Have Craft Cocktails Hurt or Helped Wine Sales?

The effects of Boston's booming cocktail culture


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Have Craft Cocktails Hurt or Helped Wine Sales? Boston, like many cities, has experienced a boom in craft cocktail culture. Bars like Hawthorne and Drink cater to those who know the difference between a flip and fizz. Then there are those Tequila bars that keep popping up.

I'm curious if this boom has helped usher in a new customer or if it has simply taken sales away from wine? I queried some barfly friends (including bartenders, diners, critics, sales guys) and acquaintances to see if any trends would emerge.

Photo courtesy ginaim via Flickr/CC

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Comments

  • I'd have to say yes and no; my drinks of choice have changed, but my tastes have not really "changed", just gained a bit of nuance. I've always been willing to try a new product or a new cocktail, depending on the place. But it's nothing for me to pull out some old standbys and keep the party going. Education obviously helps inform what you're drinking, but it always comes down to how you like to drink and the environments in which you prefer to drink.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 10:41 AM


  • I'm willing to experiment at a bar or restaurant with a new cocktail, but I won't plunk down $30-40 on a wine I've never heard of or havent tried. But alas I do fall along the continuum described above: aperitif, wine with dinner, brandy or cognac after dinner.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 11:49 AM


  • I disagree. Plonk and cheap tequila are the gateway drinks to higher end consuming. After a few raging hangovers, once you try a really good tequila or a wine that is still good value, but well made, there is no going back. I believe that it's good to start drinking at the bottom of the barrel, that way when you finally start tasting and buying better quality wines and spirits you have a solid foundation; you know how bad the bad can be.
    As an aside, there are so many good beers out there that even wine drinkers are trying them, but wine is wine. A beer is a lark, but when I settle down for a dinner party or an evening in, I want a nice bottle to cozy up to.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 4:01 PM


  • My pal Ken goes into Boston Lincolnshire quite regularly with his friends and family and says that none of this is happening.
    All there is are pubs and fast food, and fights every Saturday.
    if you want a fight on Friday head for Mablethorpe
    Cocktails are known as vodka spritzers or vodka and red bull.
    Blerks drink pints and wenches white wine

    Feb 23, 2012 at 4:50 AM


  • Cultural Revolution in the Cocktail arena! When I started as a bartender in a very classy French Style dinning room, I was not allowed to touch a bottle behind the bar for six or seven weeks. I would come in at 5 and start cleaning the brass railing that ran along the mahogany bar then the bar floor in case I forgot something the night before, then the sinks, and cutting counter, then fetched ice and set the bar up, checked that all the soda inventory was correct because we used bottled soda and not today’s soda guns.
    By 6 we received customers and my duties included fetching the proper glass for a cocktail being made if none was readily available. Cleaning the multitude of glassware when I had no other duties to perform.
    The most important duty was to stand by and watch how the barman asked the customer or the waiter a few questions about how he would like his cocktail made and then watching how it was made. As we had businessmen from all over the country coming in for dinner, the barmen would want to know for example what type of whiskey the customer wanted his old fashion made from. Typically it is a straight Bourbon but some wanted a American Rye, or a blend whiskey or Canadian whiskey rather than an American Rye. Then I would watch the step by step process in the way the drink was built up.
    Let me tell you that the bartender who was my mentor started in the business in 1927 as a young boy and now it was 1968. He grew up in the cocktail error of his time and learned all the little ways one prepares a cocktail depending on ingredients and recipe. Also it depends on the glassware being used.

    Well 5 weeks into my career as a bartender, an order came in for an extra dry gin martini. My mentor looked at me and said: “ Well it is time, would you please go down the bar and fetch the vermouth for me.” Wow it was my first order to fetch a bottle and off I went. I came back busting with pride, carrying a bottle of white vermouth and presented it to my mentor.
    He looked down and simply clucked and shook his head slowly. “ This will not do, look at what you have brought me for an extra dry martini!”. I looked at the bottle and it was an Italian dry vermouth bottle the one he often uses. I said nothing knowing that something was wrong.
    My mentor leaned over so as not to embarrass me in front of the waiter waiting for his cocktail order, and said softly: “ please bring me the French white vermouth, it is drier than the Italian which is what I need for the extra dry martini. Even though I only use a drop in the recipe, I prefer the dry French vermouth over the slightly sweeter Italian in this case.”
    Well it was back to cleaning glasses and studying the recipe book and my mentors ways for two more weeks before I was allowed to fetch a bottle of spirits for a cocktail order. My mentor was training me the way he had trained many young men coming into the tavern trade. And I really can appreciate what he taught me and regret some much that I have forgotten. I like to read the cocktail recipe books printed in the early part of the 20th century because there is always little tid bits about how the original recipes were made.
    Unfortunately all of this has well be lost as from 1970’s bartender schools cropped up and their purpose was to turn students and make money. The old classical ways of preparing a cocktail have been discarded too much in this country. Today it is flipping bottles and free pouring rather than making the drink according to the recipe in the order things need to be mixed.

    Somebody with a lot of experience in using spirits in the late 1880’s and early 1900’s took the time with trail and error to develop a recipe that produces the exact flavor that recipe makers wanted. Today’s bartenders do not care about that but rather are happy to make a facsimile of the original flavor.
    I have lived in Las Vegas for ten years now, a place where professional bartenders are suppose to be abundant but the sad truth is that there are very few around in this city.
    Argue with me if you wish but let me say that from 1980 to 1990 I lived in Tokyo, Japan working in the wine and spirit trade. My first employment was with a Japanes firm imported wines, spirits and beers from Europe. I worked directly with wholesalers and large liquor retailers, clubs and French Restaurants in all the major hotels. After five years I started my own import business and trade. I can tell you that most bartenders who work in the much better restaurants and clubs in and around Tokyo are sent to France primarily to learn the bartending trade from the European view and they come back with the same training I went through when I was younger. When a recipe allows several different styles of gin, scotch, bourbon or different ages of cognac, these bartenders understand the differences each style of spirit brings to the drink itself. They pride themselves on understanding what one spirit brings to a recipe verses another style of spirit even though both can be called a bourbon or scotch or gin.
    We do not do much of this in the American tavern trade nor do we consider it important. Only throw the drink together and collect the money and move on. It is a shame what we want from our bartenders in this country. So when I hear there is a boom in the cocktail trade I just groan!!

    Feb 23, 2012 at 11:39 AM


  • Here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada we have some really great bartenders and makers of old school cocktails. People who really know the history of the drinks and strive to attain the original deliciousness, as well as inventing really great new cocktails.

    Feb 23, 2012 at 12:47 PM


  • Dear Redwineton,
    This is very good to hear. I find that in America when people start a profession that has a lengthy history they are too busy and too full of themselves that they do not take the time to understand the roots that built the industry. They have no real pride in what they are doing nor have any intent to reach a level of skill that is required to be a JOURNEYMAN in their field.
    I am sorry if I insulted some people out there by saying what I said, but I wanted to point out the fact that many people in the wine and spirit trade do not have the right attitude to be professionals. This is not necessarily their fault because they followed the guide lines and rules and did not understand that what they were seeking was well short of what they should have been looking for. But that is a fault all too common in our modern society. “ Where is that bottle of French dry vermouth?”.

    Feb 23, 2012 at 10:20 PM


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