Two of America's oldest spirits are new again. Neat, on the rocks and straight up, whiskey and bourbon drinks topped the charts in 2013 across the nation. The two were the drivers behind overall record-breaking sales of distilled spirits, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Whiskey and bourbon beat previous record sales and exceeded $1 billion for the first time ever. The return of these pre-Prohibition spirits means it's time for restaurants to dust off their whiskey bottles and get in touch with what the people want, and here's how they can.
For starters, restaurants should refine their knowledge of the liquors. Since people are drinking whiskey and bourbon more and more, guests are going to want to know the difference between them. A bar can't offer four different beers on tap and not give a description – the same applies to spirits. Here are some suggestions for restaurants to offer more knowledge to their variety of whiskey and bourbon drinkers according to level of experience.
Some people might walk into a restaurant with no previous knowledge of the spirits, yet they want to try the latest trends. They'll need a brief introduction that'll mostly entail a distinction between whiskey and bourbon. The owner of Maker's Mark told Men's Journal magazine that the major difference is that bourbon is made in America and it's at least 51 percent corn. Other requirements include: oak aged barrels, distillation and a proof that's under 160.
People who understand the spirits beyond this distinction will likely know enough about whiskey and bourbon to get by, but they might still have questions about specifics. A proper whiskey vocabulary can help them decide on a spirit they'd enjoy. Some examples, courtesy of Whisky Papa, include:
- Mouth feel: Each whiskey and bourbon can have its own distinct feel. A good way to describe whiskeys and bourbons is based on how they feel on the tongue and different parts of the mouth. Taking a sip of a dry whiskey is like drinking an astringent cup of tea. It'll literally make the mouth feel less moist. Most whiskey or bourbon that leaves the mouth feeling wet can be classified as sweet.
- The body: These spirits are also classified based on body, or how thick or smooth they are. A fuller whiskey will be full of complexities. There will be many ways to describe the flavors of bigger whiskeys. One that's light and easygoing will have qualities that are less easy to pinpoint.
- Age: The characteristics of whiskey and bourbon change depending on how old they are. For example, a young whiskey tends to be lighter than one that's a few years old. A whiskey that has a few years on it will offer layers of complexity and it can go down easier.
Seasoned whiskey and bourbon drinkers will be familiar with these characteristics, and some might have more specific preferences. Restaurants that have clients who are whiskey and bourbon lords will want to be on their A game when it comes to top-shelf products. The Whiskey Advocate cleverly compared a refined whiskey to a child who grows up in a loving family, with plenty of money and the best health care. The spirit is made from the best wood, ingredients and water.
Rarer, designer whiskeys that are high-quality are trending among the advanced whiskey population, according to the Advocate. Connoisseurs are increasingly appreciating whiskey's natural hue. In the past, some distilleries would color it to make it seem aged, but recently they're going au naturel. Some true whiskey drinkers argue that they can tell the difference in a whiskey that's had its color altered because the taste will be different.
Overall, the DSC suggested that people's fascination, product innovation and the popularity of cocktails have influenced a high volume of people to switch to whiskey and bourbon. This means that people who've never tried it are starting to, but also people who have some or a lot of knowledge on the spirits want to know more.
Restaurants and bars use whiskey's popularity to drive sales and customer satisfaction. Whether it's two fingers, shaken or stirred, whiskey is being consumed by many people across the country.
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