Gift Listed

by Francine Cohen

Forget the fact that if we gave thanks for something, anything, every single day of the year our lives would be more peaceful. The reality is that the holiday season is when we hone our focus on giving and receiving and making our world merrier.

Nothing wrong with that. It's our rhythm. So go on, be jolly! Give thanks for what you have and appreciate what you get. Did your list include the new Apple Cider Bitters from Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters? Mustache wax? A discount card for your favorite tattoo artist? A new vest or swizzle stick, bar kit or Japanese mixing glass? Or were you making your list and checking it twice trying to figure out which customers and colleagues were naughty or nice?

Apparently a lot of customers were naughty this year; otherwise there wouldn't have been the need for the proliferation of "do's and don'ts" articles schooling guests in the fine art of being a welcome bar patron.

But how about being a better bartender towards those guests, your co-workers and your suppliers? How easy is it? What would be the perfect gift you could give to them? Basically, the gift of generosity; generosity of respect, generously giving your time, and appreciation of the Golden Rule (that do unto others as you'd have them do unto you thing for any of you who missed that lesson).

Here are some holiday wish lists and thoughts from a number of folks behind the brands you love to pour. Take a minute and see what they are thankful for and what it takes to make their season (and all of 2012) seem bright.

Brian Ellison - Death's Door Spirits
My expression of joy towards bartenders would be when they send us a picture and cocktail recipe using our spirits. We are always thrilled when someone is using our spirits as part of their inspiration and we like sharing that with others through our media channels.

John Eason - DonQ
The very best present bartenders could give our brands is a chance. Try them! Taste them! Meet our people. We don't have all the dollars that the multi national conglomerates have. We are small and independently owned by a wonderful family in Puerto Rico. Supporting small distilleries is great for the industry and keeps everyone on a level playing field. I'll put our brands (Don Q, BlackBeard Spice, and Deaths Door Spirits) against anything, anytime, anywhere.

I think it's been a big year for bartenders and Santa thinks that they have been especially good this year! With that said I believe he would be giving them two things.

  1. More Exposure! The cocktail movement continues to cross over and become more mainstream! This is critical if it is to thrive and survive. It can't stay a little niche thing in a few bars in major cities. The best barometer for success is that many national on-premise chains are working to improve their cocktail programs. We are still a long way off from having a "Last Word" at Chili’s but the evidence is in the new menu programs at dining establishments all over the country.

  2. Sense of humor! This is supposed to be fun, although it's not always. A great sense of humor is one of the things that gets you through the day. It disarms people and puts them at ease. It does not matter if it's a supplier representative that wants you to carry something you don't want, a distributor salesman trying to get you to buy something you don't need, or an unruly customer complaining about service, the ability to make others smile is a powerful trait. Take your business seriously, yourself.... Not so much.

Stephen MyersIlegal Mezcal
This time of year really is one of insanity for bartenders with all the holiday parties going on. It is really nice to see the effort that they make to attend brand events in their even more limited than normal free time. For after all, their support is what helps us get our brands out to the public, and as a brand owner it is nice to be able to give a little something back to say 'thank you' for all your hard work and efforts throughout the year.

Lizzie Asher - Macchu Pisco
In terms of great surprises that bartenders can give you - we just happened to have received a wonderful holiday gift - it's from Zach Patterson, the grand winner of our Centennial Macchu Pisco Sour Competition. Mel and I were so touched that Zach has created a new cocktail with our product, that specifically mentions our brand, and that he chose this creation to be featured in an article.

As you know, we are a small brand without a press machine behind us. Any press exposure we are able to get is not due to a PR maven but rather to the warm reception we have received in the industry & bartenders who share their excitement about our product with the press when asked -- or even better, even offer their opinion when not even prompted.

Melanie Asher Macchu Pisco 
A great holiday present to us has also been given to us by our friends at PX who have personalized a La Diablada pisco ginger cocktail named "Por mi Amore para Navidad." Similarly Hotsy Totsy has just placed a Macchu Pisco cocktail with chicha morada on Hotsy Totsy's list for the holidays. Both are establishments with whom we fostered close relationships and it is always lovely receiving these lovely surprises at year's end after a long year long working together.

Another great end of year gift is as simple as a Facebook shout out! When the bartenders came back from Peru, Naomi Levi from Eastern Standard and Wendi Hodges from the Palazzo in Vegas posted pictures of themselves drinking from a silver straw set into a bottle of Macchu Pisco from their trip to Peru. They have held up these photos up until now which is for me a nice way of showing their appreciation of the trip they took to visit our distillery.

Gable ErenzoTuthilltown 
To be honest, the relationship a brand builds with the bartending community, the Gatekeepers, is key to the success or failure of any new brand. For Hudson, the relationships we have forged, and the brand acceptance we have gained within the national bartending community is likely the largest factor in the rapid growth and success of the brand. Even though many of our friends in the cocktailing industry do not use Hudson as a de facto spirit in cocktails, they still have embraced the brand and hand sell it whenever possible, similar to how they do with super premium scotches, cognacs and brandies.

We don’t expect to be a cocktail oriented spirit in most bars, but there are still many bartenders who have begun mixing with it for the premium cocktail menu. I think one new addition to many bars that makes sense and helps the smaller and super premium brands is the premium cocktail list. Giving people the option to spend $10 on a standard house cocktail, or $25 for a hand crafted and experiential cocktail using ultra-premium spirits seems to me like a no brainer. I recently visited BARCHEF in Toronto where cocktails ranged from $10- $50. (The $50 cocktail being smoked with in-house charred wood and served in an antique smoking chamber. ) You likely don’t sell one of these every night, but they sold two while we were sitting there. The money is out there, and there are people willing to spend it. I like that bartenders and bar managers are starting realize that and are catering to all ends of the spectrum. 

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season, and a prosperous new year.

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