The 5 Best Nightcaps to Drink Before Bed

Sometimes the only way to unwind from an exhausting day of work is by sipping yourself to sleep with a cocktail in hand. A drink before bed calms the nerves, relaxes the body and takes your mind off the stresses of the day. The practice has earned so many fans, it gained its own name over the years—the nightcap.

Often rich and boozy—and sometimes warmed to perfection—a proper nightcap cocktail exudes coziness and allows for extended sipping. Think of the nightcap as a grown-up lullaby: It’s meant to be consumed slowly and deliberately rather than chugged haphazardly.

The next time you need a little help getting some shut eye, mix up one of these five soothing cocktails before light’s out. Sweet dreams, cocktail lovers.

Rum Flip

The definition of a rich, hearty cocktail, the Rum Flip combines the healing powers of three potent ingredients: a whole egg, rich ground nutmeg and a sturdy base of rum. Not only will its heavy texture and flavor restore you after a long day, but it also has the power to rock your taste buds gently to sleep.

Brandy Alexander

Anyone who has a sweet tooth will appreciate the Brandy Alexander—the grandfather of dessert cocktails. Using heavy cream rather than a whole egg, it comes together with a blend of chocolaty crème de cacao and fruit-forward cognac. And don’t worry. This cocktail also benefits from a topping of spiced goodness from freshly grated nutmeg.

Sazerac

The classic Sazerac forgoes super-rich ingredients to channel one of the simplest nightcaps of all: a measure of your favorite dark spirit. But crafting a cocktail instead of sipping on a dram of scotch or Cognac allows for more complexity and, well, flavor. The Sazerac delivers a punch of both by blending rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters for a sipper you’re sure to dream about.

Black Manhattan

Sure, a traditional Manhattan is a delicious way to cap off the night, but the Black Manhattan is even better. Tossing out the vermouth in favor of amaro allows for a different balance of flavors—and just the right amount of midnight mystery—that signals the time to relax and wind down.

Hot Chai Tea Toddy

Most nightcaps may call in the powers of brown spirits to get you ready for bed, but this steaming, spiced drink takes a different approach with a stiff measure of gin. Though gin’s bright botanicals might typically awaken the senses, it has the opposite effect when paired with ultra-cozy chai tea, honey and warm apple juice, helping to lull you right into a restful night’s sleep.

 

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Why Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky Doesn’t Deserve Its Bad Rap

This is Straight Up, a column by whiskey expert and author Heather Greene. Today, Greene explains the ins and outs of Johnnie Walker.


“Johnnie Walker Blue is for douches!” barks a thirtysomething tech startup whisky drinker during one of my seminars. “Right?” He stares at me for a beat and a blink. He’s eager that I confirm his outburst, agreeing that Johnnie Walker Blue is a whisky for hedge-fund jackasses who don’t know enough about Scotch to order something better. I surprise the room with this complete sentence: “No.” Over the next-half hour we get to the heart of what the Johnnie Walker range actually offers. Are they all blends? Yes. Made with barley? Yes and no. Is it really that good? Depends on your palate. What’s the difference between the colors? Let’s get into that. And so on.

The symbolic act of serving a high-cost liquid means something.

Almost 90 percent of the seminars I conduct land on the topic of Johnnie Walker and stay there. (It’s the world’s most-distributed brand of whiskey, with its parent company claiming that six bottles of Johnnie Walker are sold throughout the world every second.) I serve it whenever I can, hoping to knock out the new whisky fan’s bad habit of dismissing big-brand powerhouses like Johnnie Walker without enough data to make an informed opinion. I leave the possibility open that even a “douche” might have a perfectly educated palate and know exactly what he wants to drink and why.

I like Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky — especially the Black and the Blue. But my connection to the brand moves beyond mere aromatic and taste discernment and into a grander experience: I’m probably pre-gaming in terminal C at Newark Airport with a friend when I order Black, and the Blue is one I’m drinking because someone kindly bought me the expensive dram to enjoy. Both the Blue buyer and I know that this symbolic act of serving me a high-cost liquid means something. “Research shows that it’s hard to separate out the different sensory experiences going on around us when we’re engaged with a product. When we evaluate things, we evaluate them holistically,” says Andrew Gershoff, associate professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. “It’s in part because of how you perceive the context — people buy things for an experience and to be a part of something, knowing that other people are experiencing it in the same way. And that’s kind of pleasant, don’t you agree?”

I do. I’ll take another.

Photo: Diageo

What Is Johnnie Walker?

The Johnnie Walker range falls under the category of what’s called blended Scotch whisky, one of five categories of Scotch. You read that correctly: There are five categories of Scotch whisky. Each one of these five categories is made from malt whisky, grain whisky, or a combination of both. The word “single” in single-malt Scotch does not signify the amount of grain used. Rather, it means that the whisky comes from one single distillery. If a Scotch is bottled from more than one distillery, we’ll use the word “blended.” The players are:

1. Single malt Scotch
2. Single grain Scotch
3. Blended Scotch
4. Blended malt Scotch
5. Blended grain Scotch

Distillers in Scotland who produce whisky using 100 percent malted barley may call it a malt whisky. Grain whisky in Scotland may include barley, but can involve other cereals such as corn, wheat, or rye. In order to be called a Scotch, the malt or grain-based whiskies (or the combination) must be matured on Scottish soil for a minimum of three years in oak barrels and bottled at a minimum of 40 percent abv (alcohol by volume).

You’ll notice that on most bottles of Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch Whisky, the word “malt” is missing. That’s your clue that it’s not made with 100 percent malted barley. Johnnie Walker is a blend of grain whiskies and a blend of malt whiskies from different distilleries. If you want to go more in-depth with the other styles, I know a book that might help. (I happen to be its author.)

But first, let’s get into these bottles, presented here from least to most expensive:

Johnnie Walker Red 
This is the range’s “entry level” Scotch. It’s rough-and-tumble whisky, young, and built for soda — literally. When the Phylloxera disease hit grape vines in France, Johnnie Walker Red was developed to take the place of brandy and soda, a popular drink in Europe. If you don’t see any Japanese whisky with which to make your highball, and you also see jalapeño cheese poppers on the menu, a Red highball will do the trick just fine.

Johnnie Walker Black
The Johnnie Walker Black contains 30 to 40 different malts. It’s more robust than the Blue, and less refined, too. A larger proportion of Islay whiskies deliver a noticeable level of peat and smoke. Corn and wheat characterize the base grain whisky upon which the malts are added. Those of you who developed a taste for the Black, you’re in luck: This 12 year-old whisky sells like hotcakes the world over, and you’ll always know what you’re getting in terms of taste and aroma. If you’re anything like me, you’ll peruse a wine list in some mediocre bar and wonder what the hell you’re going to get and whether it’s gone off already. Worse is trying to evaluate a staff’s cocktail-making ability. A reliable, big-brand whisky poured over ice is often my answer to this conundrum.

Johnnie Walker Double Black
Don’t be confused: The “double” in this case simply refers to the extra peat and smoke malts used in the blend, and is not used as an industry-wide term. For those who love big bold Islay whiskies and want to try a blended Scotch, this would be a good choice.

Johnnie Walker Green
The Green falls under a different Scotch category. It’s a blended malt Scotch whisky, and that means that no grain whisky was used: It’s a blend of malts from single-malt distilleries. Green disappeared for a couple of years, selling only in Asia. It’s been re-introduced to the U.S. market just this month in tandem with the dramatic government spending cutbacks in China. I think this means we’ll be enjoying a bigger variety of Scotch whiskies here in the U.S.A. — Green included. I go to bed at night dreaming of whisky-filled tankers leaving Shanghai and headed for U.S. shores. The last time I tasted the entire range blindly, I chose Green as my favorite: It has a richer mouthfeel and lands more heavily across my palate. For you risk-adverse single malt drinkers, Green is your friend.

Photos: Johnnie Walker/Facebook

Johnnie Walker Gold
Relaunched in 2012, the Gold’s heart is centered on a highland distillery called Clynelish. Many years ago, a Johnnie Walker representative recommended that I drink this well-chilled, right out of the refrigerator. Chilled whisky condenses flavor so that certain aromatic molecules are silenced. The Gold went down softly and easily — it’s one that can take the place of your usual post-work white wine habit. Just don’t drink as much: This is sipping whisky.

Johnnie Walker Platinum 
Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo introduced Platinum just a couple of years back, with a price point that sits right behind the Blue Label. It’s an 18-year-old Scotch, which means that all the ingredients in the bottle are aged in Scotland for a minimum of 18 years — some probably longer. This is great for those who want an age statement on their bottle of whisky; the Blue doesn’t carry one. It’s richer than the Blue, but less robust and smoky than the Black.

Johnnie Walker Blue
Industry sources tell me that Blue’s malt-heart comes from a distillery called Royal Lochnagar, which produces unpeated, slightly creamy, and floral single malt Scotch. You’ll pay a premium for the privilege of drinking some aged stocks blended in, too. And no, you will never know for sure what the grain-to-malt proportion is nor which malt distilleries are used in the blend. A pinch of smoky Islay whisky augments the base of sweet grain whisky, the Royal Lochnagar, and a dash of vintage malts. Nothing in it will surprise you, but neither will it require any grand thinking about what’s going on in your mouth, either. This is a blend that will appeal to many palates.

Discernment Versus Image in Scotch Drinking

I don’t need to know the precise herbs or grains used to create my gin, and I don’t always need to tease out every grain or malt used in my whisky, either. That said, I spend my working life helping spirit drinkers become better discerners. I encourage them to identify whisky attributes by tapping into and appreciating the largely ignored olfactory system. I preach palate variability and subjectivity because I want students to feel empowered to make their own brand judgments. This takes practice and concentration.

Our emotions act on our preferences and taste.

But we’re not always in the mood for that sort of thing. Making things even more complicated is another point that professor Gershoff shared with me: That our emotions act on our preferences and taste. “In fact, since the 1940s, there’s a lot of research showing that people can’t even tell the difference between different beers or sodas,” he says. “Marketing, then, can come in and fill that gap.” Johnnie Walker does that well.

Let’s pretend that a whisky drinker sitting next to me at the bar gives me the stink-eye for ordering Johnnie Walker Blue. He snickers and lectures me about his esoteric, independent bottling from some little-known distillery. A potential client or business partner rolls in to join me. There are dozens of ultra-premium Scotch brands that I love or even think might taste better. But few express the same immediate and luxurious sentiment that Blue does. I think to myself, Who likes a whisky know-it-all explaining the virtues of smell or esoteric whiskies everywhere she goes? No one. I buy another round of JW Blue for myself and my guest, so that togther we can enjoy and share in the sense of occasion that this whisky brings — and if anyone at the bar thinks that makes us douches, so what?

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PABST FINDS A PARTNER FOR SPIRITS LAUNCH

FOUR LOKO-MAKER PHUSION PROJECTS

Pabst Brewing Co., the owner of heritage beer brands such as PBR, Schlitz and Old Milwaukee, is getting into the spirits business.

The privately owned company on Tuesday said it launched a whiskey brand under its Small Town banner called Not Your Father’s Bourbon in Wisconsin and Illinois with plans to push the brand nationwide in early 2018.

The 43 percent alcohol-by-volume, contract-distilled bourbon contains a “touch of Madagascar vanilla” and carries a suggested retail price of $29.99 for a 750-ml bottle. Pabst said in a news release the spirit was “crafted for veteran and novice bourbon drinkers alike.” Adding vanilla, it said, is “an exciting spin on the centuries-old spirit for a new generation of whiskey drinkers and cocktail connoisseurs.”

The move to diversify its beer-centric portfolio comes amid a down year for Pabst and its Not Your Father’s flavored beverage franchise. Case volume company-wide is down 2.1 percent and sales dollars have slipped 1.3 percent year-to-date through Nov. 4, according to Nielsen all-outlet data. Not Your Father’s, maker of hard root beer, ginger ale and other hard sodas, has been particularly battered, off 55 percent in sales dollars on a 53.7 percent drop in volume.

Pabst’s foray into spirits also comes amid broader pressure on the beer market, which continues to shed share to wine and spirits, particularly among younger legal-age drinkers. The beer industry has lost some 35 million barrels of beer, or 11 billion servings, to wine and spirits over the last 20 years, Heineken USA President Ronald den Elzen said in an October speech. Over that period, beer’s share of the total alcohol beverage market has shrunk to 50 percent, down from 62 percent, den Elzen said.

Other brewers already are dabbling in distilled spirits, including Michigan’s New Holland, Delaware’s Dogfish Head, Oregon’s Rogue Ales & Spirits and Indiana’s Three Floyds.

Among big brewers, only Constellation Brands has a significant presence in the industry, but Anheuser-Busch InBev, through its craft acquisitions, is eyeing an entry. The company in July applied for an Oregon distillery license for its 10 Barrel Brewing craft brewery. Its Devils Backbone brewery in Virginia also has expressed interest in distilling.

Prior to being bought by InBev, Anheuser-Busch flirted with spirits, creating a unit called Long Tail Libations that tested a shooter product for bars and clubs called Jekyll & Hyde. It also struck a deal a decade ago to distribute a line of spirits in the Northeast.

Pabst contract brews its beers and plans to do the same with its spirits division, which is dubbed Small Town Craft Spirits, according to the industry publication Brewbound, which first reported the news. The whiskey is being produced by Minhas Distillery, a contract- and private label-manufacturer in Monroe, Wis.

It has also outsourced marketing, sales and distribution rights of the brown spirit to Chicago-based Innovative Wine & Spirits, Brewbound reported.

According to company filings with the Illinois Secretary of State, Innovative Wine & Spirits is owned by Phusion Projects, the maker of the high-gravity flavored malt beverage Four Loko. Phusion jumped into the spirits space this year with its “Four Loko Shots” brand, an attempt to move its brands more into on-premise accounts, the company told Crain’s Chicago Business in a July report.

A spokesman for Small Town Craft Spirits said he was not able to provide more information.

Chris Furnari, the Boston-based editor of Brewbound, said in an interview that beer companies are seeking ways to diversify their portfolios amid the current turbulence in the market. But, he said, he’s “struggling to wrap my head around this one because it doesn’t feel like they’re all-in on it.”

“I understand the rationale behind wanting to leverage the brand equity they’ve already built with Small Town,” Furnari said. But the fact that Pabst is outsourcing the production, sales, marketing and distribution of the brand “doesn’t tell me they’re dedicated or super serious about investing in the space.”

Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger Meatballs Recipe

Try these Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger Meatballs for a real treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 tsp. steak seasoning (Any brand that’s good on steak will work.)
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 6 slices very crisp bacon, crumbled (We used pre-cooked bacon and crisped it in the microwave, then blotted off the extra fat.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickle (Don’t use pickle relish; that will make the meatballs too moist.)
  • 4 oz. Swiss cheese, cut into very small cubes (Or use other cheese of your choice.)
  • olive oil for brushing meatballs
  • burger sauce or fry sauce for dipping meatballs

Instructions:

  1. Crumble the beef into a plastic bowl and sprinkle with the steak seasoning and black pepper; add the egg. Crisp the bacon and crumble, dice dill pickles, and cut the cheese into small cubes. Add the crumbled bacon, diced pickles, and cubes of cheese to the ground beef and use your hands to gently combine ingredients. (Don’t over-mix; that will make the meatballs tough.)
  2. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the beef mixture and then form it into a meatball, tucking the cheese cubes inside as you make the meatballs. Put formed meatballs on a small baking sheet and put them in the fridge to chill for 30-40 minutes. This will help the meatballs keep their shape on the hot grill.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, put the grilling pan on top of the grill grates to heat while you preheat grill to medium-high heat. Remove meatballs from the fridge and brush on both sides with a little olive oil to help prevent sticking. Put meatballs on the grilling pan to cook, turning them about every 2 minutes so they’re getting browned on all sides. Start checking for doneness after about 15 minutes. (We used an instant-read meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of at least 160F/102C. If you don’t have a thermometer like that and don’t want to buy one, you can cut open a meatball and make sure the inside is cooked through.)
  4. Serve hot, with dipping sauce for dipping meatballs if desired.

Easy Baked Turkey Wings

Ingredients

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  1. Place turkey wings and onion in a casserole dish; sprinkle seasoned salt, poultry seasoning, black pepper, and garlic on both sides of each wing. Pour 1/2 cup water into the casserole dish. Cover casserole dish.
  2. Bake in the preheated oven until browned, 1 hour.
  3. Stir cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup water together in a bowl; pour over turkey wings into casserole dish and return to oven, uncovered.
  4. Continue baking until brown and tender, 1 hour.

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5 WHISKEY COCKTAILS PERFECT FOR THANKSGIVING

Make like a drunken pilgrim and wash down your turkey and stuffing with these festive whiskey drinks

Thanksgiving is indisputably the best holiday ever. There are no expensive gifts to buy, no ridiculous costumes to wear, no painting Easter eggs or buying quasi-legal fireworks. It’s purely about stuffing your face and uncorking some wine, drinking a few beers or mixing up cocktails. What’s not to love?

Here are five festive whiskey drinks courtesy of our friends at Jack Daniel’s that are perfect for pairing with a gut-busting bird feast.

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Fall Fashioned:A cider-y spin on the classic Old Fashioned, pictured above.

1  1/2 parts whiskey

2 parts apple cider

3/4 parts simple syrup

Orange slice

A few dashes of bitters

Directions: Add ingredients to rocks glass, muddle orange, add ice and stir.

 

Whiskey Harvest:Get pickled with pumpkin and maple flavors.

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2 parts whiskey

2 dashes maple syrup

1/2 part pumpkin butter

Squeeze of a lemon wedge

Dash of allspice liqueur

Directions: Shake ingredients over ice until frosty. Strain into coupe glass.

Fired Up:An awesomely apple-centric take on the whiskey and ginger.

1.5 oz. whiskey

1 oz. Apple Juice

Top with Ginger Beer

Directions: Add liquids and garnish with apple slices (if you feel like it.)

 

Fish House Punch: Knock yourself out with this holiday party elixir.

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2 parts whiskey

1 part dark rum

1 part brandy

2 1/2 parts tea

1 1/2 parts lemon syrup

2 parts sparkling wine

Directions: To make syrup, stir sugar into lemon juice and let sit for one hour, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Shake remaining ingredients except sparkling wine over ice. Strain into punch glass or coupe. Top with sparkling wine.

Cider Sangria: Deliver an apple sangria kick to your Thanksgiving gobble-thon.

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4 parts chardonnay (low-oak)

2/3 parts whiskey

1/3 parts parts apple brandy

1 1/2 parts pure apple cider

1/3 parts honey

Sliced ginger

Cinnamon sticks

Apple slices

Juice of one lime

Juice of one lemon

Directions: In pitcher, combine all ingredients besides apple wedge and citrus, then refrigerate. Before serving, add apple slices and citrus and mix well.

Photos by Jack Daniel’s

5 WAYS TO MAKE BAD WINE BETTER

Bad wine. There’s so much good wine in the world that bad wine seems such an exceptional tragedy. But as we have all experienced at parties, receptions and your BFF’s ultra-cool gallery opening, bad wine does exist. Maybe there’s even a bottle or two of it in your kitchen that an unfortunate soul brought to your recent dinner party, with nothing but the purest of intentions (bless their heart).

But alas, this wine makes your left eye twitch just a little and it burns on the way down. Not cool. However, now you’re left with the regrettable task of dealing with this unpalatable bottle. It is booze, and it is in your house, so the idea of throwing it out is heartbreaking. Time to get creative. Use those brain cells! Or, just read below.

 

1. Wine Spritzer

Don’t laugh! Wine spritzers are delicious and the best part is, they’re easy. Granted, this works best with white wine (or rosé!) and sunshine, but we have to make accommodations for the suddenness of this leftover bad wine you have. Here’s what you need: about 3/4 of a glass of wine and the rest club soda. Serve over ice, with a wedge of lime, mint leaves or, if you have your fancy pants on, a dash of an artisanal aperitif like the amazing Imbue Petal & Thorn.

2. Mulled Wine

Now we’re talking warm wintery goodness, and also a good use for that leftover red. Any recipe for mulled wine you come across (like maybe this one) has a basic theme of fall flavors in a pot with some wine. So don’t get too nervous about having any exact ingredients on hand. Take your bottle of wine, dump in a large pot and add any combination of the following: apple cider, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, a rind or two of an orange, whole cloves, star anise, a splash of brandy or port, a bit of honey (if not using cider to act as a sweetener). Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes while you enjoy the smell wafting about your house. Perhaps pretend to be Betty Draper for a few minutes. Then enjoy your beverage while warm. Money.

3. Put a Penny in it

No, really. Now, this is a very specific situation we’re talking about here. If you have a bottle of red wine that smells remarkably like rotten eggs, onions, matches or skunks, swishing a penny around in the glass is an old winemaker’s trick for getting rid of this issue. These smells are called mercaptans, which is a five dollar word for issues. Natural byproducts of fermentation can get a little stuck in the wine’s aromatics. Many times they will go away on their own, but the copper in the penny will neutralize it. Make sure you’re using a penny that’s older than 1982, and give it a whirl.

4. A Kalimotxo

Call-ee-MO-cho. Sometimes it’s best to rely on pure simplicity, that which will never fail you. A Kalimotxo is a Spanish Basque country classic: red wine and cola, about a 50-50 ratio. Some claim adding a squeeze of lemon will brighten the overall palate of this no-frills beverage. Serve it over ice and put away your preconceived notions of what you think it might taste like. This could be the biggest pleasant surprise you’ve ever encountered. Side note: we suspect that this combination of hair-of-the-dog, carbonation and sugar may be a secret hangover cure. Let us know what you come up with.

5. Cook with it

If all else fails, save this not so great wine for cooking before you toss it. It will have endless uses: sautéed mushrooms & onions? Wine. A jar of spaghetti sauce? Wine. A turkey or chicken brine? Wine. Steak sauce? Wine. Are you sensing a pattern? Just don’t give up on that bottle. It will prove its use to you.

 

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On Demand Beer Delivery

On-demand beer delivery is the type of service every drinker, staring at an empty fridge, has wished for at one point. In an age of on-demand everything else—movies, grocery delivery, ride-sharing—alcohol is one of the final frontiers. But apps, websites and, naturally, Amazon have finally brought the dream of to-your-door-in-an-hour beer to life. What it means for the existing relationship between drinkers, retail stores and breweries, though, is still shaking out.

“The logistics are challenging and with alcohol you have some additional regulatory restraints,” says Keith Anderson, senior vice president of insights and marketing at Profitero, a leading global ecommerce analytics firm. “There’s a massive opportunity that you already see some services pursuing because, particularly in large-scale, high-density urban centers, there is a population of technology-enabled households that want and can afford to pay for convenience.”

Riffing on the models of meal-delivery apps like GrubHub and Postmates, the past few years have seen an explosion of on-demand alcohol-delivery apps and websites including Drizly, GoPuff, Minibar Delivery and many others. Most guarantee beer (or wine or spirits) in your hands less than an hour after you place your order. Even Amazon’s in on the game, with alcohol delivery available via PrimeNow in select cities—and who knows what the company’s recent $14.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods could mean for its beer offerings. People can currently summon some cold beers with a mere “Alexa, I need a six-pack” command to Amazon’s assistant device.

There are two ways this beer gets from the brewery to your lazy, thirsty self. The first and most prevalent model is that apps or services partner with existing retail liquor stores, who supply the beer and whose staff makes the deliveries. The app is just a go-between; MiniBar Delivery co-founder and co-CEO Lara Crystal calls it a “marketing technology platform.” A liquor store pays the app company to buy in to its online platform, essentially outsourcing its ecommerce to a third party. The second, less common model is dominated by Amazon. Amazon, unlike other services, actually owns its own warehouses and inventory; it also employs its own drivers to make deliveries. Currently, Amazon PrimeNow delivery of alcohol is only available in a handful of cities including Cincinnati, Columbus and Seattle.

Many such services are based in just a few cities so that the company can closely monitor logistics and work with multiple retail stores to offer a wide selection. Profitero’s Keith Anderson says that, like ride-sharing apps, supply and demand have to synch up for these services to work. Too many liquor stores and too few customers using the app means stores will lose interest in being on the platform; too many customers and not enough selection and drinkers will become frustrated with the lame options.

 

There are also logistical challenges. To prevent underage (but, of course, tech-savvy) kids from purchasing alcohol, store staff members or Amazon employees who make the delivery must check IDs before handing over the goods at the door. Furthermore, beer is not like printer cartridges or paper towels, which is why some beer-delivery customers have found that delivery services can come up short. When he was living in Sacramento, Jon Uhruh, a 35-year old services coordinator who now lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, noticed that Amazon PrimeNow offered beer for delivery. He and his wife wanted to order something out of curiosity. They settled on one of their standbys, a six-pack of Lagunitas IPA.

“The beers arrived warm; they were very malty. I’ve had Lagunitas many times, they were no one near where the beer should be,” Uhruh says. “I reached out to Amazon and they did give us a credit to try again, and they promised it would be fresher and colder. The second time, it actually was an older dated bottle, over six months old, but it was colder. I knew it wasn’t what I know the brewery intended it to be, though. It’s going to be hard for Amazon to get the higher-quality craft brewers to sign onto this because a lot of the smaller guys are really worried about the quality of the product getting to the consumer.”

Search most of the on-demand alcohol delivery platforms, and you’ll find predominantly nationally distributed breweries and larger regional players, the kinds that you’d find in most corner stores. This isn’t to say there aren’t options that would pique a beer nerd’s fancy; Drizly in particular offers a database of beer searchable by style and country of origin that includes a notable number of locally made beers like Grimm, Transmitter and Ommegang in New York; and Half Acre, Pipeworks and Revolution in Illinois.

Because, except in the case of Amazon, local retailers enter their merchandise to the platform, beer selection (and freshness) should theoretically match what’s in that store’s coolers. Services like Drizly and Minibar Delivery might be best known for coordinating alcohol delivery, but they’re really just matchmakers bringing drinkers and stores together. They’re acting sort of like a Priceline for beer instead of hotels: Here’s what’s available in your area, here are the prices.

“Most important is the marketplace concept, that we’re pulling from as many retailers as we can in a market. You’re not constrained by the four walls of the store; you’re able to shop across stores, across prices, across inventory depth,” says Drizly co-founder Justin Robinson. “Look at any other industry: airline, restaurants, hotels. Alcohol is sort of the last frontier for that transparency, giving the power to the customer.”

On top of the retail price, the consumer will pay a nominal delivery fee, usually around $5 for the entire delivery, no matter its size. That’s not true of Amazon PrimeNow, though, whose membership-based service charges an annual cost, making deliveries free. Yes, someone just delivered that six-pack to you for the same price you’d pay at the store.

“In a store, a friendly staff member’s going to be able to say ‘Try this beer’ or ‘This is a new wine we found.’ We need to replicate that experience online.”

But what customers gain by not going to the liquor store (convenience), they lose by not going to the liquor store (advice from friendly sales staff). If you have a favorite liquor store, the staff there might recognize you as a longtime customer, know your preferences or be able to answer questions about what’s new and what’s tasty.

“In a store, a friendly staff member’s going to be able to say ‘Try this beer’ or ‘This is a new wine we found.’ We need to replicate that experience online,” says Robinson. “Some of the editorial is created in-house, but also we have retail partners with phenomenal wine or beer buyers and we leverage those relationships to get that content online. If you’re in Boston, you’re going to see a different piece from the local beer buyer than you might see in Phoenix. We want to work hand-in-hand so that their local expertise shows through.”

Are these delivery and online services a challenge to traditional liquor stores? Not necessarily, says David Christman, senior vice president of state affairs for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents beer distributors. He is also the chief of staff for NBWA’s Beer Industry Electronic Commerce Coalition.

“Big picture, we like that [services] come into this not using the buzzword ‘disruptor’ but as an enhancer to the system that’s in place, working with locally licensed retailers,” he says. “It’s adding to consumer convenience but it’s not tipping over the apple cart in the meantime.”

But this relative harmony doesn’t mean there aren’t a few sticking points where online delivery and ecommerce services put traditional distributors or retailers on edge.

“If they’re not holding a retail license, but they are interfacing with the consumer, we’re pretty much of the belief that they should be subject to the same trade practice rules as a retailer,” Christman says. For example, a liquor store isn’t allowed to give certain alcohol brands more prominent shelf space or exclude that brand’s competitors in exchange for money; Christman says the same should apply to websites or apps. Theoretically, the liquor store could lose its liquor license, while there’s no such recourse for the website or app. “These laws are a big reason why we have so much variety in the beer aisle, so even if the aisle is a virtual one, the rules should not change.”

Christman says that a few years’ time will tell whether these services are a net gain for retailers, wholesales and breweries.

“Everybody wants to be online and be as convenient as possible. Structured right, there’s a lot of opportunity,” he says. “I’m anxious to see in a year or so if this is resulting in new beer sales.”

That’s the million-dollar question for breweries, retailers and for these delivery services: Is a customer more likely to buy more beer (or wine or spirits) because of an app or delivery website? If you’re the type of beer drinker who’s already hunting down the newest release at your favorite bottle shop or buying growlers from breweries directly, these services might not change the way you discover and buy beer. That is, of course, until you find yourself with an empty fridge and a car that’s at the mechanic’s shop.


Courtesy of Craft Alley

Craft Alley: Denver’s crowler delivery service

A few years ago, Bryce Forester was drinking with a friend at a brewery, remarking on how good fresh-from-the-tank beer tastes. He wondered if there was a way to legally deliver brewery-fresh crowlers to customers who don’t have time to visit the brewery. Turns out, it was legal, and he and his brother Bret built a business on the idea: Craft Alley. Craft Alley, less than a year old, also operates a small retail store in Denver, thus it carries a retail license. Customers can come in and purchase just-filled crowlers, or they can order as many as they’d like from different Denver-area breweries online. The customer selects a delivery time window, and Craft Alley staff delivers the crowlers for a $5 fee (it’s waived if the customer orders three or more crowlers). The business only works with small, self-distributing breweries who consider Craft Alley just another retail account. Forester estimates he orders about a barrel per week in crowlers from each brewery partner, and an Alley Pass program also offers crowler buyers discounts and incentives to actual visit the taprooms. “Convenience is a big part of it, and then we also do a lot of education for people that don’t necessarily know about the breweries. Not everybody has that beer friend who can guide them through everything. We do a lot of upgrading as far as people’s beer experiences, getting them out of some of the bigger national brands and get them into something local and fresh.”

Whiskey and Wild Game

Are you looking for the perfect drink to pair with your venison meal?

We all know that a good strong whiskey or bourbon pairs well with a lean meat. Not to mention it makes you look like the ultimate woodsman, or woman. Can you eat your venison that you harvested yourself, have a drink, and then chop down a Norwegian pine? Yeah, we thought so. You belong in the woods.

Wild Game and Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year

The meat: Wild Game
The whiskey: Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year

Let’s say that you’re looking to cook some wild game, and need to find the right whiskey to go along with it. Game meats, noted Brett Young of The Meat Hook, “have a stronger flavor, and the whiskey cleans the pallet.” Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout 7 Year has earned plenty of acclaim in the whiskey community for its complex range of tastes and spiciness — just the kind of thing that sits perfectly beside the intense flavors you’ll find in game meats.