On Facebook I recently stumbled over a new group led by Theo Watt. The group was about a new trade magazine for China. This reminded me very much of the time, when we started putting together our ideas for Mixology magazine. It’ll be interesting to see this new Asian magazine growing. Theo was so kind to answer me a few questions about his ambitious project and the market he’s targeting.
Theo, what is your background? Bartending or publishing?
Background is actually hospitality having done bar stints here and there but moved into the real bar world a little late going to work for the likes of Grant Collins in Water Bar, W Sydney, 2004. I worked mostly on the floor in the beginning, and started to get a real shine for the drinks being prepared. I was then given the chance to start purchasing for the bar along with still working with the boys, and grew a real affinity to the different brands being used and the history behind them, meeting the reps and tasting new spirits to bring into the bar, and eventually playing with product and starting to learn how to mix.
I wanted to build up a great speed rail for the bar boys to use on top of an already great one Grant had brought it, and purchasing and working with this great team enabled me to learn a great amount. After Grant left I went from purchasing to taking over the reigns in operations having had previous management experience and a new found love for “the bar”. From 2 years at W, I went to work for a group of hotels in Kenya to help design their signature bar, list, etc., after which I was asked to come to China by a mate to help build up a bar in Shanghai, China. Thats what brought me here.
When did you get the idea to start a bar magazine for China?
Well when I first came out I knew this market was lacking in a few areas bar wise, and I was thinking to create some kind of newsletter to help train and bring together a few of the bars into a kind fo network so everyone could see how things were done on a more standarised level, but the idea grew and grew, as they do, and my job was finished with the bar I set up, so I decided I will give it a shot and see if it works. I had met a fair few people in the bar world and I thought with their help we could educate and illuminate this industry to a significant level.
Have you been living or working in China?
So I have been here for just over 18 months, working on the mag for the last 6.
What’s the Chinese beverage market like? What kind of products are mainly consumed in bars?
As many people will tell you the bar market in China is still at a very early stage, in Chinese clubs and bars its still very much whisky and green tea. To give you an idea of the potential, only 95% of the chinese market drink western liquor, the rest is baijo, but that is mainly outside the larger cities! Now in the bigger cities the main products drunk in bars are the brown spirits, mainly whisky and cognac. The cocktail market is slowly getting there but there has to be an understanding of these western type spirits first and that is where we come in.
What will the magazine look like? Will it be bi-lingual?
The magazine will be bi-lingual (Chinese first) and it will have a stylized approach that might make it look on most levels like a lifestyle mag. There is no such thing as western style industry publications here so the best way to dress the mag is like something they are used to and can appreciate.
Where will you launch the magazine? In the coastal areas like Hongkong, Shanghai, Beijing or will you cover all major cities from day one?
We have the tall order of covering the 1st and 2nd Tier cities from day one. We have a lesson to teach, and we want to make sure that the lesson gets to as many of the influential Chinese cities as possible. Hong Kong and Macau we will do sepeartely just after as they have enough of their own culture to cover a mag by themselves.
What will the circulation be like?
Well its a big country with a few people in it, and hospitality is one of the largest industries here, so we are sending the mag to the on trade only with a view at bars, hotels, restaurants, cafes, karaoke clubs, and even duty free. We will be sending roughly 3-6 mags (depending on size) to each venue so that the bartender, manager, owner, investor etc can have the chance to read about the industry.
First 2 months 3000 (thats one mag to each venue), then up to 5’000, after six months 10’000, after a year looking at close to 20’000 and more and more. Calculated an average of 6-8 bartenders should read each mag. To give an idea of scope we already have 1500 venues to send to in Shanghai alone, let alone the other 10 cities we are targeting. So numbers will be rising pretty significantly.
Who will be contributing to the magazine?
Well we are proud to say that, we have, Mr Dale deGroff – King Cocktail, Gary Regan – Ardent Spirits, Angus Winchester – Alconomics, Naren Young – Bobo, Jacques Bezuidenhout – As independent, Marcos Tello – For Medicinal Purposes Only, Xavier Padovani – As Independent, John Gakuru – As independent, Papa Jules – Mahiki, George Nemec – As independent, Gregor De Cuyther, Dean Callen – As independent, Pete Kendall – Alconomics, Lee Linford – Tara 57, Shanghai, Kenta Goto – Pegu Club, NYC, Hidetsugu Ueno – Bar High Five, Tokyo, Kavin Lv, as independent, and many more…
When will the first issue come out?
First issue is planned for end of November so fingers crossed no problems arise but right now we are on track. My partner in crime is Dan Bignold, an experienced writer from England who has most recently been managaing editor for SH magazine here in Shanghai, and previously worked for Caterer and Hotelkeeper in the UK, he will be taking the magazine and making it look great, and read even better, for the eyes of China, and the rest of the world.
Thank you for the interview and good luck with your magazine!
Contact Chinese Drink Magazine:
Theo Watt, Executive Director
Thirsty Work Productions – Drink Magazine
Bildquelle: Chinese Magazines via Shutterstock