Next week we celebrate one of the most important days in America: the 4th of July. Our Independence Day is a significant bar and restaurant holiday, driving droves of proud Americans through the doors of their favorite watering holes and eateries.
Prevailing wisdom tells those of us in the business of hospitality that we need to check the following things off a checklist to properly celebrate and succeed on July 4th in the United States:
- Cold American beer;
- Barbecue staples such as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, ribs, hot links, and chicken;
- Live music and plenty of entertainment, including giveaways and prizes;
- Drink promotions (where permitted);
We’ve promoted these standards ourselves several times. After all, each item on that list certainly plays a role in the Independence Day promotion formula. For the most part, your guests want to have a cold beer (perhaps accompanied by a shot of their favorite spirit) while enjoying a plate of their favorite barbecue foods and taking in some fantastic live music before cheering on a breathtaking 4th of July fireworks show.
However, there is one glaring problem with formulas, even formulas for success: they’re formulaic. That’s not exactly a compliment. When’s the last time you read a review of a movie, album or television show that used the word “formulaic” in a positive way?
The same is somewhat true for bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Guests do want the familiar – it makes them feel comfortable, which is part of this business – but they also want to experience new and/or creative experiences. Well, we’ve come up with something you can do that ticks those two boxes and elevates the Independence Day formula: featuring and celebrating amazing American spirits. Even better if these spirits are local to the area in which you operate because it shows your commitment to supporting your community.
Here are a few excellent American spirits brands that will elevate your program and 4th of July promotions.
Two years ago we brought it to our readers’ attention that Millennials were finally “discovering” gin. It’s fair to say now that people of all legal drinking age demographics are falling back in love with gin, from the tried and true brands to the newer craft offerings. And why shouldn’t they? Distillers are doing some amazing things with all sorts of botanicals and unique ingredients, making for some interesting sips.
Bluecoat American Dry Gin and Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin are produced in the birthplace America, Philadelphia, and the name pays homage to the colonists who fought the redcoats for our freedom. The producer is the aptly named Philadelphia Distilling, perfect for your Independence Day promotion storytelling and theming. Bluecoat is a handcrafted American original that makes use of 100% certified organic botanicals: juniper berry, coriander seed, angelica root and citrus peel. Even the copper still used to produce this American gin was custom made and hand hammered.
Recipe and image courtesy of Bluecoat American Dry Gin
- 1.75 oz. Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin
- 0.75 oz. Sweet vermouth
- 0.75 oz. Dry vermouth
- 0.5 oz. Fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill a cocktail shaker full of ice and add all ingredients. Shake vigorously. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an expressed orange peel.
Another category that has been riding a wave of curiosity, innovation and demand is American whiskey. You would have to have been avoiding bars, parties and websites like ours to not know that bourbon has exploded in popularity around the globe. But that subcategory of American whiskey isn’t the only one experiencing a boom.
American Single Malt whiskey is booming, and Westland American Single Malt is the undisputed leader in this style. Westland Distillery is located in Seattle and uses Pacific Northwest strains of malted barley to produce three widely available expressions – American Oak, Sherry Wood, and Peated – as well as limited releases, such as distillery visitor exclusive cask strength releases and the Native Oak series. If you for some reason need an excuse to take a trip to the PNW to check out Westland’s distillery, their special edition releases should fit the bill.
Westland is utterly American, and as such they’re no strangers to winning awards. The American Oak expression earned itself 95 points in the 2015 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Sherry Wood earned Double Gold Medals in 2015 from both the American Distilling Institute and at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The Peated offering won Whiskey of the Year from the American Distilling Institute in 2015 and earned a Gold Medal with 94 points from the Beverage Tasting Institute the same year. As you can see, 2015 was a huge year for Westland, and the brand can do big things for your menu.
You know what other subcategory of American whiskey has been gaining traction and attracting attention? Rye. Those in the know are aware that federal law dictates this subcategory of whiskey must be made up of at least 51% rye grain to be called rye. Redemption isn’t content to do the bare minimum, however. This small batch rye distilled in Indiana is made up of 95% rye grain and 5% barley malt.
The result is the magnification of the rye grain profiles, a spicy rye with full flavor, and floral and citrus notes. Redemption Rye is aged at least two-and-a-half years, rings in at 92 proof, and is perfect for classic, Prohibition Era rye cocktails: Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs.
There are two other Redemption expressions you can add to your menu: Redemption High Rye Bourbon and Redemption Bourbon. High Rye Bourbon’s mash bill consists of 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% barley malt, while Redemption Bourbon is made up of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% barley malt. The two come in at 92 proof and 84 proof respectively.
Recipe and image courtesy of Redemption Rye Whiskey
- 2oz. Redemption Rye
- 0.5 oz. Sugar syrup or 1 sugar cube
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange peel.
A 95% rye whiskey is impressively American…and so is this 100% rye whiskey. Highspire sources their exclusive rye grain from a local farmer situated less than a mile from the distillery. This Kentucky rye is produced by Austin Hope, the expert winemaker behind the eponymous winery, and this becomes evident when you take a look at their finishing process.
Highspire Pure Rye Whiskey is aged in American oak wine barrels used by wineries in California. This imparts subtle vanilla and oak flavors, and introduces wine’s fruit and spice which enhances the profile of the Ryman Rye. Highspire has developed an aging method that utilizes a proprietary blend of oak staves added to their barrels that does not take years to bring out the unique flavor of 100% rye grain whiskey. There are not a lot of 100% rye whiskeys on the market, and Highspire is unique within this interesting subcategory.
- 1.5 oz. Highspire Pure Rye Whiskey
- 0.5 oz. Campari
- 0.25 oz. Lime juice
- 0.25 oz. Simple syrup
- 3 Blackberries, one reserved for garnish
- 3 Raspberries, one reserved for garnish
Muddle berries with simple syrup in a rocks glass, then add the remaining liquid ingredients. Add crushed ice, and give the cocktail a quick stir. Garnish with reserved berries.
Grand Teton Distillery collaborated with American actor Channing Tatum to create Born and Bred Vodka. The distillery is located in Idaho on the west side of the Tetons, a mountain range that’s part of the Rocky Mountains. Not only is that a rather American location, it gives them access to pristine mountain water since they get anywhere from 500 to 800 inches of snow, perfect for producing high-quality spirits.
Channing Tatum was born in Alabama, spent his earlier years in the bayous near the Mississippi River, and attended high school and college in Tampa. He played many sports, including American favorites baseball and football. He was discovered by a talent scout while in Miami, and we all know he’s the man responsible behind Magic Mike. Again, this is quite the American upbringing and backstory.
Tatum, as the story goes, was on a quest to find the best vodka produced in America. He eventually happened upon the family-owned and operated Grand Teton Distillery, and both an American vodka and lifestyle brand were born. Born and Bred is a small batch vodka made from the best Idaho potatoes and is distilled a total of 20 times. The final product is crisp and clean, ideal for enjoying neat or on the rocks. True to the rural American roots of both Channing Tatum and Grand Teton Distillery, Born and Born is free of pretention. This liquid is all about having a great time with friends with a high-quality sip of vodka or two.
Cheers, and happy 4th of July in advance!