Cheers April/May 2018

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 17 of 59 18 • April/May 2018 Founded nearly a century ago, the National Restaurant Association is the largest foodservice trade group in the world. The NRA is gearing up for its annual industry conference in Chicago May 19-22, which provides educational content, specialty presentations and pavilions wth a massive exhibition. While the NRA has for years devoted a segment of the conference to beverage alcohol for restaurants, it's integrating the beverage sessions and exhibitors into the main event in 2018. The program promises: Exhibitors that provide access to top suppliers, in- demand ingredients and cutting-edge products and services. Demonstrations by international mixology masters, new fl avors from emerging brands and the latest in bar accessories. Education sessions on the art of hospitality, classic cocktails, the resurgence of brandy and more. The fi nals for the Star of the Bar competition, which will be held Sunday May 20. Here's a closer look at some of the beverage coverage at the NRA; to learn more, visit BUILDING UP BRANDY Cocktail affi cionados have long embraced brandy, but the brown spirit still suffers from a number of misconceptions, namely, that it's a beverage for older or rich people. Many people also think brandy can only be enjoyed neat, and served in a snifter, rather than mixed in a cocktail. Tony Abou-Ganim, founder of Las Vegas-based beverage consultancy The Modern Mixologist and the author of several cocktail books, hopes to change that. Abou-Ganim is doing a session and demo on the rebirth of brandy at the NRA show. Part of brandy's image problem, Abou-Ganim says, in addition to the view that's it's only for an affl uent, middle- aged man reclining in front of a fi re while reading classic novels, has been the high prices of many older marks of Cognac. "But in reality, there are beautiful, affordable brandies available, which lend amazing complexity, elegance and character to cocktails—both classics and creative riffs," he notes. The brandy category is diverse and broad, covering both wine grape-based distillates as well as those made from fruit, Abou-Ganim says. "We have incredible stylistic variations from unaged piscos, to fruit brandies, to rich Spanish brandies, to complex aged brandies." This wide range of fl avors provides creative bartenders with plenty to experiment with. But Abou-Ganim stresses the importance of understanding that not all brandy is the same. Bartenders should understand the fl avor profi le of each individual brandy before putting it in a cocktail. "Study the classic brandy cocktails, experiment making them with different types of brandy and taste, taste, taste," he says. Make notes of what brandy works best in what cocktails, which will be a huge help when you begin creating original brandy beverages. What are some of Abou-Ganim's favorite classic brandy cocktails? He cites a barrel-aged Vieux Carre served recently at Libertine Social, Abou-Ganim's bar in the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas. "I also made a classic Sazerac for an event with Torres 15 Year Spanish brandy that was amazing," Abou-Ganim adds. This particular cocktail underscores the need for tasting: "With the richness of the Spanish brandy, I needed to dial down the sugar and add an extra dash of bitters, but it was delicious."—Melissa Dowling GETTING IN ON THE CRAFT COCKTAIL CRAZE The craft cocktail movement shows no sign of stopping, but implementing the latest and greatest mixology trends can be challenging for small, independent restaurants, as well as for national multiunit chains. It also doesn't make sense for every operation to try to adopt every fad. What's the right strategy for you? Cheers editor Melissa Dowling is moderating a panel at the NRA Adopting Cocktail Trends in Small or Multiunit Operations that will cover best practices, tips and tricks for restaurants starting or improving a craft cocktail program. The panel, scheduled to include Mitchie Kanda, beverage director of Houlihan's; Mark Vidano, vice president of premier accounts for hospitality industry consulting fi rm Marke Team; and Lee Zaremba, beverage director for Chicago-based Boka Restaurant Group, will share their wisdom and expertise in developing beverage programs for restaurants. The discussion will include information on: Developing drink recipes that work with your concept and appeal to your clientele. Creating a balanced and compelling cocktail menu. Training your staff and getting them on board with the beverage strategy. Cocktail pairing strategies for specifi c cuisines. Drink naming, garnishes, glassware, mixers and more. The panel will take place on the NRA's BAR stage on May 20. For more information, visit NRA 2018 Preview

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