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 35 of 51 36 • May 2016 manager of the Boston Wharf Smith & Wollensky. He's also corporate beverage program manager for the New York-based chain, which is part of the Patina Group. Smith & Wollensky now offers six wines ranging from $25 to $50 per glass. "They're not flying off the shelf, but it's not really about volume—it's about the experience we offer," Speziale says. "What we do is about show, and this is in that realm of theater and a top-notch dining experience." The benefits are clear: Couples or groups can drink different premium wines, or guests can try a different premium wine with each course, he says. It also simply allows more experimentation, so guests can try something new and spend $45 rather than $155. The downside, Speziale says is that the argon cartridges are expensive. "You are talking about an added cost of about $1 per glass, but since we're selling more of the wine it's worth it for us." TIN LIZZY'S CANTINA SHOWS OFF PREMIUM TEQUILAS The tequila category has been growing steadily in recent years, and consumers are becoming more sophisticated about the agave-based spirit. That's why all 11 locations of Atlanta-based Tin Lizzy's Cantina's now offer 30 different premium tequilas. The "FlexMex" cuisine chain didn't always stock so many, though. "We tried to keep our inventory controllable, but the guests keep coming in and asking for more," says CEO Tory Bartlett. "It's a pretty easy upsell to carry another premium brand or another flavor, and there's not a lot of cost to it." Most (90%) of its tequila sales are from Margaritas. Tin Lizzy's has 12 variations, each with a different brand of tequila, including Don Julio, Avión and 1800. This give guests the option of a stiff Margarita or something lower in alcohol. Tin Lizzy's best-selling Margaritas are The TLC (Lunazul 100% blue agave blanco tequila, Agavero orange liqueur and sour mix; Thai basil (1800 coconut tequila, agave nectar, fresh muddled lemons, basil and sour mix); and the Grand Patrón Rita (Patrón silver tequila, Grand Marnier and sour mix). Despite all the different tequilas, the Margaritas are priced competitively, from $8 to $9.50. "We consider ourselves a value brand, and we are going to have premium drinks made with fresh juices but don't want to serve a $17 tequila," Bartlett says. Consumers are ready for this, he adds. "They are becoming well-educated and are ordering by brand—they're very brand loyal." PAUL MARTIN'S CAPTURES ITS ESSENCE The bar program at Paul Martin's American Grill has been about "house-made" before the term became popular. In addition to making simple syrup and grenadine in-house, all 10 restaurants infuse spirits with seasonal produce. Bartenders create flavor essences by adding fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and peaches—or the rinds of citrus fruits—to a sous-vide machine. They mix the essence with a base spirit, usually vodka and tequila, and it's ready to go. The restaurants make these essences in small batches two or three times a week "and shelf-life isn't an issue because we go through it really quickly," says Brian Bennett, a founding partner of the concept. Paul Martin's creates more raspberry essence than anything else, he says, since the chain's Raspberry Martini is its best- selling cocktail. It also regularly infuses Meyer lemon peel to make its house-infused lemon vodka. The cocktails are priced at cost $13; some are discounted to $5 or $9 during Paul Martin's happy hour. Some of the house-infused cocktails run as LTOs, mostly due to the seasonality of fruits, Bennett explains. "It's a double-edge sword," he says. "Some people get angry when they can't have the cocktail they want, but they do like to have cocktails that are different at different times of the year. In spring and summer especially, we look more towards a refreshing cocktail." Amanda Baltazar is a freelance writer based in the Pacific Northwest who frequently writes about food and beverages. Atlanta-based Tin Lizzy's Cantina, which stocks 30 different premium tequilas, offers 12 specialty Margaritas, including a Grapefruit version. Paul Martin's American Grill's Raspberry Martini is the chain's best-selling cocktail; it's mixed with a house-made raspberry- essence-infused vodka.

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