Friday, June 27, 2008

Having a Hoot

A posting from my
26th June 2008

I gave a seminar at the New York Bar Show last Sunday.

The Bar Show was a hoot even if Hooters was not exhibiting. As compensation, scantily clad maidens (perhaps) handing out flyers for Hustler Club, calendar girl competitions in your own bars, beer pong outfits to go and flip-shotz simultaneous shot drinking games. At the far end, the New York Arm Wrestling championships were going on opposite the cocktail bar juggling demonstration (start practicing with plastic bottles!)

Health was a big issue: dozens of vodkas, many of them claiming to be organic in various forms, and some infused with herbs, which by my reckoning made them gins. One organic gin that I really liked, Whitley Neill used Boabab and other African products and made me appreciate a spirit I normally don't care for that much.

Rums were under-represented, unless you counted cachacas, Cuca Fresca, Leblon, and Guapiara, who had their aged cachacas hidden under the counter for discerning customers. Rums of Puerto Rico had Barrelito Anejo on their stand, which is apparently being introduced into the New York Market, which should be a pleasant surprise for those who have not tried it. Brinley Gold and Montecristo held up the flag as well.

For my talk, I brought three bottles from my cellar, Rhum JM Tres Vieux, Zacapa 23 and El Dorado 21, which were much appreciated by the audience, and which I thought would illustrate my themes best.

All different, but all in their way excellent, they showed the diversity of rums, but also made my point. The premium rums should not be shelved with the flavoured cocktail bases, vodkas and other joy juices. They should take their place with single malts, the VSOP cognacs, and even the connoisseur Tequilas.

The other point is, of course, that an essential part of branding and marketing spirits is the magic ingredient I call “merdine” – bullshit. But Rum, of all spirits needs less of that any almost any other liquor. Between pirates, buccaneers, frontiersmen, revolutionaries, slavers and rum-runners, not to mention rum’s core essential role in Caribbean life, rum will sell itself if given an adroit push.

And as I recalled to the audience, which dutifully raised a shot of El-Dorado in toast, rums are overwhelmingly made in tropical, developing countries. Every drop you drink helps a poor country develop, which should give a warm glow in the heart, as well as the liver, as it goes down.

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