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Irish Eye's Reasons to Smile


Irish Whiskey keeps growing—in size, selection and value

With all the new distilleries, brands and line extensions emerging from Ireland, whiskey retailers have an unprecedented array of choices that show no sign of narrowing. Accordingly, the proverbial Irish eyes are still smilling broadly at this vibrant sector. Powered by Irish whiskey’s inherently smooth style and the swelling popularity centered on a handful of powerful, widely available brands, the category is not just small and mighty—it is expanding dramatically in breadth.

Take two recent additions stretching what Irish whiskey can be: Dingle and The Sexton. Dingle produces distinct small-batch single malt releases—the third finished in ex-bourbon and Port barrels. The Sexton arrives as an especially young (four years old) malt whiskey meant for category novices and cocktail makers.

After decades of relying on the light and fruity blended triple-distilled spirit that predominates, Irish styles are exploding. Single malts and pure pot still expressions, of course, but also grain whiskey, double distilled variants, peated malts and extended aging and finishing in non-traditional barrels—rum, marsala, or exotic woods like acacia. There’s even an Irish rye now. 

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It's Miller's Time … with National Premium Beer


Tim Miller has gone from being a successful oilman to the owner of National Premium Beer. But he doesn't really see it as that big of a leap. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he remarked, "I tell people, 'It's the same thing!  We're using the same kind of practices we used in the oil business, and I'm still delivering liquid. It's just in a can or a bottle and not in a truck'"

Miller was indeed the third generation to head his family's oil business, joining right after college and running it until 2001.  Working at his grandfather’s company over the years, he developed an appreciation for vintage advertising, signage, and fuel pumps.  After Miller sold the company, he became a Realtor with Benson & Mangold in Easton, Md. But his interest in antiques and old signs persisted. One day in 2002, he saw some vintage beer signs in an antique store and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to bring back an old beer brand?'"

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Smart Short-Cuts


Bar Biz: Some save time, some add flair… 
little things can really elevate a bar’s game

While most of the attention in Cocktail World lands on bars and restaurants pushing the limits or carving out narrow niches, the vast majority of operations that serve drinks have a myriad of concerns beyond drink-making. Given that and increased customer knowledge and expectations, what is the average bar and restaurant to do to up their cocktail game?

If you ask  consultant and author Kim Haasarud of Liquid Architecture (pictured), for clients that are relatively new to craft cocktails, keeping it simple but better is the right approach.

“Those simple, three-ingredient cocktails are really in fashion right now and there are so many really good spirits out there. You can make some pretty great drinks using simple ingredients,” she says. Drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds score very high on most drink menu surveys, she notes, and any number of tweaks—adding a dash of Chartreuse to a Margarita, or an amaro to spice up a Whiskey Sour, or using split bases, like bourbon with Cognac or tequila with mezcal—can smartly customize standard recipes.

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Hunter Douglas of Hank's in DC


Hunter Douglas is the bar manager at Hank’s Oyster Bar Dupont Circle and just-opened Hank’s Cocktail Bar, part of the Washington, D.C.-based Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group.

Beverage Journal: How does Hank’s Cocktail Bar, an industry hangout that originated in Petworth and is soon to re-open in Dupont Circle, differ from the oyster bar, where guests eat lobster deviled eggs and sip libations like the I Dream of Pralines (pecan-cinnamon-infused bourbon, Licor 43, burnt sugar, ginger/orange bitters)?

Hunter Douglas: Hank’s Cocktail Bar is our playground and a space to dive into some of the District’s most exciting beverages, but both concepts share the philosophy of JL Restaurant Group by featuring the use of fresh produce and seasonal ingredients. Customers leave having experienced consistently well-made cocktails to fit their mood, and there is an opportunity to play and be overly adventurous, enjoy a slight variation of your favorite or stick to what you know and love in either place. 

BJ: There are now four locations of Hank’s Oyster Bar. How has the group’s beverage vision evolved along with the growth of the JL Restaurant Group portfolio? 

HD: JL Restaurant Group establishments now have regionally-recognized bar programs that are built on the success of our past initiatives. The aim is to be playful while remaining grounded in classics. For example, a few of the new menu categories at Hank’s Cocktail Bar are “We Invented the Remix,” “Beertails” and “Size Matters.” We’re serious about our cocktails, but want the atmosphere to be comfortable, social and a D.C. must-visit.

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