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Posted by on in March 2017 Editions

Brown goods are where the green is—
all the more reason to put more care into organizing your whiskies

By Robert Haynes-Peterson

In Emmett, ID—a former mill town with a population of 6,500—Main Street Beverage is also a bait & tackle shop. The Roundup Bar down the street serves strong pulls of vodka or Fireball to actual cowboys, and a vested craft bartender is nowhere in sight. Yet at the liquor store, where once only Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey were offered, you’ll now find labels like Whistlepig, Bulleit and more. It’s not a big selection, but it’s evidence that today’s growing whiskey market reaches deep and across many lines. How you sell that whiskey is increasingly important.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, in 2016, overall whiskey sales were up 4.1% over the previous year, with especially strong revenue growth in super-premium Irish and Scotch whisky. Meanwhile, the number of micro/craft American distilleries has increased from 92 in 2010 to 750 in 2015. In many metrics, whiskey is outpacing vodka and tequila. All of this is a roundabout way to say, your “Whiskey Wall” has almost certainly grown significantly over the past few years, exposing the need to organize distinct product types carefully under one whiskey umbrella. Managing it to best effect, and for the best possible sales has never been more important.

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Posted by on in March 2017 Editions

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Ken and Matt Praay could've kept with their normal day jobs.
Instead they decided to give back to their city by becoming brothers in beer
as co-owners of Monument City Brewing Company.

The brothers Praay decided -- not so accidentally -- to begin brewing commercially after a series of fortunate events. Ken explained, "I started brewing at home in about 2006, long before [Matt] could even start drinking beer. It started out on the stove and he would get involved when he was home, and in about 2012 we started writing a business plan." 

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It is an unfortunate reality that bartenders loathe cleaning the bar. With few exceptions they would prefer to take their tips and go home. On the other hand, allowing guests to sit at a filthy bar with their elbows stuck to the bar top is bad for business.

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Patrons will naturally presume that if the front of the house is unsanitary, the same is true for the back of the house, including the kitchen.

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Posted by on in March 2017 Editions

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Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits & Bistro in Beltsville

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Posted by on in March 2017 Editions

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Some marketing professionals will tell you that Email Marketing is dead. Open rates for Email Marketing campaigns have dropped significantly in the last two years. A large reason for this is the launch of the many text programs that have been released.

My opinion of email marketing is varied. I believe if you utilize this tool correctly it will pay dividends to your business … even when the time comes for your succession plan or exit strategy.

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Posted by on in March 2017 Editions

What's Behind The Irish Surge?

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These are the best of times for Irish whiskey, which represented 1.4% of the spirits overall U.S. spirits market in 2015. May not sound like much, but 10 years earlier that figure was 0.4%.  Of course, the Irish boom has been famously brand-driven, with Jameson not merely in the driver's seat, but essentially helping fill up the whole car, having deftly in recent years expanded the brand’s Expressions to include reserve bottling and special finishes, most notably Jameson Select Reserve and Caskmates; and Jameson Black Barrel made a splash with its launch in 2016.

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Posted by on in February 2017 Editions

TO STAND OUT FROM THE PACK, RESTAURANTS ARE SHAPING THEIR WINE LISTS IN PROVOCATIVE WAYS

BY JIM CLARKE

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Champagne is a portrait in irony. Inarguably an icon of luxury, the liquid itself is more like a silk purse made from a sow’s ear; the now-famous method of nurturing a secondary fermentation in the bottle effectively compensates for the inability of grapes to ripen consistently in the (extremely) cool region. And while the grapes are farmed by thousands of small growers, production remains dominated by a relatively small number of Champagne houses. Champagne has not made headlines since the turn of the century, when fears of a Y2K shortage loomed (and proved unfounded). The price tag led Champagne to lose market share as the Recession played out; but while it has slipped from its 11.4% share of the sparkling wine market in 2005, it has held steady at 8% since 2010, according to IWSR, and posted a 3.5% growth in sales from 2014 to 2015. 

  Click Here to check out the entire article as it appeared in The Journal. 

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At the 2016 Army/Navy football game, event reporter Doug Mace caught up with Seth Jordan, founder of Dog Tag Brewing LLC, to ask about the impact of this heroic brew.

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The effects of September 11, 2001 spread far across the globe and to every American. In Los Angeles and particularly in New York, and everywhere in between, the country mourned the loss of thousands of innocent American lives. In the aftermath many people's lives were changed forever.

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Dan Colasurdo wears many hats and in his experiences has worn some that you would never guess. From service staff, to owner, to manager, to script writer and back again, Dan is a great example of the importance of balanced, educational and experiential learning that can be so successful in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry.

Since growing up in northern New Jersey and working in a pizzeria, Dan worked around food from a young age. While attending school at the University of Maryland he also worked at a local bar honing his service and bartending skills. By the ripe age of 24 he was already the operating partner at a restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland called Cafe Bello. 

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I hear all the time from clients, friends, and family of how they are going to do things different in the New Year. They are going to update their restaurant, spend more money on marketing, and improve their customer service and staff. However, I have always been curious as to why they are waiting until a specific time to make the decision to do these things. Stop thinking of how you are going to market your restaurant or liquor store online, just do it!

Many online marketing gurus will give you a litany of do’s and don’ts. I am simply going to give you some pointers on how to start, and/or improve what you are already doing. 

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Harbor Wines is bringing the richness of Eastern European wines to Maryland.  At the helm of this venture is Cristina Tufts, who grew up in Moldova where she learned the art of viniculture. Moldova, a small country that borders Romania and Ukraine, boasts especially fertile soil that makes it ideal for growing some of the world's best grapes.

"My family made wine," Tufts said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "Therefore, I grew up learning the process.  Ironically though, I never had an appreciation for Moldovan wines until I came to the United States.  Here, I had better access to wines from around the world.  . . . It took leaving Moldova to realize just how good our wine is."

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From a farm dog at an Austin, Texas brewery to a brand that self-identifies as Vodka for dog lovers, Tito's brand Vodka exemplifies a pair of passions becoming a national favorite. Furthermore, Tito's shows how successful people can contribute so positively in a variety of different mediums.

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Posted by on in January 2017 Editions

 

Cape South Coast, An Emerging Collection Of Maritime Regions, Represents The Country’s New Winemaking Frontier

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The 2017 General Assembly Session is upon us and, as always, the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) is gearing up to play a big role in looking out for our industry's interests.  As in years' past, one of the key players will be attorney and MSLBA lobbyist Steve Wise.  "I think the industry continues to have a significant presence in Annapolis," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "and that helped us out on a lot of legislative fights last year as it usually does.  That's true not just of the retail segment of the industry, but the Maryland-based wholesalers as well."

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It happens to every restaurant owner at some point. You wake up and get a notification, or one of your employees tell you about that customer from last night that left you a one star review on Facebook, Yelp, Google or another review site. We have all been here, you start running through your mind. “I hate Yelp, or this is just one of those customers, or why wouldn't they tell me there was an issue while they were here?”

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At this point you are pondering on the wrong issue. The real issue at hand is how do you respond? How do you deal with this customer that has had a less than satisfactory experience?  Let's start with the review itself.  Read it thoroughly and try to remove any emotional heartstrings while doing so. Try to see it from the customer's perspective. I know that this may be difficult, however we have all had bad service in one way or another at some point. Once you have read and reread the review, look for evidence of fake or malicious sentiment. Has the customer ever reviewed any business before? If there is evidence of fake or malicious sentiment you need to move your attention to flagging the review. Only flag the review within the review page in question if you do in fact see this type of sentiment. 

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Posted by on in January 2017 Editions

 

The ‘Sessionable’ Concept Finds Footing In The Cocktail World, Not Just Beer

 

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By Jack Robertiello

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Posted by on in December 2016 Editions

 

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Brandy is the oldest of the distilled liquors; and Cognac is considered brandy’s highest expression. There’s probably no other spirit that is so tightly linked with France as Cognac—which is odd when you consider very few French people actually drink the stuff. The hugely popular brandy is popular just about everywhere but France, as only about 3% of all of the Cognac in the world is consumed in its home country. But that just means there’s more for everybody else, and it’s enjoying some impressive gains in the United States these days. Shipments of Cognac to the U.S. grew a solid 13.6% in 2015, with gains being led by the largest suppliers.

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Fully Reinvented, Austrian Whites and Reds are Ready to Captivate Americans

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Please know that the Austrians are sick and tired of talking and hearing about the 1985 wine scandal—in which a lousy bunch of unscrupulous wine merchants added a chemical used in manufacturing antifreeze to their wines, in a ham-handed, criminal attempt to increase sweetness levels. That was over 30 years ago, and Austria long ago reinvented its wine industry with some of Europe’s strictest wine laws and quality-control procedures.

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Posted by on in December 2016 Editions

Huge, Fragmented and Peppered with New Products, The Beer Market Continues to Churn

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Beer has had an incredibly turbulent year, from the Big Guys down to the little ones. Buyouts, mergers and unprecedented growth in both breweries and SKUs have made the marketplace a confusing one for beer consumers and producers alike. In the process, the oft-abused term “craft” inches closer and closer to the brink of losing all meaning with respect to beer—even as wine-centric glassmaker Riedel delivered a stamp of approval to the beer biz by designing a special Riedel beer glass.

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OnPremiseOwensOrdinary_2.jpgGreg Engert and Sean Griffin might be a former English major and Engineering major, respectively, but they are giving Marylanders and Washingtonians alike an education in Maryland beer.  Both men have been key to the early success of Owen's Ordinary, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s (NRG's) first restaurant in Montgomery County, which opened its doors on Oct. 17.  The 6,000-square-foot, 175-seat space delivers 50 different draft beers to customers, along with 150 beer bottle selections.  The bar focuses heavily on Maryland brewers, with around 75 selections from the state.

Engert serves as Owen's Beer Director (he is also a managing partner for NRG), and he has been instrumental in putting together the impressive selection.  "As far as selection goes," he stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "we've worked with the county and the brewers to offer a beer selection Montgomery County has never seen before.  It is an unparalleled selection representing the very best craft beers sourced from Maryland, from the broader region, from the Mid-Atlantic, and from the international scene. So, we have something for everybody." 

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For reference or Research, Quick Answers or In-Depth Articles, The Internet is the Place To Be For Your Retail Management Questions

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The best wine information is online; we all know that.  But which sites should you be bookmarking?  Most guides to wine websites are for consumers, not the industry.  Here are some sites especially useful to members of the industry ... 

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What catches the eye? Bright colors. Bold shapes. Moving objects. The products in our annual roundup of holiday gift packs are certainly colorful and boldly designed—and while we don’t expect them to literally jump off the shelves, they are built to move.

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The idea behind customized Value Added Packs (aka VAPs), as they are often called, is simple—and timeless: make gift-giving even easier for shoppers.

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Posted by on in November 2016 Editions

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Fast expanding local craft brews have again exploded across the United States over the last decade. Even with such rapid growth and concerns over a “tapped out” industry, many young entrepreneurs are still buying in and staying current, and seeing their thirst and effort pay off.

Tom Foster, Francis Smith, and Colin Marshall are the founders of Diamondback Brewing Company and grew together from homebrew to a full brewery located at McHenry Row in Locust Point. You may recognize beer names like Three Thirty Amber Ale, Omar’s O.P.A., The Bamb Black IPA, and others as part of the Diamondback repertoire. With their recent expansion and upcoming plans there surely is plenty yet to see.

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Posted by on in November 2016 Editions

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Communication between business and customer has never been easier than it is in today’s world.  With the additions of Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook messenger a customer can ask a complex or simple question to your business in seconds. However, one communication avenue gets overlooked more often than not. I am talking about Text Messaging, and Loyalty programs.

A liquor store that implements a Loyalty and Text program has more opportunity then one without.  This gives your establishment the ability to keep your customers ‘in the know’ about new releases, current specials that are occurring as well as rewarding that customer for returning multiple times. I personally go back to the same liquor store every week because on my 5th visit I get something FREE. This particular store updates me via text of seasonal beers that are being released as well and this stops me from visiting other stores by keeping me loyal to their business with giveaways. 

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Posted by on in November 2016 Editions

Back to Basics:  Sherry 101

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Sherry is a case study in premiumization. Volume has been declining (gently), but premium Sherry has never been so diverse and vibrant. In 2015, imports of grandma’s sugary tipple, Cream Sherry, were down 45% compared to 2006, but Amontillado, a more premium, dry style, rose 334% over the same time.

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Posted by on in November 2016 Editions

Why Fight It? Celebrity Wines Can Have Powerful Fan Appeal

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In the 1960s, celebrities like Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner released record albums. Today, they make wines. And while the vinyl boomlet faded rather quickly, the parade of wines continues to proliferate. Death metal singers, senators, quarterbacks…they’ve all got wines. Some are more about the fan base than about vineyards, but as long as they sell, that’

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People often say they will always remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot, when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up, and when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  It's very safe to say that folks around Maryland and Howard County, specifically, will always remember where they were when the floodwaters hit Ellicott City's beloved Main Street district.

It was the evening of July 30, a swingin’ Saturday night where people had come to eat, drink, and be merry at many of the popular bars, taverns, and restaurants that have made that area of the Baltimore suburb such a popular destination for people young and old.  But six inches of rain in two hours changed everything. The ensuing flash flood caused severe damage in the historic district, particularly along Main Street.  Many businesses, sidewalks, vehicles, and more were destroyed by the rushing waters, including the town's landmark clock.  Two people lost their lives.

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Posted by on in October 2016 Editions

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From a distance, the tale of the Scotch whisky business has been much the same for some time: single malts keep climbing, up about 50 percent in the last five years, while blended volumes continue to sag, now accounting for only about 80 percent of the category here in the States.

But what’s beneath the macro data points? Like with all spirit categories, there are trends and issues on the horizon poised to impact the Scotch whisky business.

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Posted by on in October 2016 Editions

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Saké is hot! Perhaps not literally. While hot saké is still popular, much of the growth in the U.S. is in premium styles, typically consumed chilled. More than a third of Japan’s saké production comes to the U.S. these days, and that doesn’t even account for the majority of saké Americans are drinking (over 70% of which is domestic).

While most drinkers still probably have their saké experience at a sushi restaurant, saké is also finding a place in retail shops and Western restaurants, just as other Japanese ingredients like wasabi are finding new homes. Wine and beer importers are taking note, so saké is moving beyond specialist Japanese importers, who have traditionally focused on Japanese outlets. Wine and spirits importers have added saké to their books and are bringing it to all sorts of accounts. The recently signed Trans-Partnership agreement will also make it that much easier for sake to find it’s way here.

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Linganore Winecellars in Mt. Airy, Maryland, one of the oldest wineries on the East Coast, and in their second generation of wine making is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the start of the 2016 harvest from their 75-acre estate vineyard.  Committed to making excellent wines, dry and sweet, grape, fruit and artisanal wines, the celebration will kick off in late September at the winery.  Events are also planned for October, November and December 2016 (details at bottom). 

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Started in 1971 as a hobby in hope of a dream, Jack and Lucille Aellen purchased the 230 acre farm and planted a few acres of vines on its rolling hills.  Wine making was a hobby then, having German-Swiss roots on Jack’s side and Italian roots on Lucille’s.  In 1974, Lucille’s father gifted the Aellen’s with his hand press and two hand-crank crushers, which the family used to open the winery in 1976.  Understanding that one-size-did-not-fit-all when it comes to taste in wine, Jack strove to produce many different (30+) wines, becoming a pioneer in the industry, denoted by the Maryland Wine Association’s “Jack Aellen Cup” for Fruit wines and Meade.  That tradition continues to this day, with the winery producing 38 different types of wine in 2016. 

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Posted by on in October 2016 Editions

Throughout history, there have been many famous Belles.  Belle Watling was the original hooker with a heart of gold in "Gone With the Wind."  The Memphis Belle was one of the great flying fortresses of World War II.  And 'twas Belle who captured the heart of the man-turned-monster in "Beauty and the Beast."

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Well, there's a new Belle about to make history.  Local beverage history, that is.  Old Dominion Spirits' Belle Vodka has already taken Virginia by storm.  Next on its list?  Maryland and Washington, D.C.  Billy Reilly, the company's vice president of sales and marketing, has the lowdown.  When he started with Warrenton-based Old Dominion back in February, founder and President Townsend Lundsford and his partners had Belle in 40 ABC stores and about 20 bars, restaurants, and other venues.

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Posted by on in September 2016 Editions

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

Where is it produced?

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Posted by on in September 2016 Editions

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

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

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Posted by on in September 2016 Editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by on in August 2016 Editions

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

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

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Posted by on in August 2016 Editions

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

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

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Posted by on in August 2016 Editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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

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

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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

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

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by on in June 2016 Editions

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


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

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

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

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

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