At this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, industry experts shared tips on adding bottles to the bar. 

By Oset Babur
August 01, 2019
Cory James Photo

Even though Jesse Vida helms the bar at ATLAS, Singapore’s art deco giant that houses over 1300 different bottles of gin, his decision to bring a new spirit into the fold is far from simple. At this year’s Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans, Vida sat alongside industry peers Andrew Pollard, assistant director of beverage development of Wynn in Las Vegas, and A-K Hada, bar manager of New York City’s PDT, for a panel discussion moderated by William Grant & Sons' director of brand advocacy Charlotte Voisey on how to assess new additions to the bar with the right balance of curiosity, responsibility, and practicality. Here are a few tips from the panelists.

Learn how to conduct liquid analysis

Whenever a new spirit arrives on the market––even if it comes from a reputable and beloved brand––Vida encourages bartenders to make time to apply the newcomer to a number of classic cocktails, like negronis, gimlets, and old fashioneds. By giving a score of one to ten (ten being the best) for how the new spirit fares in each cocktail, it becomes easy to tell just how useful adding that bottle to the bar will be. For this analysis in particular, Vida says bar size matters: If you have limited space, it probably doesn’t make sense to bring on lots of spirits that only shine in a single application.

Be objective about the spirit

Relationships with ambassadors, importers, distributors, makers, and brands are critical to running a successful bar, but Andrew Pollard warns against the inclination to let those ties shape purchasing decisions.

“It’s important to ask yourself––do you love the people or the spirit? You’ve got to separate church and state,” he says. Likewise, it’s important to keep a holistic view of what you already have stocked behind the bar, and how the introduction of a new player might impact your ability to sell those spirits. “Don’t cannibalize existing partnerships with new spirits,” Pollard says. “Be strategic.”

Cory James Photo

Remember, when you stock a bottle, you’re aligning yourself with it

A-K Hada encouraged beverage directors to take an introspective approach to purchasing decisions. “Ask yourself: How does your spirits selection advocate for your concept or brand? How does your back bar represent your guests?,” she says.

Likewise, Hada urged the audience to ask more difficult questions about sustainability practices, and to do their due diligence when taking a chance on a new spirit. “Distillery tours are always preferable to brand trips. They’re very different, and they paint a different picture.”


Humanize the bottle

Hada also reminded the audience to think about the liquid in the bottle as a sum of the people behind it, including what they stand for, their production methods, and their ethos. “Spirits are agriculture, terroir, the people that make them,” she says.



 

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