Bar Business November 2022

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Drink Responsibl� Ole Smoky Salty Caramel Whiskey. 30% Alc./Vol. ©2022 Ole Smoky Distillery, LLC, Gatlinburg, TN All Rights Reserved. OLE SMOKY is registered trademark of Ole Smoky Distillery, LLC. @OLESMOKY TASTE THE FLAVOR OF THE SEASON CRISP NIGHTS & OLE SMOKY. THE RECIPE FOR A PERFECT FALL. SALTY CARAMEL APPLE MARTINI 2 oz. Ole Smoky® Salty Caramel Whiskey 2 oz. Ole Smoky® Apple Pie Moonshine .5 oz. Lemon Juice .5 oz. Lemon-Lime Soda SCAN FOR COCKTAIL RECIPES November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 1 DEPARTMENTS From the Publisher A letter from our Publisher Gary Lynch. Owning Up How to Make Your Bar a “Destination” Rather Than “Just a Bar” On Tap Why You Should Add a Golf Simulator to Your Bar Bar Tour A Bar Experience That Fills a Void in Downtown Miami Behind The Bar Consumers are Looking for Unique Sipping Experiences Q+A A Conversation with Founder & CEO of Spirited Hive FEATURES Re-Think, Re-Organize, Renew How Some Establishments Are Coping in Uncertain Times Feature Story How Wise Operators See and Use Variance Reports 4 5 7 16 23 19 8 12 COVER PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/MAKSYM FESENKO CONTENTS PHOTO: IICHIKO SHOCHU CONTENTS November 2022

bar business

NOVEMBER 2022 VOL. 15 NO. 4

Bar Business Magazine (ISSN 1944-7531) is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 1809 Capitol Avenue, Omaha, NE 68102 subscription department 800-895-4389

executive offices President Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Group Publisher Gary Lynch Office: 212-620-7247; Cell: 646-637-5206 editorial Editor-in-Chief Ashley Bray 212-620-7220

Contributing Writers Kevin Tam, Ashley Bray, Elyse Glickman art Art Director Nicole D’Antona Graphic Designer Hillary Coleman production Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers circulation Circulation Director Maureen Cooney

advertising sales Gary Lynch Office: 212-620-7247; Cell: 646-637-5206

Bar Business Magazine (Digital ISSN 2161-5071) is published four times a year. March, June, September, and November are only offered in a digital format at no charge by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 1809 Capitol Avenue, Omaha, NE 68102. COPYRIGHT © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2022. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: Gary Lynch, Phone (212) 620-7247, or For Subscriptions, & address changes, Please call (US Only) 1-800-553-8878 (CANADA/INTL) 1-319-364-6167, Fax 1-319-364-4278, e-mail or write to: Bar Business Magazine, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 1407, Cedar Rapids, IA. 52406-1407. Instructional information in this magazine should only be performed by skilled craftspeople with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.

2 Bar Business Magazine November 2022
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FROM THE Publisher

The adage, change is a constant, certainly applies to the bar & restaurant industry in the age of pandemics, political instability, and economic uncertainty. Still, as an eternal optimist, I see opportunity.

Change requires resilience, and resilience often results in a new direction or a reshaping of the status quo. The “same old, same old” no longer applies in our new reality. It’s time to rethink, refresh and renew.

This same resilience needs to apply to a media company. It’s no secret to anyone that the magazine publishing business has been challenging for many years due to changes in content delivery and consumption, which, in turn, has changed how companies’ market and promote their products.

Magazines used to be a media organization’s hub or centerpiece, but in some markets, they have been pushed aside and marginalized. Digital media and social media channels have become the new media hubs.

We can lament these changes, but, as I said, change is a constant often driven

by technology which, often, changes behavior. It simply is what it is.

When our long-time Editor-in-Chief, Ashley Bray, moved on to a tremendous new opportunity as the Editorial & Content Director for Bar & Restaurant, it allowed us to pause, step back and reassess.

In short, we’ve decided to suspend the publication of Bar Business Magazine. We need to figure out the best way forward to serve the information needs of the bar & restaurant industry.

But, as an eternal optimist, we think that come 2023, we can unveil a “new” version of Bar Business that is better suited for the new media environment.

Until then, if you have ideas, suggestions, comments or want to connect, please email me directly at

4 Bar Business Magazine November 2022 FROM THE EDITOR
Change requires resilience, and resilience often results in a new direction or a reshaping of the status quo.

UP Owning


In the first two columns we went over the need for strategic clarity and the non-negotiable plans needed to start, scale, or restabilize a bar or restaurant business. The first non-negotiable plan that we went over was that of a feasibility study which should be followed by a concept development plan.

With thousands of bars and restaurants trying to make a name for themselves, having not only a strong but differentiated concept and brand is crucial for today’s venues to strategically position themselves for success.

The mindset going into this process is one that focuses on developing a destination, a venue that’s known for:

• bad-ass food and beverage programs that are constantly evolving and showcasing creativity;

• a positive, memorable experience driven by energy, events, and entertainment;

• out-of-market guests making

reservations to eat, drink, watch the game, and/or party;

• st aff who excel at their craft and who have become the brand’s social influencers; and

• exceeding the necessary key performance indicators (KPIs) on a consistent basis.

When you operate a ‘destination’ and not ‘just a bar’ you’re opening yourself up to a variety of benefits, including: talent recruitment and retention; attention from local and regional media outlets; an increase in social engagement; above-average revenue and profits; and so much more.

So, how do you get there? How do you go from being an average neighborhood bar, restaurant, or nightclub to one that everyone is talking about? Outside of mindset and the research you’ve completed within the feasibility study, you need to develop a memorable concept.

Intro to Conceptualization

You don’t need any artistic abilities to create great visuals or to visualize a winning destination.

However, a concept plan is the blueprint of a concept that truly stands out, one that connects with data-driven guest profiles on an emotional level and requires the DNA of more than just a meal, beverage, or that of live entertainment.

Concept plans are crucial. Moving forward, failure to develop a concept plan will mean trying to make a bar, restaurant, or nightclub survive without flexible options and an omni-channel approach to success because the concept plan balances layout, functionality, operations, and aesthetics.

This singular non-negotiable plan includes vision boards, scaled test drawings, detailed development costs, complete equipment specs, food and beverage specs, sound and video specs, plating, glassware, and packaging; November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 5
Photo: Jacob Lund

entertainment and promotional needs; and a complete breakdown of the brand’s tech stack and customer journey map.

This is how you build a scalable, sustainable, profitable, memorable, and consistent business. This attention to detail and visualization is what creates a successful destination and not just an average-at-best restaurant or bar business.

Pushing The Boundaries

Looking at bars specifically, concepts over the years have evolved from being tame (or lame) or overplayed to concepts that push the boundaries of what a bar can be.

One of the best ways to build a loyal, returning customer base is to purposefully head off the beaten path to create a bold and fresh new bar concept.

In summary: Be targeted, be different, and most importantly - be energized. There’s nothing worse than walking into a bar and feeling the energy being sapped right out of you.

It’s More Than Just a Drink

Most conceptual ideas start at the food and beverage level. A bar operator, however, needs to remember that they don’t sell beverages—they sell experiences through the enhancement of guest emotions and perceptions.

When planning a concept, it’s imperative to have a focus on the style of menu and niche of entertainment. Of

course, care should be taken to ensure the concept excites a guest’s senses and delivers a memorable moment.

When you combine and focus on visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste) systems through food, drink, and entertainment, you then create energy, an experience, and a destination.

When you create an experience, you convert first-time guests to loyal regulars. When you create an army of regulars and brand evangelists, the revenue follows.

The Deliverable

Within your plan, you want to focus on the following sections:

• Frame of Reference: Outline the experience and differentiation you plan to create.

• T he Culture: Outline how you intend to create a winning environment for your team.

• T he Services: Outline in detail the levels of customer service will you provide.

• The Venue: Outline photo inspirations and walkthrough of your venue.

• T he Specs: Outline tables, chairs, uniforms, sound, and video with visuals and budgets.

• T he Production: Outline all bar, service, and kitchen equipment with visuals and budgets.

• T he Tech-Stack: Outline all technology requirements, including

their integrations and budgets.

• T he Layout: Outline a 2D overview of your ideal space with all of the above specs.

• T he Entertainment: Outline day-part entertainment plus booking and promotional process.

• T he Menu: Outline visuals, estimated costs, flavor profiles, and pricing strategy for all F&B.

• T he Cost Summary: Outline, in detail with above specs, a cost profile for the project.

Once you have your concept plan in place with the variety of details required, you’ll begin to see how this will become a desired destination versus that of a standard bar or restaurant.

If you’re presenting a plan to help receive investment or financing, you can see how this type of detail will also stand out from other generic fill-in-the-blank templates that they’ll often receive (and reject).

You will have the prototype built for a soon-to-be brand that is then scalable and profitable.

You will have a soon-to-be brand positioned to tell a variety of memorable stories.

You will have a soon-to-be brand that connects with your community and your target audience.

You will be ready to start the next nonnegotiable plan: your brand strategy.

6 Bar Business Magazine November 2022 OWNING UP
Photo: Jacob Lund


Add a Golf Simulator to Your Bar

Looking for a new entertainment option for your bar? How about simulated golf?

Golfzon, a Korean-based manufacturer of the most advanced golf simulators in the world, is expanding its reach into the U.S. and finds commercial leads account for more than 56% of its business.

What this means is that entrepreneurs and investors are either opening new golf themed bars and restaurants or adding simulators to existing facilities to service the booming popularity the game has seen since the onset of COVID-19.

“Golf was one of the only activities that society could enjoy when the pandemic hit, so demand for on-course golf spiked to levels we haven’t seen in years. As golf courses became crowded, players who wanted to enjoy the game were forced to weigh other options when they couldn’t secure a tee time,” says Golfzon America CEO Tommy Lim. “The result was that many people turned to activities like simulator golf.”

The National Golf Foundation’s most recent report from 2021 shows there are 24.8 million off-course golfers. Bar and

restaurant owners have realized there’s a great opportunity to increase traffic and revenue by adding golf simulators for patrons to enjoy in a relaxed, unintimidating environment. “With demand for the game skyrocketing, entrepreneurs and bar owners around the U.S. saw an opportunity to create supply through either installing simulators at their facilities or opening golf-themed bars and restaurants designed to cater to a golf hungry population,” says Lim. “Among the many benefits are that customers spend more time and money at these facilities and are more likely to return after a memorable experience.”

Golfzon also helps owners understand the ROI they can expect. “Let’s say a business owner installs one Golfzon simulator that averages five hours of play per day during at least 360 days of a calendar year, and the business charges an average of $50 per hour,” says Lim. “The simulator can potentially bring in an additional $90,000 of revenue annually.” This doesn’t even include additional revenue that may come in from increased check sizes.

To get set up with Golfzon, bars need

roughly 350 square feet. At minimum, bars will need to install a floor or ceilingmounted sensor, computer kiosk, screen to hit into, and an enclosure along the sides to provide protection. For the full experience, the install will include more advanced technology such as moving swing plates that mimic how the ball lies in real life, multi-surface hitting mats, auto-tee, ball retrieval system, extra high-speed sensors, and more.

Bar owners can choose to have Golfzon handle the logistics and details of their installation or to hire a local contractor. The timeframe on a full build out from scratch is around four weeks.

Golfzon offers a variety of models, but it recommends Vision Standard for bars with limited space. For venues with more space, TwoVision is recommended as it includes a number of innovations. “It also allows you to play against yourself, challenge your buddy in the next bay, or compete against fellow golfers around the globe,” says Lim. “There is a great opportunity here to create simulator golf leagues and other ways to drive more customers to your facility.” November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 7



As we tiptoe toward the morning after the pandemic, bar/restaurant owners and managers now face additional challenges. Safety is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and they now need to rethink their course to avoid hitting it.

“Covid can’t be predicted, and human behavior, which impacts the restaurant and bar labor/guest pool, can be just as fickle,” says Colin Geoffroy of G Hospitality, a hospitality management and development company with venues in the greater Boston/Metro Providence area. Amid this storm of activity and uncertainty, Geoffroy believes that COVID simply exacerbated these issues. Even as new practices are taught to employees, rules are being accepted by many loyal customers, and his team has become more cohesive, the way back is unclear and something he and his employees strategize about daily.

He is hardly alone.

Ivan Vasquez, owner of Madre Oaxacan Restaurant & Mezcaleria in Los Angeles, agrees, and says that in the last two years, inflation, compliance with local ordinances, and economic issues like minimum wage increases as well as extra expenses on PPE, propane, and outdoor dining equipment, have all added further strain. The recent spike in Omicron cases made consumers feel insecure and unsafe, tempering enthusiasm for going out. “All we can do is hope for better sales and Covid cases to go down,” he says. “We will keep focusing on service and food so we can continue doing what we know how to do: run restaurants and bars.”

While frustration is understandable on both sides of the bar, the good news is that swift and smart rethinking on the part of a bar/restaurant’s leaders can ensure customers’ and workers’ spirits can make a

comeback, even in the face of intense economic and social change in the U.S.

“We have been trying to climb a slippery hill with buckets of water being dumped on us for the last two years,” says New York City-based Consultant Christopher Bidmead, whose Bar Methods handles everything from programming nightclubs facing constant supply chain issues to smaller bars and restaurants struggling to find qualified employees.

“As a consultant and educator in the bar industry for the last 15 years, this is the hardest we’ve been hit since Prohibition,” says Bidmead. “This is something plaguing several programs I’m working with now, and I find myself having to reengineer our beverage program to be able to operate with one or two leaders simplifying the execution side of things so that I can work with less skilled labor and work to educate them as we evolve the program.”


Bidmead’s recent consulting experience underscores the reality that supply chain glitches can be a particularly thorny problem in some areas.

“We have been putting a lot of time into modifying the menu and overall programming,” says Bidmead. “We don’t want to depart from what we are offering guests, but we also want to make sure they are getting a quality experience. The focus has been on simplifying the execution of the cocktails taking advantage of batching, bottled and draft cocktails, and other prep techniques and products. This gives us the opportunity to run service with fewer staff members and train up new staff.”

Barry Prescott, general manager at The Landsby Hotel in Solvang, California, says some managers don’t possess enough knowledge on costs of wine and spirits to make calculated managerial decisions, and

that most bars should pivot by, “revising cocktail-making and teaching standards and putting the right-priced spirits into those cocktails to keep production costeffective and prices down.”

“I think that the world is getting back to normal, but as new variants emerge, the uncertainty continues to grow,” says James Flanigan, CFO of Old School Hospitality (including Quarterdeck Restaurants, nautical-themed sports bars around South Florida). He points out that his venues’ management decided to remove lobster from the menus entirely because it became prohibitively expensive to sell. He had to make similar adjustments to their drink menus as well as leverage supplier relationships to ensure things came in a little more quickly and frequently.

On the other hand, bars in some regions, like those operated by Geoffroy’s company, have rolled with the supply chain punches, underscoring the importance of continuous education and conversation in anticipating what adjustments will be needed, finding good substitute products, and educating staff. “While there have been slight differences in product availability, the situation posed nothing significant enough to impede our business,” says Geoffroy. “We are grateful to have healthy lines of communication within our restaurants to make effective change less challenging.”

To deal with supply chain issues affecting Nella Kitchen & Bar at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos, California, Bartender Chris Hewes has looked to local wine and spirits producers as well as farmers to fill in some of the gaps. Benefits of this strategy include giving staff practice on introducing customers to new products, helping to support regional businesses, and a more sustainable approach resulting in a smaller

8 Bar Business Magazine November 2022 BAR MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES

carbon footprint.

“There will be times when I order thousands of dollars in wine and alcohol, and then, when I receive the order, there’s only one case of something because everything else is out of stock,” he says. “I have leveraged this situation to encourage the staff to apply their customer service skills by encouraging customers to try other comparable varietal wines, spirits, or cocktails with slightly different combinations of ingredients with a unique local spin.”


Of course, you need to have all hands on deck to have those conversations and recalibrate. Just ask Old School Hospitality’s Flanigan, who argues his

biggest challenges at press time were related to labor shortages as well as inflationary pressures from both the supply chain and the labor force.

“It is very difficult to find qualified people,’’ agrees The Landsby Hotel’s Prescott. “I believe many senior bartenders, and staff in general, retired when the pandemic started. Many of them never rejoined the workforce. There are some qualified bartenders to hire, but unfortunately, they are looking for the highest hourly wage, have very little loyalty, and jump ship as soon as someone offers them a dollar more.”

Prescott recently started hiring younger, less experienced people who are willing to learn. While he notes that it is hard on

payroll at the present, it will be a good investment in the future.

“We’re basically looking for that kind of all-around [employee]; somebody who will be able to bartend or take on managerial tasks in a pinch but also can be a food runner or wash dishes if needed,” says Hewes of Nella Kitchen & Bar. “In this situation, super versatile people are learning first-hand how to run a restaurant from back [of the house] to front. Once an employee masters certain tasks in the kitchen, opportunities open up for him or her to jump up to higher positions with greater responsibility. There are people who, with fair pay, will be willing to work that much harder if they can earn valuable work experience as well as money.” November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 9
Photo: Anthony Nader, 52 Chefs.

Hewes adds that this allows him to tap into employees’ strengths and function more effectively as a team. For example, there may be an employee who really knows Pinot Noir but not the computer system, while another employee may be good with the computer but not selling wine. “This dynamic creates a better support system for all of the employees when they can help each other with different skills.”

Bidmead, in his consultation work for bars in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Yonkers, reports having a similar experience over the past two years with people leaving the industry, moving away, no longer working at multiple venues, or having overall health and safety concerns.

“The days of simply interviewing an applicant are over,” agrees Vasquez. “The labor pool is shrinking exponentially because people seem to be using this time to explore new avenues of employment. We’ve been working hard at adjusting our recruitment and employee retention efforts to position ourselves as a premier employer.”

On the positive side, Vasquez notes existing teams at his Madre restaurants are very cohesive and working extremely hard to keep everything on the menu and to open on time. They are also taking longer shifts to cover sick people and fill the staffing voids, while Madre is working breaks into each employee’s schedule.

“Our management team has become very strong and reliable,” says Vazquez. “Tighter, more streamlined communication and arming our staff with the tools to properly perform their jobs are paramount to our continued success. We’ve always been nimble and creative problem solvers. However, COVID has pushed our team exponentially in this area, and we are much better for it.”


“While bars and restaurants, by nature, are in the business of managing, identifying, and exceeding customer expectations, one of the biggest and most recent challenges is doing so in the context of COVID-19,” says Robert Castellon, general manager for KOJO, a modern Asian concept in downtown Sarasota run by Hi Hospitality Group. He says his restaurants’ challenges are rooted in the transient nature of hospitality in places like Florida, where tourists’ notions of having a good time during COVID clashes with that of locals.

“We are looking at this in the same way we would any other challenge we have faced or will face. We ask ourselves three golden questions when making decisions: Does this do right by our staff? Does this do right by our guests? Does this do right for the company?” says Castellon. “Most times, we will find a solution that checks all boxes.

Every once in a while, that decision will still rub a small percentage of our guests the wrong way, at which point our hospitality instincts kick in and we do our best to meet this particular guest’s expectations.”

In contrast to the hospitality landscape in Florida, Geoffroy says that in the greater Boston/Metro Providence area, most businesses, including hospitality, share a concerted focus on mitigating the risk of COVID spread, even if this region has its fair share of tourists from elsewhere.

“Part of this may be a result of being in an area with many major hospitals and universities devoted to medicine and science,” he says. “We’re in a much colder environment, so cold and flu season is making people much more cautious.”

“After nearly two years of repeat outbreak waves and ever-changing regulations, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting for the next shoe to drop,” admits Bidwell, back in New York City. “Unfortunately, I think we are still years away from COVID no longer being in our daily lexicon and returning to some version of normal staffing and business. New talent may take more time to gain the experience a seasoned bartender has, especially with the modified service that we are running. However, I think the solutions that we have found are [opening up] more opportunities to be a stronger industry on the other side of this.”

10 Bar Business Magazine November 2022
Despite the challenges of COVID, the labor shortage, and supply chain issues, swift and smart rethinking on the part of bar management has led to a comeback even in the face of intense economic and social change in the U.S. Photos (clockwise from left): Bri Burkett for Nella Kitchen & Bar; The Landsby; Jakob Layman for Madre.



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bar business

Variance Reports THE VALUE OF


Variance reports measure units used against units sold and are mainly used by bar operators to minimize inventory variances. Variances can be “up” (an overage) or “down” (a shortage). Being “up” means the bar used less inventory than theoretically necessary. Being “down” inventory is what most operators fear, and for good reason. Almost every bar owner has worked at a bar in the past where theft was rampant, so most bar owners know that it’s not just a small amount of inventory that can go missing. It can literally be thousands a night, and

even hundreds of thousands a year, that a bar can be missing if a combination of: no inventory control + a bad staff + a bad owner come together.

Successful bar operators avoid this problem by doing weekly counts and running variance reports to keep everything in line. But even though most people have heard of and seen variance reports, not everyone sees and uses variance reports the same way. I have spent close to two decades doing reports like these for bar operators, and I have seen the responses from both unsuccessful and successful operators. In the right hands, variance reports can

save a bar operator tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Looking at the variance report in the example on page 26, I am going to review five observations in the ways I have seen high-level operators interpret and use the data:


Looking at the example report, we see that the bar is missing -53.71 ounces on period. That represented an 11.6% shrinkage rate at a cost of $42.76 to the bar. If that inventory was sold at retail, it could have been sold at $304.12 (which is

12 Bar Business Magazine November 2022
pour away your

on the far right under the revenue potential column).

While $42.76 at cost and $304.12 at retail sounds small for one week, when you multiply this effect over the course of 52 weeks, it works out to 2,756 ounces worth $2,223.52 at cost, and $15,814.24 at retail. And that’s “just” the liquor category.

If you look at the other categories, you’ll see that there are also shortages in wine and bottled beer as well, each with corresponding costs and retail value. While this may seem extreme, wise operators see weekly variances in 52-week increments to see the potential impact of not correcting mistakes today.


Wise operators watch what their bars USE, what they BUY, and what they HAVE. In the example report, the bar used $4,552.22 in inventory, and it purchased $4,810.67 during the same period. So the owner purchased around $300 more than he used in the previous week. In a perfect world, you want these numbers to be close. So this guy didn’t do too bad in this area for this audit period.

However, if Used (cost) is significantly MORE than Purchases (cost), that’s an indication that the bar could be understocked and may encounter supply issues. If Purchased (cost) is significantly MORE than Used (cost) than this could lead to an overstock and therefore an inefficient use of capital.

Your On-Hand (cost) represents the monetary value of the inventory. You keep your On-Hand (cost) number at its optimal level by keeping your purchases as close as you can to what you use in the previous week. This is most easily accomplished by ordering based on pars, which keep the bar fully stocked but always within budget.

Whenever you see bars that have their On-Hand (cost) numbers go up and down over the year, that’s usually an indication that whoever is doing the ordering is not using set pars. It would surprise you how many managers eyeball inventory counts and eyeball purchases with no real set method to determine order amounts, and some bars have thousands of dollars over-invested in

inventory that would be much better utilized elsewhere. Wise operators watch these numbers to always ensure an efficient use of capital.



Also known as Actual COGS vs. Theoretical COGS, Pour Cost is how much the bar used in product to make its sales expressed as a percentage. You measure that number against the Ideal Pour Cost, which is how much each item that was rang into the POS costed when expressed as a percentage. This can only be measured by comparing an itemized usage report against an itemized sales report so you can see exactly what left the building and then compare it to exactly what was sold.

This is the reason why I discourage any kind of inventory procedure that involves weighing all bottles together as a category, and also why I discourage any kind of POS set-up where common buttons like “highball” can be pressed and several different products poured. With vague counting procedures and vague POS procedures, you don’t really have a true picture of what is actually being used or sold each week.

Ideally you want your Pour Cost to be BELOW your Ideal Pour Cost. In this example, this bar’s Pour Cost is 30.1% and his Ideal is 29.9%, which means he is 0.2% above his theoretical. Not bad, but definitely has room to improve. In my ideal world, this guy would be running at a 29% Pour Cost and be below his Ideal Pour Cost of 29.9%. The next section will detail how to be below your Ideal Pour Cost.


Liquid that is poured by hand will never be done perfectly. When you measure liquor on a digital scale, even the best bartenders will be off by 0.01 or 0.03 of an ounce every time they attempt to pour one ounce. That’s just how free pouring liquid works. This harsh reality of free pouring leaves operators with two choices: They can either be “up” on ounces, or “down” on ounces. I strongly encourage operators to choose to be “up” on ounces by “slightly” short pouring every drink to

stay under the theoretical pour size. But before you get all uppity on me, let me explain what I mean.

While losing on every pour while trying to give the customer “a perfect ounce” sounds like a good idea, it really is not. If you attempt to pour a full ounce into a shot glass to the brim of the glass, you will likely go over by 0.02 - 0.05 ounces because the meniscus (curve) that forms at the top of the shot glass is a subjective measurement.

If that “perfect ounce” with a meniscus is in a shot glass, I guarantee you that by the time the server brings the shot to the table, anywhere from 0.05 to 0.1 of the “perfect ounce” has gone over the edge of the glass and is on the serving tray. If that same shot were served directly to the guest, that same 0.05 to 0.1 ounces would go over the edge of the shot glass once tilted and will be on the guest’s fingers.

Back when I bartended in nightclubs, part of my routine after serving people shots was always handing out napkins. And people always used them. Why? Because people always spill that little bit of booze on their fingers when the glass is tilted. Neither the guest, the bartender, nor the bar owner receive any benefit from pouring like this.

If you consistently pour 0.95 to 0.97 of an ounce on each pour, you will stay below your theoretical, and your guests will not perceive the difference due to the factors I listed above. I am not talking about ripping customers off by pouring 0.7 ounces and 0.8 ounces, which you can noticeably see in a shot glass. I am talking about staying beneath the meniscus on every pour and making a conscious effort to never exceed the capacity of the portion control tool.

This is actually the reason why whenever you order a 20 ounces pint of beer, you’re not actually getting 20 ounces of beer. You’re getting a glass with something close to 20 ounces, depending on how much head they leave at the top of the pint. Several pint glasses across the industry measure out at exactly 20 ounces to the brim of the glass, therefore it is impossible to put more than 20 ounces of liquid into these glasses. If 20 ounces exactly is poured into that glass, it will be so full it either ends up on the tray or on the guest’s November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 13 VARIANCE REPORTS
Photo: Kyle Williamson/

Variance Report

UNKNOWN:1+1+$0.76$7.2510.4% Rye:66.06oz61oz-5.06oz-7.7%-$4.38$48.29$40.63$174.13$319.9515.1%13.7%$26.56 Bourbon:1.61oz1oz-0.61oz-38.1%-$0.63$2.08$43.44$6.9530.0%21.0%$4.27

CanadianWhiskey:5.32oz5oz-0.32oz-6.1%-$0.30$4.99$63.25$33.6014.8%13.9%$2.17 ScotchWhiskey:$780.99

IrishWhiskey:7.46oz7oz-0.46oz-6.2%-$0.49$7.89$46.99$49.7515.9%14.9%$3.29 Vodka:164.38oz150oz-14.38oz-8.7%-$11.40$116.68$54.00$351.77$878.7113.3%12.0%$84.25 Rum:56.68oz51oz-5.68oz-10.0%-$4.64$43.91$229.64$307.4814.3%12.8%$34.25


Tequila:15.32oz12oz-3.32oz-21.7%-$3.18$12.66$27.27$296.55$49.0025.8%19.4%$13.58 Cognac:$31.94


Pre-Mixes:2.132-0.13-5.9%-$0.09$1.44$34.09$14.509.9%9.3%$0.91 Liqueurs:116.17oz97oz-19.17oz-16.5%-$14.36$91.96$63.82$1,222.79$515.5617.8%15.1%$101.89

Total Liquor: 462.71 oz 409 oz -53.71 oz -11.6% -$42.76 $350.07 $185.72 $3,419.00 $2,315.90 15.1% 13.3% $304.12 Wine Wine:872.19oz846.79oz-25.4oz-2.9%-$21.96$308.86$251.19$784.08$894.2534.5%32.1%$26.83

Total Wine: 872.19 oz 846.79 oz -25.4 oz -2.9%-$21.96 $308.86$251.19$784.08$894.2534.5%32.1%$26.83 Beer Beer:254249-5-2.0%-$19.32$490.56$664.66$2,477.90$1,465.5033.5%32.2%$29.43 Total Beer: 254 249 -5 -2.0%-$19.32 $490.56$664.66$2,477.90$1,465.5033.5%32.2%$29.43 Kegs Kegs:29683.29oz30124oz+440.71oz+1.5%+$58.15$3,402.73$3,709.10$2,643.59$10,445.2232.6%33.1%

Total Kegs: 29683.29 oz 30124 oz +440.71 oz +1.5% +$58.15 $3,402.73 $3,709.10 $2,643.59 $10,445.22 32.6% 33.1%

GRAND TOTAL -$25.89 $4,552.22$4,810.67$9,324.56$15,120.8730.1%29.9%$360.37

An example of a bar’s variance report.

fingers. That’s actually what pouring a “perfect” ounce will get you in the real world.

Looking at the example report, you will see that the one category this bar is “up” on is kegs. The bar is +440 ounces on 30,124 ounces rang into the POS. That represents a 1.5% overage, which means that if he serves 20 ounces pints, 19.7 ounces goes into each one. That is a pretty full pint glass my friends, and I doubt any customers are sending pints back to the bartender requesting new beers because 0.3 ounces is not in the glass. That +440 ounces the bar saved by slightly short pouring resulted in the bar retaining $58.15 at cost. Over the course of 52 weeks, that’s worth $3,023.80 at cost. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have that $3,023.80 in my bank account rather than seeing it go down the drain, wiped off a serving tray, or on a guest’s fingers. This is why wise operators choose to be “up” on ounces.


Looking at your variances in ounces means very little without looking at how those ounces compare to the total amount of ounces that were served for that item. While being short 100 ounces

of liquor sounds horrible, if 10,000 ounces were served on that audit period, that’s only a 1% when expressed as a percentage. Percentages offer clues as to why variances are happening.

Shortages ranging from 1-5% can usually be traced to bar teams unconsciously over pouring because they have not gotten the pep talk about trying to pour perfect ounces like I mentioned in the previous point. This could also be from incorrectly sized portion control tools, like if a cocktail jigger is bigger than a standard ounce. (Be careful you international operators, as metric ounces are slightly different than imperial ounces). But if all the portion control tools are correctly measured out, variances in the 1-5% range are easily corrected by showing the bar team their variance reports and instructing them to take a bit off their pours. These are what I call “heavy hands” and are simple to correct.

Shortages above 5% are a huge problem and need to be addressed immediately with staff. That’s usually a combination of theft, drinking on shift, and over pouring. If after being addressed the shortages still persist at 5% or above, it is usually an issue of a lack of respect by the staff towards the owner. The owner may be too nice in

their management style to be effective, or the staff may simply be toxic and need to be terminated.

Big variances, like in the 10-20% range, should have an explanation, like if product was removed and not accounted for, or if a non-delivery for an item on liquor order occurred, or there was a counting error. However, if big variances cannot be traced to legitimate sources, a bar that has variances at this level won’t survive if they remain like that consistently. This is why wise operators watch their percentages and work hard to keep them within an acceptable threshold.

Kevin Tam is a Sculpture Hospitality franchisee with over a decade of experience working directly with bar, restaurant, and nightclub owners on all points of the spectrum. From familyowned single bar operations to large companies with locations on an international scale, Kevin works with them all and understands the unique challenges each kind of company faces. He is the author of a book titled Night Club Marketing Systems – How to Get Customers for Your Bar. He is also the publisher of an eBook called The 5 Commonly Overlooked Areas That Kill Your Food Cost.

14 Bar Business Magazine November 2022 VARIANCE REPORTS
Item Name Used SoldMissing% Missing Missing (cost) Used (cost) Purchases (cost) On-Hand (cost) Revenue Pour Cost Ideal Pour Cost Revenue Potential Liquor
Chart courtesy of Kevin Tam.


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Last September, after overcoming a series of challenges that included a pandemic, floods, and permitting delays, the Tipsy Flamingo opened in downtown Miami. The bar combines Miami vibes with cutting-edge cocktails in a fun and flirty atmosphere.

Developed by Last Call Hospitality Group (the group behind other Miami locales Redbar and Sweet Caroline Karaoke Bar), the Tipsy Flamingo ( ) is co-owned by Juan Marcos Rancano, Dobry Dimitrov, and Antar Sosa.

Last Call Hospitality Group decided to open this third bar concept to fill the missing gap between upscale, luxurious venues and dive bars in the downtown Miami area. “There’s no in-between where someone can go and enjoy an upscale atmosphere and quality drinks but still dance, have a good time, and enjoy good music,” says Rancano. “We decided to create a bit more of an elevated cocktail concept that combines the fun atmosphere of a

bar with the trendy and intimate feel of a lounge.”

It was an uphill battle stepping in to fill that role. Rancano says the team signed the lease in October 2019 with the intention of opening in March 2020—and we all know what showed up on the scene that month.

“It was tough because not only did the pandemic shut us down, but thankfully, we had a really understanding landlord that worked with us throughout the whole process because it could have gone the other way, which we saw a lot of.”

Getting through the pandemic was just the first challenge. When it finally came time to pull permits and start opening, the city itself wasn’t ready. “There were not enough city employees,” says Rancano. “People didn’t want to come out and do inspections and all that stuff. So that obviously delayed the opening process a lot.”

On top of that, the building that the 1300-square-foot bar is housed in is very old and has had a lot of issues.

16 Bar Business Magazine November 2022
All Photos: GR
A bar experience that fills a void in downtown Miami.

“We had a flooding issue right in the beginning. The first two days, the bar flooded really badly, and we had to kick everybody out and close for a few days,” says Rancano. “Then right before New Year’s, we had a contractor working in the building doing some renovations, and they hit a water pipe that flooded the whole bar again. We had to buy new speakers. Both those times we got really lucky, my partners really stepped up, and in two days we were able to solve both of those problems.”

Tipsy Flamingo—like so many other bars now—also had to navigate the labor shortage when looking for staff ahead of its opening. “Thankfully, Tipsy Flamingo is not a huge bar, so we were able to hire people pretty quickly, but it was still a bit of a challenge,” says Rancano.

Fortunately, Last Call Hospitality Group has always focused on employee retention, which Rancano says is now more important than ever. “You need to focus on creating culture, on treating your employees the right way, on listening to their complaints and

their feedback, and seeing how you can improve,” he says. “[This way] you don’t find yourself in a position where you’re turning over employees on a monthly basis, but you’re working hard to keep the ones you have. And then the labor shortage or issues of trying to find talent and keep them is not really an issue because you’re able to retain employees.”

Something else that Last Call Hospitality Group has been focusing on is the guest experience, and this is on full display at the Tipsy Flamingo. “People want things to get them out of their heads, and they don’t just want to go to a bar anymore. They want to go to an experience,” says Rancano. “When you walk into Tipsy Flamingo, it’s an experience. The LED colors, the lights, the music that we’re playing, the cocktails—everything ties in. And it makes the customer feel like they’re experiencing something new or something fresh.

“We try to pay attention to every single detail as much as we can to not get people taken out of that

experience. We don’t want wires to be shown, we don’t want it to be dirty. We want the customers to feel like they’re getting lost in the Tipsy Flamingo experience from the beginning to the end.”

Rancano says the partners even have plans to eventually extend the Tipsy Flamingo experience into a brand. “So doing apparel, to-go cocktails, and definitely playing around in that field of take-home memorabilia and things that say Tipsy Flamingo,” he says.

The aesthetics of Tipsy Flamingo draw inspiration from Miami’s natural elements with a color palette of greens, purples, and hot pink with walls decorated in playful vintage palm leaf wallpaper and faux foliage. “Basically, we took the best characteristics of Miami from the tropical ambiance and colors to the sounds and blended them together to create a unique and intimate venue that’s rare to find in this city,” said Rancano, in a press release.

A collection of eclectic artwork also decorates the walls (think the Mona November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 17

Lisa cuddling a flamingo) as well as a variety of neon signs, including one that says, “No Flocks Given.”

“We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously, and we thought that we could accomplish that by having some artwork that was maybe a little bit more funky, a little bit more fun,” explains Rancano. “We did some research and found some art by some really cool artists.”

The vibe of the Tipsy Flamingo also shifts depending on the time of day thanks to changes in lighting, music, and seating arrangements.

“We have pillows laid out on the couch area a certain way, the lights at the bar are set at a certain percentage of brightness, and then we have a specific playlist that we play that is kind of like funky and slow, deep house music, a little bit more chill,” explains Rancano. “But as soon as the DJ comes in at 9 p.m. and starts getting more lively with the music, we dim the lights a little bit, remove all the pillows from the seating area, and

then we remove the stools from the bar area to make it more like a lounge, dancing kind of vibe.”

The cocktail menu, which was created by bartender Marco Balza, adds to the Tipsy Flamingo’s

vanilla syrup, and salted caramel. It is served from a coffee percolator.

The cocktail My English is Not Very Good Looking is named after a lyric from Cuban-American artist Celia Cruz. It contains Canaïma Gin, guava marmalade, lime juice, orange bitters, cream cheese foam, and Galleta Maria cookie crumbs. “The cocktail is like a guava pastry that Cubans and Miamians usually like to eat,” explains Rancano.

The Tipsy Flamingo is already working on expanding the menu and changing out the cocktails over time to keep things fresh.

It’s also working on bringing in a food menu through a partnership with Reef, a Miami tech company with a concept called Second Kitchen.

experience and Miami vibes. Each drink was designed to pay homage to and showcase the city’s personality as well as to celebrate its Cuban population. The Tipsy Colada is a play on Cuban coffee and includes Diplomático Planas Rum, coffee,

“Basically they’re going to start delivering food from local concepts to Tipsy Flamingo so we can actually start providing bites,” explains Rancano, who says the first menu has already been drafted and should be rolling out soon.

18 Bar Business Magazine November 2022
When you walk into Tipsy Flamingo, it’s an experience.

Let’s talk


Unique, international spirits are popping up on back bars around the country.

Some of this is driven by supply chain woes, as bar operators look to replace what they can’t find with something new. But much of it is driven by consumer interest and demand for an experience they can’t get elsewhere—oftentimes, not even on the local liquor store shelves.

“Today’s consumers are curious and want to try the newest—whether it’s a new streaming service, watch, or spirit,” says Luis Niño de Rivera, co-founder of Mezcal Amarás. “Also, through the pandemic, people shopped differently. They studied

product descriptions, were transported and used their imaginations, which helped to discover new brands and categories.”

Agave spirits are one growing category. Given tequila’s popularity, bar operators and guests alike are looking for something new in the agave spirits space. Some are turning to ultra-premium sipping tequilas, while others are seeking out more unique experiences with mezcal and the lesserknown bacanora.

Imports of spirits from the Pacific Rim are also growing in the form of Japanese whiskies, baijiu, and shochu, as consumers look to broaden their palates. “Consumers are attracted to products that have more of a craft feel to them,” says Tetsuro November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 19
Photo: Mezcal Amarás.
Consumers are looking for unique sipping experiences.

Strawberry Mojito

1.5 oz iichiko Saiten

1 oz Lime juice

0.75 oz Mint syrup

Muddled strawberries

Topped with club soda Mint sprig + strawberry

Mix all ingredients except club soda into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into Collins glass with ice.

Top with club soda and garnish with mint sprig and strawberry.

Recipe by iichiko

Tokyo Mule

2 oz iichiko Saiten

1 oz Lime juice

1 oz Ginger or simple syrup

Top with ginger beer/soda Lime wedge

Mix all ingredients into mule cup with ice. Stir, then top with ginger beer/soda and garnish with lime wedge.

Recipe by iichiko

Cold Brew Repo

1.5 oz of Mezcal Amarás Espadín Reposado

1 oz of Lemon Oleo Saccharum

10 Fresh mint leaves

1 oz of Cold brew coffee

Add all ingredients to shaker. Shake vigorously with ice for 15 seconds. Fine strain into rocks or highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with two mint leaves.

Recipe by Mezcal Amarás

La Señora Kilinga

2 oz Kilinga Bacanora Orange slice dusted with cinnamon

Serve the Bacanora up, chilled, in a flute. Garnish with a slice of orange dusted with cinnamon.

Recipe by Kilinga Bacanora

Miyazaki, general manager USA of iichiko Shochu. “I think this is the same for bartenders, who want to deepen their knowledge and use creative ingredients, and shochu, as well as other spirits and flavors from Asia, fits that curiosity.”

In this column, we’ll take a deeper look into the growing popularity of mezcal, bacanora, and shochu.


Mezcal certainly isn’t a “new” spirit to the on-premise world. It’s been on many back bars for years, but it seems that consumers are finally catching on as they look for new tequila-adjacent spirits.

“The category is still small but steadily growing,” says Niño de Rivera. “Consumers are drawn to ornate bottles, different expressions, and bottles with different age statements. It’s also refreshing that many consumers are open to trying mezcal neat!”

Mezcal, although also made from agave, has a production process that differs from tequila and lends the spirit its smokiness— piñas , the hearts of the agave plant, are roasted in underground ovens before being crushed and left to ferment.

Mezcal Amarás follows the traditional method of production down to the use of a horse-drawn stone wheel or tahona “The first layer in our in-ground stone

oven is, on average, 2.5 tons of wood,” explains the Mezcal Amarás website. “River rocks are then tossed in, establishing an enormous cooking stove where around 10 tons of piñas are placed and left for three to five days to roast from the ashes and smoke of the wood. Once cooked, the piñas are then cut into smaller pieces using a machete, ax, or shredder and then placed in our stone mill. A 771-pound Tahona pulled by a horse or mule grinds the piñas into a paste made up of agave fibers.”

From there, the agave fibers are placed in wooden vats and water is added to allow for fermentation. After

20 Bar Business Magazine November 2022 BEHIND THE BAR
La Señora Kilinga Cold Brew Repo Photos (top to bottom): Mezcal Amarás; Kilinga.

the fermentation has finished, the mix is placed in either copper stills for artisanal distillation or clay stills for ancestral distillation.

Mezcal Amarás’ philosophy of “from seed to sip” reflects its dedication to strive toward a balanced relationship with its ecosystem. The brand developed a holistic model aimed at preserving the land, the agave, and the mezcal-producing communities. Its vision is to offer consumers a well-balanced mezcal focused on smoothness and the correct level of smokiness.

Because of this dedication to flavor, Niño de Rivera believes the best way to serve mezcal is neat so you can taste the peculiarities and differences of each agave species. “Considering the vast number of aromas and flavors you have in each type of agave, type of process, and terroir, served by itself, you will understand the complexity and variety in each sip of mezcal,” he says.

When using mezcal in cocktails, Niño de Rivera says it’s important that the other ingredients don’t overwhelm the spirit. “Don’t mask the rich flavor of the mezcal—what’s in the bottle took years and craft to create. Let the flavor shine,” he says, recommending to also use in-season ingredients.

“Taste the mezcal on its own—is it earthy, does it have brightness? Start with the basic DNA of the agave and then build your cocktail.”


Another rising agave spirit is bacanora, which is the native agave spirit of Sonora in Mexico. It’s a bit of a rebellious spirit— it was illegal to distill bacanora until 1992, and it received its Denomination of Origin in 2000.

“[It is] an agave spirit that is artisanal— not as smoky and powerful as mezcal— and is totally outside of the tequila scope of flavors. It is palate friendly and

Grapefruit Hai

2 oz iichiko Silhouette

Topped with Fever-Tree Grapefruit Grapefruit slice

Build in glass with ice. Garnish with grapefruit slice.

Recipe by iichiko

Umami Gimlet

2 oz iichiko Saiten 1 oz Lime juice 0.75 oz Simple syrup

Lime wheel

Mix all ingredients into cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into glass and garnish with lime wheel.

Recipe by iichiko

Smoked Roses

1.5 oz Mezcal Amáras Cupreata .50 oz Rose water syrup plus .25 oz Rose water syrup .75 oz Lemon juice .25 oz Hibiscus tea

In a shaker add the mezcal, juice, and syrup. Shake and double strain into a Nick and Nora glass. In the same shaker with the previous ice, add .25 oz of rose water and the hibiscus tea. Shake and double strain over the previously poured mix, trying to layer the cocktail. Garnish with a rose petal. Recipe by Mezcal Amarás

Watermelon Cooler

1.5 oz iichiko Saiten .75 oz Lemon juice .25 oz Yuzu juice .5 oz Simple syrup

Top with Prosecco 2 muddled Watermelon slices

Mix all ingredients except prosecco into cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into rocks glass with ice. Top with prosecco and garnish with watermelon.

Recipe by iichiko November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 21 BEHIND THE BAR
Umami Gimlet Photos (top to bottom): Mezcal Amarás; iichiko Shochu. Smoked Roses

interesting to sip,” says Rodrigo Bojorquez Bours, founder of Kilinga.

Kilinga is a boutique, family-owned bacanora distiller and brand founded in 2018 and named after the founder’s mother, La Señora Kilinga. It entered the market in March 2022 with two expressions: Bacanora Silvestre and Bacanora Blanco. Two more expressions, reposado and añejo, are due out this summer.

The production of bacanora is similar to mezcal, with Kilinga making bacanora by roasting the agave in underground fire pits built out of volcanic stone and clay. These are heated for up to five hours with regional mesquite wood that gives a distinct, subtle, smoky note. It is then roasted for six days, mashed in a stone mill pulled by a mule, and fermented for four days. It’s loaded into an alembic pot still and distilled twice before resting for at least four months.

Kilinga makes bacanora from differently matured angustifolía pacifica espadín agaves. “This agave variant has a unique flavor and signature aroma, and more so, to the region it grows in,” says Bojorquez Bours. “The environment [agave] grows in plays a major role in the organoleptic [sense] qualities of these particular spirits. In other words, agave spirits are born interesting.”

It’s this interesting background that Bojorquez Bours thinks attracts people to bacanora. It’s a background that he also believes all bartenders should pay homage to when working with the spirit. “I believe that it is important to know its roots in order to best work with bacanora. Understanding the passion and history behind bacanora will better give them the inspiration when they first sip the drink,” he says.

He recommends guests enjoy bacanora neat and at a cool temperature with a slice of orange or cucumber and an ice cube. “I’ve found that our bacanora goes well with ingredients with moderate acidity such as berries, cucumbers, kumquats, lemons, and oranges to name a few,” he says.


Moving on from agave, the Japanese distilled spirit of shochu is also having a moment in the U.S. “Shochu, in

particular, is consumed more than whiskey or even sake in Japan, yet it is completely unknown outside of Japan,” says Miyazaki. “However, people are beginning to understand the uniqueness of shochu, its regional characteristics, the care and delicacy with which raw materials are processed, and the diversity of flavors.

“The top bartenders in the United States are learning about shochu’s existence and uniqueness right now. Until 2019, shochu was a local spirit sold only in Japanese restaurants. Now, Japanese bartenders recognize the traditional elements and taste of shochu, and thanks to their success, other top bartenders are starting to use it as well. Shochu is a spirit that is still largely unknown, so I think it’s a spirit that will continue to excite bartenders that discover it.”

Typically distilled from ingredients such as barley, rice, and sweet potato, the distinctive feature of the production process is the use of the fungus koji for fermentation and single distillation. Fermentation with koji produces umami

ingredients in the mash, which is then distilled once to lock in the full flavor of the ingredients.

iichiko has two expressions, iichiko Silhouette and iichiko Saiten, both of which are made from 100% barley. iichiko Silhouette is the traditional, lighter expression of shochu, while the full-flavored, 43% ABV iichiko Saiten was created specifically for use in cocktails.

Similar to the other spirits above, Miyazaki recommends that guests first try shochu on the rocks or straight up. “It’s then very easy to utilize in beloved cocktails, like a martini or a Bloody Mary, so customers can have those familiar flavors but with a fun and exciting twist,” he says. “Each shochu has a different character—barley shochu, rice shochu, and potato shochu—so there is a lot to discover!

“If you are using a traditional shochu, with around a 25% ABV, in a cocktail, I recommend a shochu highball first (called a Chu-hai). Chu-hai’s are composed of shochu, soda, and your favorite citrus or seasonal fruit.”

22 Bar Business Magazine November 2022
Photo: iichiko Shochu. Tokyo Mule

QA &


Why did you choose to sweeten the cocktails with honey?

I’m obsessed with honey. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I’m always using honey. And I think I thought there was honey in a Moscow Mule just because I love it so much.


What else distinguishes Spirited Hive from other canned cocktails?

Our quality ingredients from the other flavors that we use to our quality spirits. For our vodka, we’re using a six times distilled corn vodka. We’re using an aged bourbon from one of the oldest distilleries in Kentucky. And then we’re using a blanco tequila from Jalisco. And we’re adding in a nice gin in for our gin cocktail.

end. You can just have it out of the can, but for the best enjoying experience, crack it open and pour it over ice. It really is just a cocktail, but in a can.

Spirited Hive is a line of readyto-drink craft cocktails made with quality spirits, all-natural ingredients, and organic honey that resulted from what Founder & CEO Jack Espy likes to call a “happy accident.” At the height of the pandemic, Espy was mixing up some quarantine cocktails for friends and made his go-to cocktail—a Moscow Mule. At least, what he thought was a Moscow Mule. His friends loved the cocktail, asked for the recipe, and Espy was soon informed that there is no honey in a Moscow Mule. Despite the error, a light bulb went off in his head. He started doing research into canned cocktails and discovered there were none that were using honey. So Espy, a recent graduate who had lost his real estate job thanks to the pandemic, decided to pursue his idea, and Spirited Hive was born. The brand offers a range of canned cocktails: Rosemary and Lemon bourbon cocktail, Ginger & Lime tequila cocktail, Cranberry & Lime vodka cocktail, and a Lemon & Juniper Berries gin cocktail.

We also have unique flavor combinations. A lot of these flavor combinations we’re using you don’t see a lot of out there. The amount of times I see a rosemary cocktail are very limited. I think we’re one of the only canned cocktails using rosemary.


Tell us more about the new gin cocktail you’ve released.

I used to hate gin. And it’s funny because gin is such an interesting alcohol base because it can be so complex. You can have dry gin, you can have all these different types and add these different junipers to them, and there are all these really unique combinations. And I found that now my favorite cocktail is a Tom Collins. I didn’t know that there was gin in it when I first tried it. I thought there was vodka. I found out it was gin, and I said let’s see what we can do here, let’s see if we can make a honey-based version of the Tom Collins, which is actually a Bee’s Knees. So the Spirited Hive Gin is going to be a Bee’s Knees. It’s sparkling water, gin, and then we infuse lemon into the honey to make a lemon-infused honey syrup. Then we use lemon juice and that’s really about it. So it’s very, very simple but very refreshing. A lot of people are a little scared of gin. So we didn’t want to do something too crazy for the gin. Just keep it more simple.

4 How can Spirited Hive canned cocktails benefit bars?

This isn’t your normal canned cocktail or seltzer. This is a little more higher

A lot of these “canned cocktails” aren’t really like that. Either they smell weird if you pour them on ice, or they just don’t taste as good. Whereas these have the quality of a cocktail so you can pour them over ice. So that’s something that we’re trying to get more in the on-premise to relieve some of the bartenders. Instead of making a drink behind the bar that takes time, you can just crack it open, pour it over ice, and give it to customers. So that will relieve the bartender and also add another drink to the repertoire of the bar—you get four new drinks.

We’re going to be coming out with some promotions for fall into winter because it’s definitely a little bit harder for sales in wintertime around canned cocktails; they’re such a spring and summer drink. We’re trying to come up with fun ideas for the on-premise to see sales continue to go higher throughout fall and winter.

5 Tell us more about the brand’s concept of the “hive.”

This company was made with friends, for friends, so our ethos is, who is your hive? Who is your community? Who are you going to connect with and drink with?

And that’s also a lot of why we did these sports deals with the National Soccer Club, the Sounds, and also the Titans because there’s so much camaraderie around sports and also this community aspect around Hive as well. November 2022 Bar Business Magazine 23

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From the smallest dive bar to the largest franchise, we highlight members of the community who are transforming the guest experience, advancing their company culture, inspiring others in their drive for success, and leading the industry into the future.

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