Cheers May 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 22 of 51 23 May 2016 • right now," says Bevill. He's also planning to add a traditional Moscow Mule to his lineup, complete with the customary copper mugs. The mandated spirits list covers seven brands, both national names and craft producers such as Tito's. Bevill also intends to bring Deep Eddy vodkas onto the list, which he sees as an emerging hot brand. Several of the 10 drinks on Earls' list are vodka-based, including the Caesar and the best-selling Moscow Mule ($8) made with Smirnoff. New-wave cocktails include the Lemon Meringue ($10), mixed with Skyy vodka and limoncello, topped with meringue foam, and the Silly Wabbit ($10), Skyy vodka, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, ginger, carrot juice, lemon juice and cardamom bitters. The Marilyn Monroe is a riff on the Porn Star Martini, with vodka, prosecco, passionfruit and vanilla. Earls has a recommended list in the U.S. of 28 vodkas, Bogue, says, including craft brands Hanger One and St. George. MARTINIS GONE WILD As might be expected, Vodkateur Nicola has definite opinions on the Vodka Martini. "No vermouth," he states: "Adding vermouth is basically diluting your good vodka with wine." The chef is even picky about the type of olive garnish, because that can change the taste of the drink. The eponymous Nic's Martini is a simple formula: chilled Beluga vodka with a Bella olive, served straight up. Despite his authoritarian stance on the straight Martini, Nicola takes a more freewheeling and tongue-in-cheek approach to his cocktail list. The extensive menu offers about 40 cocktails, starting at $13 and ranging up into the $20s, depending upon the vodka used. "In all cocktails, it's important to be able to taste the vodka through the ingredients," notes Nicola. Just a sampling of drinks from Nic's menu: "What A Nice Pear You Have" with Grey Goose La Poire vodka, pear juice and shaved parmesan; "Where's My Effen Martini" with Effen blackberry vodka, elderflower liqueur and grapefruit; "Lime in the Coconut" with toasted-coconut-infused vodka, lime juice and coconut nectar; and "Preserved Leopard" with Snow Leopard vodka, preserved lemon, basil, peppercorns, cucumber and lemon brulee. Nic's also offers some sweet dessert Martinis ($13), such as the Ketel Lime Pie, with Ketel One Citron vodka, lime juice, vanilla liqueur and graham cracker crust, plus Bison Bars, a cookie confection spiked with Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka. Further, Chef Nicola incorporates his favorite spirit into the food menu at Nic's, curing salmon with vodka and offering a signature steamed artichoke dish sauced with miso and vodka. Nicola is opening a restaurant and lounge—complete with a Vodbox—in Cabo San Lucas in May, to bring his favorite spirit and cocktail to Mexico. BRANDS AND THE VODKA ENTHUSIAST Some consumers are just discovering vodka, and many never stopped drinking it. But it can be tough to pin down exactly who is drinking vodka these days and how loyal they are to any specific brand. Tilted Kilt's demographic leans toward men, who make up about 75% of the customer base, and leans to the younger side of the legal-age spectrum. "Our consumers are becoming more experimental in their trip around the beverage menu," says Purcell. Older customers may be loyal to the well-known premium brands. "Mature guests know what they like to drink; they come in and order it," Purcell says. But Millennials are interested in the new, novel or craft brands. "They are brand loyal—until the next new thing comes along," he quips. Bevill sees a similar phenomenon at Boston's, with the older vodka fans favoring long-time favorites, while younger imbibers are still deciding what they like best. To help those bibulous seekers, the company has launched an educational series aimed at bringing guests up to speed on spirits topics and trends. One aspect of this program is the "Did You Know?" topical tidbits scattered about the beverage menus. "We want to educate our customers so they won't feel intimidated or insecure when people start talking spirits and cocktails," says Bevill. Bogue at Earls believes that while whiskey drinkers are more experimental, vodka drinkers tend to be extremely loyal. "They have been influenced by marketing, friends and family preferences, and are concerned with how they want to be perceived when ordering at the bar." Thomas Henry Strenk is Brooklyn-based writer specializing in all things drinkable. ALL HAIL THE CAESAR! Vancouver, B.C.-based Earls Kitchen + Bar, which operates 66 locations, has been promoting the Caesar cocktail in its seven U.S. restaurants with sampling programs. The casual dining chain is also offering the Caesar at half price ($4 vs. $8) at Sunday brunch. Also known as the Bloody Caesar, the Caesar is considered the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary. Earls' version starts with spicy house-made mix, Skyy vodka and Clamato juice. It's then garnished with sausage and a pickle, in a glass rimmed with celery salt, hot pepper, black pepper and garlic. Is drink selling well stateside for Earls? Absolutely, says Cameron Bogue, director of beverage operations. "Caesars are killing it in the U.S." —THS

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