-pulpit-at-teddy-the-bully-bar http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/marc-zahorchak-has-the-beverage-pulpit-at-teddy-the-bully-bar MarcZTeddyBullyBar 12.jpg - 216.54 KBMarc Zahorchak, Beverage Director at the Teddy & The Bully Bar in Northwest D.C. didn't come to the nation's capital in the early 1990s to tend bar.  He had an MBA degree and found work as a management consultant.  But then the recession that ushered in the Clinton era hit, and he suddenly found himself downsized and unable to find a job.

"A buddy of mine suggested that I get involved with the restaurant business at night to keep the cash flow going while looking for another job," he recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I absolutely fell in love with the business!  I was hooked from the first day I got behind the bar and have been doing it for more than 20 years now."

He tended bar at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill for nine years and also served as the original bar manager for Hook in Georgetown.  He has been full-time at Teddy since August 2013.  " I came in about two months after they opened up," he stated.  [Proprietor] Alan Popovsky  was looking for someone to kind of corral and bring bar costs in line.  More importantly, I think he wanted someone with my experience to come in and teach the younger mixologist-types."

Zahorchak winced at even his own mention of that term.  "I'd rather not be called a mixologist," he said, with a slight grimace. "I think mixology tends to be a selfish pursuit.  There is the danger of making it about yourself.  For me, it's all about the success of the restaurant.  And the only way to be really successful is taking care of your guests."

There is one thing he did for himself, though, in coming aboard the summer before last.  In negotiating his deal to be the Beverage Director, he told Popovskly, "'I'll do all of the work you need me to do to make this work.  I'll do all of the paperwork, all of the ordering, the receiving, the inventory.  I'll do whatever it is you need me to do.  But I still want to bartend!'  I really love bartending.  I love the adrenaline rush."

But in the two-plus decades of serving drinks and concocting cocktails, the business hasn't always changed in ways that Zahorchak has liked.  The Internet, for one, has altered things in a big way.  "What I have found disturbing and difficult to deal with is the Yelp/Open Table social media reviewing of restaurants," he lamented.  "I think it is profoundly changing our business.  You're seeing a lot less personality behind the bar.  It's become a bit more vanilla, a bit more homogenized.  I was a bartender on Capitol Hill, dealing with senators and congressmen and lobbyists for nine years.  They kind of enjoyed my snarkiness and my occasional off-color comments.  It broke the ice, and led to a lot of laughs.  Now, you're afraid if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person, you're going to be skewered on social media."

Whenever he gets really down, though, he remembers some of the mentors he has had along the way.  One of them was Washington beverage biz guru Dennis Asaka.  Zahorchak recalled, "It was at his restaurant that I realized I was pretty bad at what I was doing.  He emasculated me in front of  guests.  He would say, 'What are you doing?!  You're worthless!  You don't work hard enough!"  It was that person who instilled a work ethic in me.  He would tell me, "Be on time, work hard, and give the people what they want.  They are the ones who are paying our bills and keeping this restaurant open.'  Once that all clicked, bartending actually became more fun and more lucrative."

Zahorchak also still draws on his experience in business and management consulting, especially when dealing with the Type A, Capitol Hill clients that often frequent the Teddy and The Bully Bar. He said, "I understand the mentality of businesspeople. What the business man and the politician in this town really cares about is service.  That's what will get them to come back.  If you see four guys walk into your bar, identify the pointman, see who is in charge, see that he has clients with him, and make that guy look like a rock star!"

Finally, there are the connections within the business that make his job worthwhile.  One of his favorites is Shannon Crisp of FEW Spirits.  "Shannon brought me a great product called Virginia Lightning from Culpepper, Va., and we use it in one of our most popular specialty cocktails called the Obamas' Honey Cider.  I tell you, this town is still enjoying its love affair with bourbons and ryes!"

FAVORITE MOVIES: "Star Wars," "Swingers," and "Goodfellas."

FIRST THING PEOPLE NOTICE ABOUT HIM: His height.  He's 6'4"

SPECIAL INTEREST: "I'm an avid motorcyclist."

SPORT HE PLAYS: Ice hockey.

MOST FAMOUS PERSON HE'S EVER SERVED: (tie) Bill Clinton ("He's very charismatic.  He talked so much that I actually had to excuse myself from the conversation, because I had to get back to work!") and Brad Pitt.

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE A DRINK TO (living or dead): Teddy Roosevelt.


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) December 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:16:03 -0500
Wyndridge Farm Gets Crafty With Hard Cider http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/wyndridge-farm-gets-crafty-with-hard-cider http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/wyndridge-farm-gets-crafty-with-hard-cider CraftyCiderPic1.jpg - 275.93 KB

Hard cider has emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments in the alcoholic beverage industry, and among the fastest-growing brands in that segment are Pennsylvania-based Wyndridge Farm's Crafty Ciders. Now available in Maryland, the two Crafty Ciders -- original apple and cranberry flavored -- are naturally gluten free with a refreshing taste.

Crafty Ciders separate themselves from other hard ciders by making ample use of the local bounty of quality apples found in the Keystone State's central region. Wyndridge Farm President Steve Groff says he and his full-time cider master, Scott Topel, keep their ingredients simple. Chiefly, Wyndridge Farm prides itself on not adding any excessive amounts of extra sweeteners.  Groff stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "Many of the commercial hard ciders start with either apple juice concentrate rather than full juice or their alcohol is made with sugar. We simply use fresh apple juice.  We source local apples just a few miles down the road.  We carbonate and package on the farm.  So, the whole process takes place right here." 

The result is a Champagne-style apple cider that is fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  The products stand out on shelves, though, due to their fun and creative bottling. The company's original Crafty Cider features a well-dressed fox balancing an arrow-skewered apple on the top of his head.  Crafty Cranberry, meanwhile, boasts a dapper bird in a suit with a beak full of cranberry.

"We are a farm-based company," Groff remarked.  "So, we wanted to have some fun with the creatures that visit the farm. We tried to do this whole play on sophisticated animals. The fox is in a tuxedo and has become our hospitality brand. The bird is a cedar waxwing, which has a well-known affection for cranberries. Cranberry is our base cider with a splash of cranberry juice, and that gives it a nice tartness and a little bit of color."

One of the challenges facing Crafty Ciders has been overcoming the drink's seasonal stigma. Traditionally, apple cider has been a fall beverage during harvest. Among the earliest signs of autumn in many parts is going to the grocery store and seeing that first display of gallon and half-gallon jugs of apple cider near the milk and orange juice sections. "That's basic cider," Groff, who co-owns Wyndridge with his wife Julie, stated. "Hard cider is a more sophisticated, Champagne-style beverage. Ours is very light and crisp and has a year-round demand and appeal."

The Groffs are hoping their Crafty Ciders will continue to have year-round demand and appeal in Maryland. First and foremost, they enjoy welcoming visitors from the Old Line State to their 77-acre farm in southern York County, Pa.  Groff noted, "We're 15 minutes above the Maryland line and 40 minutes from Hunt Valley. We are a family-owned business that got started in hard cider production about a year ago with a winery license. We grew that into an entire destination with a 120-year-old, meticulously renovated barn that seats 280 people; an expo kitchen; and a craft brewery. We have special events booked for two years already. We serve lunch and dinner and have an executive chef hired from the Oregon Grill named Matthew Siegmund, who is phenomenal."

Wyndridge Farm's Crafty Ciders are available in Maryland ... the Groffs currently self-distribute their products in Maryland.  Currently Cranbrook Liquors and Shawan Liquors in Cockeysville, The Liquor Stop in Bel Air, and The Wine Market and Wine Works in Baltimore City are purchasing the bottled cider directly from Wyndridge. Looking for the product on tap?  Join the likes of Alexander's Tavern in Fells Point and Birrotecca in Hampden.

Looking ahead, the Groffs are hoping to grow their farm-brewed craft beers, including their first two offerings 10 Point Ale and Laughing Crow IPA. "We have them on draft at our place now," Groff said in late October, "and we'll be packaging them in about two weeks. 

For more information call 717 244-9900 or go to www.wyndridge.com.


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) December 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:04:54 -0500
Jon Arroyo In Charge of All Things Liquid for Founding Farmers http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/jon-arroyo-in-charge-of-all-things-liquid-for-founding-farmers http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/jon-arroyo-in-charge-of-all-things-liquid-for-founding-farmers Arroyo.jpg - 45.24 KB

Mike Rizzo is in charge of all things baseball for the Washington Nationals.  Chuck Hagel is in charge of all things defense for our country.  And what about that other great Washingtonian, Jon Arroyo? "In a nutshell, I am in charge of everything that is liquid for the Founding Farmers Restaurant Group," he stated.

As the company's Beverage Director since its inception six years ago, he truly is responsible for not only all of the beer, wine, and spirits served at Farmers Table D.C., MoCo's Founding Farmers in suburban Potomac, Md., and a soon-to-open location at the upscale Tysons Galleria II mall in Northern Virginia, but also the three restaurants' coffee program, their tea program. "Everything!" he exclaimed, "Every liquid product. I love the juggling act that is my job. There are lots of moving parts, lots of chess pieces."

When the original Founding Farmers location opened on Pennsylvania Avenue six years ago, cocktail programs were few and far between citywide. "We were very new to the scene," Arroyo recalled, "and we had a very specific approach. We had the farmers' table approach. We wanted to work with smaller producers of spirits and producers who practiced some of the same belief systems that we do, which are sustainable practices, more organically grown products, and things of that nature."

Arroyo found that one of his favorite industry players to work with in this regard is Shannon Crisp of FEW Spirits. "Shannon and I go way back," he stated, "He is a perfect example of some of our core belief systems where we try and support up-and-coming brands and up-and-coming companies that are doing great things. We've been working with their products since they started their company, and their business has grown pretty quick over the past couple of years. One of the absolute favorite spirits that we work with is their Hawaiian Spiced Rum."

Arroyo also serves as the brand ambassador for locally based Copper Fox Distillery, run by Rick Wasmund. The two have been friends for a long time, and Wasmund is also the distiller for Founding Farmers' in-house spirits, Founding Farmers Rye and Founding Farmers Gin. "He and I work side by side to articulate the recipes that are going to be our proprietary blends," stated Arroyo. "We have been partnering and developing relationships over the course of the last year to continue to support people who are doing great things in small doses. I recently flew to Peru to hang out with Melanie Asher with Machu Picchu for a week. Together, we worked on a proprietary picchu blend for the Founding Farmers. It will be released just in time for our opening in Tysons II. I've also partnered with a winemaker out of New York from a little wine shop called Brooklyn Oenology. Her name is Alie Shaper, and together we worked on a proprietary white wine blend and are officially releasing it next Monday [this interview was conducted in late September]."

With all the exciting challenges of his job, Arroyo is still a counter man at heart. He stated, " I don't get behind the wood as often as I'd like at this level. So, the time I do get to spend with the young bartenders coming up, working with them side by side, is great. Even if it's just adjusting their technique on how they're holding a shaker or things of that nature, that's the absolute best part of my day. And I try to have one of those moments every day, if possible."

One of his passions continues to be creating new beverages, new cocktails. "But I get pulled in so many directions that it's very difficult to slow down and say, 'Oh, today, I'm going to just work on new recipes!' You get to a certain level of responsibility where it's just not possible. I have over 30 bartenders who work for me right now, and I've got two head bartenders at every bar. It's all great. The energy is great, and I love the juggling act of it all. But at the end of the day, you just want to make cocktails every once in a great while. You just want to pour a glass of wine and talk to a guest."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Old School"

PRIZED POSSESSION: "My father's watch."

FAVORITE D.C. TOURIST SPOT: The Hay Adams Hotel bar.

BEFORE HE GOT INTO THE RESTAURANT BIZ, HE WAS: An actor.

OTHER CAREER HE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE ATTEMPTED: Anthropologist.

HOBBIES/SPARE TIME ACTIVITY: Stand-up comedy.

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) November 2014 Editions Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:45 -0400
Patrón's Barrel Select Program Comes to the Mid-Atlantic http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/patron-s-barrel-select-program-comes-to-the-mid-atlantic http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/patron-s-barrel-select-program-comes-to-the-mid-atlantic Patron Barrel Select Program.jpg - 77.98 KB

Patrón Spirits has inaugurated a buy-the-barrel program called "Patrón Barrel Select" where spirits retailers and on-premise accounts are able to taste and choose their own bespoke barrel (about 27 cases) of aged Patrón tequila unique for them. Each barrel has been in the company's aging room for a specific period of time.  As a result, no two are alike.

Greg Cohen, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Patrón Spirits, recently sat down with the Beverage Journal to discuss the program.  "The way that tequila is produced and aged and blended from different barrels is such a challenge," he stated.  "Our master distiller and his team blend different barrel types, different wood, different lengths of aging to create those products.  We thought it would be really interesting if we gave people an opportunity to sample those different tequilas that are aging in those different barrel types over the different lengths of time, on their own ... just straight out of the barrel. Each is very unique. When they are blended together to create reposado, for example, that's the taste that people know is Patrón.  But when you taste those barrels individually, and there are so many different combinations, you get really distinct and different tastes.  It's still Patrón.  It's still very recognizable.  But you get a lot of different flavors and a lot of different complexities."

One of the first retailers in the country to purchase a barrel of “Patrón Barrel Select” is Lax Wine & Spirits in Washington. D.C.  The store received a big helping hand from Patrón Spirits Production Manager Antonio Rodriguez, who selected the barrel.  Rodriguez remarked, "I was very honored that Lax asked me to help choose his barrel, and I was given such free reign to pick something special.  The request was for a light reposado.  So, this particular blend of reposado, Barrel #24 of Batch 111.2, matched what they were looking for."

Rodriguez indeed selected a light reposado that has been aging in French allier medium toasted oak for six months.  It is a blend of tahona and roller mill produced tequila, which is characterized by an aroma and taste of lemon tea, light agave and wood, sweet vanilla, light butter, light raisins, and nuts.

He added, "I very much enjoyed the citrus notes and sweet vanilla that I was getting from it.  I thought it would be perfect."

The bottles from the barrel should arrive at Lax Wine & Spirits by the end of October.  The store's staff is looking forward to promoting.  "We are actually the No. 1 Patrón account in D.C.," store owner Lax stated proudly in a separate interview.  "We sell about 450 cases a month.  Our customers really love the product, and we wanted to do something very special for them.  I wanted to show these customers that whatever Patrón is doing, we want."

Cohen added, "We have a team in the Washington area, and they had worked closely with Lax and had known him for a long time.  It came about through their collective efforts.  We will provide some materials to help merchandise it.  With our collective efforts, we'll certainly do our part to help.  But it will be up to the individual retailer and restaurant to decide how best they are going to promote it."

Both Cohen and Rodriguez are hoping to take this initiative from its current infancy and develop it into a signature program for the company.  As this issue was going to press, a restaurant in Tampa, Fla., had also bought a barrel.  There is definitely precedent for it, too, as several whiskey companies and bourbon labels have launched similar programs successfully.  

Cohen commented, "We think it has a lot of potential.  It's not for everybody, though, because there is a substantial number of cases involved that come out of a barrel.  It's really just for those retailers and accounts that recognize the potential of something like this.  We hope a lot of accounts take us up on this as we attempt to grow this into something substantial.  But it's the first year that we've done it, so we will see where it goes.  This is about a store or a restaurant offering their customers something they can only find there.  These cases that Lax will bring in, they will only be available in his store.  And when they are gone, they're gone.  That's very exciting for consumers who are looking for something different that they can't find anywhere else, and there is great appeal for retailers who want to offer that to their customers."

Rodriguez agrees and hopes to offer his help in the same way he assisted Lax.  "It would be my pleasure and privilege to help select barrels for other accounts!" he exclaimed.  "But it's also fun and exciting for people to visit us in Mexico to choose a barrel for themselves that is to their individual liking."

He concluded, "What is particularly exciting about working at Patrón is that we use an ancient method of tequila production called the 'tahona' process, where a giant two-ton stone wheel slowly crushes the agave.  Only about five distilleries in all of Mexico still make tequila this way.  So, I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to make tequila the same way it was done 500 years ago."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) November 2014 Editions Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:57:50 -0400
Aaron Joseph Shares His Wit & Wisdom http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/aaron-joseph-shares-his-wit-wisdom http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/aaron-joseph-shares-his-wit-wisdom Joseph_Aaron0006.jpg - 53.25 KB

Aaron Joseph has been bartending for 13 years, most of them in the Maryland-D.C. market.  But it was his brief time early on in the Caribbean working for the former Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., now Belmond Ltd., that stoked his passion for using fresh ingredients in cocktails -- a passion that has helped position him as one of the best craft bartenders in the Baltimore market.

Early in his career, he learned his craft at such places as the Inn at Perry Cabin on St. Michaels and Farmers Fishers Bakers in Georgetown.  He really got traction at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons in Washington, which led to his current position as lead bartender at Wit & Wisdom in Baltimore's Four Seasons Hotel.

"Wit & Wisdom is Michael Mina's vision of an American tavern," Joseph described, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Our beverage program reflects craft cocktails. We use fresh ingredients, fresh produce, and we make a lot of our own bitters and syrups and things of that nature.  We try and keep it as crafty and as interesting as possible by incorporating new and up-and-coming spirits.  We love providing our customers with an array of flavors, and we change our menu roughly four times a year to capitalize on the different seasonal ingredients."

Joseph has been at Wit & Wisdom for the past 19 months and believes he has finally found a home.  "I love just walking into the building each day!" he exclaimed. "I really have a passion for what I do.  I've been fortunate to find a career where I can share that passion with other people, both new and regulars."

For Joseph, it's all about having and showing passion for what you do.  That's what he believes separates the truly great bartenders from the merely good ones.  "It really is a matter of loving what you do and doing what you love.  If you love what you are doing, then you're not really working.  And if you are doing what you love, people will notice and that will translate into quality."

He continued, "I have been very fortunate to have been taught things like technique and execution by a number of people I consider to be industry leaders.  For example, there is a gentlemen in D.C. named Duane Sylvester, who played a really big part in helping me become the person that I am.  He's the lead bartender at Bourbon Steak, and he would always tell me that the quality you put in front of your guests is a direct reflection of you.  Try and take pride in every drink you serve a guest, whether it be a vodka and tonic or one of the more elaborate specialty cocktails.  So, each drink is indeed an extension of me and an extension of our program."

Joseph says he has a special affinity for using rum and bourbon in his various concoctions.  But he also takes pleasure in creating cocktails with spirits that people are unfamiliar with.  Still, even he acknowledges that getting customers to stray from their normal drinks and drinking habits can be hard.  So, too, can keeping up with changing tastes for that matter.  "Anything that is difficult or challenging in my job I try and think of as new and refreshing," he said.  "I love obstacles, because then things don't get boring or mundane.  It's the difficulties and challenges that make us who we are.  If it was easy, more people would be doing this."

And what has he learned in his 13 years behind the taps?  Plenty, as it turns out.  "The best thing you can do is listen," he concluded.  "Be approachable.  There is value in every job that you have, whether it's a job you don't really desire or one that you don't think is going to lead you anywhere.  There is value in just the experience.  Even if you're working for a dive bar that is paying you a certain amount of money and no more, you're still learning.  Find positive value in everything.  There is a lesson to be learned in every experience, even a time or two where you were treated terribly.  Hold onto those experiences, because they mold your career."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "The Five Heartbeats"

CAN'T MISS TV SHOW: "True Blood"

WHAT HE DOES IN HIS DOWN TIME: "I love going to the Farmer's Market on Sundays."

WHAT HE COLLECTS: Shot glasses and old vintage liquor bottles.

FAVORITE BALTIMORE TOURIST SPOT: "I'm still a sucker for the Inner Harbor."

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE (living or dead): Richard Pryor


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) October 2014 Editions Wed, 24 Sep 2014 10:14:57 -0400
The Numbers Add Up for Datta at Rasika West End http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/the-numbers-add-up-for-datta-at-rasika-west-end http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/the-numbers-add-up-for-datta-at-rasika-west-end DanteDitta.jpg - 45.76 KB

Before Dante Datta got into the bar and restaurant business, and way before he became bartender extraordinaire at Rasika West End, he led a very different life.  "I had a nearly 10-year career in finance before this!" he exclaimed, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "My last job in that field was actually working for the Washington Nationals.  I would write a sales report for the ownership each week."

So, what made him leave the world of numbers and number crunching?  "I turned 27 years old," he recalled.  "It was my birthday, and I went to New York City to celebrate.  A friend of mine asked me, 'If you could do anything, what would you do?'  And like many other guys, I answered, 'Well, I'd open a bar!'  So, I started mopping floors in a restaurant while I was working during the day.  As far as the restaurant business is concerned, I guess you can see I got into it a bit late in life."

That first part-time gig was at Ping Pong Dim Sum in D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood.  He took other jobs and eventually found his way to his current full-time position at Rasika, one of the District of Columbia's top Indian eateries.

"I run their bar program, which means picking all of the spirits, designing all of the cocktails, ordering the beer.  We do non-alcoholic cocktails, as well.  It's all Indian food.  It's modern Indian cuisine with very traditional flavors.  The ultimate challenge that I have is that I am sort of a traditionalist as far as cocktails go.  I like the classics.  I love them actually.  So, the challenge is to find new ways to present them, but under the context of Indian flavors."

He continued, "It's something that, growing up in this country, you're not that familiar with -- using things like cumin and dill and cardamom.  Blending spices together has definitely been a big challenge for me, because cocktails are mainly an American art form.  My job is to bridge the gap between those two things."

Datta was born in Silver Spring, raised in Bethesda, and he went to college at the University of Maryland, College Park.  Consequently, working for Rasika has been an especially eye-opening experience for this local boy.  "We are located in area where there are a lot of hotels," he noted, "and I love the people who come in. We're an international restaurant serving an international clientele.  I like to tell people that it's almost like I don't have to travel.  The whole world comes to this bar!"

One of his favorite faces, though, is a local one -- Shannon Crisp of FEW Spirits.  "We now carry FEW's bourbon and their rye whiskey," said Datta.  "I love everything from FEW.  If you are a purist where bourbon and gin are concerned, they don't tone down the intense flavor and spices that I enjoy. It's everything that gin and whiskey should be.  I'm actually working right now to take the bourbon and the FEW Barrel-Aged Gin and try and do something on our cocktail menu for the fall."

So what has Datta learned from his comparatively brief time in our crazy business?  "Always show up on time!" he said, with a slight chuckle.  "Actually, I've learned that there are no rules to anything in this business.  There are only guidelines, especially when working overtime and trying to create something that is your own.

And while Datta has committed himself fully to Rasika West End, he still draws on his past work experience with calculators and spreadsheets and the like.  In fact, he has found his former career in finance to be a great asset in running Rasika's bar operations.  "Every time we look at costs and the numbers, I am able to look at it from the perspective of both how I used to look at spreadsheets," he concluded.  "Understanding costs plays a big part in everything we do here.  You can't successfully run a business if you don't know how to make money!"

HIS TEAMS: The Washington Nationals and the Washington Redskins

WHAT HE DOES IN HIS SPARE TIME: Yoga

HIS FAVORITE DC HANGOUT SPOT:  Petworth Citizen & Reading Room on Upshur Street NW

HIS HIDDEN TALENT: "I studied the violin for almost 13 years."

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE (living or dead): Chef and restaurateur Grant Achatz, owner of Chicago's Alinea.


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) October 2014 Editions Wed, 24 Sep 2014 09:57:27 -0400
Sergi Is Commander-in-Chief Behind the Bar at Lincoln http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/sergi-is-commander-in-chief-behind-the-bar-at-lincoln http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/sergi-is-commander-in-chief-behind-the-bar-at-lincoln Sergi_RachelSep14.jpg - 114.59 KB

You know you are talking to a person who has found his or her true calling in this world when you ask them: "What do you consider to be the hardest part of your job?" and the answer is: "Going home!  When you are doing something that you love, it can sometimes be so hard to go home and just turn your brain off.  You want to be back THERE!"

That "there" is Lincoln Restaurant in Washington, D.C.  That happy employee is lead bartender Rachel Sergi, who has been in the business for nearly two decades now. She started her career in the nation's capital at New Heights Restaurant before eventually hooking on with Lincoln, an American small plates eatery that focuses on organically sourced menu offerings with a heavy emphasis on its fresh cocktail program, as well.

"I love creating cocktails," Sergi stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "One of the cocktails I am known for is a drink that is not on our menu right now, but I've had it in my arsenal for some time.  It's my favorite, and it's called the Betty White.  It's actually a beer cocktail.  It uses beer and gin and a cherry liqueur.  It's light and bright, and I serve it in a martini glass. It's almost like an alternative to a champagne cocktail.  People seem to really like it."

 Ever a tinkerer, Sergi says she enjoys working with the various brands and seeing what she can come up with next for her customers. One of her favorites is Illinois-based FEW Spirits, which she was introduced to at a cocktail conference earlier in the decade.  "I had an immediate love for them because I had lived in Chicago for a couple of years and fell in love with that city.  But also it was because their spirits are fantastic.  There Rye specifically was different than other Ryes around on the market.  It had a heavier body.  It's always been easy to work with in cocktails.  But all of the products they put out are great.  I was amazed that they were a distillery in Chicago. Not a lot was coming from there. I use them for a bourbon or rye on the rocks, because of the alcohol content."

What she really loves most about the bartending profession, though, is the social aspect of the job.  "You meet different and interesting people every single day," she stated.  "The job is not static.  It's energizing.  You learn something new every single day from your contact with human beings basically."

She continued with a chuckle, "You never know who your next potential employer is going to be, so you better treat everybody nicely!  And always smile.  Customers like that.  Address every single person and look them in the eyes when you fill their glass and also have a great handshake.  Those are just some of the little things you learn with time and age."

Sergi is also known in Washington circles as one of the founding members of the D.C. Bartenders Guild.  She credits the organization with creating a real sense of community within the profession in the District of Columbia.  "We all bonded together," she stated.  "Washington is one of those markets where we really don't vie against each other.  We've been able to lift each other up and educate through different brands that we can bring in together as a group.  The education aspect has been fantastic."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "The Red Balloon"

HER ALMA MATER: San Francisco State (she was a Film major).

DOG OR CAT PERSON: "I have a dog and a cat.  I have a pit bull named Freddie Mercury a cat named Josey."

HOBBIES: Sewing.

HIDDEN TALENT: "I'm a baton twirler."

FAVORITE D.C. TOURIST SPOT: The Tidal Basin.

CUSTOMER SHE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE: David Bowie


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) September 2014 Editions Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:49:10 -0400
Union Craft Brewery Looks to Put the Charm in Charm City Beer http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/union-craft-brewery-looks-to-put-the-charm-in-charm-city-beer http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/union-craft-brewery-looks-to-put-the-charm-in-charm-city-beer UnionCraftSep14.jpg - 66.37 KB

Country music fans often sing of having a "hometown honeymoon."  Those who like to strap on the old feedbag and stuff their faces with fried chicken, pizza, and pasta will tell you there's no better place for that than the Hometown Buffet restaurant chain.  But Baltimoreans looking for a hometown beer?  More and more are gravitating to Union Craft Brewing.

Founded by three local friends -- Adam Benesch, Kevin Blodger, and Jon Zerivitz -- this growing operation is quickly becoming a hometown favorite to locals and Marylanders alike.  Benesch, who recently sat down with the Beverage Journal on the eve of Union Craft's two-year anniversary, stated, "Being that all three of us are hometown guys, a lot of our passion for what we wanted to create here revolved around community.  We really wanted to be a community-based brewery.  What that means to us is hosting community-type events at the brewery, but also being very involved out in the community, whether it's partnering with local charities or coming up with ways to connect with other people in Baltimore doing great things.  That could mean restaurants holding various events or local causes that we connect with.  And beer is just that great thing everyone loves having around."

Among the most popular events that Benesch and his partners have hosted on site was a recently completed summer movie series.  For four straight Fridays in July, they showed films on a 20-foot inflatable screen in the brewery's large parking lot that all revolved around a theme of "bro's on screen."  The titles included everything from "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Wayne's World" to "Top Gun" and "The Lost Boys."

"We are going to do it again probably in the fall, probably with a different theme" Benesch stated.  " We open up the parking lot, and people bring their chairs and their blankets, and we have beer on the site on trucks.  The community showed us that they wanted such an event by coming out in droves for these movie nights."

In addition, Benesch and his partners indeed love to welcome local food trucks to their parking lot and use those opportunities to showase their beers.  Benesch noted, "There are two types of breweries.  There are production packaging breweries that manufacture beer to be distributed out to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores.  The other is brewpubs. They're typically smaller, but not always. They are coupled with a restaurant like the Brewer's Art or Oliver's.  We are a production brewery.  We have no kitchen, and we have no food here.  So, we love partnering with local food trucks to come to our parking lot, set up shop, and provide food for our guests.  It's a great way to showcase all of these great tastes that are coming off of these food trucks.  Two, it's great for us in that they offer a great variety of food.  We love trying out new food trucks as well as established favorites."

The trio has also found success in donating its beers to local businesses and causes.  "There are laws around that about we can and cannot do," Benesch noted. "We do love partnering with charities that are doing great things in our community.  A lot of times when they are trying to fund raise or do great events, we can work it out to provide them beer that they can then provide for their guests or even sell and help raise money for themselves."

Benesch, Blodger, and Zerivitz were all born in the Baltimore metro area and had been craft beer fans for many, many years dating back to their college days.  Benesch and Blodger attended the University of Maryland, College Park together in the late 1990s.  "Kevin started home brewing in college," Benesch recalled, with a grin, "and I would often hang out and drink it all!  After school, he went into teaching for about two years. But he got the buzz to follow his passion and got an entry-level brewing job at Frederick Brewing Co., which is now where Flying Dog is. He learned the brewing trade on the job and at other jobs that he took at other brewers across the country."

He continued, "I had been talking to him for a while about coming back to Baltimore from Chicago.  Around that time, I connected with my third partner, John, who I knew through some common friends.  We actually connected at a friend's wedding about four years ago now.  The three of us came together, and we found that we had a similar passion for craft beer and for Baltimore.  We put our heads together to open this brewery.  It is the first production brewery within the Baltimore city limits in 30 years.  That was the good part of it.  The bad part?  There was no brewery in Baltimore for 30 years! The Health Department, the Fire Department, and every zoning board had NO idea what we were talking about.  So, that made for a lot of red tape that we had to get through."

The three have separate and defined duties and responsibilities, which makes the overall operation run smoothly. "Kevin is the head brewer.  He brews beer and makes them taste great.  At Union, he has really developed his recipes.  John does a lot of our marketing and branding.  He makes our beers look great.  I handle the distribution and a lot of the business side.  I get the beer in people's hands."

Union Craft Brewery is located along the Jones Falls River in the historic Woodberry neighborhood of Charm City, not far from the Maryland Zoo and Loyola University.  It officially began operations in 2012 with the installation of a 20-barrel brewhouse and the initial launch of Duckpin Pale Ale.  On Saturday, Aug. 9, Union Craft celebrated the two-year anniversary of its first batch of beer hitting the taps in Baltimore.

With that celebration done, the focus has shifted to the next two years and beyond.  The goal is to continue producing beers in Baltimore city mostly for the home market, although that home market is projected to grow.  "As of right now," Benesch stated, "our beers are only available in Maryland and Washington, D.C.  We'll probably enter into Northern Virginia in the next six to nine months.  Then after that, we'll go a little north.  So, in two years, we'll hopefully be a little more of a regional brewery with the ability to ship our beers to the surrounding states for many years."

Today, there is an on-site tap room that is open to the public Thursdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  During those times, Union Craft staffers give tours of the brewery, and people are invited to taste the beer.  The partners helped get a law changed in 2013 at the state level that allows them to now sell a pint of beer during those hours.

Benesch gives major credit to his two partners for the early success of Union Craft Brewery.  He also applauds those brewery operators around the state and in other parts of the country who were responsive in giving out helpful tips and advices early on.  "We certainly spent a lot of time meeting and talking with other brewery owners to figure out 'Hey, how do we NOT fail!'  How open brewery owners are in lending ideas and offering advice is one thing that is really awesome about our community.  The one thing that probably everyone we talked to said was, 'Everything is going to cost twice as much and take twice as much time.'  I believed them and built that into our timeline and our budget."

Benesch concluded, "The other thing that has proven very true and helpful to us is passion.  A lot of people ask, 'What is craft beer?'  Well, a lot of it comes down to passion.  There are craft breweries like us all over the country that are just passionate about their beer and passionate about their home market.  When you combine those two things and build a business around that, it's pretty amazing what can happen.  It IS beer.  We try to remember that, 'Hey, we created this brewery, and we love this business.'  At the end of the day,  it's about having a good time, it's about creating this great and high-quality beverage, and all of the great things that come with that."

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) September 2014 Editions Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:00:39 -0400
Tino's Italian Bistro & Wine Bar http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/tino-s-italian-bistro-wine-bar http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/tino-s-italian-bistro-wine-bar Infantino_Chris0007.jpg - 45.55 KB

can't write about Tino's Italian Bistro with Wine Bar in Columbia without acknowledging that in a couple of days, or at most a week, I'm going to break down and go have dinner there.  It's that kind o' yummy!  But while it may be the authentic Italian recipes that lure customers there in the first place, most likely return for its impressive beverage selections that complement such dishes as Ravioli Chesapeake, Tortellini Bolognese, and Seafood Mare Bella. 

And those who do return often come back on a Sunday for what may be Howard County's best beverage promotion. Free Wine Sundays!  For every entree order, owner Chris Infantino and his staff take 25 percent off a bottle of wine from a list of 25 bottles to choose from. So, if there is a table of four and they all order main courses, they get a free bottle of vino. 

During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, Infantino remarked, "The original idea was, 'Let's make it so that two couples can get together -- whether they are younger with no kids or are in their 50s or 60s and their kids are grown -- have dinner, and get a free bottle of wine.  So many other places offer half-priced wine nights.  I wanted to do something that had a bigger value.  Come in for the food, and I'll complement the food with a wine that you normally spend $33 or $28 on.  Our Sundays have literally gone up 50 percent since we started that."

The journey to getting Tino's up and running has been a long one.  Infantino comes to the business from the finance side.  A senior vice president with Howard Bank, he had been working in the Columbia area since 1999.  There used to be a restaurant on the Tino's site called Strapazza that he ate at once or twice a week for years.  In September 2010, he learned that a number of the locations in the Strapazza chain were going to be closing including his beloved Columbia one. Having become friendly with the general manager there, he started to seriously consider making a go of it in the restaurant business himself, running the front of the house while the former GM ran the kitchen.  After contacting the landlord, Infantino was able to work out a lease deal and thus -- after much gutting, renovating, and rebuilding -- Tino's opened in June 2011.

"I grew up in an Italian household in New Jersey," Infantino said.  "A lot of the recipes are my recipes and my mom's recipes, as well.  All of the sauces, the bread, the meatballs are home-made.  We make everything we can potentially make.  We don't buy meatballs frozen and heat them up.  It's not what we do."

Infantino, though, quickly realized the importance of the beverage side of the business. As such, Tino's drink philosophy has changed and evolved in its first three years of operation.  "In the beginning," Infantino noted, "we started with all mainstream brands -- everything people would know.  We served everything from Miller Lite, Bud Lite, and Coors to all of the mainstream liquors.  It was the same thing with the wines.  We offered everything that you would see in a liquor store whenever you'd walk in.  As time has gone on and the more we have come to understand, we've become more daring.  We've gotten more into craft beers.  I think we started with 24 beers, and 24 of the 24 were all brands that I mentioned earlier.  But at this point in time, I think we're down to eight or nine name brands.  The other 15 are more craft-oriented."

He added, "We've also really relied on the wine reps to bring in some great wines at great price points. From a wine selection standpoint, I believe there is not a single wine by the glass on our menu that is a name brand.  We are typically going to the wine distributors and saying, 'We want to get more restaurant-only wines.'  We switch up that menu every six months.  Twice a year, we're changing the wine list.  Not entirely, but probably about 40 percent of the wines get changed up every six months even if they're selling well.  If they're selling really well, we'll put them on wines by the bottle, menu-only.  But we like to keep it interesting."

Infantino has tried to pick the brains of the different wine distributors and wine pros whenever possible. His most frequent question is simply "How can we improve?"'  While some reps have come on site and put on different classes for him and his staff, there has been one piece of advice that has really stood out and made a difference.  

Infantino stated, "The rule of thumb has long been to always serve red wine at room temperature.  So, you'd just let it sit out.  One thing the wine reps taught me was, 'That came out over 100 years from now. Italians served red wine at room temperature.  But a hundred years ago, room temperature was typically low 60s.'  Nowadays, people keep their homes warmer than they did a century ago.  It's easier do that.  Set the thermostat and move on.  I never knew room temperature really meant low 60s.  So, the reps told us, 'One thing to do to really make your place classy is get wine refrigerators and set them at around 60 degrees, and that would be something classy that not even many of the high-end steakhouses do.  So, about six or eight months ago, we purchased wine refrigerators and chilled out all of the red wine in the upper 50s.  We know that when we take it out, in a few minutes, it will warm up a degree or two.  So, we really put a lot of focus on being a true wine bar, and we've gotten a ton of compliments on that.  People who understand wine appreciate it very much."

In addition to Free Wine Sundays, another weekly promotion has also proven to be quite popular and endearing to the local clientele -- Foundation Mondays.  Each and every Monday, Tino's co-hosts an event with a local organization, charity, or non-profit where the restaurant donates 10 percent of the entire day's sales.

"Foundation Mondays has exploded," Infantino proudly declared, "and we've actually started doing that on Tuesdays, as well.  I started the restaurant in June 2011 and two months later, my fiancé got sick with cancer.  She fought for two years and passed back in October.  I was with her through all of that.  It was during that time that I realized that there is something more out there that means a Hell of a lot more than just making money.  I decided that I was going to give back and really be on the front lines.  I wanted to do something that was close to home.  I saw that a lot of places would have these times where the restaurant gives back 10 percent or 15 percent of whatever your party brings in.  You have to come in and tell them, 'I'm with the German Shepherd Rescue party.'  A great foundation will bring in $1,500.  An average one will bring in $1,000, and that's a good 40 or 50 people coming in to eat."

He continued, "I decided I'd rather do something where I would give back probably more than I should to really help the cause, and it's going to be a win for everybody.  I know that I'm going to pick up some new clients, who will hopefully look at me and say that here's someone who truly gives back to their community.  On average, we're about $4,800 on a Monday now.  So, we're giving back an average check of $480 every Monday.  And I also allow the foundations who come in to do things like guest bartenders and 50-50 raffles.  I think we're booked for the remainder of this entire year! It took about six months to catch on, but we've been booked now for probably the last eight months. We've already hosted two Tuesdays, and we have two more in July [this interview was conducted right after Independence Day].  We'd been turning away so many groups of people that it made sense to bring an additional day into it.  We're somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 in donations at this point in time. It's a great feeling, and it has really endeared Tino's to the community.  Plus, I have been getting invited to more galas and events than I ever dreamed possible!"


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) August 2014 Editions Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:03:33 -0400
Marylanders Retailers Recognized http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/marylanders-retailers-recognized http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/marylanders-retailers-recognized ABLUSA_Ashish.jpg - 54.77 KBABLUSA_David Dent.jpg - 53.67 KB

One of the highlights of the American Beverage Licensees (ABL) conference was the recognition of twenty-one beverage licensees for their success in, and dedication to, the retail beverage alcohol industry with the 2014 Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards.  This is the twelfth year that the distilled spirits company has sponsored the honor. “Thanks to the support of Brown-Forman, we’re able to honor the best bar, tavern and package store owners in America,” stated Bodnovich.  “Independent beverage licensees, both on- and off-premise, are where customers discover the brands they love in settings that foster a sense of community, responsibility and hospitality.”  

Among the 21 recognized were Maryland's own Ashish Parikh, proprietor of Kelly's Liquors in Ellicott City; and David Dent, proprietor of WJ Dent & Sons/Chief's Bar in Tall Timbers. Eligible retailers had to be members of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), and they had to be nominated by its members.

"It was a real surprise, and it means a lot to us," Dent said.  "We're just a little country grocery store basically that has a neighborhood bar.  My family has owned the business since 1978, but the business has been here since 1927.  It has a long tradition in the community … for us to win such a prestigious award is overwhelming," Dent stated.  

Dent has been active with the St. Mary's County Licensed Beverage Association for more than five years now. He also currently serves as vice president of the MSLBA.  "That involves going to Annapolis and attending legislative committee meetings and trying to promote responsible beverage consumption and things like that."

Maryland’s other winner, Ashish Parikh is more than just the operator of Kelly’s Liquors and MSLBA member. He is perhaps best known as President of the Asian American Retailers Association of MD. The organization has worked closely with the MSLBA over the years in both supporting and opposing state legislation that impacts the industry. Parikh, though, didn't come to the beverage business from the usual channels.  In his native India, he spent a decade in the pharmaceutical industry before coming to America. He joked, "In the business I am in now, I feel this is just one other kind of medicine . . . a medicine that you can enjoy!"  

Parikh concluded, "It's a big achievement for me as a retailer winning the Brown-Forman award, being an MSLBA member and being recognized by my colleagues and Brown-Forman helps motivates me for what I do."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) August 2014 Editions Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:55:39 -0400
Garrick Lumsden: The Company's Pride at Acadiana http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/garrick-lumsden-the-company-s-pride-at-acadiana http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/garrick-lumsden-the-company-s-pride-at-acadiana garrick.jpg - 35.82 KB

One might describe Garrick Lumsden, bar manager at the Passion Food Restaurant Group's popular Acadiana eatery, as a "company man."  Sure enough, he started in the hospitality business in the late 1980s on the corporate side, serving first as a corporate trainer for the Houston's restaurant chain.  After five years in that position, he moved over to the P.F. Chang's chain to serve in that same capacity.  

In those early years, he stuck close to his home market of Chicago.  "I did some traveling and opened up a few restaurants," he recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I got tired of Chicago and decided to move to New York City.  But I stopped in D.C. for a year and fell in love with it.  I never made it to New York!"

But the Windy City didn't completely leave Lumsden's being.  He served as pointman in opening Michael Jordan's restaurant in Washington when No. 23 played for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s.  Bartending was always a passion, though, and he eventually found his way to Passion Food.  He worked behind the taps at the company's Ceiba for a couple of years before trying his hand at the sales side of the business, working for Washington Wholesale.  He found that it wasn't for him and decided to go back to bartending at Passion's Acadiana just prior to briefly opening his own restaurant called Toyland around 2010.  He eventually sold the business and returned to Acadiana as bar manager.

"I just like the socialization of bartending!" he stated.  "You're able to socialize while also making good money.  That and bartending is what I'm good at. It always calls me back."

Lumsden continued, "Acadiana is a Lousiana fish house.  It's definitely seafood-driven, but we're also known as a large bourbon bar.  We have anywhere from 65 to 70 bourbons.  There is also a whole list of specialty cocktails and frozen drinks for people who like their Hurricanes and things like that.  We also have an extensive wine list, although we only deal with French and American wines right now.  We want to be authentic to what Louisiana cuisine is all about."

He has developed several cocktails on the current menu.  One of his favorite things is to mix FEW Spirits into his recipes.  "We have a specialty cocktail with FEW's Breckinridge bourbon.  It's a very refreshing drink for the spring and summertime.  I love it because it's not overpowering.  It's something you can sip on our beautiful patio.  FEW also just introduced a Barrel-Aged Gin, which is really starting to pick up at the restaurant in terms of sales.  We've been doing our part to educate the guests about it because it's a gin. But it's barrel-aged so it has a smokier taste to it.  People are getting into it.  A lot of people are scared of bourbon.  But if you're a gin drinker, it's a good segue way to a brown spirit."

As much as he loves the socializing, he concedes that the people side of his job can be tricky.  "People are always challenging," he said through gritted teeth.  "There's the whole 'the customer is always right.'  That's a challenging thing for me personally, because ... uh ... the customer is NOT always right!  With reality TV, it seems that people feel entitled to say or do anything they want now. "

At the same time, the people side is what he thinks today's bars and restaurants need to get better at.  "When I was in corporate training," he recalled, "I think I came into the business at a good time when corporations were really instilling teamwork.  Nowadays, there are so many restaurants, that people don't get as good of training anymore."

Lumsden concluded, "I think smaller places can take a page from the big companies in that they should take more time in their training.  In many cases, I think that they just throw people out there and they don't take the time to actually get to know what their market is and what they are planning to do in their establishment.  That can be a killer, especially in the beginning.  If you open up, and your staff isn't adequate and they're not doing what they are supposed to do, people are not going to come back.  You don't want to start off like that.  As far as corporations, I think some of them need to be less structured and picky about things.  Those days have changed, and you have to adapt.  People are not robots."

BORN AND RAISED IN: Chicago

WHAT HE DOES IN HIS FREE TIME
"I work out five or six times a week.  I love to run outdoors.  I really like to run by the Capitol and the various monuments."

HIDDEN TALENT: "I love to sing ... but I can't sing a lick!"

JOB HE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE TRIED: Movie director

FAVORITE D.C. TOURIST SPOT: Busboys and Poets.

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE A DRINK TO: First Lady Michelle Obama.

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) August 2014 Editions Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:45:02 -0400
For the Love of District Commons http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/for-the-love-of-district-commons http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/for-the-love-of-district-commons CaitlinLove.jpg - 32.33 KB

Caitlin Love has definitely found both her love and her passion working for Passion Food Hospitality.  She is a seven-year company veteran and has served as bartender at the firm's District Commons eatery since its September 2011 grand opening.  Located on Washington Circle, it's basically a 21st century take on the traditional American tavern.  In terms of food offerings, customers love the huge raw bar and the open-hearth oven where everything from flavorful tarts to tasty flatbreads are baked.  But Love believes it is the drink selection that gets so many customers coming back for more, especially those who like to sample from District Commons' 99 Beers on the Wall.

"District Commons and Burger Tap and Shake are conjoined restaurants," she stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We are the sixth and seventh restaurants the company has opened.  District Commons is American-themed, so we have an all-American wine and craft beer list and lots of American spirits, as well."

Love says she most enjoy working with the newer spirits.  "There are so many beers and wines coming out now, especially on the American side!" she exclaimed.  "I especially like working with Shannon Crisp and FEW Spirits.  I really like the FEW Rye Whiskey.  I want to make a bourbon punch this summer with it.  Bourbon is such a fast-growing part of the industry right now, so I'm really excited to get to work with that.  I like using FEW's gin, as well.  It's very flavorful and blends really nice in a gin and tonic."

She also enjoys being creative with her own cocktail recipes.  At the time this interview was conducted in late May, she was toying around with a drink called the Rosie the Riveter.  It will feature Leopold's Navy Strength Gin with some rosé, some Michigan cherry liqueur, and some tonic water.  "So, it's like a cherry gin and tonic," she remarked.

Love started in the bar business right after she graduated from college.  "I'm from D.C.," she said.  "So, when I came back home, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do.  I started working in the restaurant of an old family friend and just fell in love with the industry." 

Over the years, she has learned many things about what to do behind the bar and certainly what not to do.  She says the most important thing she has learned is patience.  "Too many people these days are into immediate gratification," she lamented.  "But being a bartender, especially in D.C. where the market is so competitive right now, you really have to take each day as it comes and be patient with yourself and with others.  Go ahead and bring up new ideas to people, but then let yourself get comfortable with the environment that you're working in."

She continued, "I'm also very picky about cleanliness. You can be really busy, but you don't have to leave things in a mess.  You can have your bar organized where you can keep everything in order even while you're busy.  That's the most credible way to bartend, for sure."

In terms of ongoing challenges, she says the hardest part of her job is working in an American-themed restaurant that people frequent because it is in their comfort zone, then challenging them to leave that zone and try something new and innovative.  "I really try and open our guests and clientele up to the concept of American craft spirits.  We're trying to raise the game.  The people who make them take  SO  much care in their products.  They are winning a lot of awards in Europe and across the world.  But you still have to convince some people to give them a try."

Part of opening people up to new drinks and new pairings is offering them new experiences.  To this end, she is looking forward to the special beer dinner that District Commons has scheduled for the week of the Fourth of July.  "It's going to be a beer pairing with various breweries," she stated, "including [wholesaler] Capital Eagle Inc. who will have their high-end brand manager there with us.  We will be pairing different types of beer with different types of cuisine.  The Fourth of July is always a big barbecue time.  If you're going to have a party, you're likely going to have lots of different tastes and palettes.   So, why not have something for everybody?"

WHAT SHE DOES
IN HER DOWN TIME
:
"I like going to new restaurants. 
D.C. has so many!"

TOP D.C. TOURIST SPOT
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.  ("It's
really beautiful in the summer at nighttime!")

FAVORITE MOVIE:
"The Shawshank Redemption"

ALMA MATER:
The University of Arizona

PETS:
One dog, a beagle-mix.

 

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2014 Editions Sat, 28 Jun 2014 15:05:48 -0400
What's on Tap for Frisco's Michael Cermatori http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/what-s-on-tap-for-frisco-s-michael-cermatori http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/what-s-on-tap-for-frisco-s-michael-cermatori Michael_Cermatori0006.jpg - 93.16 KBMichael Cermatori, bartender at the Frisco Taphouse & Brewery in Columbia, has a pet peeve.  "I do not like a sticky bar top!" he declared, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "That's just lazy bartending.  If you go in someplace and it's sticky, it's not some place you want to go back to.  Now, if you work in a dive bar, I don't want you serving me with white gloves and your pinky in the air.  But have some pride in what you're doing."

Cermatori will only turn 29 in July.  But he already sounds like a longtime veteran of the business.  "I would tell anyone new and young in the beverage industry to know your product, know your clientele, and be aware of your surroundings," he said at one point.  "Things can happen pretty quick in the bar business.  I am lucky because Frisco is a great place.  But I've worked at some other places where things would get out of hand real quick.  So, keep your head on a swivel and know what's going on."  

In truth, Cermatori has been in the industry for a decade, having started as a barback and a bartender in fine dining in Long Island, N.Y.  "That's where I'm from," he said.  "I moved down here in the summer of 2005 to attend college." 

And while he has studied Corporate Communications at the University of Baltimore, his time at Frisco is what has made Maryland feel like home.  He stated, "Frisco is a 56-tap craft beer house, and we also brew our own beer onsite.  We offer beer from all over the world.  The way Frisco is set up is we have these two flat-screen TVs turned sideways that have the beer list on them. People sit down and they start reading through.  They'll ask you questions about beer. You'll ask them, 'What do you like?' And they will either want something 'hoppy' or something 'malty' or something sweet or something dark.  With my knowledge of what we have on tap, I can whittle down their choices and get them something they can really enjoy."

Cermatori says he really loves interacting with Frisco's customers in this way. At times, he is as much a consultant as a bartender. "I've worked a lot of restaurant jobs," he remarked, "and Frisco has the best group of regulars. Every day at work, I get to see someone cool that I enjoy talking to and helping. I get to hang out with them, pour them a drink, and put a smile on their face."

On the flipside, Cermatori said the most challenging part of his job is always that random customer who has had a real bad day and just doesn't want it to get better. "You want to turn things around for them, but there are some people who just don't want to be cheered up.  That can be very frustrating sometimes."

In those instances, he remembers some of his early influences in the bar biz.  One was a colleague on Long Island named "Bix."  Cermatori describes him as "this crazy guy" who played in rock bands throughout the '70s, but also bartended on the side.  "He told me to work hard, always keep a smile on my face, and keep the guests happy -- that if I did all that, I shouldn't have a hard time in the bar business.  And I haven't!  I always try and keep that in mind."

And to stay on top of his game, Cermatori is always on the lookout for the latest customer trends and drinking preferences.  Last year, he observed, white India Pale Ales (or IPAs) were all the rage.  "This year, everyone seems to be doing session IPAs.  Basically, you get the big hops content you find in a regular IPA, but with alcohol.  A normal IPA is about 7.5 percent or 8 percent alcohol by volume.  These are more like 4.5 to 5 percent.   When you are at your backyard barbecue or out with your family, you can still drink some nice flavorful beer.  But it won't put you on your ass!"

He is also looking forward to Frisco opening a second location in Crofton.  "The word on the street is that it will offer 106 taps and all craft beer.  That should be cool!"

FAVORITE MOVIE: "First Blood"

HOBBIES OR SPECIAL INTERESTS:  "I love motorcycles, dirt bikes, anything with an engine that I can mess around on and maybe hurt myself on."

PRIZED POSSESSION:
"My 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee that I've been driving since I got my license.  She's getting a little old, but I still love her dearly."

HIDDEN SKILL: "I can ski well!"

HIS MUSIC:'80s metal.  "But I also get down with some early '90s gangsta rap. 

I'm all over the place."

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE AS A CUSTOMER
"Either Steve McQueen or Charles Bronson. I bet they liked beer."

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2014 Editions Sat, 28 Jun 2014 10:05:33 -0400
Comedian Adam Carolla Mans Up With Mangria http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/comedian-adam-carolla-mans-up-with-mangria http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/comedian-adam-carolla-mans-up-with-mangria Mangria_Red_and_White_bottles.jpg - 88.38 KB

Adam Carolla is a man known for wearing many hats.  Comedian, author, actor, talk-show host, podcast host,... and now beverage biz mogul.  The third of his highly successful Mangria products recently launched and is now available in our market via Atlantic Wine and Spirits.  A Brand Profile is running in this month's edition of the Beverage Journal complete with a few quotes from Carolla himself.  As a Web edition extra, here is the full Q&A:

BEVERAGE JOURNAL: Every brand has a story behind it. What is Mangria's?

ADAM CAROLLA: I drink red wine every night to knock me down after my typically stressful days.  One night, I went to pour my second round and I only had half a glass left.  I still wanted to get my end of the day buzz, so I foraged around and dumped a little vodka in to fill the glass.  It tasted like Hell.  But I don’t waste booze.  It’s against my alcoholic moral code.  So I put some orange juice in and created an extra powerful Sangria.  I brought it up my podcast the next day and dubbed it Mangria.  Then, I started mixing batches and bringing it to Jimmy Kimmel’s for Football Sunday and people liked it.  Eventually, we hooked up with some real wine guys in Napa and started bottling and marketing it. It kind of started as a joke but now it’s bloomed into a real business.  We’ve sold over 200,000 bottles!

BJ: Having sampled the product, I think its taste really distinguishes it.  Could you talk about its flavor profile and recipe?

AC: I’d be lying if I started talking about “hints of this” and “notes of that” in the flavor profile.  I just know that it tastes good.  You can definitely taste the citrus flavor in the red mangria and in the white peach and pear flavor the sweetness really stands out.  And when it comes to the recipe I leave that to the wine experts.  I’m not a wine expert.  I’m a drinking expert with over 40 years experience.

BJ: Do you consider it a "man's drink?"  Or has this been crossing over to the female demographic?

AC: The name makes it seem like it’s only for guys, but I know a ton of women who love it.  We’ve got the white peach and pear flavor, which appeals a little bit more to the ladies.  But my wife loves the original Mangria.  Sometimes we’ll say it’s strong enough for a man, but sweet enough for a lady.  Again, it wasn’t like I set out with an intention of making a “man’s drink.”  I was just trying to get drunk and improvised with the stuff in my house.

BJ: This article is for the Maryland and Washington Beverage Journals.  We're always curious when interviewing those outside our region if they have any thoughts or insights on the MD-DC markets?  Any interesting drinking stories from a past time in Baltimore or Washington or elsewhere locally?

AC: I guess if you want to know my thoughts on Washington, D.C., you should get my new book on politics “President Me: The America That’s In My Head.”  

I have one D.C. drinking story, though it’s more of a vomiting story.  It was 1997, I was doing Loveline and was asked to come out to D.C. for the WHFStival, a big 90s alternative music fest at R.F.K. stadium.  The night before I enjoyed some Maryland soft-shell crab for first time ever and then hit the 9:30 Club, a famous D.C. rock venue, where I saw Ben Folds Five play and did a couple of shots with Andy Dick.  The next day I was scheduled to go to R.F.K., stand in front of 55,000 people, and introduce Beck.  At 6 a.m. I woke up and instantly began violently throwing up.  This happened every half hour while I was curling in the fetal position on the bare hotel bathroom floor.  Unless Andy Dick put something in one of my drinks, I assume I’d gotten food poisoning from the crabs.  It was miserable.  

Long story short, I made a promise that if I could put together 60 minutes without vomiting I would get on the subway and head to the venue.  I managed to stop vomiting, got some Gatorade backstage and hit the stage at R.F.K. even though my head hurt worse J.F.K.

5) What has surprised you the most with your foray from comedy, radio, TV, podcasts, etc. into the beverage business?

Having the podcast and my other projects has given me a nice marketing platform and really helped get the word out.  So the booze business and the entertainment business can work well together. As far as surprises, I can’t necessarily say I’m surprised, but the red tape and bureaucracy around the booze business has been harder to navigate than the stupidity of the entertainment business.  I chronicle this in detail in my new book so I’ll keep it brief.  We went through months of back and forth just on the labels.  I didn’t realize that I would have to get the creation story I told you earlier approved by the government for the back label.  The ATF has to approve your label and they had a beef with me saying I was an “alcoholic” or that my product “packed a punch”.  They said, I couldn’t refer to its "intoxicating qualities."  Seriously, that’s a quote from our rejection letter.  To which I argue that it’s a f***ing wine bottle, and more importantly, the product inside has a higher alcohol content than wine so I should be sued if I DON’T say that it’s alcohol or that it packs a punch!  Again, check out “President Me” for all the gory details on getting Mangria out to the people.


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) June 2014 Edition Mon, 19 May 2014 14:11:53 -0400
Amy Russell: Her Casa Luca Is Your Casa Luca http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/amy-russell-her-casa-luca-is-your-casa-luca http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/amy-russell-her-casa-luca-is-your-casa-luca Russell_Amy3.jpg - 248.58 KB

"I love taking care of the guests.  I like judging how their day has been going and what might make their evening better.  That's always been what I have loved about bartending.  When you get somebody who has clearly had a bad day of work, and they have that first sip and you can see their shoulders just -- ahhhhhh -- relax.  In those moments, I think, 'OK, I'm helping.'"

Those are the words of Amy Russell, bar manager at Casa Luca.  This popular establishment on New York Avenue, is one of Fabio and Maria Trabocchi's most popular dining concepts.  Russell is just proud to be a part of the couple's legacy.  "Casa Luca is Chef Fabio's more family-style restaurant," she stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "My understanding is a lot of his regulars kept saying to him at his other restaurants, 'We love this place, but we'd also love some place where we can bring our kids.  That was the inspiration for Casa Luca."

As such, Russell has had to tailor Casa Luca's beverage menu to fit the style and concept.  "What this focus has done in terms of my cocktails is bring them back down to Earth a bit.  Instead of weird syrups, it's been about going back to basics with classic cocktails and tweaks on classic cocktails.  The idea has been to make the drink selection more approachable."

She continued, "One of the drinks we're going to be putting on the menu shortly is a riff on the mint julep.  Instead of using simple syrup, we will be using fresh strawberry syrup that we'll be making.  Where I grew up on the Eastern Shore,  Somerset County used to be the strawberry capital of the state before everything moved to California.  It's nice to have that sweetness and that fruit character to balance out the mint, while switching rye instead of bourbon for a little kick."

Aficionados will still be impressed by the fact that Casa Luca has an array of unique Italian wines on tap -- available nowhere else locally, their website touts -- and an impressive cellar selection from Italy, Spain, and California.

Russell has been in the local hospitality industry for five years now.  She describes herself as having "stumbled" into it.  "I was at another bar's [The Passenger on 7th Street NW] friends and family opening, and they needed a lot of work to be done.  I wasn't working at the time, so I said, 'I can help out!'  After a week of hard, dirty labor, they asked me if I could barback.  I did that there for nine months, earned a bartending slot, and my career has kind of gone from there."

Where it has gone from there is indeed bar manager at Casa Luca.  "The hardest part of my job," she remarked, "is juggling the time between actual bartending, doing what I love, and taking care of the guests and the time needed to do the things that have to get done so that the entire bar experience is great."

Part of that experience is knowing what quality spirits to serve the guests to ensure the best possible drinking experience.  One of the brands she singled out as among her favorites is FEW Spirits.  "My favorite FEW spirit is the Barrel Aged Gin," she declared.  "When I did the Artini competition last year, that's when [local company rep] Shannon Crisp gave me some of the FEW Barrel Aged Gin, and I fell in love with it.  There are a lot of hybrid spirits and a number of aged gins.  But they either taste more like the barrel or more like the spirit.  They're not very integrated, and they're really hard to make a cocktail with.  I've tried my best.  But with FEW, the wood flavors complement the aromatics in the gin.  It doesn't fight them."

Russell tries to incorporate Italian ingredients into her cocktail recipes where possible, using Italian vermouths, liquors, and spirits. Her favorite concoction? "I paired the Few Barrel Aged Gin with the Italian vermouth Cocchi di Torino for a spin on a Negroni!"

Russell is now looking forward to better weather and Casa Luca's patio finally opening up to accommodate guests.  She concluded, "I've gone to some bars where I just haven't felt comfortable. and I maybe had one drink or two and left.  I think it's important to always make people feel comfortable.  Wherever I've worked, I have wanted people who sat down at my bar to feel at ease, like I had invited them over to my home for a dinner party."

PREVIOUS JOB: "I was actually a biologist in a former life."

KIDS:  1 son, age 15.

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Ip Man" ("My son is into martial arts and kung fu right now")

HIDDEN TALENT: "Let's just say I'm a very good marksman."

PERSON SHE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE AS A CUSTOMER: Thomas Jefferson

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) June 2014 Edition Mon, 19 May 2014 14:08:40 -0400
Teeling Tells a Tale of Irish Whiskey http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/teeling-tells-a-tale-of-irish-whiskey http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/teeling-tells-a-tale-of-irish-whiskey Teeling.jpg - 109.10 KB

Some say that whiskey is in the blood of any true Irishman. Well, it's positively surging through Stephen Teeling's veins.  Teeling comes from a long line of 

whiskey makers, as far back as the late 18th century, in fact.  He cut his teeth in the business working at Ireland's Cooley Distillery, which was founded by his father, John, in 1987.  Beam Inc. acquired Cooley in early 2012, and Stephen briefly stayed on as global marketing manager for Irish Whiskey.

But it was his brother, Jack, who persuaded him to live up to his family legacy and strike out on his own. Jack, the former managing director of Cooley, had launched The Teeling Whiskey Co. and had been steadily releasing a series of Irish whiskey bottlings in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France.  Stephen left Beam to become his brother's sales and marketing director, and they soon set their sights on the U.S. market.

In early April, Stephen left Ireland for a major marketing push in several American markets, and Baltimore was lucky enough to be one of his stops.  "Jack and I learned a lot from our dad," he stated, during a sit-down interview with the Beverage Journal.  "He always said to us, 'The key thing you need to focus on always is the quality of the liquid.'  My brother and I were really just getting started when Beam acquired Cooley, and we could see the opportunity in Irish whiskey.  We could see how it was and would be booming. "

The Teeling brothers quickly got back in the distilling game to ensure a consistent supply of whiskey for their ambitious future plans.  Teeling stated, "We'd always planned on doing something with our old family brand.  When we realized the Jim Beam deal was going to happen, we secured a huge amount of cask whiskey.  We selfishly knew where a lot of the good casks were, so we bought it all and brought it with us.  We saw a big gap between standard and super-premium within the premium segment.

Teeling Irish Whiskey is indeed quite scrumptious.  It is a small-batch bottling from hand-selected casks of grain and malt whiskey, which are matured in former rum barrels. "Bottling at a higher proof as we do, we don't have to chill-filter which leaves a lot of the acids and the flavors from the barrel still in it.  I think a lot of people thought they saw the last of the Teelings.  But the fact that we came back and came back very quickly has been quite an interesting story."

In addition to the on-the-job training he received in his teens and 20s from his father, Teeling often leans on the Business and Economics course work he took at Trinity College in Dublin  The city has been dear to his heart all of his life, and both he and Jack have been able to make it a part of their brand's identity.

"It was important to bring distilling back to Dublin," Stephen stated.  "Going back over 100 years ago, it was the main city where Irish whiskey was made.  And it's an old tradition to put your family name on a brand.  We went with a more contemporary-style label.  We didn't want to take the rural Irish approach of green, rolling hills and shamrocks.  We thought that with Dublin being a city, our product could be a bit more urban and confident in its approach.  We use a cork instead of a twist cap, and we put the bottling date on it.  It's seven-year-old malt and five-year-old grain that we blend."

And how well does he work with his brother?  "He's the older brother," Stephen cracked, "so he's not nearly as socially adjusted as myself!  Seriously, as with any start-up, you take on a lot of responsibilities of different things.  I've always been more focused on sales and marketing and looking after the customers, and he is very good at the operations side.  We are now in 20 international markets, which is great.  The U.S. is so important to us, because Irish whiskey is on fire here and the American consumer understands premium-brand spirits.  We wanted to find the right partner, and Infinium was ideal for being well-known brand builders, for being family owned.  There are bigger companies out there who are very good at driving volume, but know very little about building brands.  Premium is very important across the whole Infinium portfolio.  Together, we've put a plan of action in place that we're very excited about."

MARRIED?: Yes

KIDS?: "No. I have to be home for that to happen!"

ALMA MATER: Trinity University in Dublin

HIS SPORT: Rugby

PERSON OR PERSONS HE'D MOST LIKE TO BE A CELEBRITY SPONSOR FOR TEELING WHISKEY: "U2!"


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) June 2014 Edition Mon, 19 May 2014 14:05:07 -0400
Withall Finds a Home at The Hamilton http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/whithall-finds-a-home-at-the-hamilton http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/whithall-finds-a-home-at-the-hamilton Samantha0001.jpg - 48.65 KB

Samantha Withall, Beverage Director at The Hamilton on 14th Street, has certainly bounced around the biz locally.  She has been a chef for nearly a decade, having worked at such venues as Cafe Atlantico and Restaurant Nora and helping to open Minibar on E Street and Oyamel Cocina Mexicano.  At one point, she got out of the kitchen and served as Purchasing Director for the Park Hyatt Hotel.  "After that," she said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "I did some restaurant consulting work before jumping into a wine and beer buyer position for an all-natural, organic market in Olney, Md."

That job ended up stoking her passion for the beverage side of the business, and she eventually accepted her current job at The Hamilton.  "The Hamilton is the cruise ship of restaurants!" she proudly declared.  "We are very large.  We have a lot of square footage.  In fact, the actual space that we are in used to be a Borders bookstore.  Before that, it was a Garfinckel's department store.  We have six bars and a live music venue in our basement. We offer a ton of all-American cuisine, but we also have our own sushi bar in-house that is manned by a full team of sushi chefs.  We're owned by the Clyde's Restaurant Group, and we're very eclectic in what we offer."

As for her duties and responsibilities, they are just as eclectic.  "I oversee our draft line-up, which for the upstairs restaurant is about 20 different draft lines.  We focus on as much local, all-American craft beer as we can with a few imports that are popular brands.  I also oversee about a 150 to 200-bottle wine list that focuses on small production wines, nothing more than 5,000 cases per vintage or per style per year.  Even though we are a very large restaurant, we really look to focus on the more artisanal and smaller production wines and, similarly, that follows suit with the focus of our beverage program as well.  For our cocktails, although we have a ton of the big-name brands that most everyone has behind the bar, we really look to focus on the resurgence of the American craft distillery movement.  All of our specialty cocktails focus on small craft distilled spirits."

Withall has also definitely become more of a wine person than she ever thought she'd be.  "This job has definitely broadened my palette and deepened my appreciation for what the growers and winemakers are doing.  I can honestly say that I very rarely taste a bad wine!  That's a really nice thing.  It makes my job that much more enjoyable."

She continued, "The amount of volume is daunting.  Keeping our product in stock is important.  We do a lot of volume.  So, just making sure that we have everything that we need for the guests is quite the challenge.  The most important thing is what is in the bottle.  Marketing and a million other things can sway one to want to purchase one thing versus not.  But my thought is, if what's in the bottle doesn't represent what is supposed to be, it's not worth getting."

Withall even has some sage words of wisdom for anyone reading this who is new in the beverage and hospitality trade and looking to thrive over the long term.  "Try as many things as you can whether you like them or not," she stated.  "I find that every couple of years or so, my tastes change.  Even something that I might not have enjoyed before I find that I might actually like now.  So, don't turn your nose up at stuff.  Just try it and be open to what is out there.  Personally, there are things that I like over others.  But the whole idea is to learn and understand what people are enjoying at the time."

With the arrival of spring, Withall and her staff at The Hamilton are looking forward to touting their seasonal cocktail list.  Customers are especially loving The Hamilton's cherry blossom cocktails, most notably Washington's Cherry Temple and the Cherry Chocolate Jubilee.  The former is made with American Harvest organic vodka and organic tart cherry juice, with Leopold Bros. Maraschino Liqueur and a little vanilla simple syrup. "Spring has definitely sprung at The Hamilton!" Withall stated.

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Dirty Dancing"

BEST TRIP: A few years back, she took a six-month break from the hospitality business to hike the Appalachian Trail.

PET: Dog (she has a weimaraner who goes on hikes with her).

SPECIAL TALENT: "I do stained glass work."

PERSON SHE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE AS A CUSTOMER: Benjamin Franklin

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:40:05 -0400
Beso del Sol Sangria http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/beso-del-sol-sangria http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/beso-del-sol-sangria BesoDelSol_Pic_3.jpg - 94.38 KB

… Aims for Mucho Success In Maryland and D.C.

In early March, Beso del Sol Sangria expanded distribution to 10 states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia. The product is a joint venture between Arctic Beverage LLC and L&B, LLC, which have endeavored to bring a premium product in the high-growth sangria category to market. Arctic Beverage, importer of Beso del Sol, is partnering with Prestige Imports in Maryland and D.C.

The product features a colorful and modern box packaging that makes Beso del Sol ideal for celebrations and other gatherings -- both indoors and out. Christina Staalstrom, Commercial Director of Arctic Beverage LLC, comments, "We decided to go with a bag-in-the-box design. That category is growing in the U.S. and it's a category that we feel is perfect for our sangria. Not only does it stand out on the shelf in terms of packaging, it is attractive to have out for group gatherings. It's also great from a convenience and a cost-savings perspective to the consumer and the distributor. We feel like our timing is really good on this one. A lot of sangrias on the market tend to target the Spanish consumer. We're targeting the American consumer."

Arctic Beverage is supporting the brand with a strong in-store merchandising and sampling program along with local market advertising and event support. Staalstrom says the goal is to be in 11 states before the beginning of this summer.  "Unlike most of the sangrias that you have out there," she states, "we are really trying to target a younger and more modern demographic. That's why we went with the bright packaging, the bold colors, and all-natural flavors. There are no artificial additives at all. It's ready to serve. All you have to do is pour it over ice, throw some fruit in there, and you're good to go." 

This marks the first joint venture between Arctic Beverage and L&B to develop, produce, and bring a brand to market for commercial distribution.  Imported from Spain, Beso del Sol Sangria is indeed the first premium sangria made from 100 percent natural ingredients available in the United States in a bag-in-the-box design. High-quality Spanish Tempranillo wine is blended with a selection of fruits to create a light and fruity sangria that is both sweet and refreshing.

Staalstrom, a 17-year veteran of the beverage industry having started on the non-alcoholic side, says she and her colleagues are looking forward to the challenges of our marketplace. She notes, "In the Mid-Atlantic, there is seasonality. Sangria is definitely something people love in the spring and summer, and that's why we're launching it now. Maryland and D.C. certainly have a large Latino population, and they're familiar with the product. More broadly, I think in any large, transient city like Washington where you have a lot of people moving in and out, you have people who are willing to try new products. It's a market of people who are willing to see what is out there and not just stay with the tried and true. So, it's a good place for us to get some valuable feedback and some new consumers."

She is also looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Prestige Imports in distributing and selling the product. "They have a great reputation in the industry," she said.  "They're very focused on building brands as opposed to just moving cases. For us, it's very important to have a partner that wants to build the Beso del Sol brand in the marketplace and grow the sangria category as opposed to just pushing cases out the door. They have good relationships with a lot of independent retailers and also the larger chains. I think it's going to be a great fit for us!"

Made according to a traditional Spanish recipe, Beso del Solo Sangria is well balanced with a smooth finish at 8.5 percent alcohol. Each 3L box is the equivalent of four traditional 750 ml bottles. The technology used ensures that each sip is fresh, from the first one to the last. The wine stays fresh for up to six weeks after opening and generally retails for around $20 per box.

 

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:11:14 -0400
Tim Schestag: Making a Fist at Palm Bay http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/tim-schestag-making-a-fist-at-palm-bay http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/tim-schestag-making-a-fist-at-palm-bay TimSchestagPhoto.jpg - 44.24 KB

Whenever an Industry Snapshot subject tells me he is gotten into boxing in his spare time, I have to fight the urge to frontload the article with all sorts of fight cliches.  "When he got into the beverage business, he had the eye of the tiger ... and he still does!" "He's been punching and counter-punching in our industry for 10 years now."  "His company went 15 rounds with the last recession and was still standing at the end."

That's why I had to chuckle when Tim Schestag recently revealed: "I've taken up boxing.  I got tired of the monotony of being in a gym, and I can't stand running.  It was something different, something unique.  And believe it or not, it keeps me level on the job."

That job is Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager for Palm Bay International's Quantum/Spirits Division.  Schestag has been with the company for four years this July and has indeed been in the business for a decade.  He started when he was 24, working for everyone from F.P. Winner to RNDC.  He seems to have found a home with his current employer.

"Palm Bay is a family-owned and operated company," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We're based out of Port Washington, N.Y., and we represent over 80 brands from 11 different countries.  One of those brands is Cavit Pinot Grigio, the No. 1 imported pinot grigio in the market."

Schestag, a personable man with an obvious love for wine and spirits, said that the relationship side of the business is what he loves the most.  "Sometimes in this business, that part of it gets lost.  It becomes more about the boxes than the relationships with both the wholesalers and the key customers and restaurateurs that make up your business at the end of the day."

He continued, "To be successful, it's all about the details.  That's the hardest part, the detail-oriented nature of the business.  The business is expanding, and there is innovation and new brands and there is a lot being asked of everybody.  The challenge is staying out in front and being on top of your business when it is forever changing.  Every day, you think you have a plan.  But that plan changes, and you have to be mindful of that."

Schestag came into the industry in boom times before the economy went south.  He soon learned how important it was to be able to adapt.  "The ability to sell fine wine at a higher price point was sometimes challenging," he recalled.  "But the good part about having a portfolio like Palm Bay's is that we have brands that fit every aspect of what a buyer and a customer would want -- from a high-end Amarone or Barolo to your everyday value-driven wine.  The thing that has changed the most in 10 years is the ability to give the consumers what they want at a price point they are comfortable with."

He hopes those young and coming into the industry today will have a less bumpy ride than he had.  Regardless, it all comes down to the hours you put into the job.  Schestag remarked, "There's no real big secret.  You just have to button up and work hard every day.  You have to be personable when you are out there, and you have to take every day as it comes.  At the end of the day, you need to know that you have taken care of the customer first and foremost.  Once you establish a relationship with a customer, it's not a business anymore.  You're not a sales person to an account.  It's a lot deeper and a lot more involved than that.  Once you establish that, you'll want it to last forever."

But few things do last forever, especially in the beverage biz.  Palm Bay, for instance, was Palm Bay Imports.  But the name was changed to Palm Bay International a couple of years ago to reflect the broader scope management would strive to achieve moving forward.  And there is a lot of moving forward at the company.  Schestag concluded, "We're getting into the California business with our very first domestic winery partnership.  That will hopefully be coming the middle of this summer, which we're very excited about it.  Pretty soon to follow that, we're getting back into the New Zealand business. So, the rest of the year should be very interesting!"

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Tommy Boy"

FAVORITE SPORT TO PARTICIPATE IN: Boxing

FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH: Football

HIS TEAM: Baltimore Ravens

PRIZED POSSESSION: His wine collection


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:02:48 -0400
DC Coast Enjoys the Highs With Lauren Lowe http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/dc-coast-enjoys-the-highs-with-lauren-lowe http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/dc-coast-enjoys-the-highs-with-lauren-lowe Lowe_Lauren3.jpg - 263.97 KB

It's been eight years since Lauren Lowe made the move from the wilds of Michigan to Washington, D.C.  A part of her is still getting used to the transition.  "I lived in Michigan until I was 22," she stated.  "Needless to say, there is a thriving city life here in comparison to where I'm from."

Lowe has been part of that thriving city life for eight years now, specifically its bar scene.  Her first job behind the taps was at Chef Jeff's on 13th and F Streets.  She left there after about a year and a half to take a job at DC Coast.  She's been head bartender there for nearly six years now.

"I love it!" she declared.  "I love bartending, and I especially love working in downtown D.C.   DC Coast is the first restaurant opened by Passion Food Hospitality.  We are on 14th and K downtown.  What we serve is 'tri-coastal cuisine' with our chef-owner Jeff Tunks and our executive chef Miles Vaden.  Tri-coastal cuisine means we offer specialties from the Mid-Atlantic region to the Gulf Coast and a little bit of West Coast-style cooking."

Lowe described herself as a people person.  You have to be, she says, to be a success in her line of work.  "I love pleasing customers and doing what I can to make their experience better.  Delivering the best guest experience comes before trying to be the best bartender I can be.  You can't be the best unless you know you are treating the customer properly."

She continued, "The hours can be difficult.  Sometimes you are there really late.  And being a bar manager means you are also there very early.  It's very time consuming anytime you're in charge of a bar or wine program.  So, you can get a little cranky.  It's not always easy to smile, but you have to."

DC Coast has become known for its extensive vodka and gin lists.  "We have one of the largest selections in the city," Lowe proudly stated.  "I personally lean towards the classic cocktails, especially the gin-based ones.  I've branched out into rye and bourbons, but I am certainly more gin-centered."

She especially likes mixing with FEW Spirits.   "Shannon Crisp came by when he first started his company, and he did staff training for us," she recalled.  "Ever since then, we as a staff have been supportive in selling their products.  Behind the bar right now, I have a couple of cocktails with FEW gin as the base.  For example, we do a specialty drink  we call the Potomac Sunrise.  It's been on our menu for years.  It's very simple -- Svedka, St. Germain, Aperol, and fresh grapefruit juice -- but very popular.  It's nice that FEW has three different gins -- their standard issue, which is the higher proof; the American style; and the Barrel-aged.  It's very fun to work with the three separate products."

Looking around the city at her competition, Lowe has noticed that it has become extremely popular to have a cocktail program, in general.  " In the last year or so, I've also noticed our customers have gotten a lot more drink-savvy, which is good for us as bartenders.  We're not just guiding the blind now.  It's because everyone everywhere is doing all of these amazing things with drinks.  They're really educating our consumers."

She credits Scott Clime, DC Coast's wine and beverage director, as one of the major influences in her career thus far.  She also gives credit to herself for her willingness to stay ahead of the curve in terms of drink trends.  "You have to study for success," she said.  "You have to be prepared going into each shift.  Whether you are anticipating a busy or slow night, you just never know.  Being prepared is what makes the night go smooth, keeps you happy, and keeps the guests happy."

And to any young bartenders reading this, does Lowe have any sage advice?  "Just stick with it," she stated.  "It definitely takes experience.  With the competition that's out there today, you just can't go behind the bar and sling Long Islands and pour shots anymore.  You have to put your mind into and read up on it.  There are plenty of good books out there, and there are plenty of people who can come and talk to you who are more than happy to give words of wisdom.  The bar business is actually a very open community, and we're out to help each other.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is ask for help and take it."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "True Romance"

LOOKING FORWARD TO:  "Rolling out our spring cocktails come mid-March!"

HER DOGS: A Boston terrier named Dudley and a Shepherd mix rescue dog named Castro.

SPECIAL INTERESTS: Outdoor activities, everything from hiking to skiing to playing with Dudley and Castro at the park.

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) April 2014 Editions Wed, 19 Mar 2014 14:33:03 -0400
Keith Kerkoff: How Templeton Rye Went Legit http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/keith-kerkoff-how-templeton-rye-went-legit http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/keith-kerkoff-how-templeton-rye-went-legit KK Image 1.jpg - 273.72 KB

In the 1987 movie "The Untouchables," Sean Connery's Irish beat cop famously instructed Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness on the "Chicago way" to get Al Capone and his notorious gang: "They pull a knife, you pull a gun.  He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!"

Well, if it had been Keith Kerkoff in that scene, he would have told the Prohibition-era enforcement agent, "Just offer 'em a bottle of Templeton Rye!"

Prohibition indeed outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in 1920.  That's when the residents of tiny Templeton, Iowa, decided to become outlaws and produce a high-caliber whiskey they dubbed Templeton Rye.  So smooth was the finish, that it became Capone's whiskey of choice and one of the centerpieces of his bootlegging empire.

Although many American whiskeys ceased production after Prohibition ended, Templeton Rye continued to be illegally produced in small quantities for loyal customers.  More than eight decades later, the infamous small batch rye whiskey was finally made available legally for the first time in 2006.

Kerkoff, Assistant Master Distiller at Templeton Rye, was in Maryland in early February.  He had come to chat up representatives at Republic National Distributing Co., conduct a round of staff training at the Capital Grille in Baltimore, and sit down for an interview with this journalist, among other things.

"I really appreciate that the different venues Tom Brinkley [of Infinium Spirits] has taken me to," he stated.  "The people have been very interested in hearing about Templeton Rye. They're especially interested that we were a nationally known product during Prohibition. I'll always give credit to my grandfather, Alphonse Strickland; [famed bootlegger] Joe Irlbeck; and their constituents.  They're the ones who built our name.  They're the ones who worked in the trenches at night, kept the coils on their stills cool, and they had to look over their shoulders much of the time for the revenue agents." 

Legend has it that Alphonse was the only man in Templeton with the strength to carry two 100-lb. sacks a half mile -- the distance assumed safe from revenue agents.  Kerkoff himself is a big man, having played football at Buena Vista College.  He had a short-lived career in the NFL, then got married and became a farmer.  Eventually, entrepreneur Scott Bush contacted his father, Meryl, and expressed interest in making Templeton Rye a legal brand.

"Our first bottle came out of the distillery Oct. 25, 2006," Kerkoff stated.  "We decided to make 1,000 barrels that year and thought, 'There's going to be no shortage of Templeton Rye.' We couldn't have been more wrong! The last couple of years, we've made 7,500 barrels."

He continued, "Currently, we're in 42 states, and we should have all 50 states by the end of the year. But we're still a small craft distillery.  What sets us apart?  The Tax & Trade Bureau says, 'If you're going to be a rye whiskey, you have to be at least 51 percent rye and aged no less than two years in new oak barrels.' Well, we're over 90 percent rye, and we're aged four years in new oak barrels. We feel our flavor profile is going to be premium at no less than four years."

In just a few short years, Templeton Rye has managed to both shed its outlaw image and embrace its notorious past.  The company has formed the cheekily named Templeton Rye Bootleggers Society that loyal customers can join and get all sorts of privileges and promotions.  In addition, its distillery regularly host volunteer bottling nights in which common folks get to join the Templeton team and help the professionals, in Kerkoff's words, "bottle the Good Stuff for a night."

Kerkoff said one of the favorite parts of his job is visiting other markets such as Baltimore and instructing restaurant and bar staffs on the history of Templeton Rye.  "During our staff trainings," he noted, "we inform them that a lot of the whiskey during Prohibition was right out of the still and into the consumer.  With un-aged spirits, you have acetaldehyde and methanol in there that you want to get rid of.  When you age a product in a barrel, you take some of that out.  That's what makes it a premium product.  Being a premium product, that's how Capone's operation in Chicago learned about it."

Among the questions he gets asked the most are: "Do you have any old photos of your grandfather distilling whiskey?" and "Do you have any photos of him doing business with Capone?"  Kerkoff chuckles, " I just answer them, 'Hey, do you see any pictures of drug dealers today doing their transactions?!'  You just didn't do that.  That would have been incriminating!"

HIS ALMA MATER: Buena Vista College (now Buena Vista University), a Division III school in Storm Lake, Iowa.

HIS SPORT: Football (Position--Defensive Tackle)

SIGNED AS A FREE AGENT WITH:  The Dallas Cowboys in 1977

ALSO PLAYED FOR: The Chicago Bears


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) April 2014 Editions Wed, 19 Mar 2014 14:20:33 -0400
Frank Jones: Front and Center at the Gibson http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/frank-jones-front-and-center-at-the-gibson http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/frank-jones-front-and-center-at-the-gibson FrankJones.jpg - 130.62 KB

Frank Jones, bartender extraordinaire at The Gibson in Washington, D.C., is quick to list star mixologist Gina Chersevani among his first mentors in the business.  Chuckling at the memory of her early tutelage, he recalled, "Gina would always tell me that I was messy and slow!  What she was trying to get me to see was, as a bartender, you are constantly on display.  You don't really think of yourself as being part of the atmosphere, per se, but you are.  Unlike a server at a table, you can't leave your post.  You're stuck there, you're in a fish bowl, and they're watching you.  So, in turn, I've learned to be much more neat.  It's very important to always be aware of the fact that you are being watched and to bring some degree of elegance to the job."

Winner of last year's Artini competition at the Corcoran Gallery, Jones has been tending bar in the Washington metro area for a decade now. He started at the Poste Moderne Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco.  From there, he went to Ardeo + Bardeo, the Belga Cafe, and the Jack Rose Dining Saloon.  "Now I am very happy to be at The Gibson," he stated, "where I pretty much manage the cocktail program."

Jones describes The Gibson as a "speakeasy-style cocktail bar," which is located on 14th and U Streets in the District.  He and his staff specialize in pre-Prohibition-style cocktails, as well as craft cocktails.  "My favorite part of the job," he stated, "is coming up with the drinks and then seeing the guests interact with them, seeing them surprised and happy with what has been set in front of them.  Few Spirits are especially great to work with.  I have two favorites.  One is the Few Rye and the other is the Barrel Aged Gin.  I think the gin, in particular, is just amazing."

He continued, "The most challenging part is consistently coming up with something that you haven't seen already.  Once you get the idea, you're good to go.  You can work it out.  I usually just sit at the bar and ask myself, 'What haven't I put in a drink?' And then I'll think about things that might go well with that. Or, I'll look at a liquor that I don't necessarily care all that much for, that I've kind of avoided using, and I'll force myself to use it in some obscure way.  I also get a lot of inspiration from food and things that I like to eat."

One question he doesn't spend much time obsessing on is which ice to use.  Cubed, crushed, shaved, an ice wedge -- he just doesn't care.  "I might catch a lot of Hell for this, but someone once said to me when asked about ice, 'You just better not run out of it!' I, myself, am the same way. The different types of ice are great. They definitely do have their purposes. However, for me, I tend not to get caught up too much in the ice.  At the end of the day, people want a cold drink, and they want it fast."

Jones also doesn't have a lot of time on his hands to go to other bars and taverns and see what they're doing.  But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a few pet peeves.  "What drives me up the wall is shaking martinis," he exclaimed, "or shaking any cocktail that doesn't need to be shaken!  Other than that, I pretty much avoid going to other cocktail bars.  I try and go somewhere I can actually shut my brain off.  I'll go to dive bars where I don't expect anything."

Customers have come to expect a lot from The Gibson, and Jones and his colleagues are always looking for fun promotions to keep them coming back.  On the horizon, for instance, is a first-of-its kind April Fool's Wedding.  "One of my co-workers and I have decided we're going to get married on April 1st," Jones laughed.  " We're actually very good friends.  She has a boyfriend, and he's going to 'give me away.'  It's going to be a relaxed party, very different from what the Gibson is normally like."

Other than that, Jones just wants to continue having fun and keeping a level head.  "Don't ever be too cocky," he concluded.  "Nobody likes a cocky bartender.  Be confident, but understand that there is a line between confidence and cockiness.  And definitely understand that no matter what you know, there is always more to learn.  Every day, somebody is doing something different and something new.  The moment you think that you know it all, you're already behind."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Little Shop of Horrors"

CAN'T MISS TV SHOW: "Scandal"

FAVORITE HOLIDAY: Halloween

PERSON HE WOULD MOST LOVE TO SERVE A DRINK TO (living or dead): Janet Jackson.

SPECIAL INTEREST: "I like to draw and paint.  No particular style.  Whatever strikes me in the moment."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Wed, 26 Feb 2014 11:04:55 -0500
Longtime RNDC Salesman Mitch Laziuck Retires After 42 Years http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/longtime-rndc-salesman-mitch-laziuck-retires-after-42-years http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/longtime-rndc-salesman-mitch-laziuck-retires-after-42-years Mitch.jpg - 219.09 KB

On Friday, Jan. 31, Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC) held a luncheon at its Jessup headquarters in honor of salesman Mitch Laziuck, who has retired from the company after 42 years of service.  The event started at 11:30 a.m. and drew at least 200 RNDC staffers; customers; vendors; Laziuck's wife, Patty; and his daughter, Heather, and her husband.

RNDC Executive Vice President Gary Herd served as the emcee.  "It goes without saying that Mitch has had a tremendous impact on our company throughout the years," he stated, while at the podium.  "When you think about 42 years, that's a lifetime, and he's seen a lifetime of change at this company.  He has seen brands grow, and those are brands we all reap the benefits of today."

In an interview with the Beverage Journal the day before the event,  Laziuck was relaxed, jovial, and full of stories of his four decades in the business.  He recalled working part-time at Western Auto in 1972 when he managed to score an interview at what was then the Kronheim Company.  "My dad didn't think they were going to hire a Polish kid, because back then Kronheim was predominantly Jewish. 'Forget it, Mitch. It ain't gonna happen,' he said.  I ended up interviewing six times, and I finally got it. Forty-three years later, I'm retiring from the only full-time job I've ever had!"

Among those who were on hand to honor Laziuck with speeches of their own was Fran "Pineapple" Schmitz, Business Development Manager at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and former Fine Wine Division Manager for RNDC.  His remembrances of their days together as wheeling and dealing salesmen in the 1980s were among the event's most comical.  "I've spent more time thinking about the stories I could tell as opposed to stories I couldn't tell," Schmitz stated .  "Then, I saw Patty and Heather walk in, and that knocked out 10 stories I thought I could tell right there!"

Two letters were also read during the celebration.  The first was from Tom White, RNDC's regional president for Florida, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  It concluded: "You have been and will remain one of the foundation blocks this company has been built on." The second letter was from RNDC President Tom Cole, who wrote: "It takes a special person to devote so much of his life and his entire career to a single organization.  We recognize that the dedication and loyalty of employees like you are what made RNDC what it is today."

In his remarks to those gathered, Laziuck marveled at how much bigger the business is today than when he started.  Back then, he worked for a company that had just over 40 salesmen.  Today, RNDC's sales staff, by his estimation, numbers more than 225.  And Laziuck has served as a mentor to so many of them.

"If you are coming into the business today," he remarked, "you have to make a statement. You are your own person, and you have to convince clients, 'I'm different. I can help you with your business.'  You don't want to be the guy who walks into a store and asks, 'Do you need anything this week?'  'No, not really.'  And then you walk back out the door.  That was never me."

Herd wrapped up the festivities by singling out Laziuck's willingness to help his colleagues over the years.  Herd described him as the model employee, stating, " He always showed up every day with a smile on his face and a good attitude.  He never complained, even when the customers were being difficult or trucks were getting out late. He was always prepared for a sales meeting, more prepared than most of us in this room today.  He always had his sales plan ready.  He always put RNDC first.  He was selfless in the way he treated our company.  He always worked a full day and, most days, more than a full day.  That's what Mitch was all about, and that's hopefully what we learned from Mitch over the years"

So, what do the years to come have in store for Laziuck and his lovely wife? In the near future, a Mediterranean cruise is their next great adventure. After that?  Laziuck let out a hearty laugh and exclaimed, "I'm gonna sell peanuts on the beach in the Bahamas!"


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 10:04:30 -0500
Joe Bozick: Bringing Up the Beer http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/joe-bozick-bringing-up-the-beer http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/joe-bozick-bringing-up-the-beer Joe.jpg - 267.94 KB

Joe Bozick owes pretty much everything he has to the beverage industry.  He currently serves as Vice President of Bozick Distributors, the Waldorf-based beer distributor his father, Peter, founded in 1959.  The job has brought him closer to his brother, Brian, who serves as company President.  Joe even met his wife, Cheryl, through the industry as she was a longtime employee of Boston Beer.  They've now been married for 21 years.

Bozick Distributors serves the Southern Maryland area of Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's, and Calvert counties.  Among the major suppliers and brewers the company represents are MillerCoors, Heineken USA, Brown Imports, Boston Beer, and Pabst.  "I love working with everyone here," Bozick declared during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "When Brian and I were growing up, everything was a lot more challenging in the sense that it was a struggle through the '80s and '90s.  We were in survival mode.  Back then, I really didn't have time to enjoy the people, because every day was a grind.  But now, everything runs smoothly and everybody does their job."

He continued, "The most difficult thing nowadays is the consumer is expecting such a variety, and matching that want with what we have and what we can get has been a challenge.  It's been a challenge for the supply channel all the way through.  There's been a lot more 'industry out-of-stocks' due to the variety and complexity of what the consumer is expecting now."

When things get really tough, the Bozicks thank their lucky stars they operate in the Old Line State.  "In my viewpoint as a beer distributor," Bozick states, "we are very lucky here in Maryland that we service independent retailers.  We're not a chain market dictated by major chains that drive business on a level that isn't as localized as we have it.  We have a one-on-one relationship with every retailer.  It makes a big difference.  We can create relationships here, and those relationships can benefit us and benefit the retailer.  By comparison, in chain markets, it driven by one central office and there is a mass execution through the market.  You live or die by those decisions.  In Maryland, we have a lot more ability to influence our own future here."

And when working with his brother to chart the company's future course, the two siblings often recall advice their father gave them over the years.  "My father  was very big on 'adaptability.'  He recognized how important it was to adapt to change, and that's more key now with all of the varieties of beer and sizes and flavors.  It's more true now than it ever has been."

Bozick even admits that there's a part of him that wishes he was just starting out in the business today.  That's because, from his vantage point, there are so many more avenues of potential success to choose from.  " These are very exciting times for anyone who wants to get into the beer business," he stated.  " I would say to anyone new in the beer business today to stick with it.  I wouldn't be scared of the future at all.  Right now, there seems to be tremendous opportunity in the beer industry on all levels -- distributor, supplier, even retailer -- because there is so much variety and so much more education about beer.  There are so many more interesting aspects of the business that have developed and are developing now as opposed to 10, 20, or even 30 years ago.  In some sense, it's extremely exciting, and the opportunities are limitless.  With craft brews, you don't know how far this is going to go.  So, why wouldn't you want to get in it?"

He further observes that 2013 was marked by the successful debut of new products in the market.  Bozick Distributors, for instance, scored with the introduction of Redd's Apple Ale out of MillerCoors.  "We anticipated it would be a big success because of the product itself and its taste profile.  We executed exactly according to plan, and we hit the target numbers.  . . . We are currently introducing a new West Coast-style IPA product from Samuel Adams.  With it being West Coast, it's a little 'hoppier.'  We just started this past week [this interview was conducted in late January, and it's been well received.  But it's still too early to tell."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Goodfellas"

HIS TEAM: The Washington Redskins

GO-TO RESTAURANT: Sobo's Wine Beerstro in Salisbury, Md.

WHERE HIS RADIO DIAL IS TUNED TO: Sirius XMU (indie rock)

BEST COCKTAIL: Mojito


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 09:57:41 -0500
Dorothy Bakker Bubbles With Optimism Over Krug's Future http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/dorothy-bakker-bubbles-with-optimism-over-krug-s-future http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/dorothy-bakker-bubbles-with-optimism-over-krug-s-future DorothyBakker1.jpg - 137.37 KB

In January, Krug National Brand Director Dorothy Bakker visited Baltimore in advance of the much-anticipated release of the Champagne house's new vintage.  But Bakker was in town to do more than just pour bubbly and hobnob with the local beverage elite.  Charm City was her latest stop on a tour she has undertaken to spread the word that champagne should be regarded as so much more than just a special-occasion drink one has on New Year's Eve or after a best man's toast.

"Champagne is actually a great and incredibly personable wine," she declared, during a special luncheon at the Capital Grille's Inner Harbor location.  "It's no longer just something with bubbles for weddings or for toasting someone's retirement.  At Krug, we want champagne to be more than just a compulsory thing.  I think you can have it every day whether it's with a good burger and French fries or with a richer pairing like Parmesan Reggiano."

And, indeed, as she poured Krug's newly released 2000 vintage and then the Krug Grand Cuvee, she demonstrated how the flavors of each indeed danced off the various menu items those assembled had ordered -- everything from the restaurant's signature mini-tenderloin sandwiches to its Maine Lobster Pot Pie.

"Our champagne is the expression of a year, a story told by Krug," she stated.  "We produce a vintage only when there is an interesting story, when there is something unique in that year that we'd like to capture.  Right now, we're having the Vintage 2000, which is an expression of the year 2000.  The harvest of that year was very stormy.  In July, there were hailstorms and there was some damage in the vineyards.  However, because of Krug's plot-by-plot selection process, we were able to go parcel by parcel.  We would never just take fields of grapes and crush them all together."

She continued, "Our other champagne we're having today is the Krug Grand Cuvee, a non-vintage champagne. It's a blend of many different years."  In fact, according to the press materials, Krug's Grand Cuvee is a blend of some 120 reserve wines from 10 different vintages, some of which may reach up to 15 years of age.  To create its Cuvees and preserve the brand's style year after year, Krug meticulously chooses some 250 plots of vines out of the approximately 270,000 listed in France's Champagne region.

"With Krug," Bakker noted, "you have fullness and finesse.  There is a great backbone of acidity, and the exceptional amount of aging really opens up the champagne quite nicely.  The House was founded in 1843, and there have been six generations of the Krug family.  So, there is a direct lineage.  The fifth and sixth generation are alive today.  The fifth generation is Remy Krug, and the sixth generation is Olivier Krug."

But even with such a long and rich history, the House of Krug has made strides in bringing its brand into the 21st century.  Since the summer of 2011, for instance, all bottles of Krug Champagne feature a KRUG ID located on the label.  The six-digit number serves as a reference for wine collectors and a portal to further information about that particular bottle.

In addition to pushing the notion that champagne can be an every-occasion, even every-day drink, Bakker also stressed the importance of consumers moving beyond the traditional tall, thin flutes as the glass of choice for champagne and instead pour the beverage into bigger and more all-purpose glasses that will take the consumer through an entire meal.

"Champagne should be in a glass big enough that it allows you to roll it around in order to swirl the aromas," she declared.  "You want to be able to get your nose in the glass, which you can't do with most flutes where your nose is hanging over.  You can't quite engage it.  Inside the glass is where all of the wonderful interaction happens.  You pick up on a lot of properties with your nose and less properties on the palette.  So, it's very important to get that nose in the glass to be able to taste right.  Champagne is a very visual drink with the bubbles. You want to be able to enjoy them.  I think, as time goes on, the American wine culture will continue to evolve.  So, if you say this glass is going to provide you with a better tasting experience, most people will be all for it!"


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 09:53:42 -0500
Maurizio Farro: Bringing Italian Wines Close to Home http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/maurizio-farro-bringing-italian-wines-close-to-home http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/maurizio-farro-bringing-italian-wines-close-to-home

Maurizio Farro, founder of Cantiniere Imports & Distributing Inc., is a true American success story.  He even talks like a proud American, albeit with a way-cool Italian accent. He doesn't refer to the year he came to the United States as "2002."  He describes it as "the year after the Towers fell."  He didn't let the language barrier stop him from prospering.  He went to community college in Towson to improve his English ("I realized I had to not only learn the language, but be able to hear the people").  And when asked what his secret is for becoming his own boss, he answers: "If you come here to this country, you must come to work hard.  Otherwise, there is no reason to be here."

Farro indeed came to America in 2002.  "I come from a winemaker family in Naples," he said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "My family has been making wine for decades.  Both of my grandfathers made wine, my father made wine, and so did my uncle.  There was always wine on the table.  . . . My father eventually didn't want to do the job anymore, and my brothers and I didn't follow in his footsteps.  It was my cousin, who was working for my father's brother, who kept the family business.  Today, I purchase his wine." 

But running Cantiniere wasn't always the plan.  With a slight chuckle, Farro recalled, "The idea was to come to the U.S., make some money, and go back to Naples and open my own restaurant.  But I met my wife, got married, and we had three children.  So, the story changed."

He continued, "I became fed up with working at restaurants.  I said, 'I have to do something else, because I am going crazy.'  One of the things I always knew was wine.  I really wanted to work at a distributor or importer.  I was lucky to find Vinifera Imports, one of the biggest importers of Italian wine in the United States.  I learned the business and met a lot of great producers.  After five years, it was time for me to leave and start my own thing."  

That "thing" became Cantiniere Imports & Distributing, which he founded in Columbia, Md., two years ago.  The name comes from the person who works in the cellar with the enologist making wine.  "The winemaker gives the orders," Farro stated, "and the cantiniere follows all of the steps and makes sure that everything goes right.  In the end, he's really the winemaker."

Farro recalls a time when he was a little boy and he and his brothers helped their father deliver the family wines to people in and around Naples.  Customers used to call them "cantinieri," plural for cantiniere.  So the name of his company is not only a description of the business, but is a way to honor his family's legacy.

The main goal of the firm is to work with the best Italian wine producers from each region of Italy and bring their products to America.  Cantiere currently distributes throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.  " My portfolio includes one producer from Sicily, one from Abruzzo, and so forth and multiple producers from the more famous regions of Tuscany and Piedmont.  Italian wines are still not on the mind of everybody.  Because I am Italian and I love my home country, I can talk about the product, the region, the producer, and so forth."

Of course, there have been many challenges in his first two years of operation.  "I see challenge everywhere," he remarked.  "But my joy is to go out with the wine, taste the wine with people, and sell them.  That's what I love to do.  I want to meet my customers, drink wine with them, and make the sale.  It's the best thing ever!  But then as the owner, I have to come back here and deal with a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork. That's the challenge."

Mostly, he credits his wife for being a calming influence and helping him to stay focused.  He met the woman while working in a restaurant.  Today, she is a teacher who speaks fluent Italian.  He concluded, "People like me who come from Southern Italy, we have a lot of temper.  But you can't be like that if you want to be a success here.  You have to change.  She has taught me to be -- what is the word -- diplomatic!"

ANY SIBLINGS?: Three brothers and
five sisters

ANY CHILDREN OF HIS OWN?:
Twin boys, age 4, and a 7-year-old daughter

WHERE HE LIVES:
The Oakland Mills community of Columbia

HOBBIES AND SPECIAL INTERESTS
Spending time with his family at home

FAVORITE MARYLAND
RESTAURANT
: Cinghiale in Baltimore co-owned by Tony Foreman.  "It's where my wife and I go for real Italian food."

PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT:
While serving as wine director for Facci Ristorante in Laurel, he was featured in an issue of Wine Spectator for putting together one of the world's most outstanding wine lists.


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) February 2014 Editions Tue, 21 Jan 2014 09:47:28 -0500
Reliable Churchill Teams with Maryland Shock Trauma on New PSA http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/reliable-churchill-teams-with-maryland-shock-trauma-on-new-psa http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/reliable-churchill-teams-with-maryland-shock-trauma-on-new-psa

In every profession, there are some projects you work on that are just more "important" than others; projects that become less of a work task, and more a responsibility.  Into my lap a couple of weeks back fell a story about Reliable Churchill funding a new PSA (public service announcement) video for the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Commonly known as "Maryland Shock Trauma," it's the place on the news where you hear people taken to or flown to when they have been in very bad accidents.  It's also the place where you as a parent do NOT want to get a call from in the middle of the night or anytime of the day or evening.

The executives and employees of Reliable Churchill know that.  In fact, management had been looking to do something along the lines of a video that was dramatic and immediate and real for some time.  The result is "Someone Like You," a 12-minute presentation that the company and Shock Trauma are hoping gets seen at every high school and in every Driver's Education class in the state.

"This goes beyond corporate social responsibility," said Reliable Churchill Chairman James "Jimmy" Smith, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We're parents here at Reliable Churchill.  This was something we felt very strongly about…not only did [Reliable Churchill] finance the project but every meeting with the DMV or at a school system, myself or someone else from Reliable Churchill was in attendance. Our company wants to see this project succeed."

The project leader on this was Tara Reed Carlson, Business Development Manager at Shock Trauma Center.  "It was really nice partnering with someone in your industry," she said. "Reliable Churchill gave us an unrestricted educational grant, which we used to produce this piece.  We need such partners in the community to get these things accomplished and to get this message out."

"Someone Like You" is a simple, yet powerful piece that is far removed from the easily parodied "Blood on the Highway" videos many Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers grew up with.  Shot in High Definition, there is some brief footage of real accident scenes and a few fleeting, yet graphic snippets of bloody injuries being tended to in the operating room.  Most effective, though, are the real people who appear on camera who have been directly impacted by alcohol-related automobile accidents.  One young man has lost mobility in his arm and on one side of his body as a result of a drunk driving crash that claimed the life of his friend.  Two parents who were vacationing at the time their once-athletic son got behind the wheel after having some drinks are also featured.  The son is now impaired as a result of his injuries.

Smith remarked, "One of the things that young man said in the video was, 'It's not that I decided to go out and drink and drive.'  He went out to have a good time with his friends.  But then he had to get home." 

Carlson added, "That really sums it all up.  He didn't have a plan of how to get home, and that's part of the message of 'Someone Like You.'  . . .  I do think we've made some progress in impaired driving.  I think many more people know to not drive home, to get a designated driver.  We also have a lot more options like Tipsy Taxi.  But more has to be done.  We really try to do primary prevention outreach to kids before they make a bad decision to either drink or do drugs and get behind the wheel."

The stories in the video are punctuated by the somber, grim on-camera narration of Dr. Mayer Narayan, Medical Director for Shock Trauma's Center for Injury Prevention and Policy.  "The absolute hardest part of my job," he stated, "is telling mothers and fathers that despite all of our best efforts, we were not able to save their son or their daughter.  This is why we made this video.  This is why I am part of it."

It now falls on Carlson and her staff to get the video seen.  She has already met with decision-makers at Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration and shown them the video.  "They are looking at their curriculum for the impaired driving component of their Driver's Educations classes.  They're not going to let me know until, I think, February.  But they were impressed with what I showed them."

She continued, "As far as getting the video into schools, we have been reaching out through a lot of different avenues.  I met with the superintendents of the schools and showed them the video, so I could let them know what we are trying to do to get this message to students before something tragic happens.  Certainly, there is prom season and graduations and everything that happens in the spring.  It's not a standalone piece either, and we don't feel it's a standalone piece.  We have it as part of our prevention and education programs for the schools.  We actually have a 45-minute program for the high schools.  A trauma nurse, who research shows is a very reliable source of prevention education, will come to talk to them about choices and decision-making and show the video.  Another component of that is to bring a survivor to share their inspirational, personal story about being involved in an alcohol-related accident either themselves or being hit by someone impaired.  They share that story as a teen/young adult to other teens, which I think is a really powerful piece of it, too."

Narayan concluded, "I think the  title is key, too.  'Someone Like You.'  We wanted to show teens that these kids in the video were once just like them.  They thought they were invincible."

If anyone reading this wants their church, school, or community group to schedule a viewing of the video, please e-mail prevention@umm.edu.

Pictured below are: Reliable Churchill Chairman James "Jimmy" Smith (r); Dr. Mayur Narayan, Medical Director for Shock Trauma's Center for Injury Prevention and Policy; and Tara Reed Carlson, Business Development Manager at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) February 2014 Editions Tue, 21 Jan 2014 09:32:32 -0500
A BEVERAGE BIZ Look Ahead at the 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/a-beverage-biz-look-ahead-at-the-2014-legislative-session http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/a-beverage-biz-look-ahead-at-the-2014-legislative-session

The next General Assembly Session is scheduled to re-convene in January, marking the last year of the current four-year election cycle in Maryland.  That means all 188 legislative seats in the General Assembly -- along with the Offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General -- are up for election.  In addition, for the first time in the state's history, the primary election will be held in June just 60 days after the Session's conclusion.

For beverage industry interests, this politically charged time represents an opportunity to become even more actively engaged than they have in the past.  The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), in particular, has no plans to sit idly by.  MSLBA President David Marberger comments, "It's not really politics.  You're just talking facts.  You're saying, 'These are things that I experience.  These are things I face.  These are challenges that we have to overcome.'  And these are challenges that your local politician may not be aware of.  At some point in time, there has to be a give and take.  If you want your politicians to listen to you, you have to listen to him."

He continued, "It's no different than building a relationship with a different wholesaler or supplier.  When you meet them for the first time, it's the beginning of a relationship.  It's a give and take, a listening, an understanding, a take-some/give-some. Legislators are people just like you and I.  They put their pants on just like you and I, and they have a job to do.  Their job is to build a consensus for their constituents.  If you're not part of that conversation because you think it's dirty, nasty, ugly politics, then you will be left out and you'll be wishing that you hadn't been in the long run."

Chain store legislation is expected to be among the top concerns.  The previous Session of the General Assembly indeed saw the introduction of legislation that would allow grocery, big-box, and convenience stores to obtain off-premise beer and wine licenses.  Fortunately, the legislation's proponents filed the bill too late in the Session for it to have any real chance of advancing.  

MSLBA's leadership is preaching vigilance where this issue is concerned, having assembled economic and other data that refutes the contentions of the supporters.  In short, the association is ready to go with the facts!  MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani remarks, "I certainly think chain store [legislation] will be our most dominant issue.  The scary thing is it's not grocery-store specific.  It's basically take the prohibition away so that any chains can sell beer and wine  whether it be drug stores, convenience stores, and so forth." 

Other issues are also pressing.  This past summer, for instance, Maryland's highest court declined by a scant 4-3 margin to adopt so-called "dram shop" liability.  If adopted, this legal doctrine would have permitted vendors of alcohol to be sued by individuals who have suffered injury at the hands of a patron of that vendor.  Consequently, the owner of a tavern where a customer unwisely opts to drink and then drive hits another vehicle could be sued by the occupants of the other vehicle.

Lawyer and MSLBA lobbyist Steve Wise comments, "That was a decision that preserved the current law, which is that Maryland does not recognize dram shop liability.  We think that is the right position for the law to be in, but there may well be legislation in 2014 to change that."

Marberger, proprietor of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis, urges, "If you are a bar owner or restaurant owner, you need to be part of that conversation.  Insurance premiums for the industry would just skyrocket.  It would change a whole lot of what people do in this state."

Wise, an attorney with the law firm of Schwartz, Metz, and Wise in Annapolis, also is concerned with the impact legislation has had on the economics of the business.  Like many others close to the process, he is still smarting from the recent increase in the state's alcohol tax.  "Ever since the tax was increased," he noted, "one of the side effects has been that whenever a customer purchases alcohol with a debit or credit card, their transaction fees are based on the total sale ... which, of course, includes the higher sales tax.  So, their transaction fees -- particularly among the larger packaged stores -- have gone up considerably.  There was no offset for that when the alcohol tax was raised.  So, we're trying to come up with a way to address that.  We have to be conscious of the fiscal impact of that.  The state has a continuing structural deficit.  We are working against that, but we're still going to try and address that for our members."

MSLBA officials also anticipate that efforts will be made in the 2014 Session to mandate that bars, eateries, and taverns recycle such products as aluminum cans and glass bottles.  Many of the association's members already recycle.  In fact, the MSLBA encourages the practice because it is both environmentally sound and ultimately economical.  However, a blanket requirement that all establishments recycle presumes that options for recycling are available to them.  This is not reality.

Wise comments, "What we're trying to do is show the industry that, through some better education of our members and working with the waste industry, that we can do as much or more to increase recycling on our own without a mandate or additional government regulation.  This is an issue that really does not fit well with a uniform statewide approach, because the economics of recycling for the waste haulers vary considerably depending on the jurisdiction.  One size doesn't fit all for every different retailer.  It depends on how big you are and how much space you have.  But we have found that our members may not be aware of the options that are out there, so we've had the waste industry come in and speak to our association.  We're working on a flyer that would be distributed out to every retailer in the state urging them to contact their waste hauler about the options."

Milani adds, "There is a lot of single-stream recycling that is available with the trash haulers now in the larger metropolitan areas.  But I think when you get to some of the more rural-type areas, it becomes a little cost-prohibitive.  Now is the time to educate, not mandate."

Whatever the issue, all three men stressed the importance of owners and operators getting involved in the process and letting their voices be heard.  Milani, who has co-owned Monaghan's Pub in Woodlawn since 1990, remarks, " When we get new people in, we try and first explain to them how things work.  We have a Lobby Day where we bring our membership in and they get to meet with their own delegates and senators to go over the issues that are important to them.  For some folks, it's intimidating the first time.  But once they realize that their elected officials really do want to hear their concerns, a lot of that intimidation goes away pretty quickly.  Even if it's an issue they don't agree on, most legislators do value conversations with people who are in their districts.  Some members have even noted that now the legislators are actually asking them questions about bills that may affect the industry."

Wise agreed.  "One of the great strengths of the industry is they're in every community," he added.  "Pretty much every member of the Legislature know the operator of a packaged goods store, a bar, restaurant, or tavern in their district.  That personal connection that either exists or could be developed through that network has always been the strength of the association.  But our members have to actively establish that relationship if they don't have it to keep that strength present in the years ahead."

Marberger, whose father-in-law Chuck Ferrar is a past MSLBA president, concluded, "I would love to see interest from our industry grow.  These are people who have invested their time, money, energy, and futures into the businesses that they own.  If they would invest just a little extra time and thought -- not even money -- to the legislative process, it would have dramatic positive effects on our industry."


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2014 Editions Wed, 18 Dec 2013 12:39:17 -0500
Bill Burrill Maintains His Prestige at Republic National http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/bill-burrill-maintains-his-prestige-at-republic-national http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/bill-burrill-maintains-his-prestige-at-republic-national "It is a industry that is endlessly exciting because it is ever-changing and no two days are the same.  I've been in this business 37 years, and I bet I am going to learn something new today about the business that I didn't know yesterday!"

The industry Bill Burrill is speaking of is, of course, our beloved beverage biz.  And Burrill indeed speaks from nearly four decades of experience.  He started right out of college in June 1977.  Early on, this University of Baltimore graduate worked for Carlton Importing.  "When I was there," he recalled, "it was owned by McKesson.  Back then, McKesson was the largest wine and spirits distributor in the country and they also owned suppliers. So, I got some experience on the supplier side.  But after two years, I came back to the wholesaler side and have been in it ever since.  I've represented pretty much every major supplier, every major winery, and every major importer as well as many smaller ones.  I've worked in mostly Maryland, but also in South Carolina, Boston, and upstate New York. I've always been transferred back here. I'm like that bad penny. I keep turning back up!"

Today, he is manager of Republic National Distributing Co.'s Chesapeake Division, which encompasses off-premise accounts throughout the entire state of Maryland.  In that post, he represents such major suppliers as Pernod Ricard, Heineken, and Bombay Imports, among others.  He was brought aboard RNDC earlier this year after selling his interest in the Prestige Beverage Group.

"The three years at Prestige with my partner Joey Smith were just incredible," Burrill remarked. "They were a lot of fun and very challenging.  We got Prestige to the point where it was becoming very successful, and I was looking for a new challenge.  So, I just moved down Route 1 a little bit.  Instead of being competitors, it's exciting to now be working with Republic National."

Burrill continued, "What drives me is that I just love developing brands.  I've had the pleasure of starting brands from scratch, and I've also been involved in developing mature brands.  That challenge is what wakes me up in the morning.  I've also been so blessed that, in Maryland, we have the best group of retailers and restaurateurs anywhere.  They're outstanding, and I have developed some very good friendships from Cecil County to Southern Maryland to Ocean City."

And in his 37 years in the industry, he has seen some incredible changes.  "When I started in the wine business," he stated, with a slight chuckle, "it was all jug wines, Chablis, Burgundy.  I can still remember representing Gallo as a distributor, and I remember the Gallo people coming in and saying, 'One day, varietal wines are going to sell.'  Today, it's all varietal wines and the jugs are, for the most part, gone!  For the wine business, it has been the change in the consumer that has been the most dramatic."

Some of the biggest changes have happened in Maryland itself.  "Back in the 1970s, you filed pricing with the state," he recalled.  "You couldn't change a price during the month.  Prices were set three weeks to a month prior, they were written in stone, and everything was case wine.  Today, there is no price filing.  You can change a price whenever you want to change a price.  You also have quantity discounts, which have dramatically changed the way business is done in the past five years throughout the marketplace."

From a geographic standpoint, he added, "When you are dealing with an Ocean City, you're dealing with a market that is very seasonal.  So, that has its challenges.  When you're dealing with Cecil County, you're dealing with competition from out of state.  Cecil County will take a look at the pricing that is in Pennsylvania and Delaware, because that's their competition.  They don't care what is going on in Baltimore.  Then, when you deal with Prince George's County and some of Southern Maryland, their competition is Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.  It's very different from market to market."

Looking ahead, Burrill says he is particularly excited about consumer preferences veering more towards flavored whiskeys.  He just marvels at all of the selections now available, from maple-flavored whiskey to honey-flavored whiskey.  "It's going to be exciting to see where that [niche] goes and develops in 2014," he said.  "It is THE new innovation brand in the business."

FAVORITE MOVIES: The "Rocky" series

CAN'T MISS TV SHOWS:
"60 Minutes" and "Two and a Half Men"

WHAT HE IS READING:
"Do the Right Thing" by Mike Huckabee

BEST BEER
"I'm a long-time Heineken drinker."

GO-TO MIXED DRINK: Jameson and soda

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO BUY A DRINK FOR (living or dead):
Ronald Reagan 

SIDE INTERESTS: "I've been involved in the martial arts my entire adult life.  I am a second-degree black belt in Kembo karate and am part of the American Self Defense Association."

 


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teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2014 Editions Wed, 18 Dec 2013 12:31:53 -0500