owner of Washington D.C.’s Jack Rose Dining Saloon. “What's in the bottle is all that counts, [and] our staffs’ opinion is what matters here. There are a lot of brands with big bucks and marketing but their whiskey isn't very good, so they don't get shelf space.” While that is certainly true for the country’s preeminent whiskey bar, the same might not be said for a more lowkey joint. To ensure that you’re setting yourself up for the best outcome, consider how you package your product. “Your spirit may taste amazing—but some bar managers might not even taste it if the bottle is overly cumbersome and will take up more shelf space than average,” says Gray. “Just because Patron or Woodford can get away with a large bottle doesn’t necessarily mean you can.” “Something we say a lot is that staying local will get you your first sale,” says Jeff Wuslich, cofounder of Cardinal Spirits in Indiana. It may seem obvious to go after the local market first, but it’s good to be reminded of that. Distillers or distillery representatives should stay mindful of the accounts they have as well as the accounts that they want to add. “The real challenge comes upon getting repeat business from bars, and really that has to do with, do you have any customers coming in and asking for your products? Or can you get the bar team excited enough to put you in a cocktail menu and start to recommend it?” Equally important is that you give bartenders — the industry’s proverbial gatekeepers — something to connect with. “Consider that despite the work they put into things, [craft whiskey producers] are competing with Kentucky bourbons that have centuries of lineage but cost $25 a fifth. Make sure your products are a) good enough to beat that bottle, and b) that your story justifies a higher price,” says Chuck Cerankosky, co-owner of Good Luck restaurant in Rochester. “I'd say that taste [and] quality trumps all, but not by a lot. The personality, story and stance of the brand is very important as well.” Finally, keep in mind that it’s never too early to start building relationships for the sake of your brand. Even if you’re months away from having your product in market, there are things you can do to help yourself later on. “If you’re thinking about starting a distillery, or you’re going to be a few months out, I would say start embracing bartenders right now. Get them involved in the process, have them to your distillery when you’re doing the build out, make them a part of your team as much as possible,” Wuslich advises. “Looking back, I wish I would have had almost an advisory board of bartenders.” Success in on-premise sales comes down to a lot of factors. It is a confluence of packaging, price, presentation and product, but at the end of the day, it can be your passion as the producer that tips a buyer in your favor. Fortunately, the industry has never been more receptive to craft spirits. With a smart plan and a damn good We work well together. spirit, you can find success at your accounts and land the top spot at the bar.
Devon Trevathan is a writer based out of Nashville, TN. She loves spirits that are older than she is, grower-producer style, and dogs. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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