How can you not be enamored of a state that has more barrels of an aging spirit in it than it does people? That’s what drives my newfound love affair with the Commonwealth of Kentucky—Louisville in particular. I recently took a trip out to the Bluegrass State to explore a little bit of bourbon country, as well as Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail. I had always managed to idealize and romanticize the region in my mind, like I do a lot of places very beverage centric. But I have to say it really lived up to my expectations, and them some.
I was in awe of the sprawling operation that is the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Ky, with its industrial architecture and equipment that appears to have been largely untouched—save for some automated control and monitoring stations—since the period immediately following the repeal of Prohibition. But I also enjoyed the more intimate affair that is the Willett Distillery in Bardstown, where the scent of aging bourbon in charred-oak barrels inside tin warehouses knows no equal.
The bourbon renaissance has enabled 77-year-old Willett to resume distilling activities for the first time since the early ’80s (It was still aging and bottling in the interim, just not distilling at its Bardstown site).
Those were the dark ages for bourbon. The spirit had been seen as “your grandfather’s drink.” The spirits market as a whole was on a similar downward trend a couple of decades ago.
But thanks in part to the premiumization trend, those days are very much over. Super-premium whiskey has been helping pull the spirits category up to the tune of 3 percent year-on-year. Whiskey alone was up nearly 7 percent last year, thanks not only to the single malt Scotches and Irish whiskeys, but to bourbon and Tennessee whiskey as well. The American offerings’ volume was up nearly 10.5 percent in 2012, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Super-premium spirits in general enjoyed the greatest gain of all the price segments, up nearly 9 percent last year.
There’s no better time than now for consumers to celebrate bourbon and there’s really no better place to do it than Kentucky. No other region of the U.S. is more closely aligned with a beverage alcohol product than Kentucky is with bourbon. And before every California wine maker cries foul, I argue this because the varietals that are produced there, by and large, did not originate in the U.S. They don’t call bourbon “America’s native spirit” for nothing.
And no other American city showcases its signature beverage better than Louisville. Five years ago, the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau created the Urban Bourbon Trail, a network of bars and restaurants in which one can enjoy the native spirit, for just that purpose. There are currently 27 stops (and counting) across Louisville.
It’s clear that bourbon’s time has (once again) arrived and not just in Kentucky. The Urban Bourbon Trail is really just part of the global bourbon trail as aspirational and curious consumers worldwide embark on their own journey.
With the dawn of a new year comes a new chance for your brand to shine. Whether you're playing in the alcohol or non-alcohol space (or both even), you are cordially invited to submit your product to our third-annual BevStar Awards competition. It's our annual celebration of innovation across all of the major beverage categories. And the best part? It's absolutely free to enter, aside from whatever shipping costs you need to incur to get a sample of your product to our judging team.
Since this is about innovation, we ask that your product be new(ish). That means it should have been launched no earlier than Sept. 2011. If it hasn't been launched yet, that's fine. As long as you've got a product, a package and a plan to roll it out before summer 2013, it's eligible. (The product has to exist. Ideation is great, but execution is critical.)
Once again, we'll be awarding gold, silver and bronze awards in the following categories:
• Carbonated Soft Drinks
• Water/Enhanced Water
• Functional Beverages (including sports drinks, but not including energy drinks—those get their own category. We got a ton of energy entries last year.)
• Energy Drinks
• Mead, Cider and Sake
• Ready-to-Drink Tea & Coffee
We'll also present special achievement awards for marketing innovation, social media initiatives and environmental sustainability.
To enter, please e-mail the following to email@example.com :
1. Product Name
2. Parent Company Name
3. Contact Info (address, phone & e-mail)
4. High-resolution product image
5. A brief description of the product and why you believe it should win a BevStar award.
6. The names of any packaging, label design, ingredient and branding companies or individuals that helped develop or market your product.
If your product passes the written test, we'll send you instructions on where to ship product samples for the practical test. We ask that you limit the samples to one bottle/can/carton/etc. per product entered.
Keep in mind, tasting is only one component of our selection process. Your product has to offer the whole package, which includes, well, the package and its overall market positioning.
The submission deadline is March 1. Winners will be notified by June 1 and we'll showcase winning products in the July 2013 issue of Beverage World.
If you've got any questions you can e-mail me directly.
We're looking forward to your entries!
I love that cocktails spark conversations.
Where did the name cocktail come from? My boyfriend recently asked me that question as we were making plans to visit Milk & Honey, the speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar and members club, which has locations in London and New York.
I didn’t know the answer to that question, but thought a simple Google search would produce one easily enough.
I thought wrong.
It turns out there are a number of theories as to where the name cocktail came from. (In 1806, the editor of The Balance and Columbian Repository defined a cocktail as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits and any kind, sugar, water and bitters.”)
Some say that the word originated in the 1800s when a tavern keeper north of New York City served mixed alcohol drinks garnished with feathers from a cock’s tail. Another reference to the tail feather of a rooster has been published in a British publication, Bartender, which says in 1936 English soldiers in Mexico were served drinks stirred with a Cola de Gallo (cock’s tail). Other references include horse tails. The word could have stemmed from a horse breeder’s term for a mixed breed—cock-tails.
Another thought is that the word cocktail came from cock tailings, what was found at the bottom of a cask of ale. The cock tailings from spirits would be mixed together and then sold at a lower price.
Among the more interesting explanations of how cocktail came about is in George Bishop’s “The Booze Reader: A Soggy Saga of Man in His Cups,” which says that the word comes from the term cock-tail used in the mid 1800s to describe a woman who was “of easy virtue desirable but impure…and applied to the newly acquired American habit of bastardizing good British Gin with foreign matter, including ice.”
Well, at the Milk & Honey in London, some of the cocktails did come with ice—large cubes so as to not dilute the drinks—(no feathers though) and were mixed with great detail.
The cocktail has been around for a long time and bars like Milk & Honey are paying homage to the classics, but with a twist. The El Diablo, for example, used fresh ginger and soda as opposed to ginger ale. Other “restorative” drinks on the menu included a Prescription Julep (cognac, rye, sugar, mint), an Aviation No. 1 (calvados, cassis, absinthe, lime) and a Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger, lime, sugar, soda).
The downstairs bar had a speakeasy vibe—small booths and tables, dark wood and leather furniture, candle light, embossed metal detailing around the bar and 1920s-style music playing in the background. It could have been a scene out of “Boardwalk Empire” with waiters and bartenders dressed in pinstriped collared shirts and suspenders.
As the trend of reinventing or revisiting classic cocktails of the past continues, bars like Milk & Honey are taking a fresh approach—literally. The quality of ingredients used to mix with the alcohol is just as important as the quality of the spirit itself. Milk & Honey makes fresh mixers daily and says it doesn’t use any juice or extract they didn’t make themselves.
The quality is noticeably reflected in the cocktails.