Image Credit: James Camp
Regardless of the type of beverage operation you’re running, the backbar is your principal and most effective marketing device. Especially with the ever increasing popularity of cocktails and signature drinks, ensuring that it carries the right product mix for your bar is fundamentally important. Keeping in step with the times necessitates changing out your backbar selections on a regular basis. It helps keep the staff engaged and the guests expanding their horizons.
The prospect of tasting something new is compelling and at the very heart of dynamic beverage marketing. Consumers today are highly motivated by the pursuit of discovery. Enjoying something new and exciting is a guaranteed way to break up the week. And should the product be something exotic and out of the ordinary, so much the better.
Along those lines, welcome to the United States Singani 63, an unforgettable clear brandy handcrafted in Bolivia with a lineage dating back to 1530. This extraordinary spirit is very much a product of its environment. Singani 63 is made in the high altitudes of the Andes from a single variety of grape, the Muscat of Alexandria. The quality of the soil, nature of the climate and the character of the groundwater all contribute to the personality of the finished spirit.
The brand has a patron saint, so to speak. Singani 63 is owned and imported by Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh. As the story goes, Soderbergh was in Bolivia filming the movie “Che,” and during the months of production, his crew and he became so enamored with the spirit that he created the brand and brought into the United States for us to enjoy as well.
Picking the winners out of the steady stream of new entries—especially in the hotly contested categories—is key to successful backbar management. To streamline the process, here’s our list of the hottest new backbar prospects for 2014.
Aylesbury — Imported by the 86 Company, this award-winning spirit is made near Calgary, Canada from soft white winter wheat. After distillation, this singular is shipped to Domaine Charbay in Napa Valley where it is rendered to 80 proof with ultra-pure, subterranean water. Delicate and surprisingly flavorful.
Campo de Encanto Acholado Pisco — The handcrafted Peruvian brandy is a cuvee of small batch spirits of various vintages and varietals: specifically, Quebranta (74%), Italia (16%), Torontel (6%) and Moscatel (4%) grapes. The pisco’s fetching aromatics and broad fruit and spice palate make it an ideal choice for drink making, especially for crafting the classic Pisco Sour. Do yourself a favor and try it neat first.
Excellia Tequila — The aged expressions in the range are barreled aged in two types of wood—Sauternes wine oak casks and French Limousin oak barrels filled previously with cognac for more than 20 years. Each type of oak has a singular affect on the aging tequila. Excellia Reposado is matured for 9 months, while the añejo is barrel aged for 18 months. The entire range is exquisite.
Larceny Bourbon Whiskey — This character-laden whiskey from Heaven Hill continues the Old Fitzgerald tradition of using wheat in place of rye as the “small” grain in the whiskey’s grain recipe, or mash bill as it is commonly known. The use of winter wheat replaces the spicier, fruitier flavor notes that rye provides with a softer, rounder character that is the hallmark of Old Fitzgerald and other “wheated” bourbons—such as Maker’s Mark and the Van Winkle line.
Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch — Monkey Shoulder is a blend of single malts from three Speyside distillers. For each small batch of Monkey Shoulder, the malt masters blend together 27 casks of malts, after which it is matured in first fill bourbon barrels. As is the case with single malts, Monkey Shoulder is 100% malt and contains no grain whiskies. But unlike single malts, the whiskies are crafted at different distilleries. Technically that makes Monkey Shoulder a blended triple-malt Scotch.
Number Juan Tequila — Handcrafted in Amatitan, recent arrival Number Juan Tequila is full-bodied and brimming with flavor. The blanco is bottled fresh from the still full of exuberance and lively flavors. The reposado is matured a minimum of 9 months in French and American white oak, and the Number Juan Extra Añejo spends up to five years in charred American oak. Clever name, serious tequila.
Ocho Cientos Sotol — Ocho Cientos is handcrafted in Chihuahua, Mexico from the indigenous Sotol plant. After harvesting, the hearts of the plants are taken to the distillery where they are roasted in a 7-foot deep, rock lined pit oven, fermented and distilled in a traditional copper pot still. Ocho Cientos Blanco, 86 proof, is rested prior to bottling to allow its flavors to fully integrate. The result is an earthy, elegant and thoroughly engaging spirit.
Papa’s Pilar Rum — This exemplary pair of artisanal rums is made in America from a blend of rums sourced from Florida, Central and throughout the Caribbean. The rums are brought to the States where they Solera aged in ex-bourbon barrels and port wine casks. The Papa’s Pilar Blonde is comprised solely of continuous distilled spirits and finished in Spanish Sherry casks. Papa’s Pilar Dark features both column- and pot-distilled rums and is also Solera aged. These museum-grade spirits are so flavorful they deserve to be savored neat.
Real McCoy Rum — The rum is an exact recreation of those produced by Captain Bill McCoy, the famed Prohibition rumrunner better known as “The Real McCoy” because he only delivered top quality, undiluted liquor to the speakeasies of New York. The molasses-based rums are made at the same distillery used by Bill McCoy—Foursquare Distillery on Barbados—in the exact same manner. The range includes a 3-, 5- and 12-years old expressions. Prohibition never tasted so good.
Regalia Silver Vodka — Handcrafted near Moscow in Yaroslavl, Regalia Silver is made according to a 300-year old recipe and distilled from wheat grown in the black soil of the Russian South and water drawn from a 1500-foot deep artesian well. The vodka is 5-times distilled in a state of the art column still and then rigorously filtered through quartz sand, paper, birch charcoal and finally silver.
Russian Diamond Vodka — Made at the state of the art Rodnik Distilley in Moscow from a blend of premium rye, hardy winter wheat and pristine artesian water drawn from the renowned Mytishchi Springs. After the vodka exits the still, it undergoes a unique 57-stage filtration process, including filtering through precious metals and minerals, biological filters, as well as multiple filters comprised of different fabrics. In total, the filters contribute greatly to its complex character.
Tequila Alquimia Extra Añejo — This family-owned and operated spirit brand is 100% natural, USDA certified organic and is handcrafted using completely sustainable and eco-friendly. The portfolio’s elder statesman is award winning Tequila Alquimia Reserva de Don Adolfo Extra Añejo 100% de Agave. This ultra-sophisticated añejo is aged a minimum of 6 years is charred, American white oak barrels. Kudos!
Robert Plotkin is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and author of 16 books on bartending and beverage management including Secrets Revealed of America’s Greatest Cocktails. He can be reached at http://www.AmericanCocktails.com or by e-mail at [email protected].