dan warner

The great "craft" debate!

What does ‘craft’ really mean when it comes to the drinks industry? It’s a term that is being widely used in the marketing of spirits at the moment, in fact it seems like you can hardly look at a backbar these days without finding another ‘craft gin’ or ‘craft whiskey’ nestled amongst the familiar favourites. As a marketing term for spirits, at first glance it seems obvious what this must mean right? It’s a small production of spirit, made by a skilled distiller, using techniques and experience that set him or her apart from other producers… or is it?

There’s been a lot of discussion recently amongst bartenders about this new buzz-word and what it really means; is it a sign of quality, or is it simply the new replacement for super-premium in the marketeers dictionary? There are of course two sides to the story, there’s one where small producers are trying to find a point of difference in a crowded marketplace, and trying to find a label that fits what they do. They wear the word craft like a badge of honour, taking pride in the methods they use to make small batches of their spirits, and sharing their work with an ever-growing crowd of consumers and bartenders looking for something new.

On the other side of the coin there are those who look at the word craft as it relates to marketing a spirit. At best they think it is a meaningless label, and at worst it implies a quality that often times isn’t there. You see there’s no widely accepted definition of the word craft when it comes to spirits. The few definitions that have been proposed, often seem inadequate or slightly outdated. So as the use of ‘craft spirit’ becomes the new catch phrase of drinks marketing, does it have any meaning? Is there another more fitting term? Or is it a term that simply needs a better definition?

A Little Bit of Favouritism

Looking at my drinks cabinet I have just realised that there are certain bottles that get used a lot more than others. Havana Club 7 year old Rum, Geranium Gin, Siete Leguas Tequila, Sagatiba Velha Cachaca, Wild Turkey 101, these bottles seem to need replenishing rather often. But why is it that I have formed a bond with these brands? It’s not as though I don’t have other great rums or tequilas to choose from, but I seem to often find myself drawn to my old favourites.
The same is true when I’m sat at a bar, staring at the back bar and pondering what to drink first. I always smile when I see a few of my favourites on the shelf, knowing that I have some choices that are bound to hit the spot. 
Of course a lot of it has to do with finding products that taste good and I find myself going back to them simply because I enjoy the flavour, but sometimes there is a deeper pull towards one brand over another. I think there are a few reasons for this emotional attachment that go beyond simply liking the taste of the liquid in the bottle.

Start saving your pennies… you’re coming to Tales next year

Sitting in a hotel somewhere in the backwoods of Mississippi, Sarah, Steve and I are reminiscing about the last 5 days spent at Tales of the Cocktail. All three of us agree that it has been an amazing experience and that we will be back to do it all again next year.  We also are all of the opinion that a day or two off the sauce wouldn’t be amiss.


So here are our thoughts on what makes Tales such a good event and why we expect you to start saving your pennies now so that we can see you in New Orleans in 2010.