Mixing It Up With – Whisk(e)y, Wine, English Ale, Mixology, Chefs and National Hospitality Providers

Mixing It Up With – Whisk(e)y, Wine, English Ale, Mixology, Chefs and National Hospitality Providers

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Every once in a while, I take a step back and recognize just how cool this industry is and what a privilege those of us in the food, beverage and hospitality world have. This is not to say all of you in other industries are not cool or that ours is so much better. It is simply a fact that this one is a lot of fun.

I spent the past week mixing it up with celebrity mixologists, chefs and a whole bunch of smart industry people who are making their mark in their own ways. The Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, CA did a fantastic job of hosting our group.   A special thanks to Director of Food & Beverage, Jocelyn Kraus and Executive Chef Carissa Giacalone.  Aside from the amazing food and beverage we experienced, one thing that struck me from these industry leaders is the appreciation of history and those who came before us.

In his excellent presentation on his journey in mixology, Tony Abou-Ganim “THE MODERN MIXOLOGIST” offered his insights on the industry as a whole, both past and present and how the industry evolved right before his eyes. I loved his personal stories of getting started bartending and his open appreciation for the individuals who helped him along the way. That’s really what makes the hospitality industry special. The people are what make great service and experience. The people who come before you and help you along the way, are the foundation for everything that you get to do and be.

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Tony gave thanks to the legendary Dale DeGroff “THE COCKTAIL KING” who gave him an early appreciation for loving what you do and taking pride in it. It was not so long ago that everyone bartending or waiting tables was doing it to get the next “real” job. Today, there are a whole generation of young people who are pursuing their passion with the explicit goal of being an excellent mixologist, brewer, wine maker, hospitality professional. Dale also recommended Tony for the newly created Director of Beverage role at the newly opened Bellagio way back when, that changed his life forever. Dale gave us a true appreciation for the great mixologists of the 1800s and pre-Prohibition era. His entertaining and spirited history of bitters was fascinating to experience, as we tasted 6 different modern bitters.

Craft of the cocktail by DeGroff Dale Degroff  IMG_5101

Tim Kirkland “THE RENEGADE SERVER” gave us incredible insights into the simple nuances of what separates truly exceptional hospitality service operations from merely good ones. His observations on customer service have direct application to training and inspiring front line crews to sell more and serve better. Michael “Bumby” Bombard “Straight Up Solutions” shared his learnings in cocktail menu development and presentation including a valuable discussion on glassware, ice and a drill down into garnishes. Its all about the presentation.

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We had the opportunity to share some of the finest beers in the world with my industry friends. Anyone who has visited an English pub would recognize Old Speckled Hen, the #1 English Ale.

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It was fun to introduce this quirky English brand to the hospitality folks in attendance. Judging from the response, there will be some Hen coming to a restaurant near you soon.

Chef Kathy Casey of Liquid Kitchen and Master Mixologist & Chain Accounts Manager for Beam Suntory Philip Raimondo shared a fun presentation of “Bar Redux” – in which they discussed new ways to train hospitality operator staff, jazz up your drink program and bring your bar layout up to date. Of course, Phil also served as lead pianist and singer for the groups late night escapades, all legendary, none reportable.

IMG_5111 D'Lish Eggs by Kathy Casey

In Whisk(e)y “Boot Camp” we took a tour around the world from Scotland to Ireland to Canada and the US and back to Scotland. Led by the knowledgeable William Grant & Son’s Whisky Team, this fun survey of different styles of whisk(e)y was enjoyable and informative. Interesting facts – top Scotch whisky export markets 1. USA 569$, 2. FR 330$, 3. Singapore 288$, 4. Germany 138$ 5. Spain, 6. Taiwan. Among my favorites were the Glenfiddich 15 Solera and The Glenfiddich 18, but there were many other excellent ones including The Balvenie 21 and Irish Tullamore Dew. Monkey’s Shoulder was interesting too.

Glenfiddich 12 Glenfiddich 15 Solera Glenfiddich 18 IMG_5112

After the whisk(e)y tasting, several chefs joined me to taste some Scotch along side some BELHAVEN beer, Scotland’s #1. The BELHAVEN BLACK was particularly popular among the culinary set as an accompaniment to the fine sipping Scotches. We all decided this would be an excellent way in which to offer guests an enjoyable and true Scottish experience.

IMG_5094 IMG_5096 Belhaven Best

Celebrity Chef Rick Moonen (rm seafood at Mandalay Bay) shared inspiration at the final dinner as he gave us a fireside chat tracing his culinary roots to the great NY French restaurants and today with his focus on sustainably and seafood. Rick shared his great successes as well as some of the tough times he experienced during the downturn and how he had to be resilient and reinvent himself and his restaurants to survive. I love what he is doing with mixology and cannot wait to go check out his newest iteration in Vegas (RX Boiler Room)! We played a tasting game, whereby we all tasted different ice cream creations of his and had to guess the flavors. It was quite difficult but enjoyable. Apparently he does this regularly with a group of sommeliers in Vegas but instead of 3 types, he gives them 16 types to guess. Yikes!

IMG_5113 rm ice cream creations RX Boiler Room

As always, “The DUTCHESS”, Jen Robinson was the hostess with the mostess and kept everyone moving and staying on track at the Executive Hospitality Exchange West #HEEWEST. Thanks Jen for an enjoyable experience once again and I look forward to our next adventure together!

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There are many other great stories, but alas, not for this post (not mentioning any names Mike Tolley “Beverage By Design”). It was great spending time with some of the leading hospitality accounts and learning how they are thinking about their businesses and how to compete and differentiate. There may be no more competitive environment than that of the restaurant and bar business. Many of the most successful in today’s environment are differentiating on service and their unique offerings. In many cases, the beverage side of the house offers the best opportunity to achieve this. I look forward to further discussions on this front with savvy operators and brands that want to activate their business.  My next such opportunity will be at the YPO Food & Beverage Roundtable in February where I have the privilege of being Co-Champion for the event. We expect 60+ F&B CEOs for an educational and enjoyable week hosted by Disney.

As Jack says… all work and no play, makes Smoke a dull boy …

 

SUGAR SKULL RUM INVITES YOU TO LIVE… LOVE… AND CELEBRATE!

SUGAR SKULL RUM INVITES YOU TO LIVE… LOVE… AND CELEBRATE!

Hi I wanted to share that Sugar Skull Rum is now available in select markets through my company Taliera. Here is the Sugar Skull announcement..

 

SSR bottle lineup

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUGAR SKULL RUM INVITES YOU TO LIVE… LOVE… AND CELEBRATE!
Brand new Rum sets sights on super-premium segment

Scottsdale, Arizona (October 6, 2014) … Cocktail lovers, it’s time to raise a glass! Sugar Skull Rum, a meticulously-crafted super-premium Rum made from fine Caribbean sugar cane molasses, is coming to a celebration near you.

“The premium and super-premium spirits categories have been growing consistently for most of the past two decades, outpacing the spirits market in general,” said J. Smoke Wallin, CEO, Taliera, LLC, exclusive global sales, marketing and distribution agent for Sugar Skull Rum. “Despite its size, the Rum category has yet to produce a break-out brand in the $25-30 price category. Sugar Skull Rum will be that brand.”

Sugar Skull Rum (SRP $27.99, 750ml) is an artisan Rum, made from the very best sugar cane molasses carefully sourced from growers’ farms throughout the Caribbean and South America. Our Rum is produced at partner distilleries in the Caribbean Islands, who use four-column stills to produce a clean and crisp base Rum, before it is brought into the U.S., where it is filtered, blended and flavored with natural ingredients to produce Sugar Skull’s unique taste.

Simply delicious and endlessly versatile, Sugar Skull Rum cuts across traditional product categories and will appeal to anyone who loves a great cocktail and a fun time. “It is a true crossover spirit that can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks or mixed in a number of innovative and traditional cocktails,” says Wallin.

At launch, the Sugar Skull Rum portfolio includes Tribal Original, Mystic Vanilla, Native Coconut, Madagascar Wild Berry and Hellfire Cinnamon flavors.

The brand’s distinctive name and packaging honor the Dia de los Muertos. Often mis-understood as a slightly morbid relative of Halloween, the ‘Day of the Dead’ is a convergence of European Catholic and ancient Aztec traditions that celebrate those who have left this world but mean so much to the people they touched.

“Sugar Skull Rum was founded on the principle that life should be celebrated and is at its best when we celebrate those who are important to us,” said Wallin. “We like being a part of what – and who – people love, so if there is a great time to be had, Sugar Skull Rum will be there. Join us!”

Sugar Skull Rum is initially available in Arizona, California, Nevada and Florida, with a selective rollout planned in additional major markets in early 2015.

About Taliera, LLC.
Taliera was founded in 2006 by beverage industry leader J. Smoke Wallin to incubate, acquire, and grow new and existing brands by combining core brand building expertise, relationships and capabilities with leading edge technologies and innovative business approaches. Taliera is the exclusive global sales, marketing and distribution agent for Sugar Skull Rum.

Sugar Skull Rum created by a group of serial entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers who dared to ask the question: “If not us, then who?” and “If not now, when?”

J. Smoke Wallin heads this team of leaders in the ice cream, beverage, sports, entertainment and hospitality industries, who have combined their expertise to create one of the finest super premium spirits to hit the back bar.

Sugar Skull is a celebration of life. It is the life we live, the lives we touch and those that have touched us. We celebrate them all. Live. Love. Celebrate. How do you celebrate? Sugar Skull Rum.

Media samples and hi-res images are available upon request.
Contact Laura Peet, PeetCom, Inc., lbptalk@aol.com, (917) 860-6285.

Sugar Skull Rum Launches – National Rum Day 2014

Sugar Skull Rum Launches – National Rum Day 2014

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We launched Sugar Skull Rum just in time for National Rum Day (August 16) in AZ and NV. I am very excited by the incredible opportunity to lead this great brand and company from inception to game changer in the industry. I have received so many congratulations from so many friends and associates in and outside the industry. I am very appreciative for the well wishes and thought I’d share a bit of the back story on the brand and why we believe it is a true game changer. What do we mean when we talk about “Celebrating Life”?

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Back Story:

Sugar Skull Rum Company was founded by a group of serial entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers who dared to ask the question: “If not us, then who?” and “If not now, when?” in a business dominated by international conglomerates and multi-generational family businesses. The liquor giants, both the manufacturers and distributors have all the advantages that come with scale and entrenched interests; money, power, regulations and people drive this advantage (you know you who are friends). So what makes the Sugar Skull team think we can play in the big leagues without any of these advantages?

As a co-Founder and CEO, my view is, “Ideas matter. When the time is right, if one can put the right people together, they can accomplish anything with the right idea.   Sugar Skull Rum is that right idea at the right time.”

A while back, a bunch of my friends were sitting around sipping various cocktails, enjoying fine cigars and most of all each other’s company. The conversation spanned technology, politics, exotic travel, past loves lost, and family. As the evening went on, memories were created among friends from different worlds while discussing those people who came before us and meant a lot to who each of us are today, but are no longer with us. One of the group pointed out that those lost people, who we celebrate, are really with us always.

“You know, that is really what “El Día de los Meurtos” “The Day of the Dead” is all about. You see, for thousands of years many people have celebrated their loved ones in different ways. With the “Day of the Dead” you have convergence of European Catholic traditions with the ancient Aztec traditions. It really is all about celebrating those who have left this world but mean so much to the people they touched.”

As the night wore on, the discussion led to how each of us celebrated the lives of our loved ones lost. The idea of a “celebration” among the living, in honor of those that came before and have left us, resonated throughout the group. In thinking about the beautiful tributes put together all over, we all agreed the iconic Sugar Skulls really bring to life the feelings of honoring those gone.

One of us pointed out, “you know, what sugar is made from don’t you?… sugar cane.   That is exactly what is in this drink”… he held up his sipping rum to the firelight… “a toast… to our loved ones lost, let us celebrate what they mean to us and let us live each day fully” Our group toasted…. here here… here here…   It was a magical night and I know it touched me deeply.

From that night on, the idea would not leave any of us. We soon decided, a beverage that brought together the ideas of that evening, celebrating life today and those who have past, would bring a piece of the magic feeling everyone had that night. These friends had experience in consumer products, the beverage industry, motor racing and hospitality. Some were very successfully in the ice cream business and had made their names in creative flavors. After almost two years of scouring the world for the best rums and many many nights and days of hard work (J) in judging these amazingly diverse products, a new brand was born. Sugar Skull Rum.

Founded on the principle that life should be celebrated and it is at its best when we celebrate those who where impactful in our lives. Sugar Skull Rum is a meticulously crafted super premium rum brand that looks at the world a little bit differently.   The Company takes the approach of a lean start-up by working smart and playing hard we are bringing a new brand into a tough competitive market by thinking differently. Sugar Skull Rum while a young company is deploying breakthrough marketing to reach consumers in memorable ways. The team is highly motivated to bring our message and brand to thirsty consumers everyone who like us, want the best in life and are willing to take the road less traveled.

Join us in making the Rum Revolution a reality.

Join The Rum Revolution

About Sugar Skull Rum Company:

Sugar Skull is a celebration of life. It is the life we live, the lives we touch and those that have touched us. We celebrate them all. Live. Love. Celebrate. How do you celebrate?

Created by leaders in the ice cream, beverage, sports, entertainment and hospitality industries, Sugar Skull Rum Company makes a meticulously crafted super premium rum blend that looks at the world a little bit differently. Sugar Skull is made from with the very best sugar cane molasses carefully sourced from growers’ farms throughout the Caribbean and South America. Sugar Skull Rum is carefully handcrafted in the beautiful Caribbean islands at our partner distilleries. We use 4-column stills to produce a clean and crisp base rum before filtering and blending to our proprietary recipe to produce Sugar Skull’s unique taste profile. Welcome to the best tasting Rum in the world.

Sugar Skull Rum is being launched in select markets in 2014. Look for our Tribal Silver, Mystic Vanilla, Native Coconut, Madagascar Wild Berry and Hellfire Cinnamon at select accounts in AZ, CA and NV.

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