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.
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It’s the Economy, Silly
A couple of my respondents indicated that wine bottle sales are down while cocktails and wines by the glass are up. Speculation among them is that customers are watching what they spend and are less willing to buy a bottle of wine with dinner.
One said, “All of these Tequila bars and craft cocktail bars have eclectic and limited wine programs that follow the same path as their drink menus: limited, hand-crafted, esoteric. With these moderately priced and somewhat obscure wines being featured, skilled bartenders know what to recommend. Varietals and regions like Picpoul de Pinet, Valle d’Aosta, Zweigelt, Lambrusco and Macabeo are popping up.”
Boston Restaurateur and Author Andy Husbands, chef/owner of Tremont 647 & Sister Sorel, said liquor sales are up and wines by the glass are up, but bottle wine sales are down. He speculates the economy is behind the trends.
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Craft Beers and Cocktails
In the Boston area, a frequent dining and drinking enthusiast who is an expert in the craft cocktail phenomenon thinks the drinking leopards don’t change their spots.
Tequila and Mezcal on the Uptick
Warren Bobrow, editor of Wild River Review, thinks the quest for new “artisan” products is driving interest in Mezcal bars, noting that the influx of these hand-crafted Tequilas and Mezcals have created inquisitive drinkers. Fans of smoky Scotch are drawn to Mezcal’s profile.
Gen X/Gen Y, Not Your Father’s Cocktail
A couple of those polled strongly feel that the orientation for imbibing is different along generational lines. While the Boomers tend to stick to their regular drink of choice, they find Gen X and Gen Y drinkers are highly open to experimenting and sipping something new. This may bode well for all categories. I suppose it remains to be seen if these new drinkers will fall into “the usual” routine at the bar.
Perhaps the words of a seasoned cocktail veteran and general manager of Boston's new Island Creek Oyster Bar, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, sum it up best:
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