Cheers friends! This week George Clooney and his business partner Rande Gerber are planning to venture into mezcal. An outdated law in Vermont is stopping bartenders from infusing their own spirits.And Pernod isn’t losing sleep over the agave shortage. Last but not least Tales gets new owners. Prost!
What’s this world coming to? Scotch whisky brand Monkey Shoulder just unveiled a giant, 2,400 gallon cocktail shaker. To shake, it requires a truck. The shaker is called The Monkey Mixer and it’s going on the road! “Monkey Shoulder’s US ambassador, Seb Derbomez, and brand associate, Tobias Schopf, will serve a cocktail called the Mixed Up Monkey straight from the machine’s chute.” Someone please go to one of their events and tell us about the cocktail!
Tales of The Cocktail Finds New Leaders
After stumbling from controversy to controversy last year, Tales finally announced some good news. The Advocate reports: “Gary Solomon Jr., head of the local production company the Solomon Group, and Neal Bodenheimer, proprietor of the cocktail lounges Cure and Cane & Table, have completed the purchase of Tales of the Cocktail from its founders, Ann and Paul Tuennerman.” The potential deal was first announced last December.
The company has been restructured as a non-profit, and is reportedly focusing on giving back to the New Orleans community. “We don’t want to totally shake up what works, because there’s a lot that works really well,” says Bodenheimer. “But the big issues, the why-are-we-here questions, I think you should feel a difference this year.”
Clooney and Gerber Launch Casamigos Mezcal
Last year, George Clooney and Rande Gerber made headlines for selling their Casamigos tequila brand to Diageo for almost one billion dollars. This year, they’re making headlines for producing a mezcal. Neat Pour reports “The new spirit will debut in April with a MSRP of $60 for a 750ml bottle…Apparently, Clooney and Gerber didn’t get the memo about agave sustainability issues in Oaxaca; they plan to release several more mezcals in the future.”
The mezcal is said to be more fragrant than smokey and the traditional method of using a horse to pull the tahona grindstone will be employed. “The bottles are also handmade meaning no two are exactly the same.” As good as it is that mezcal and tequila are getting more worldwide attention, there’s a very fine line to walk between exploiting farmers and supporting them. Mexico’s agave crop is isn’t in a particularly healthy state right now and one should think long and hard about whether a new mezcal brand is really necessary.
Vermont’s ‘Outdated Law’ Sees Bars Fined for Serving Infused Spirits
A local news site is reporting that a petition has begun circling in Vermont. Started by bartenders, it demands a change to an old regulation that they say keeps them from infusing their own spirits and showcasing their creativity. For example, “El Gato [bar] was recently fined $510 by the state for putting peppers in their tequila. That’s illegal under current Vermont rules which ban businesses from changing liquor and then putting it back in a bottle.”
Obviously, the regulation was passed to prevent bartenders watering down their spirits, swapping in cheap liquor, or creating concoctions that could make their patrons sick. Not all hope is lost, though “The Department of Liquor Control says they’ve already started talking to the Bartender’s Guild about ways that the regulation might be updated in the future.”
Pernod ‘Not Losing Sleep’ Over Agave Shortage
Another agave topic today: The Drinks Business reports that “Pernod Ricard’s chief executive, Alexandre Ricard, isn’t losing sleep over the current agave shortage, despite the fact that it’s putting pressure on tequila prices.” Ricard says “With the current agave shortage the price of agave has soared, which is putting pressure on margins and the reaction has been to raise prices but we’d prefer a shortage to an oversupply. We need to remain focused and increase our prices where we can but I’m not losing sleep over it. We’ve invested a lot in tequila over the last few years with Altos and Avión, which we recently fully acquired. Mezcal is buoyant and an up-and-coming category and we’re happy with its performance.”
We wonder just how high agave prices have to get before Ricard stops sleeping through the night.
Hotel Bars are Outshining the Tiny Cocktail Lounges They Helped Create
Last week, Vinepair published an article describing how hotel bars are beginning to overtake the tiny, speakeasy cocktail bar – at least in places like New York and London. Author Eamon Rockey takes the reader through some cocktail history, rightly starting off with Dale DeGroff. The reasoning behind the thesis is as follows: “Many establishments with strong followings and longstanding reputations for quality are struggling. New, ambitious bars often close within a year or two.
Rapidly soaring rents plus heightened competition mean it isn’t enough to simply serve a good cocktail anymore.” Most of these problems are lessened if you run a hotel bar. “It is a tragedy to imagine a future where privately owned exciting cocktail lounges are in the minority, overshadowed and outmuscled by well-funded hotel groups. But hotel bars are also our past. One model is not more “authentic” than the other. These days our coupes runneth over, filled to the brim with history and progress, all in one drink.”