COCKTAILS

  • GOING BACK ON YOUR WORD…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails, Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

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    …is ok as long as you recognize that you were wrong and you intend to make things right.

    Last Saturday I received a strange note from Rob Samuels (the COO of Maker’s Mark and grandson of the founder) stating that they were going to reduce the ABV in their bourbon to meet a shortage in supply and a frenzy ensued.  I posted my opinions on this blog…in summary, bone-headed move that cheapened the brand and pandered to price sensitive non-customers at the sacrifice of the brand advocates.

    This weekend I received a very heartfelt apology from the same man.  It was honest and clear:

    Dear Ambassador,
     
    Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

    You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.

    So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

    The unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker’s Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you’d even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we’ll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery.

    Your trust, loyalty and passion are what’s most important. We realize we can’t lose sight of that. Thanks for your honesty and for reminding us what makes Maker’s Mark, and its fans, so special.

    We’ll set about getting back to bottling the handcrafted bourbon that our father/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr. created. Same recipe. Same production process. Same product.

    As always, we will continue to let you know first about developments at the distillery. In the meantime please keep telling us what’s on your mind and come down and visit us at the distillery. It means a lot to us.

    Sincerely,

    Rob Samuels
    Chief Operating Officer,
    Ambassador-in-Chief

    Admitting you were wrong is always the hardest part…taking action to correct it is even more difficult.  The politicians have even come up with a word for it, calling people who have the gall to change their position “Flip-Floppers.”

    When you’re wrong and you know it; bite the bullet, take action and hope everyone forgives you.  If you’ve created a fan base of ambassadors like Maker’s Mark…chances are they will.

    Contrast the responses on a Maker’s Mark Facebook post last Saturday vs. their Facebook Post 1 week later (after the apology).

    While this entire mess could have been easily avoided I toast you Mr. Samuels for coming around to your senses.  Thanks for listening.

  • SHORT-TERM SOLUTION OR LONG-TERM PROMISE?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails, Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

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    My brother sent me a slightly panicked text message tonight around the time I got home from work this evening:

    “Maker’s Mark news = crazy”

    Being a big supporter of the brand and a “Maker’s Mark Ambassador” I had to respond…because I hadn’t heard anything.

    “What?”

    Ryan proceeded to tell me that they were reducing the alcohol content by 6.6% (literally watering their Bourbon down to 84 proof from 90) to meet a shortage in supply/increase in demand (something that’s hard to forecast given the average Bourbon sits in an oak barrel for 5-6 years before hitting the shelves)

    In all honesty, “watering down” Bourbon isn’t that big of a deal….in fact, Maker’s Mark comes out of the barrels after a 5-6 year slumber at around 110-130 proof and is immediately cut with water to get to that drinkable 90 proof mark.

    The average Bourbon drinker won’t notice the change…moving from 90 to 84 proof probably won’t affect the taste in a material manner and at 42% alcohol by volume, it’s still going to get the job done.  Jack Daniels lowered their proof back in 2004 to 80 for almost the same reason so there’s already a precedent for it.  I would even wager to guess that if it wasn’t for the press coverage Maker’s Mark is receiving, you probably wouldn’t have ever known the difference.

    So why is it such a big deal?

    Maker’s Mark made a promise to consumers over the last 6 decades of distilling Bourbon…in fact, it’s written on the side of their barrel:

    “Maker’s Mark is America’s only handmade Bourbon whisky – never mass produced.  Each individual batch is less than 19 barrels and this small quantity means we can be choosy about everything we use and everything we do to craft our whisky.  That’s why we use the old-style sour-mash method.  We start each new batch fermentation by using a little of the last, resulting in a more consistent product.  We’re proud of our unique and full flavored handmade Bourbon, and so we add our Maker’s Mark “S IV” to each bottle.  Enjoy.”

    Pay close attention to the last line “We’re proud of our unique and full flavored handmade Bourbon.”

    Everything they do has been in the name of that pride…from the hand dipped bottles, the amazing copper pot stills, a double distillation process (not because it’s easier, but because it’s better), the awesome ambassador program, the beautiful historical landmark distillery and the fact that Bill Samuels (the now retired son of the founder and father of the current CEO) takes time to shake visitor’s hands and sign bottles for people who make the trek to the distillery.

    Pride in their product.

    Maker’s Mark had a choice to make in light of this impending shortage:

    1. Raise prices…curb demand with a price increase
    2. Compromise your product…open barrels that aren’t fully matured, blend with other Bourbons or….stretch your current run with water

     

    There’s probably not a good solution to this problem…it just sucks.  But of all the choices they could make, they went with the one which had the most potential to alienate their strongest asset.  The not-so-average Maker’s Mark enthusiast.

    In picking #1 you lose the short term battle for acquisition on the grocery store shelves over price.  The battle for the customers you DON’T HAVE  YET.

    In picking #2 you lose the long term battle for advocacy, personal endorsement and standing up for what your brand has believed now going on 60 years.  You lose the battle for the customers who already believed in you and were fighting in the trenches daily to bring more people to your side.

    As a Maker’s Mark ambassador, Bourbon enthusiast and marketer, this is a tough pill to swallow.  Fortunately, I have one remaining bottle of the current run…I’ll do my best to enjoy it but most likely be in the market for a new favorite Bourbon.  It’s an unfortunate move…but one consumers are becoming ever more used to with public shareholders and wall street investors putting more and more short term pressure on the companies and brands we love.

     

  • STUFF I’M IN TO (JANUARY 2013)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Cocktails, Life Lessons, Other Cool Stuff...

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    It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I realize I’m probably losing any loyal following I may have built up…  The holidays were awesome to me with a lot of time around family, a trip to see my parents in their amazing Florida habitat and a quick trip out to Colorado for a little snowboarding with good friends.

    Being perfectly honest, I have a draft of a post that I can’t seem to hit the publish button on so this is a lame attempt at keeping the conversation going.  Rather than just ignore my blog completely, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a quick list of some cool stuff I’ve encountered in January…here it goes!

     

    Thought Leader:  Larry Page

    Larry recently gave an interview to Wired Magazine (the best interview in that magazine since last month’s WILD expose on John McAfee).  I tore through it with enthusiasm learning a little more about his leadership styles and vision for Google.  He’s definitely a one of a kind guy and it’s encouraged me to seek out some more information on his career.  Larry is a true leader and isn’t looking to make incremental changes to how the world operates.  He instead looks for ways to make 10X improvements in the projects he works in, fundamentally changing society in his wake.

    Reports of his health issues are concerning and I hope that his chronically hoarse voice is something minor because he has a lot of impact left to make.

     

    App:  Bike Race

    A friend of mine showed this app to me in the last week and I can’t seem to get enough…this game evokes memories of excite bike with awesome physics and simple game play.  To make things even better it has a turn based multi-player challenge mode that allows you to compete with your friends across platform (Android, iPhone/iPad)…  Think Excite Bike meets Words With Friends!

    If you already have the app, click this link on your phone to play me:  http://bikerace.me/ACIXhw

     

    Liquid Culture:  5 Cocktails Everyone Should Know How to Make 

    Imbibe Magazine (something you should probably subscribe to) covers all things liquid culture…Coffee, Tea, Cocktails, Beer and more.  This month they published a list of 5 drinks every aspiring cocktail aficionado should be able to perfect.  So far I’m tight on the first 3 (Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Last Word), but haven’t dipped into the Sidecar or a real Whiskey Sour but will be working on that soon.

    Check out their article for the recipes and click on over to the subscribe link if you’re looking for a really interesting magazine that you’ll read cover to cover each month.

     

    TV Show:  Justified

    I accidentally discovered Justified 3 years back after going through some severe Jack Bauer withdrawals.  My craving for twisted plot staring a bad ass American law man was fulfilled with the acting of Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens.  It’s honestly hard to pick my favorite actor in this with habitual bad guy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) playing the antagonist and a good buddy of mine from college (Abby Miller) playing a growing role as Ellen May, a back woods prostitute who has lost her way but now finding Jesus.

    As a bonus…I discovered that the series is based on a few short novels by Elmore Leonard and have made it through 2 1/2 of them so far.  Season 4 just started and it hasn’t disappointed yet.

  • GRAM & DUN USES INSTAGRAM…YOUR RESTAURANT SHOULD TOO!!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails, Marketing Brilliance, Mobile Tech

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    There are two things I love about weekends….sleeping-in and brunch.  After my dreams of sleeping-in were cut short on both Saturday and Sunday, my weekend’s only hope would be the opportunity to stuff my face with some breakfast food.

    Fortunately, we received a group message Sunday morning from our friends Evan and Kelly who had a similar vision…  We headed down to Gram & Dun on the plaza to sit on the “Best Patio in Kansas City.” (read all about our experience on Kelly’s AWESOME Blog!)

    We scored a great seat and enjoyed a nice break in the unbearable KC summer sweat-fest we’ve been experiencing.  The four of us re-capped our weekend, enjoyed breakfast inspired cocktails (I had the Breakfast Old Fashioned), devoured delicious food (I made quick work of the Eggs Benedict) and enjoyed the company of our waitress Britney (she was awesome).  As is par for the course, we also spent an embarrassing amount of time using our cell phones to capture the experience of our meal….I was guilty of snapping some shots of my Breakfast Old Fashioned with Instagram.

    This morning, I noticed that I had new activity in my Instagram app…Gram & Dun had “liked” my photos and started following my Instagram feed.  It was a pretty simple gesture, but they quickly showed that they care about what people are not only saying about their restaurant, but what others are seeing.

    I don’t know about you, but dining is a very visual experience for me (in fact we’re all programmed that way…but I digress).  My wife often gives me a hard time for ordering featured items because they generally have pictures alongside the wordy description.  While Gram & Dun’s menu doesn’t have pictures posted with every item, Instagram is enabling a social network where people can see exactly what’s going on there….surprise….a lot of people are taking pictures of their food.

    I applaud Gram & Dun for their efforts with Instagram.  I’m not sure whose idea it was or who is taking the initiative to engage with their customers; but I believe it is WAY more effective than just tweeting out specials or trying to drive traffic through a Groupon.  By discovering their diner’s point of view, they get real feedback on their diner’s experience and can remotely monitor the social buzz around the presentation of their core product.

    So how long does it take for a restaurant employee to log into Instagram once or twice a day, view the photos posted @Gram & Dun, “like” the photos they see and maybe….comment on a few here and there?  15-30 minutes??

    I can guarantee you one thing….your employees are going to use their phone to browse a social network over the course of the day.  It could be benefiting your establishment, not just their social life :-)

     

    if you’re in KC, check out Gram & Dun on the Country Club Plaza:  Google Maps Link

    And if you’re not….drool over some of their diner’s photos:  Gramfeed Link

  • BOURBON SPOTTING IN KC

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails

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    My wife and I met a family member out in KC this week and decided to try a new place in Waldo.  I’ve lived here for about 8 years and consider myself to be a Waldo purist…as part of that title, I was definitely saddened when the original Kennedy’s burned to the ground back in 2007.  I was in full support of the owners in their quest to recover and even helped out by drinking beer in their make-shift tent on St. Paddy’s day that year (most of the profits benefited the fire fighters who fought the blaze).

    In the wake of that wonderfully trashy dive bar they erected a pretty amazing building that almost looks sustainable (a grass roof makes you green right??).  The Kennedy’s name was resurrected on the building and business resumed as normal….unfortunately, it just wasn’t the same.  The new Kennedy’s was different…the regulars were gone, your feet wouldn’t really stick to the bar floor and the bathrooms were all on the same level.  It wasn’t going to last.

    Fast forward to present times, Max Watson (former sous chef of places like Room 39 and the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange) has come in with a new food/drink menu to bring some fine dining in Waldo at the re-branded “Remedy.”  In my opinion it’s a welcome addition.  Fine cuts of steak, pork shoulder, cauliflower steak and even an in-house cured bacon BLT top the list of food choices….but the food was a minor distraction on my way to the drink menu.*

    *oh yeah…the beer menu is pretty awesome as well

    Last night, I was fortunate enough to grab a couple cocktails and as you’ve figured out….I sniffed out the bourbon in that list.

    1) The Mayfair Manhattan – a very well put together Manhattan (or Manhatten per their cocktail menu….but I’m not an English teacher) with Dolin sweet vermouth, orange bitters, a wonderful brandied cherry all held together with Buffalo Trace Bourbon

    2) Ward 8 – a lemon and orange flavored [SOUR] cocktail with home-made grenadine and a touch of mint.  This one is made with Rye (not Bourbon), which most would argue is a more traditional choice for any whiskey cocktail.

    Both drinks were extremely tasty and I’m happy to see this level of food and drink make its way into Waldo.  Maybe it’s my age (30), but there are almost too many places in this neighborhood where you can drink until 3 in the morning, I’m happy to see an establishment where you can sit down and enjoy a drink make conversation without shouting.

    Go check them out:

    Facebook

    Google Maps

  • APPLE MINT OLD FASHIONED

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails

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    I came home today with a thirst for an old fashioned but was COMPLETELY out of oranges….  OH NO!!

    All was not lost, I decided to put a twist on my favorite cocktail.  To the cabinet for the Maker’s Mark, a couple mint leaves from the deck and a lone apple from the fridge.  The rest is history.

    It’s just as refreshing as a crisp apple and cools to the core on a hot summer evening….

    Ingredients:

    • 2 slices of fresh apple (pick your poison…I went with a fuji)
    • 2 apple mint leaves (one goes in the drink and one for garnish)
    • 1 tbsp demerara syrup
    • 2oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon (hey….this 1.75 isn’t going to drink itself!)
    • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

     

    How I did it:

    1. Add apple slices to sturdy mixing glass, muddle until sufficiently juiced
    2. Add one mint leaf and muddle gently (you don’t want the mint to overpower this drink…just accentuate the apple)
    3. Add in the demerara syrup, bourgon and bitters
    4. Add ice cubes and stir until sufficiently cold
    5. Strain into appropriate glass over an ice sphere (important…that apple and mint won’t look pretty mingling in your drink)
    6. Garnish with apple wheel and mint leaf
    7. DRINK/enjoy!
  • THE BROWN DERBY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails

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    In my ongoing quest to taste the best cocktail on earth I came across the PDT book by Jim Meehan (thanks to my friend Mark!).  For those who don’t know, Please Don’t Tell is a speakeasy in New York City located in the phone booth of a hot dog shop (that sounds strange….but it’s real and you should go there).

    Tonight’s replica (not an original like my earlier post) comes compliments of the Hollywood Cocktails lounge and was created in the 1930’s.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Maker’s Mark
    • 1 oz. Grapefruit Juice
    • .75 Honey Syrup

     

    How I did it:

    1. Grab a cocktail shaker (when to shake and when to stir…)
    2. Pour ingredients into shaker (I squeezed my grapefruit fresh…only because I happened to have one)
    3. Add ice, shake vigorously (make sure you use good ice…shaking should be abusive!)
    4. Strain and pour into an appropriate glass (I don’t have a coupe, so I just went with my modified martini glass)
    5. Enjoy

    I’m digging this drink….definitely can taste the honey in it and it’s extremely refreshing.  I’m also a firm believer in the fact that you can’t mess up a cocktail as long as you are pouring Maker’s Mark!

    Cheers!

       

  • MINTED MANHATTAN

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Cocktails

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     Ok – so finding your voice is always a work in progress right?  One thing that I promise to you, I’ll work cocktails (specifically bourbon inspired) into my writings….here’s my first.

    I spent the weekend in Kentucky during the Derby and was able to carve off a little time to go visit the Bourbon Motherland.  One of my favorite stops had to be the Maker’s Mark Distillery (for many reasons…but I’ll tell you about that another time).

    I returned from there with an armload (to my wife’s disappointment….) a trunk-load of bottles to consume.  One of those was the Maker’s Mark Mint Julep bourbon… made only during the Derby and sold only in Kentucky (I HAD TO GET IT!).

    This brown liquid is delicious all by itself and even better (GASP!) over a little ice…but I experimented a bit tonight and came up with the Minted Manhattan.  Follow along if you dare.

    Ingredients:

     

    How I did it:

    1. Fill a martini glass with ice and water, set aside
    2. Measure(ish) your bourbon into a stirring glass (I like to pack a punch, so I always add more than most people are comfortable with, but this turned out great with 3oz)
    3. Add one dash of orange bitters
    4. Add 2-3 solid ice cubes (I’m an ice snob…this tray is fantastic)
    5. Mix with a bar spoon (do not shake this drink!) until you’ve made the booze nice and cold
    6. Dump out the water in your martini glass and shake dry
    7. Pour a small amount of sweet vermouth and roll around the glass until coated, dump the remainder of the vermouth out
    8. Place one cherry in the bottom of the glass (I like Luxardo…they’re not cheap but worth it)
    9. Strain your bourbon cocktail over the cherry
    10. Rub mint leaf around the rim of the glass and dump a couple fresh on top for good looks
    11. Take pictures, drink, enjoy and tell the world!

     

    What did you think?  Don’t have the Mint Julep Bourbon?  That’s ok….just use a little simple syrup/fresh mint and gently muddle before adding your bourbon of choice.