Cheers June 2014

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 40 of 51 41 JUNE 2014 | T he menu at Bodega Negra inside New York's Dream Hotel Downtown boasts an array of creative cocktails. You'll find some stylish tweaks on the classic Margarita, along with several drinks concocted in a lavish, contemporary style using tequila or mezcal as the lead spirit, as fits a Mexican-themed restaurant and nightspot. But most intriguing, and having a growing impact on cocktail sales is Bodega Negra's Singani Sour. e drinks is made with singani, a Bolivian spirit produced from Muscat of Alexandria grapes grown at high altitudes. In the six months that Dream Hotel has been open, managing partner Matt Strauss says that the Singani Sour has become the fourth most-popular drink on the menu. at's no small achievement for a cocktail based on a spirit that practically no one in North America has ever heard of. Spirits from all over the world target the U.S. market as a potential honey pot, and few manage to grab a foothold easily. Yet never has the U.S. market been so open to new products, as the rapid turnover of Singani Sours (made with Singani 63, fresh lemon juice and muddled grapes) at Bodega Negra suggests. "When you as a business believe in a product and think it matches your brand, and you train your staff properly on it and how you're using it and they get excited about it, these things can move on their own," says Strauss. AMERICAN ACCEPTANCE Few spirits today fall outside the realm of contemporary cocktail makers. at's one reason marketers continue to focus on American bartenders to help them build word about the flavor, quality and utility of their wares. Pisco and mezcal, both hard to find in most bars until just a few years ago, have both made impressive gains. Various brand reps have consistently worked to tell story of these spirits and familiarize bar folk with what's in the bottles. Other spirits, such as amari and grappa, have been widely available in the U.S. for some time, but only lately have managed to find their way into cocktails at places outside their cultural roots. And unusual offerings, like singani and Solbeso, a new spirit distilled from fermented cacao fruit, are finding that— especially among those anxious to place themselves ahead of the curve—the American bartender is willing to sample and experiment with anyone's juice. BRAND CHAMPIONS While a few brands of singani are available in the U.S., the recent introduction of Singani 63 with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh as a champion helped its placement at Bodega Negra and the other Dream Hotel bar outlets. (See sidebar "Soderbergh on Singani 63" on page 42.) But celebrity connection just as often fails to gain a brand or spirit traction. Success usually comes down to a few operations or bartenders becoming enamored with a product and deciding to promote it on their own. ere's nothing like the enthusiasm of a new advocate to make these spirits sell, and for Solbeso, that's been Logan Ronkainen, bartender at New York's Il Mulino Trattoria. Ronkainen in some ways is a brand or category's dream: someone who honestly loves a spirit and works with it as his own. After discovering Solbeso, he was taken with its floral aromatic and flavor profile and saw it as an alternative to vodka and other white spirits. at inspiried Ronkainen to develop an Il Mulino cocktail called the Cobeso, made with Solbeso, lemon juice and oleo sacchurum (a mix of lemon peels and sugar) and finished with chocolate bitters. "It's become my favorite drink as well, what I order after a shift at the bar," he says. Exotic Elixirs Unique spirits are popping up at the bar By Jack Robertiello 40-43 exotic spirits CH0614.indd 41 6/3/14 9:34 PM

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