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July 2016 Editions

Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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Vodka may have emerged from Eastern European distilling and drinking cultures, but as far as spirits are concerned, it’s probably the closest to the Wild West anyone’s going to get. That’s because there’s no clear standard mandating from which starchy or sugary bases it must be fermented. That’s not to say there aren’t some standards in place. The European Union, for instance, sets the vodka ABV minimum at 37.5% (75 proof). On these shores, the TTB sets the ABV Vodka may have emerged from Eastern European distilling and drinking cultures, but as far as spirits are concerned, it’s probably the closest to the Wild West anyone’s going to get.

That’s because there’s no clear standard mandating from which starchy or sugary bases it must be fermented. That’s not to say there aren’t some standards in place. The European Union, for instance, sets the vodka ABV minimum at 37.5% (75 proof). On these shores, the TTB sets the ABV floor at 40% (80 proof). The U.S. regulatory agency defines the spirit as “neutral spirits distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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Barely half a decade ago, the vodka category’s flavored segment seemed to be dominated by headline-grabbing concoctions that infused the spirit with the artificial essences of everything from dessert confections to popular breakfast foods. Whipped cream, blueberry pancakes, marshmallow fluff and gummy bears were all fair game, as far as beverage developers were concerned.

The unconventional flavors, proved—for a little while at least—to be a dependable way for established, mature vodka brands to grab a little more shelf space, and add a little incremental volume to their mostly flat trademarks. For lesser known brands, it generated press and put them on the radar. But the novelties quickly wore off as consumer tastes evolved. Those brands were good for driving trial, but they generated few repeat purchases.

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Posted by on in July 2016 Editions

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Overcrowded shelves, you say? The proliferation of new distilleries and brands may seem already to have created an bulging-at-the-seams market, but there are plenty of signs that the expansion has only just begun. As more states see the value in changing laws to ease the way for these small spirits businesses to open and, crucially, to sell wares directly to visitors, industry watchers can only expect newer to follow the new.

Currently it’s difficult to pinpoint its size, but according to the recently launched Craft Spirits Data Project [CSDP, led by the American Craft Spirits Association (ASCA), International Wine and Spirits Research, and Park Street], craft spirits represent about 3.8 million of the nearly 211 million cases of spirits sold annually in the U.S., with the average craft distiller selling about 3,200 cases per year here—tiny compared to the 80 percent of volume the top 15 suppliers represent. Today there are more than 1,300 active craft spirits producers operating, with the number of production facilities in the U.S. more than tripling since 2007.

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The makers of Don Corleone Vodka are hoping this is one spirit customers in our area can't refuse.  Produced by Distillerie Francoli in Italy and inspired by "The Godfather" movie franchise, MJ Licensing Company launched the label back in February of this year in the New York Tri-State area.  Ever since, the company has been rolling out the vodka nationally and in select international territories with the help of Brand Ambassador Gianni Russo.

Does that name sound familiar?  It should.  Russo played Carlo Rizzi, the no-good, wife-beating son-in-law of mafia boss Don Corleone in the original 1972 "Godfather" film.  It was his first movie, and he went on to appear in over 40 other motion pictures (everything from "The Freshman" to "Any Given Sunday" to "Seabiscuit").  He also ran one of Las Vegas' most happening restaurants in the Rat Pack heyday of Sin City.

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Baltimore has changed a lot over the last few decades, but Danny Coker is one man who has remained pretty constant throughout his life growing up here in Charm City. From his days of playing shortstop at Calvert Hall, to now co-owning Bartenders on Boston St, Danny embodies the spirit of the city and the industry. Just five minutes and five customers into opening it is easy to see how entrenched in the fabric of the community he really is.

Danny is well known by locals who grew up with him as a fun-loving and loquacious "Highlandtown boy" from Clinton St. Now he has become better known for his work behind the bar with his wife Dana; and still for that unending energy.

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