RestaurantInformer.com
 
 
News Profiles Events Beverage Technology Management Directory
 
 
 
 

Archive for the ‘Beverage’ Category

Georgia Cider Sales Are on the Rise

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

By Lara Creasy

Ciders - Points North

Lindsey LaRue Photography

Locally made hard cider is becoming “a thing” in Georgia. This should come as no surprise to anyone, given the overall trend in the American beverage market toward craft and local beer and spirits.

Other apple-growing states, such as Washington and New York, have enjoyed locally made craft ciders for years. In fact, Seattle and New York City both boast entire establishments devoted to serving only cider in all its forms. (See Wassail, www.wassailnyc.com, and Capitol Cider, www.capitolcider.com).

Early Americans drank a lot of cider. Settlers brought apple seeds from England and planted orchards as soon as they arrived. Orchards grew well in New England, far easier than grains did, so cider production far outpaced beer. President John Adams was said to drink a tankard of cider every morning. Somewhere along the way (Prohibition anyone?) that tradition got lost. But several new Georgia craft producers are bringing it back.

Despite the fact that Mercier Farms has been growing apples in Blue Ridge, Ga., and selling its fresh-pressed cider since 1943, local hard cider is new to the Georgia market. Currently, there’s just three cideries in the state right now.

Treehorn Cider, which buys pressed juice from Mercier to make its cider, started out in Marietta in 2014. Mercier then decided just two years ago that it was time to get into the hard cider game themselves. And last but not least, Urban Tree Cidery, located on Howell Mill Road in West Midtown, opened in 2016, producing cider from apples grown on the Cathey Family Orchard in Mountain City, Ga.

Hard Pressed

Hard cider as a category had a brief moment of explosion a few years ago, when brands such as Angry Orchard, Strongbow and Crispin made a big push in the market. Large cider brands saw double-digit growth between 2012 and 2015, according to consumer-information company Nielsen. But sales of hard cider overall dipped 10.2 percent between 2015 and 2016, despite the fact that craft cider sales were up 39 percent during the same time frame.

“You kind of saw it in the craft beer world where the big guys, the Sierra Nevadas and Boston Beer Companies, were slipping a little bit,” says Shawn Trauger, beer manager for Savannah Distributing Company. “Now cider is doing the same thing. People aren’t drinking things that are in commercials; they are drinking things that are more local.”

Matt Moore, craft beer and spirits specialist for United Distributors, explains that while it’s true that craft cider sales are up, they have not yet grown enough to offset the decline in big brand sales. “Craft breweries are picking up the slack for the decline in overall beer sales,” he says. “The same thing is not happening in the cider category.”

Variety and Price Point

That may all change in the coming years. It makes a lot of sense for bar managers to have a cider available to guests as a gluten-free option, and more and more innovative cider products are hitting the market to satisfy the consumer thirst for unique and imaginative products. Treehorn has introduced a ginger cider, a habanero cider and a dry-hopped cider on draft and in cans. Mercier produces a cider called Black Bee, made from Arkansas Black apples and clover honey, as well as Grumpy Granny, which is made from only Granny Smiths. Original Sin cidery in New York has introduced heirloom varietal ciders, based on the Newtown Pippin and Northern Spy apples they grow. Even Crispin has single varietal ciders made from Gravenstein and Honeycrisp apples.

Different cideries distinguish themselves further by their choice of yeast strain, which can give their ciders a unique flavor profile. According to Moore, various brands he represents use Champagne yeast for a drier style cider, beer yeast and even white wine yeast, ensuring that none of the ciders taste exactly the same.

“When I started in the industry 7 years ago, there were three or four cider options. Now there are 30 or 40,” says Moore.

He says part of the challenge for craft cider in Georgia has been getting consumers to take a chance on a more expensive product. Compared to other states like Washington and Michigan where apples are a commodity, Georgia’s apples are very expensive, so craft cider producers are starting with a more expensive base product.

treehorn cider

Off-premise, this isn’t as big a deal, as consumers might take a chance on a $12 or $15 6-pack of Treehorn, says Moore. But on-premise, the keg prices are a little higher than what many bar managers may be comfortable spending. “You have to know if you have the customer willing to pay $10 a pint for a local cider, versus $5 for Crispin or Angry Orchard,” he says.

“I think that in the accounts where drinkers are on the cutting edge of craft, [local ciders] are very well received,” Moore adds, explaining that The Brick Store Pub in Decatur and My Parents Basement in Avondale Estates are two very big accounts for Treehorn.

Savannah Distributing’s Trauger suggests that most bars have limited tap space, so getting them to devote taps to cider can be a challenge. “It’s rare to see many accounts carrying more than one, two or three ciders, compared to some that have 25 IPAs on the wall,” he says.

Package does make a difference at many accounts, however, with on-premise buyers often more willing to invest in a case of cans rather than devote a tap handle. Moore mentions that many craft ciders were originally bottled in 750 ml, but that package is going out of fashion in the beer world overall. Bars and restaurants can’t sell them, and liquor stores don’t want to devote the shelf space to a slow-moving category. Much like in craft beer, the 12-oz. cans are where it’s at. “Treehorn says they are so happy they went with cans,” he adds.

Supply and Demand

So far, supply has not yet been an issue for Georgia ciders, like it can be for popular local breweries, according to Trauger. However, cider, unlike beer, is an agricultural product, meaning production is dependent on the year’s harvest. “Making cider is a lot like making wine. It takes good grapes and good apples to make good wine or cider,” says Trauger. With beer, “a good brewmaster can make a good beer anywhere.”

Though it’s true that orchards only get one harvest per year, they can self-distribute if they want to, just like a winery can, as long as they grow their own apples. (This is the case for Mercier and Urban Tree, but not Treehorn. Because they buy their juice from Mercier, they are registered with a brewery license.)

In its early days of hard cider production, Mercier used to self-distribute out of its North Georgia orchards, according to Trauger, and their accounts used to get the product delivered along with a box of pies. “People are always asking us [at Savannah], where are the pies?” Once the hard cider business grew enough that their lone delivery driver became overwhelmed, distribution through Savannah was the next logical step.

However, this farm mentality might be just the thing that saves cider producers from going down the road that craft breweries have gone, being gobbled up by larger beverage companies looking to round out their portfolio.

“As a big company, you could come and buy the cider production, but if the family retained the orchards, they could go on with their business,” says Trauger.

Moore adds that a lot of the big beer companies already have a cider in their portfolios (Boston Beer Company owns Angry Orchard, for example), which is another thing that might keep local cideries independently owned.

The local cider industry is still tiny, especially compared to the Georgia craft beer industry, and it’s still trying to figure itself out. None of the local cideries or their distributors could begin to predict what the future holds for their industry, but no doubt they all hope that people in Georgia keep drinking more cider.

Georgia Ciders
Mercier Farms
www.mercier-orchards.com
Old #3: The original blend made from Gold Rush apples
Grumpy Granny: Made from Granny Smith apples
Black Bee: Made from Arkansas Black apples with clover honey
Available from Savannah Distributing Company in kegs and 12 oz. bottles

Adele’s Choice: A crisp, dry cider made from early apples
Rock Steady Red: Made from red apples and strawberries
Lone Tree: Made from late season apples
Pearody: Made from blackberries and pearsAvailable only at the cidery

Treehorn Cider
www.treehorncider.com
Dry: Needs no explanation
El Treeablo: Cider with habanero
Ginger Reserve Dry: Cry cider with ginger
Hoppy Little Trees: A dry-hopped cider
Available from United Distributors in kegs and 12 oz. cans

Urban Tree Cidery
www.urbantreecidery.com
Original: A dry and crisp European-style cider
Classic: A sweeter, Southern-style cider
Barrel-Aged: Fermented with Champagne yeast and aged in Nicaraguan rum barrels
Currently self-distributed; please contact the cidery at 404.855.5546 for more info
Available in kegs, 22 oz. bottles and 12 oz. bottles

Share

8 Keys to a Successful Beverage Program

Monday, June 19th, 2017

By Lara Creasy

Whether it’s housemade sodas, beer and wine or a full bar, many restaurants dedicate some part of the space, either physically in the restaurant or on the menu, to making and pouring drinks. But having a beverage program means more than just slinging cocktails and pouring local beers. A strong beverage program can also bring you increased revenue, positive word of mouth and good social media exposure if you follow these 8 key tips for success.

1. Make it a priority.

While you would think this goes without saying, I’m always surprised how many restaurant owners put their bars on the back burner. A lot of restaurant owners don’t think it’s financially worthwhile to employ a full-time beverage manager. Instead they rely on a tipped employee to manage bar operations or ask a floor manager to oversee the wine program.

Certainly, this can work in some instances. But more often than not, those people are not fully engaged with the beverage program, being pulled in several other directions when shifts get busy.

For many restaurants, beverage is maybe 25 to 30 percent of overall sales, so you can see why owners would make that call. But for restaurants with a full-time beverage manager, someone who creates magic on the cocktail menu, cultivates a following in the community, builds a wine list that elevates the chef’s menu to new heights, and trains staff constantly on how to sell, beverage can be 40, 45 even 50 percent of overall sales.

When food costs of goods hover around 30 to 35 percent but liquor costs of goods can be below 20 percent, don’t you want to invest as much in growing that very profitable part of your business? Doesn’t a professional beverage manager start to seem as important as a chef?

2. Stay true to your concept.

Successful businesses start with a vision, a business plan or even a mission statement, and restaurants are no exception. It could be as simple as, “We are a family-owned Italian restaurant,” or as complex as, “We are a chef-driven farm-to-table restaurant offering only local produce and grass-fed meats from our own sustainable farm.”

Whatever concept your restaurant has chosen, your food menu reflects that concept. Find ways to make your beverage program a seamless part of that menu. Choose wines that pair with your menu items and hail from similar regions. Don’t operate an oyster bar with a wine list of California cabernets. As wonderful as they are, and as well as they might sell, they don’t add any value to your overall concept. Look for coastal whites, minerally French reds and sparkling wines to complement your wonderful fresh seafood.

Just because Prohibition-era cocktails are trendy, that doesn’t mean you have to offer them at your Tex-Mex restaurant. Work on a really killer mezcal list and a few unusual margaritas. Don’t try to be whatever everyone else is trying to be. Be the very best version of what you are, and people will notice.

3. Know your customers.

Each neighborhood draws slightly different guests, and each establishment in that neighborhood draws slightly different guests. Your location and your chosen concept might have predetermined how adventurous or not adventurous your guests are when it comes to beverage. You might only get traditionalists who order the same martini every time they come in. They might not respond well to a cocktail menu featuring all artisan spirits. Or you might get a foodie crowd that chases the next new thing. They might not be impressed by a limited back bar selection or a cocktail menu that only changes once a year.

To be successful, you have to give your customer base what they want, to some extent. But it’s also your job to push them out of their comfort zone just enough to keep your business current and relevant. Introduce traditionalists to a new gin for their martini. Offer weekly cocktail features for the foodie crowd. People go out to experience new things. Show them the right things, and they’ll trust you.

4. Use your sales reps as a resource.

The representatives assigned to you by your alcohol vendors are more than just order-takers. They are supposed to be in your account, helping you and your staff to understand their products and therefore sell them better. Take advantage of that!

Your reps work with the wines and spirits they sell everyday. They attend sales training meetings, industry tastings and often visit the distilleries and wineries in person. If given the opportunity, they are eager to help with staff line-ups on new placements, come in and talk to guests at special events, even provide recipes for cocktails using their spirits. They are out and about in the industry all week. They see what other restaurants are doing successfully. Use them for ideas, and let them help you solve problems.

5. Listen to your staff.

Employees that feel empowered to bring you good ideas will bring you good ideas. Your bartenders are on the front line, and they are face-to-face with guests every night.

If they tell you something is not working, or could be done better, listen. If they have creative input to offer, such as cocktail menu ideas, listen.

When employees see that you have heard their input and taken it to heart, when they see you use their ideas or implement changes they have suggested, they’ll bring you more. Running a restaurant has to be a team sport.

6. Cost thoroughly and price fairly.

Being a restaurant consultant, I can usually tell when I sit down in a bar whether the owners and managers took the time to actually cost out each menu item they sell. Too often it seems that they take the approach of looking at what others in the neighborhood are charging, and they just charge that.

I wonder, looking at their menus, if they even know what they SHOULD be selling that cocktail or pint of beer for. Do they know there is a deal available from the distributor for using that bourbon in a cocktail? If they are getting that deal, are they passing the value along to their guests?

Decide what you want your average liquor cost to be: 18 percent? 19 percent? 19.5 percent? Then go through each spirit you sell, verify your bottle cost and make sure your menu prices are getting you to that average goal.

Investigate purchase deals offered by your distributors. You might find that you can give your guests a better deal on certain spirits simply because you bought it three bottles at a time instead of one bottle at a time.

Other restaurant guests might not think about it as much as I do, but they know when the things you are selling are worth the money, and when they are not. Cocktails with high-end spirits and housemade ingredients have a high perceived value. Draft beer, not so much.

Know where you can charge more and still seem to be offering a good price. Know where you need to round down. Take the time. Your guests will appreciate it, and you’ll earn their trust.

7. Pay attention to detail.

Every day, you should be looking at your bar with discerning eyes. Does the back bar look tidy? Have bottles been dusted lately? Are the vintages on my wine list accurate? Are all of the wineries and appellations spelled correctly? Has the dishmachine left any off odors in the glassware, spots, fingerprints? Are the bartenders using jiggers to measure cocktail ingredients, for cost control and consistency? Are the limes and mint used in the glass as fresh as Chef would want them to be on a plate?

People eat and drink with their eyes first. Polish glasses, serve fresh garnishes, measure! It will keep your costs in line, earn repeat guests and maybe even get you Instagram exposure.

8. Get involved.

Once you’ve gone to the trouble to craft a beverage program to be proud of, get out there and promote it. Encourage your bar team to enter cocktail competitions and join industry organizations like the USBG (United States Bartenders Guild). Sign up for charity events or public tasting events that feature local chefs but also offer a mixology element. Take advantage of media opportunities such as Eater features or newspaper holiday roundups, maybe even invite a few bloggers to visit your bar. Do a little legwork to get known in the community as a credible beverage program.

 

 

Share

Join Local Restaurants in Keeping Millions of Plastic Straws from Polluting the Environment

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

The Georgia Restaurant Association joined up with One More Generation and is now promoting the OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign to local restaurants.

Thanks to a grant received from the Tampa Bay Estuary Foundation, One More Generation is sending out as many “We Only Serve Straws Upon Request” campaign buttons to restaurants free for their employees to wear.  The buttons are helping restaurants reduce their single use plastic straw usage by 70-80%, just by implementing the program throughout their restaurants.  The cost savings often allows restaurants to bring in paper straws as an alternative for any remaining customers requesting a straw.One Less Straw

Locally, all 47 of the TED’s Montana Grill have joined on with the campaign and Twisted Taco has announced they will be implementing the initiative throughout all their locations.

Since launching the campaign, over 200 business partners from around the world have joined on. Delta Air Lines is implementing the campaign in all their cafeteria’s at their world headquarters and will soon be testing the initiative in their Sky Lounges at Hartsfield International Airport.

The Atlanta Public School System has announced that starting the next school year, they will be removing the single use plastic straws from the 50,000 lunches they serve daily.  That means the campaign is helping to prevent over 6-million plastic straws from ending up in our environment every single school year.

Singer/song writer Jack Johnson has also announced the implementation of the campaign at all his summer concert venues.  They ordered 1,000 “We Only Serve Straws Upon Request” campaign buttons and are talking to Aardvark paper straw company about placing an order for 30,000 paper straws to be used at all concert venues.

Share

Modern Wines From Old Roots

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
Modern Wines

The Boschendal estate

By Lara Creasy

If you don’t have experience with the wines of South Africa, now is the time to look into them and consider adding a few to your wine program. I was lucky enough to be invited to experience South African wine country first hand recently, and I realized there were many things for American consumers to learn about this wine industry that is thriving half a world away.

When we talk about Old World wines vs. New World wines, we usually mean Euro-pean wines vs. the rest of the world. The assumption is that Europe has been growing grapes to make wine for centuries, and the rest of the world has been chasing their lead. South Africa is by all accounts a New World wine region, but many people are surprised to know that South Africa has a wine heritage dating back as far as the year 1659. In fact, South Africa has been growing grapes for winemaking longer than parts of the Medoc.

Wine To Go
If there is one thing we know about Europeans, it’s that they love their wine. So it should come as no surprise that one of the first things the European explorers did when they dropped anchor in another part of the world was either figure out how to get wine to them by ship, or figure out how to make wine where they were. The Dutch East India Company set up a supply station near modern-day Cape Town in 1652. As trade ships rounded the bottom of the African continent on their way from Europe to Asia, they needed a place to resupply, and wine was a commodity they couldn’t live without. A Dutchman was assigned to man the station and plant vineyards. The first harvest took place in 1659, just 7 years after the Dutch first landed in Africa.

Settlers went on to establish the first wine estates in 1685, at Constantia and Boschendal. Wine farms boomed for a time, but over several decades many farmers decided to replant with other more profitable crops, like fruit and alfalfa.

In the 19th century, South Africa fell under British rule, which turned out to be a boon for the wine industry – the British started to import quite a bit of South African wine. Sadly, the phylloxera epidemic, which wiped out European vineyards in the 1860s, also found its way to South Africa at the end of the 19th century. Following this devastation, most vineyards replanted only high-yielding varietals, like cinsault.

As a result, by the early 1900s, there was a glut of wine in South Africa. It’s said that some producers took to dumping their extra wine into rivers and lakes just to get rid of it. To fight this problem of lopsided supply and demand, in 1918 the South African government funded the formation of an organization known as the KWV.

Originally formed as a co-op to help farmers market their grapes, the KWV grew to hold a position of power, setting prices, restricting yields and establishing policies for the entire South African wine industry.

There was no market for wine grapes outside of the KWV, with more than 95 per-cent of South African grape growers belonging to the co-op. To mitigate the grape surplus, the KWV encouraged the production of fortified wine and distilled spirits like brandy. While the aim was to stabilize the South African wine industry, the KWV also wound up stifling it, killing any pursuit of innovation or quality improvements that might have emerged.

Modern Wines

A New Century
For a lot of the 20th century, South African wine received little international attention. This was partly because of its decline in quality and partly because of trade embargoes levied against the country in response to its apartheid policy.

When apartheid ended in the 1990s and the door to world trade was once again flung open, the wine industry began to experience a renaissance.

The KWV became a private enterprise. Consulting winemakers from Europe began to visit. Vineyards were replanted with suitable varietals, and vineyard sites were chosen not for maximum yield but for best quality. Once wineries were allowed to export, says Niel Groenewald, winemaker for Bellingham, they could specialize in certain varietals in certain areas. They discovered Chenin Blanc works better in Stellenbosch, for example, and Sauvignon Blanc works best in Durbanville, he adds. South African wine estates began to trade their quantity focus for a quality one, once and for all.

An illustration of the quick turnaround? In 1990, 70 percent of grapes grown in South Africa were sold off for distillation into brandy or eaten as table grapes, and only 30 percent were made into quality wines. By 2003, the tables had turned, with 70 percent of the country’s yield hitting the market as wine.

Distinctly South African
The company that hosted me on a recent trip to South Africa, DGB International, has been around since 1990, when two wine companies merged to become one of the country’s largest independent wine producers. Even today, about 80 percent of South Africa’s wine is produced by co-ops, 66 in total, according to Jacu Potgieter, chief oenologist for DGB.
However, DGB is a private company, made up of independent, historic wine estates, such as Boschendal, founded in Stellenbosch in 1685, and Bellingham, originally founded in Franschhoek in 1693.

Bellingham is of particular interest because of its previous owner, Bernard Podlashuk, a British airman who purchased the rundown estate in 1943. Known as “The Mav-erick,” Bernard planted varietals that no one else was planting mid-century. He made dry whites like rousanne and marsanne when others were making sweet wines. He made the Cape’s first rosé in 1949 and the first single varietal Shiraz in 1956.

Eventually, Bellingham settled on making Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage, South Africa’s “native” varietal. A cross between pinot noir and the high-yielding grape cinsault, pinotage has gotten a bad rap over the years, with poorly made examples exhibiting aromas of burnt rubber, bananas and nail polish. According to Groenewald, the biggest challenge with the grape is to properly limit its yield. It has a short growing cycle, which is good because it ripens before South Africa’s late summer heat wave. The challenge is that the short ripening period means it has less time to develop complex flavors. Growing the grapes on bush vines allows them to be grown in windy areas. The wind blowing over the vines allows the grapes to develop more slowly.

“Made right,” says Groenewald, “Pinotage can age better than Cabernet.”

Bellingham and Boschendal both make excellent examples of this distinctly South African varietal (see sidebar). Other red grapes that shine in the Cape: Shiraz/Syrah (Brit-ish consumers prefer the varietal to be labeled shiraz, while Americans prefer it to be la-beled syrah) and Cabernet, which loves the South African heat, according to Groenewald.

Still, only 35 percent of South Africa’s wine production is red. What to seek out in the other 65 percent? Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc thrive in the Cape. In fact, some of Boschendal’s single-vineyard Sauvignons could easily be mistaken for Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. But the Cape’s real champ: Chenin Blanc.

Another star of the Loire, Chenin has character in spades. Ranging from bright and fresh to textured and wooly, South Africa’s Chenin Blancs are some of the finest wines they produce. (See “South African Wines to Try” for recommendations.)

If you don’t yet have a South African wine on your list, call your sales rep and set up a tasting. You’ll find a wine that surprises you, guaranteed.

 

Lara Creasy is a consultant with more than 15 years experience in beverage management. She has developed wine and cocktail programs for such restaurants as St. Cecilia and King + Duke through her consulting business Four 28, LLC.

Share

Wild Heaven Beer Announces Plans for Second Brewery Location on Atlanta Beltline

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

With the Georgia General Assembly’s passage of SB85 allowing direct sale of beer by Georgia breweries, Wild Heaven Beer plans for a second brewery and taproom location at the Lee + White development in Atlanta adjacent to the Beltline Westside Trail. The freestanding building, including over 21,000 square feet of space with room for expansion, includes a large area overlooking the Atlanta Beltline.

“We plan to create an incredible beer and food destination in an area of Atlanta whose time has come,” says Wild Heaven President, Nick Purdy. “Beyond that, this facility provides space for our ongoing growth and expansion.” Wild Heaven Brewmaster Eric Johnson explains, “We’ll start with a 15-barrel brewhouse allowing production of new beers plus smaller run beers from our lineup, followed by a 60-barrel system that will take over production of our mainline beers. Then our Avondale Estates facility can become focused on sour and barrel-aged beer production.”

Wild Heaven’s readiness to make what will ultimately be a $5 million+ investment is facilitated by a long-awaited change in Georgia’s beer laws allowing for direct sale to consumers onsite. “Thanks to the leadership and vision of Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Senator Rick Jeffares, Representative Howard Maxwell and the efforts of our wholesale partners and persistence of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, it makes sense to double down on on our home state,” says Purdy. We spent considerable time investigating the possibility of expanding our operation in various neighboring states, but the opportunity to stay at home and the amazing potential offered by the Beltline, combined with a new ability to sell some beer directly to those that want it proved irresistible,” adds Johnson.

Wild Heaven, makers of Emergency Drinking Beer along with a broad portfolio of unique beers, intends to open “Wild Heaven Westside” in the first half of 2018. With space for at least 10,000 square feet of outdoor patios and decks, it should be a welcoming featured destination on the Beltline’s Westside Trail, which is scheduled to open later in 2017. The facility will be alongside other local producers like Monday Night Brewing, Honeysuckle Gelato, Doux South Pickles and Southern Aged Cheese.

Brewmaster Eric Johnson is already planning a taproom lineup worthy of a visit, including variants on core Wild Heaven beers, a stream of new experimental beers and new taproom-only beers. Wild Heaven’s year-round portfolio includes Emergency Drinking Beer, Wise Blood IPA, White Blackbird Belgian-style Saison, Invocation Belgian-style Golden Ale and Ode To Mercy Nitro Coffee Brown Ale.

Share

High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction

Monday, March 20th, 2017
High Museum Wine Auction

Photo by CatMax Photography

In 1993, Jurassic Park and Mrs. Doubtfire were big at the box office, gas cost $1.16 a gallon, and the first High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction was held. Since then, the auction has become the largest charity wine auction in the U.S. benefiting the arts and the 10th largest overall, according to Wine Spectator.

It’s also the largest fundraising event for the High Museum of Art – proceeds over the past 24 years have totaled more than $26 million, providing significant funding for the High’s exhibitions and educational programming.

“The High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction has put Atlanta on the map for winemakers and food and wine lovers alike,” says Steven Satterfield, chef and owner of Atlanta restaurant Miller Union and a longstanding supporter of the Auction. “As the dining scene in Atlanta has grown, we’ve seen the Auction flourish as well, contributing to the recognition of our regional strengths on the national level.”

This year’s two special guest of honor are Jim Clendenen, owner and winemaker of Au Bon Climat, and Michael Browne, co-founder and winemaker for Kosta Browne Winery. The annual Trade Tasting, open only to those in the restaurant and hospitality industry, will be held Thursday, March 23, in the Green Lot tents at Turner Field in Atlanta.

Statistics:
Since 1993, the annual High Museum Wine Auction has welcomed than

  • 400- wineries
  • 100- chefs
  • 12,000- guests
  • 60,000- bottles of wine
  • $2 million- the most the auction has netted in one year (both in 2007 and 2008)
  • $213,750- highest auction bid in the auction’s history, in 2016, for wine, food and music at The Roxy in the Battery Atlanta
  • 85- restaurants participated in 2016
  • 6- sites that have hosted the auction, most recently at the Green Lots at Turner Field

Sponsored by Restaurant Informer and Muss & Turner’s, the event offers more than 100 premium wineries represented by winemakers and principals. For more information or to register for the trade tasting, go to atlanta-wineauction.org/trade.

Share

Creative Coffee Drinks are Hitting Georgia’s Menus

Friday, January 27th, 2017

By Lara Creasy

I love coffee, and innovation in coffee is something I am always on the lookout for. Lately I’ve been really excited about the new push in coffee drink creativity making an appearance both inside and outside of the coffee shop world.

Both baristas and restaurant bartenders are starting to embrace coffee as not just a stand-alone drink, but as an ingredient to build upon. Thanks to innovative bottled products hitting the market, coffee can be found in both refreshing, alcohol-free pick-me-ups and as a note of complexity in creative craft cocktails.

Creative Coffee Drinks are Hitting Georgia’s Menus.

Photo courtesy of Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Growing Interest

Major innovation in coffee has come in three “waves.”

The First Wave focused mainly on getting coffee to the masses. Innovation came last century in the form of packaging, convenience and marketing. Coffee brands became household names. Everyone knew the “best part of waking up!” Vacuum-packing for freshness was introduced, instant coffee came on the scene and Mr. Coffee found its way into almost every home.

The Second Wave focused on making coffee more of an experience. People started to care about where their coffee came from, and spending several dollars a day on a trip to a café started to seem totally reasonable. Americans learned terms such cappuccino, French press and dark roast. Coffee shops became part of the social experience in America, and Starbucks grew from one store in 1971 to 3,000 by the year 2000.

We are at a point now in coffee culture where we’ve seen a Third Wave. For the last decade, coffee enthusiasts have grown ever more curious about the distinct characteristics of their coffee. The interest in fair trade and direct trade has pushed the industry to offer specific coffees in season, often from individual farms with very distinct terriors, almost like wine.

Many coffee shops associated with this third wave are smaller, locally owned shops, but larger companies, such as Intelligentsia (Chicago), Counter Culture (North Carolina) and Stumptown (Portland, Ore.), are taking coffee to the next level in a big way.

 

Restaurants Catch the Buzz

While many are touting the coming of a Fourth Wave or a New Wave in coffee culture, featuring barista competitions, climate change activism and the rampant acquisition of Third Wave coffee roasters by larger Second Wave companies, it remains to be seen where coffee will go next.

“What’s happening now is that a lot of the experience that’s been happening in a café context with Third Wave coffee has started to broaden out into restaurants,” says Jared Ray, senior sales manager for Stumptown Coffee Roasters in the Southeast. As a result, bars and restaurants that previously may not have considered creative coffee as a menu item are putting coffee drinks front and center.

One of the first bars in Atlanta to embrace coffee drink innovation was Ration & Dram. Owner Andy Minchow says that Chandler Rentz of Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters comes into his bar frequently, and a few years ago Chandler told him about a place in San Francisco that was kegging cold brew coffee and putting it on tap using nitrogen, like you would a keg of Irish stout.

“I wanted to do something innovative and new, and go the opposite route that most people go when doing coffee cocktails,” Minchow says. So he made his own cold brew and hooked it up to a jockey box that he used for events and outdoor parties. “I didn’t want to use one of my beer taps, because once coffee is in a beer tap, you have to replace the lines. It’s always coffee after that.”

Andy played around with the strength of his cold brew, deciding that stronger was better for the type of nitrogen cascade he was looking for. (Think about the beautiful ripples running through a perfectly poured pint of Guinness, and you’ll have the proper visual.) He settled on a mix that is “pretty stiff,” he says. The 6-ounce portion he serves right out of the tap is “like having 3 or 4 cups of coffee.”

The most popular cocktail he’s come up with to date is the mezcal-based Speedy Gonzalez, which he only sells at brunch. “It’s not something we do at night. You wouldn’t be able to sleep on nitrogen coffee!”

Speaking from personal experience, Andy is right. In my experimentation with cold brew cocktails, I have had both the most productive day of my week and the most sleepless night of my month!

Caffeine is definitely something to consider when working with coffee drinks and something to remind your guests of. However, says Stumptown’s Ray, “some people get really excited about it because it’s a natural stimulant in a cocktail, rather than something like Red Bull.”

Jared says that the 1½ to 2 ounces of regular cold brew that would be used in the average cocktail has such a small amount of caffeine in it that it’s not a problem for most people, especially when mixed with alcohol.

 

All About That Bass

Working with coffee provides an extremely complex flavor profile for mixologists to work with, allowing the drinks themselves to be relatively simple. “When people taste really high-quality ingredients, it doesn’t have to be complicated,” Ray says. “People get excited about the deep, rich or chocolately bass notes that coffee adds to the drink you are making.”

Minchow at Ration & Dram says he likes to focus on the inherently bitter flavor profile of the dark roast coffee he brews, opting to use it in cocktails like he would use Campari or an amaro.

“I’ve always wondered why people only use things like Bailey’s in coffee cocktails,” he says. “We know cream and sugar work well with coffee, but I wanted to do something new.”

Though he’s had a drink on the menu in the past that featured the creamy liqueur Amarula, his current offering, Speedy Gonzalez, uses mezcal and Fernet Vallet to stand up to his stout cold brew. “People really gravitate to that drink,” he says.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Stumptown offers a range of light and refreshing non-alcoholic coffee drinks at its cafés, including the Endless Summer, with soda and a fresh mint syrup, and the Duane Sorenson, which features a lemon oleo saccerum to play off of coffee’s fruity notes. When it comes to coffee, the possibilities are truly endless.

 

Freshness and Ease

While Minchow makes his own cold brew, many bars may not be willing to invest the time or effort required.

How is it done? The basic process involves steeping 5 pounds of ground coffee in 5 gallons of cold water for 12 to 18 hours, then straining it through a paper filter. Of course, to get the best quality cold brew, you need to make sure the grind is right, which requires a conical burr grinder, and a proper fine strain, which can best be achieved with a commercial filter.

“Bigger batches taste better,” Ray says. Stumptown has a smaller batch recipe designed for home use, but the 5-gallon version is the standard.

Which begs the question, what if a bar or restaurant wants to offer cold brew, but doesn’t have the time or space to make it? Or what if they don’t think they can sell those 80 portions of coffee in the day or two after brewing?

“We are one of the first, if not THE first, to put cold brew into bottles and really go for it,” Ray says. “Taking that quality that is in Third Wave and putting it into a bottle or a tank makes it accessible in a whole lot of other environments.”

Stumptown currently offers a whole line of bottled cold brew drinks, as well as a cold brew concentrate designed to be diluted at a 1:1 ratio, for bar and restaurant use. Stumptown’s bottled products are available statewide through Savannah Distributors.

“The reason we started doing this to begin with,” he says, “was that we were tired of making cold brew in our own cafes. We started producing it commissary-style for our own cafes, and then the light bulb went off.”

Bottled cold brew products solve several problems for bar managers, including ensuring consistency between batches and between shifts, cutting down on the time investment and ensuring product freshness. Stumptown’s bottled products even come with expiration dates.

I looked to Stumptown’s cold brew concentrate when investigating coffee options for Superica, Ford Fry’s Tex-Mex restaurants. Coffee is rarely the first thing on people’s minds after they have tacos, but we still wanted to offer something quality for our brunch guests with minimal waste. Using a quality cold brew concentrate allowed us to offer fun coffee drinks, like the “Black & White,” a mixture of cold brew and horchata, as well as cocktails like “El Chapo.” (See sidebar for recipe.)

The bottled products open the door for innovation in many forms. “I get excited about it going into a cocktail or being used in culinary pursuits,” Ray says.“It’s something I’ve been trying to get going here in the South. People here can look to other markets and see the future a little bit,” he adds, citing cities like New York, Seattle and New Orleans, which have been easing coffee cocktails onto their menus for several years now.

With the availability of convenient, quality coffee products in Georgia, we should be seeing way more creative coffee drinks on menus here in the future.

Share

Innovative Cocktails Programs Debuts at AG

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Steakhouse AG, which debuted in September in downtown Atlanta, is introducing a new beverage program. Spearheaded by assistant director of food and beverage Diego Gentili, AG’s bar offerings emphasize classic cocktails elevated with seasonality and homemade ingredients and garnishes.

The restaurant’s new and experimental beverage program features an extensive menu of classic cocktails and several variations on martinis and gin and tonics, as well as seven different types of ice created in-house, including carved ice, perfect cubes, ice spheres and flavor-infused ice such as cucumber ice.

Highlights from the “Classics” section of the cocktail menu include the Bees Knees with Uncle Val’s gin, local honey syrup, citrus and fresh lavender, and the GA Peach Bellini with Ruggeri prosecco and fresh Georgia peaches. The Perfect Negroni features Plymouthgin, Campari and Carpano Antica, garnished with an AG orange peel, while the buzzworthy Smoky Old Fashioned incorporates AG’s signature Whistle Pig Old Fashioned recipe with a hickory-smoked glass, smoked bar-side.

For martini lovers, the restaurant will offer a full martini menu with multiple variations on the classic cocktail, including “Dirty” with Double Cross vodka, brine, truffle and blue cheese olives; “Vesper” featuring Tanqueray 10 gin, Belvedere vodka, Kina Lillet andolives; “Smoky Fourth Ward” with whisky-washed ice, Old Fourth gin, Dolin vermouth and a flamed orange peel; and of course the “Classic” with Dolin vermouth, Old Fourth gin or Old Fourth vodka – shaken or stirred and finished with lemon or olives.

Share

The Truth About Vermouth

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

By Lara Creasy

For the longest time, I have had a desire to make customers love vermouth again – for the very simple reason that I understood from personal experience how sweet vermouth could make or break a Manhattan, and how dry vermouth took a martini from being just a chilled shot of gin or vodka and made it a wonderful cocktail with character.

Vermouth Behind the stick

Bojan Popovic, beverage director for Cook Hall

A Tales of the Cocktail seminar that I attended, years ago, on vermouth as category, further opened my eyes to the proper care and use of the product and the awesome potential vermouth presented.

The amount of specialty vermouth on the market has increased dramatically in recent years, with traditional Italian, French and Spanish producers sharing bar space with artisan products such as Imbue from Oregon and Brovo from Washington.

“We’ve increased our skus substantially in the last few years,” says Jason Walton, Craft Spirits Manager for Savannah Distributors, which currently represents at least 28 artisan vermouths. “People are more curious about the category, after producers like Cocchi and Carpano have paved the way. Having those products (in the market) has really opened a lot of doors.”

Walton says he is often out working the Atlanta market, and in the city, bar managers are always eager to try new products. When he’s working the suburbs, however, he says restaurateurs often need more convincing.

“I hear, ‘I use Martini & Rossi, I’m not interested.’ So I tell them, ‘Do me a favor, and just taste it.’ Every single time I get them to taste it they say, ‘I’ll take it,’” Walton says. “Their whole opinion is changed.”

Walton explains to his buyers, who all understand that high-end bourbon is a hot category, that they don’t want to ruin a fine whiskey in a Manhattan by diluting it with inferior vermouth. If cost is an issue, he encourages them to market a “top shelf Manhattan,” and up-charge for using vermouth like Carpano’s Antiqua Formula, for example.

Part of the perception problem, he explains, is that people aren’t taking care of the vermouth they already have. No one has ever told them that vermouth is wine, that it needs to be refrigerated and that it has a shelf life. “People aren’t taking care of those bottles, so it’s turning people off from the whole category.”

Vermouth 101

What is vermouth exactly? Most people don’t even really know. Put simply, vermouth is an aromatized wine, infused with a botanical blend that is unique to each producer. Unlike spirits, which are distilled and have a higher percentage of alcohol, vermouth can go bad. It will last longer than a bottle of table wine, due to the fact that it is fortified, but it begins to change shortly after opening, and it certainly doesn’t show well after a couple of weeks. (For excellent information about the history of vermouth, the different categories, and tips for storage and care, I highly recommend a visit to vermouth101.com)

You can imagine the vermouth experience that many consumers have gotten over recent years, ordering a martini or a Manhattan in a bar that has kept the same bottle of vermouth opened on a shelf, or worst of all in their speed rail with a pour spout in it, for months on end. The bad tasting vermouth logically turned many drinkers off from vermouth in general, they started to tell the bartender to “wave the bottle over the glass,” or something equally silly, and the vermouth bottles collected dust for even longer, going even more bad. Bar managers stopped investing in vermouth, because, well the guests don’t like vermouth, and a long, sad slide from grace perpetuated.

But once anyone starts to learn about vermouth, good vermouth, it’s almost as if a light bulb goes off. Because not all vermouth is made from the same recipe — not even close — you can be certain that making a cocktail with one vs. another is going to make a big difference.

Bojan Popovic, beverage director for Cook Hall in the W Buckhead, says that his restaurant stocks a variety of artisan vermouths, and the secret to their success with the restaurant’s guests is the fact that he promotes them directly to the customer.

“People ask the question, ‘I make a Manhattan at home and it doesn’t taste anything like this. What’s the difference?’ The difference is the vermouth. I tell them, ‘You are probably using something inexpensive that you bought at the grocery store, like Martini & Rossi. We use a Spanish vermouth called Yzaguirre. It’s an absolutely delicious vermouth at a fair price.’ I bring the bottle to the table, and I tell them about it.”

Still, says Popovic, the typical Georgia guest is way more interested in the base spirit. “It’s rare that people ask for a specific vermouth,” he says, opting instead to call for Grey Goose in their martini. He likes to tell them how vodka is flavorless and neutral, and how much difference a specialty vermouth will make in their cocktail. “Grey Goose and Ketel One are going to taste the same every time.”

Cook Hall features many cocktails on its printed menus that feature vermouth, particularly paired with bourbon. Popovic says he loves to use Yzaguirre Rojo, and he’s used it on “every menu for the last two years.”

Walton agrees that menu placement is the way to get specialty vermouth into a consumer’s glass. “There is a small group of educated consumers who are pulling them through, but it’s very small. By and large it’s the bar managers showing people the way.”

The cocktail gateway

Leith Shenstone, partner in Fasel Shenstone, a specialty vermouth importer, says that cocktails are the gateway to getting consumers to understand vermouth. “Someone ordering a Manhattan will notice if you change the vermouth, and that starts a conversation. What we are going for is that everyone at least likes the vermouths we sell.”

Fasel Shenstone and Haus Alpenz are two importers who have given a serious amount of attention to artisan vermouth.

“No one has been telling the stories about how the vermouths are made,” says Shenstone, adding that his company brings in brands that are serious about the winemaking portion of vermouth production. While most mass-produced vermouths are made with a very cheap base wine, in order to keep costs down, the vermouths Fasel Shenstone sells are way more labor intensive, often growing the grapes for their base wine in their own vineyards. “They should appeal to all people who love artisanal, estate-made products,” says Shenstone.

He adds that one angle his company has been exploring recently has been going after sommeliers, to get them to recommend vermouth as a food pairing or an aperitif. Vermouths like Lacuesta Rojo may seem an unlikely pairing for oysters, but distinct minerality and black pepper and tomato aromas actually make it perfect. The Yzaguirre dry, which is aged in used sherry casks, is even more of a no-brainer.

“When the somm is standing at the table, and the people want something dry and fresh, the somm just has to recommend it,” Shenstone says.

At the bar, he adds, cocktail menus that suggest a light, effervescent cocktail, like artisan vermouth and soda with an orange peel, are ready-made to appeal to people with a taste for light, dry cocktails like vodka and soda, he adds. “Putting a vermouth and tonic on your menu will make people stay longer, eat more food, and it’s good for everyone.”

The next big thing?

Popovic hasn’t had as much success selling vermouth on its own at Cook Hall, however. “The culture here is very different than in Europe,” he says. “Here people see it as something that will take them way too long to get drunk!”

Even so, when targeted to the right consumers, vermouth seems poised to really take off in the American market. But it seems we’ve heard the same thing in recent years about other unfamiliar products, like sherry.

“The problem sherry suffers from is that it doesn’t fit the flavor profile that most Americans are used to. If there is low-risk, people will give it a chance. The fact that you can use vermouth in cocktails like martinis and Manhattans helps,” says Shenstone.

If you ask me, good vermouth almost tastes like a cocktail on its own, with all the depth of flavor and bittersweet balance that people like, so perhaps the idea that it will catch on as a stand-alone beverage isn’t too far-fetched.

In addition to Cook Hall, other Atlanta area restaurants are having success with selling small-production vermouths on their menus and back bars. The Optimist featured a cocktail called The Cardinal on its menu recently that was built upon solera sherry and sweet vermouth. Holeman and Finch Public House is known to have different vermouths chosen for each Manhattan a guest might order, based on which whiskey they choose. And Ticonderoga Club in the Krog Street Market pours Lacuesta Reserva, a barrel-aged vermouth represented by Fasel Shenstone, by the glass.

“Hats off to those guys,” says Walton, about the Ticonderoga Club. “They are doing the leg-work for everybody.”

When it comes to the trailblazing products like Cocchi and Carpano Antiqua Formula, however, you can find them nearly everywhere these days, “from from your neighborhood pub to the highest end steak place, which is a testament to where the industry is going. For all of those types of bars to have an almost $30 bottle of vermouth,” says Walton, “it’s pretty cool.”

Lara Creasy is a consultant with over 15 years experience in beverage management. She has developed wine and cocktail programs for such restaurants as St. Cecilia and Superica through her consulting business Four 28, LLC.

Share

Doug Turbush Assembles Top-Shelf Team for Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Doug TurbushThe Management

Doug Turbush did not have to look far to find the staff he wanted for his newest restaurant, Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar. The chef/restaurateur has stocked his forthcoming East Cobb seafood concept with longtime team members Brendan Keenan, Jason Raymond and Jose Pereiro, who all previously contributed to his other Marietta restaurants, Seed Kitchen & Bar and Stem Wine Bar. Although they have very different backgrounds within the hospitality industry, this management staff shares a very important trait with their respected leader: a passion for providing impeccable service and introducing guests to new culinary experiences.

Brendan Keenan has been serving as chef de cuisine at Turbush’s Marietta restaurants since 2011. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, his formative years were spent out West learning from some of the industry’s top talents, like James Beard Award-winning chefs Michael Mina at Aqua and Julian Serrano at Masa’s in San Francisco. A move to Atlanta brought Keenan to Woodfire Grill, The Sound Table and Bluepointe, which is where he first met Turbush and later reconnected for the opening of Seed.

“I have known Brendan for many years, and I trust him implicitly not only for his ability to create dishes that are both approachable and exciting, but also for his commitment to trying new techniques and flavors,” says Turbush. “From the very start, Brendan has been a major component of the high-quality dining experience that has made Seed and Stem successful.”

Turbush and Keenan plan to showcase the best seafood species that the East and Gulf Coasts have to offer at Drift. The menu of creative seafood dishes includes shareable plates and raw bar items as well as larger-format entrées. Offerings range from oven-roasted clams, chilled seafood platters and a selection of crudos to a variety of po’ boys and lobster rolls and entrées such as wood-grilled whole fish and rib-eye. Keenan also plans to put a new twist on classic seafood dishes like oysters Rockefeller and will use his extensive travels as inspiration for creating exotic flavor profiles and playful nightly specials at the new restaurant.

Joining Keenan in executing Turbush’s vision of a chef-driven restaurant with an approachable menu, modern cocktails and craft beer and wine are director of operations Jason Raymond and bar manager Jose Pereiro.

Raymond was born into hospitality management – his parents were restaurant owners – and also gets to indulge in his passion for wine as Drift’s sommelier. Raymond says, “Training staff in the ways of genuine hospitality is very rewarding. I also love the entertainment value of wine; the way it brings people together.”

Raymond’s formal hospitality career began in 2002 after he earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel management and a master’s degree from Switzerland’s Centre International de Glion. He spent three years as a private dining and restaurant manager at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, before moving to The Breakers, where he discovered his passion for wine under the tutelage of master sommelier Virginia Philip. “That’s really where I fell in love with wine,” he says.

In 2008, Raymond opened the City Fish Market in Boca Raton for the Buckhead Life Group before relocating to Atlanta to become the beverage manager for Bluepointe. A year later, he was hired by Turbush and finally got the opportunity to combine his management experience with his knowledge of wine as general manager and sommelier for Seed Kitchen & Bar and Stem Wine Bar.

At Drift, Raymond plans to focus on whites and lighter reds to complement the seafood, along with “some really cool sparkling wines by the glass,” he says.

Complementing Raymond’s passion for wine is bar manager Jose Pereiro’s fervor for the art of mixology. He became acquainted with the hospitality industry while bartending in Venezuela. In 2006, he moved to the United States and began working at Rosa Mexicano in Atlanta, where his manager soon recognized Pereiro’s strong knowledge of and passion for spirits and placed him in a head bartender role at the restaurant’s new Miami location. Once in Miami, Pereiro became an active member of the craft cocktail scene, joining the U.S. Bartender’s Guild and participating in bartending competitions.

He continued to hone his craft cocktail knowledge and soon joined the bartending staff at Seed Kitchen & Bar.  The cocktails he crafted for the Marietta restaurant won first place at the 2012 Remy V cocktail competition and the 2014 Fernet-Branca cocktail competition in Miami as well as the 2015 Ketel One Master of the Mule competition in Atlanta.

Pereiro is now bringing his talents to Drift, developing a complex craft cocktail program built around top-notch spirits and ingredients of the same superb quality as those found in the restaurant’s cuisine.

The Menu

Drift’s menu, which Turbush crafted with executive chef Brendan Keenan, is an mix of shareable plates, raw bar favorites and a variety of seafood inspired entrées. There is an array of eight varieties of raw oysters, including Kumamoto from Washington, Beausoleil from Canada, Island Creek from Massachusetts, and Murder Point from Alabama. Dinner offerings range from Portuguese fish stew and Carolina trout with bánh mì flavors to seafood po’ boys and lobster rolls. Guests will want to start with crab beignets or Blue Hill Bay mussels and end with a French silk pie or pineapple upside down cake with homemade rum raisin ice cream from pastry chef Addison Dudek.

Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar opens at The Avenue East Cobb on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Share
 
Switch to mobile version
Subscription Resources Advertising About Us Past Issues Contact F T L