Cheers - March/April 2016

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 17 of 59 18 • March/April 2016 Lujosa. Priced at $55, it's made with Don Julio 1942, lime, agave syrup, egg white and Grand Marnier 1880. The dominance of the Margarita is hard to dismiss. At the 127 AMC movie theatres where beverage alcohol is served, "Margaritas account for 34% of all our spirits sales, and it's the top-selling drink year round, with the top tier accounting for about half of our total Margarita revenue," says Frank Lewis, director of alcohol food and beverage for AMC. Margaritas have always been strong for AMC, and the movie chain is focusing on giving guests options to go premium, says Lewis. He recently shifted from blenders to frozen Margarita machines. The house Margarita is made with Jose Cuervo and priced at about $9.90; two higher-end versions, made with either Patron or Avion anejo, are priced at about $12. All AMC Margaritas are made with fresh-squeezed lime juice and agave nectar, with the higher-end option only offered on the rocks. The house tier includes Strawberry and Mango Margaritas, but the ultra premium Watermelon Mist Margarita outsells the Strawberry nearly 2 to 1, Lewis says. Copita Tequileria y Comida, a contemporary Mexican restaurant and tequila bar in Sausalito, CA, offers a number of tequila cocktails. But the Margarita rules, says co-owner Joanne Weir, who is also a cookbook author and TV personality. The Copita menu is inspired by her cookbook Tequila: A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails and Bites. "The cocktails we sell are still definitely 85 or 90% Margaritas," she says. The drinks are made in the style universally known as Tommy's Margarita, for the pioneering Tommy's Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco that became famous for using just tequila, lime juice and agave syrup. "I think so many people are so happy to finally have a Margarita that is good and well balanced that they get another or come back for more," Weir says. Even at a modest 60-seat capacity, Copita serves 300 to 400 Margaritas a day. Copita stocks about 100 tequilas, not an uncommon number for such operations these days. Copita's cocktails range in price from $10 to $13, while shots are primarily in the $8 to $10 range, topping out at $55 for Don Julio Real. Mezcals range from $8 to $29. Weir says that many customers order their tequila straight. "I don't see the interest in tequila waning at all," she notes. "People used to ask mainly for the best-known name brands, but now they ask for other, less-well-known tequilas as well," Weir says. "It's become not just something to drink, but something people want to know about. So for us it's really important that we have so many with different flavor profiles." BEYOND THE CLASSICS The general popularity of tequila and Margaritas has evolved so that newer operations are expanding their use beyond the classic cocktail. At Leyenda, which opened in Brooklyn, NY, this past May, co-owner Ivy Mix wanted to create a pan-Latin operation that also showcases pisco and cachaça. But tequila and mezcal keep surging to the top. "What's amazing is that when I opened, even though I'm a big fan of mezcal, I didn't expect people to know much about it—or tequila, for that matter. But the people who come in here are very knowledgeable," says Mix. That's now happening at bars and restaurants around the country: Agave aficionados often know as much or more than an operation's staff about origin, production, region and type of agave. The leading tequila cocktail at Leyenda is La Sonambula, made with jalapeño-infused blanco tequila, lemon, chamomile, The Don's Dream cocktail at Copita in Sausalito, CA, is a riff on a Manhattan made with Don Pilar Anejo tequila, Carpano An- tica, a splash of orange blossom water and Peychaud's bitters. Tequila flights at Copita are priced from $20 to $35. The Young At Heart at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago mixes Vida mezcal, Tempus Fugit cacao, vanilla syrup, Bitter Truth chocolate bitters and Aztec chocolate bitters garnished with allspice-in- fused whipped cream. TEQUILA TALK Sable's Misunderstood, a Shandy-inspired beertail, combines Del Maguey mezcal, Corralejo reposado tequila, ginger syrup, honey, fresh lime juice and muddled cucumbers, topped with Miller Highlife.

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