In vino veritas, part XXXI: Small batch liquors

Alcoholic beverages are far more than a vessel for inebriation. They are a pillar of the dining experience. While wine and beer are the two most common meal accompaniments in this category, there’s something interesting happening in the world of spirits and other distilled elixirs. Much like that of microbreweries and limited-barrel wines, small batch distilleries are making a resurgence, and it’s an opportunity you should seize.

Why? It’s simple: product differentiation.

Your restaurant or bar may be differentiated from your competitors by its décor, its view, its ambiance, its food menu, its cocktails, its executive chef, its live music, its onsite events or a host of other features, but this is one emerging area where you can now make an impact. All of the previously mentioned aspects held constant, what will distinguish your bar selection when you all stock the same standard liquors – for example, Johnny Walker, Jim Beam, Bacardi, Jose Cuervo or Smirnoff.

I’m not slighting these brands – they wouldn’t be household names if they weren’t high quality – but rather, because they are so prevalent around the world, they aren’t doing you any favors insofar as providing your guests an exceptional dining experience. It’s easier to confuse two nearby pubs with the same drink slate than one which exclusively serves liquors from small batch distilleries. These spirits may not be available at the neighborhood liquor store and they may require some craft in sourcing.

Actually, in a lot of cases, the rarer the better, although too rare may make it near impossible to continually stock. This trend has caught on the most in the US with many of the more prestigious small batch distilleries already selling out their whole supply to purveyors both domestic and across the pond. 

In this sense, these liquors further your restaurant’s or bar’s reputation amongst its competitive set. Many of these small batch liquors may have imperceptible taste differences when compared to the household brands, but true aficionados will be able to tell. In fact, many consumers actively seek out local or unique spirits and their resultant cocktails – let them choose your establishment over all others.

And yes, you read correctly. The locavore trend isn’t only for foods; it extends to your beverages as well. The microbrew renaissance over the past decade is case in point of this. Be sure to let your patrons know on the menu where all your drinks are sourced.