Cheers friends! This week David Wondrich has got a tour of some of Milan and Turin’s oldest bars for you. Also: Fever-Tree surpasses Schweppes by value in the UK off-trade, Diageo is trying to get some Scotch laws changed, and PDT is setting up (permanent) shop in Hong Kong. Enjoy! MORE
This week, San Francisco magazine explores if a local SF watering hole can thrive in the 21st century without selling $15 cocktail. Owner of Harry Harrington’s, Peter Friel, wants a simple space. “Everything is changing, but not everything has to. Harry Harrington’s just needs to be a real, neighborhood bar. Not the place where you’re going to wait 25 minutes for a drink that costs 25 bucks, but where you’ll pay 8 bucks and the drink’ll be there within 30 seconds.” Amen to that. Read the whole piece here.
Please Don’t Tell’s First International Outpost Opens in Hong Kong
Drink reports that after successfully launching a pop-up in Hong Kong in 2016, New York’s PDT will be making a permanent home in the city. “PDT founders and managing partners Jim Meehan and Jeff Bell will be visiting Hong Kong quarterly, but the main players behind the stick are PDTNY transplants Malaika Suarez and Adam Schmidt, who are joined by Chanel Adams, former bar manager of Hong Kong’s Happy Paradise.”
Meehan says that New York and Hong Kong’s similarities as global finance capitals, popular tourist destinations, and the homes of multicultural populations are one of the key reasons the team behind PDT picked Hong Kong as the place to open an outpost in Asia. “Though the original New York bar is a little bigger, PDT’s identifying assets – the phone booth entrance, brick walls, taxidermy, leather banquettes – all feature.” Drinks will be some of the classics, the Shark, the Benton’s Old Fashioned, the Paddington, and the Mezcal Mule. However, many of the spirits will be sourced as locally as possible, following the spirit of PDTNY.
Fever-Tree Surpasses Schweppes by Value in the UK Off-trade
The Drinks Business reports: “Up-market mixer brand Fever-Tree has forecast that its revenue in 2017 will have risen by 66% to reach £169 million as the latest data from IRI shows that it is now the number one mixer brand by value in the UK off-trade.” This is big news, Schweppes has held the lead for a long time. “Overall sales in the UK are expected to rise by 96% compared to the same period last year, boosted by a predicted rise of 58% in sales during the second half of the year.” US sales are also expected to be higher, by 39% compared to last year, while European sales are forecasted to come in 42% higher. “Sales growth was also reported across the rest of the world where full-year revenue is expected to surpass 2016’s figures by 57%.” Preliminary financial results will be announced on March 13. Check out our primer on the premium mixer market to learn about some of Fever-Tree’s biggest competitors.
Diageo Documents Propose Change to Scotch Laws
Diageo has set up a working group to consider potentially changing the rules that govern how Scotch whisky is made. As per The Spirits Business, “The drinks giant – maker of Scotch brands Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and Lagavulin – has put forward suggestions in secret documents seen by The Wall Street Journal. Among the suggestions is the creation of a new category of blended whisky, which could include flavoured or lower alcohol line extensions of its existing brands. The document also suggests that Scotch whisky could be aged and finished in Tequila barrels.”
The trade organisation the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has called this an overreach. A SWA spokesperson added: “Scotch whisky is a product renowned for its quality, craft and heritage. The regulations which govern the production of Scotch whisky are the solid foundation on which the industry’s success is built, generating over £4bn in exports to almost 200 market worldwide in 2016. The SWA regularly engages with our membership on a broad range of ideas to ensure that the category is well-placed to grow in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.” We’ll see how this develops!
A Drinker’s Tour of Milan & Turin
David Wondrich continually manages to come up with some of the best titles, and today is no exception. The cocktail historian took to The Daily Beast to write his column, this time centering on what – and how – to drink in Milan and Turin. Wondrich starts his tour in Milan, at the city’s oldest bar, Pasticceria Cova, which was founded in 1817. He sticks to the bar (table service gets more expensive) while enjoying a Zucca Shakerato, amaro Zucca shaken with a couple of dashes of vanilla liqueur and ice. Green olives and potato chips round off the aperitivo. He moves on to Bar Jamaica and the fittingly-titled Camparino, where one should enjoy either a Americano or a Campari Soda. Wondrich says, “So far, none of these drinks are particularly alcoholic, at least not for someone used to lapping up Old-Fashioneds, Dry Martinis and Manhattans. In fact, it sometimes seems that classic Italian bars have signed a secret pact to see how little alcohol they can successfully introduce into a mixed drink.”
In Turin, he starts off at the Al Bicerin, where he says to order the drink after which it’s named, a mix of espresso, hot chocolate and cream, no alcohol (quelle horreur). “Stratta, open since 1836, might be the best place there is to understand the roots of Italian drinking. Small but impeccably-stocked, the bar occupies the establishment’s right wall, like the others a sonata of carved wood, gilt and mirrors…Stratta is, in fact, a high-class candy store, and as you stand at the bar, sipping a rare amaro or artisanal vermouth or stimulating the system with a mezcal cocktail (they do that, too), a steady trickle of civilians will be coming in to select some chocolates, grab one of their exquisite pastries, or join you at the bar to throw down a quick espresso.” Wondrich is truly a master of his craft and has us craving a trip to Italy next.