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Heading in to 2021 we have to ask, "What's in the Bottle?"

As we head in to the New Year it is a time to renew our goals and interests for the year ahead. The Kona Cocktail Academy is starting off the new year with our new logo! The best part about the logo is it was done by an amazingly talented local artist and she nailed it! In addition K.C.A. is working on finishing up Module I courses scheduled for release in Spring of this year and to keep connected we will also be releasing monthly blogs to keep in touch and talk about pressing industry related subject matter. In the new blog we begin to talk about one of the pillars of K.C.A. courses and that is the origin of a product, starting the important discussion “What is in the bottle?”.

So have you ever looked at a back bar? Come down the rabbit hole with me for a moment. When I ask "what's in the bottle" what I'm doing is I am approaching spirits, wine and beer the way I would approach my salad and my steak. I'm looking for the origin of a product. In other words, I am asking a series of questions to see where on the spectrum a particular spirits is. Picture a nice collection of bottles lovingly arranged on the shelves behind a bar, all different shapes, sizes and flavors. Why use one rather than another? I find the differences between them all fascinating and have spent hours reading the labels, learning the percentages and the botanicals. Do you know how many botanicals are in Bombay Sapphire? I do. I also know where the lemon peels they use to make Bombay Sapphire are from and why they are so special. I know that Bombay Sapphire is now owned by the Bacardi Family. One of the last family owned, huge alcohol conglomerates left in the world of spirits. Think about how many bars all around the world have a bottle of Bombay Sapphire on their shelves, how many homes have one. Think about what the process of making the spirit is, then the bottling, who is actually making this product? Are they using the best of the best with old traditions or trying new techniques? Are they adding "natural flavors"? Now how is it shipped to all those thousands of bars and homes and shops around the world? And at the end of the day who gets the money from the sales of that booze? Does it go back in to the community that produces it? Is this spirit being made sustainably or are they leaving a huge mess behind? How do they treat their employees and their neighbors, other people in the industry? Who does the parent company donate to in local politics? Spirits have been tied up with politics forever, why? Money. Millions and millions of dollars are made in the spirit industry every day. As a bartender you are going to push some bottles more than others. What is going to make me reach for the Bombay rather than the Beefeaters? Fact is you are going to support some brands over others and that is where your dollar is going to go. Are you blindly going to support a brand that isn't LBGT friendly? I'm not, and guess what none of the bars I do the ordering and training at will either. Other side of the coin, if I know you take care of your product, your community, the earth and you make a sweet nectar of the gods, well here you go take all my money. I'll use you on every cocktail list I ever put together. Examples, Casa Noble and St. Georges, take all my money guys, I love the care you take through out the entire process and I love the final product and I support you all the way.

For example, say I put a drink with a craft gin in it for the bar menu I'm consulting on, after you figure out pricing you use 1 oz per drink, you buy the gin at whole sale for $1.25 ($31.25 bottle w 25 oz in it) an oz and you sell it in a $10 drink for $4( general rule is roughly x3 purchasing price add tax).

In the first month you sell 500 of those drinks.

$4 x 500 = $2000 total profit just from that spirit in that drink

1 oz (25 oz in a 750 ml bottle) x 500 =500 oz distributor/manufacture profit /roughly 20 bottles ( little shy of 2 cases) of product a month

total profit for the house $1375

total for manufacture/distributor 20 bottles x $31.25= $625

Sounds great except realistically the poor bar owner makes about $50 off of that $1375 because over head and the distributor takes a cut of the $625 so the manufacture is making like $350 of that $625 but I digress. Think about if your bar is buying that for a year? That is $7000 worth of booze and yes it adds up quick.

The point of all of this is we need to be more educated and take more responsibility in our ordering and supporting of product, because the pressure we apply as buyers will result in positive change and more corporate responsibility.

This is one way we can hold capitalism more responsible for what is going on in the world and our personnel communities. We can also be proud serving what is actually in the guest’s glass because we know it is the best of the best. And I'm not saying there can't be fun products out there but as much of this information as possible should be taken in to consideration upon creating a cocktail menu and building a back bar.

If you really think about it the back bar is a trip around the world, each bottle featuring a unique botanical, weather pattern, a distillation process that incorporates hundreds of decisions that affect the final product. You can go to Mexico with a Margarita or swing by Russia and Mexico with a sip of a White Russian. Rum can be from the Caribbean, South America or Hawai’i, each unique and special in it’s own way. Wanna go to Peru? Make your self a Pisco Sour, or do you feel more like a trip to Spain with a huge gin and tonic or a glass of Sangria? A craft bartender understands and manipulates these subtleties to increase the experience for the guest. Meaning some one may want the finest aged whiskey and some one may want a Jameson with a pickle back, and both of those are ok! The better you are at your craft the more of those answers you know and no one ever learns them all. Literally there is no one that knows everything about this industry, it is too much, that is why for me the challenge is to always be learning, growing and sharing information. This is what Kona Cocktail Academy is about, it is a community to learn and share all this amazing information with each other so we can continue to learn and create in a safe space. Really looking forward to diving in to the origin of things in the New Year at Kona Cocktail Academy.



Gabrielle Maser


Kona Cocktail Academy

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