WHISKEY: MADE IN THE USA
Liquor store shelves are crowded with spirits and wines from all corners of the globe-rums from all over the Caribbean and Latin America, and India, too, cachaca from Brazil, pisco from Peru, and sochu from Japan. But when it comes to whiskeys, there seems to be a huge resurgence of anything made in the USA. "Bourbon drinkers are redsicovering rye and single barrels [bourbon] are definitely selling," says Carri Wroblewski, co-owner of BRIX Wine Shop in the South End. She says that Pappy Van Winkle disappears from the shelves quickly, as does Sazerac - "whenever we get our hands on it" - that is.
Just as in fashion, bygone cocktails have a way of coming back into style. Right now we're in the throes of a full-on classic cocktail renaissance. "Everything on the cocktail side is big, which is amazing," says Carri at BRIX. "People come in and ask: 'Do you have the stuff to make a Sazerac? A Sloe Gin Fizz?' Places that used to make tutti-fruity drinks are going back to the basics. Bars are starting to stock more bitters than just Angustors." Consequently, BRIX has been special ordering Peychaud and Regan's Bitters. As of the end of May, she said they've reordered 12-packs of Regan's twice. "There's different uses for different bitters. It all ties into the rise of rye whiskey." Accordingly, BRIX initiated the BRIX Mix in March. Each month, the "to-go" cocktail package features all the ingredients required to make the month's selected cocktail. When it launched in March, the featured drink was the Brooklyn and the package included full size bottles of Rittenhouse Rye, Nolly Prat, Luxardo Cherry Liquer, and Amer Picon. They sold out by mid-month.
White may be the absence of color, but in the wine world, it's the presence of flavor. As consumers are becoming more attuned to wine, attention is shifting away from American chardonnays. "We're definitely selling twice as much Gruner Veltliner as we used to," says Carri at BRIX. "Chefs love it because it's very versatile. It pairs with things that most wines retard, like leeks or asparagus. It's a good price by the glass and just a great Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday wine." She says BRIX sees a good deal of movement of Gruners in the under-$2O category, but she loves to plug Stephen Hall ($23.99), not least because of its Vino-Lok closure, the latest landmark in bottling technology. "It looks far more elegant than a screwcap or Stelvin closure. When you present it, it's more elegant," she says, adding that she ends up reusing the glass stopper with a rubber gasket on other bottles. It's starting to make a deeper dent in the industry, too. "It started off with Austrian wines - mostly Gruners. Now I'm seeing it on bottles of Cusamano from Italy. Those are the two I've seen it most on."
After years of being pegged with a limp reputation, roses are red hot. "Definitely pretty much since we opened we've been a big rose store," says Carri at BRIX. "We used to carry 15 to 25. This year it's closer to 25. We sell 1OOs of cases of rose. Retailers and restaurants are driving it, exposing it. Just because it's pink doesn't mean it's sweet. I was doing a private tasting this spring and I included a rose. It's so important when you have people's undivided attention [to] explain: this is why it's not sweet, because a lot of times people will say it isn't something they'd pick off the shelf if someone hadn't pointed it out to them."
Sometimes a bartender's best ally is a chef. Electrifying results can come of the synergy between chefs and mixologists. Bartenders are increasingly using the kitchen for more than just the fresh fruit to make juices. They're teaming up with chefs to create ingredients for innovative drinks. In the off-premise realm, the homemade craze has been integrated in to the BRIX Mix. "Everyone now has house-made infusions," says Carri. "We're using house-made simple syrup in the BRIX Mix. In the Whiskey Smash Mix, you get a muddler, fresh mint, lemon, bottle of rye."