Boutique Spirits Keeping On the Up and Up

Editor's Note: The 2013 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show, to be held March 19-21 in Las Vegas, once again will feature the Emerging and Boutique Brands Pavilion. For a sample of the brands that will be appearing on the show floor, check out Boutique Spirits at

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Offering your clientele the opportunity to explore new worlds of real ingredients that ramp up flavor profiles, especially at the bar, is a proven tactic for increasing beverage sales. Today, there are more boutique and handmade spirit brands on the market than ever before. Therefore, understanding essential quality factors, new trends and changing taste profiles of your customer is necessary in not only craft bars but every bar.

So, let’s dive in to some of these need to know elements of boutique spirits starting with essential quality factors.  Author and spirits writer, Robert Plotkin states that there are six factors that every bartender should be familiar with when evaluating any spirit. “Knowing how these factors ultimately affect the finished product will greatly benefit your efforts behind the bar,” he states.

These six factors include: base ingredients, tradecraft, water source, fermentation, distillation and aging.  However, the real measure of a spirits greatness is taste. Ryan Magarian, Owner of Liquid Relations, Oven & Shaker and Aviation Gin agrees, stating that “the backbone of any high quality distillate is and outstanding and intentional flavor profile.”  However, the mixability of these high quality boutique spirits is vital to their success behind the bar.  

All bars are different and you need to be careful when deciding what new spirits work for your cocktail program and clientele. Therefore, staying on top of local small-batch distilleries and cranking up your venues originality is sure to enhance the customer experience and add to the bottom line of the business. Magarian says that specifically for craft cocktail bars, both Vermouth variations and Encanto Pisco are worth looking at. They can be incorporated into you beverages and help to add new and distinct flavors and cocktails.  You should keep your eye on “spirits coming from House Spirits Distillery and The 86 Company,” continues Magarian.  

Boutique spirits have a lot to compete with in terms of mass distributed brands. “Frankly, from a strict quality perspective I think most boutique spirits are still trying to maintain the consistency that many of the larger and much more experienced distilling operations have, but they definitely add value to your backbar by offering unique and very personal flavor profiles that the larger houses might not justify bringing to market,” says Magarian.  Along with that you usually see boutique spirits that are more fun and exciting. Their backstories are a great selling point that a guest might better connect with.

Guests also connect with the new taste profiles that boutique spirits offer. Consumer profiles are changing due to the upswing in boutique, organic, single barrel, etc. Magarian also believes that “tastes are changing due to a massive renaissance in flavor and eating and drinking as a primary American form of entertainment” which informs the development of new and exciting boutique spirit offerings.


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