Bars without vodka are ‘failing’ customers

18th July, 2014 by Becky Paskin

Bars that refuse to feature vodka on their cocktail menus are fundamentally failing their customers, a panel of leading bartenders and brand ambassadors has claimed.


A panel od experts has argued that bars which do not serve vodka are “failing customers”

While some bars have endeavoured to set themselves apart from the crowd by avoiding the inclusion of “untrendy” vodka-based cocktails on their menus, leading industry voices claim the practice is only disappointing customers.

At a seminar, named Behind the Trojan Horse, at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Jacob Briars, Bacardi global brand advocacy director, asserted that by favouring gin and whisky-based drinks over vodka, bars are failing to address their customers’ desires.

“Bartenders who say they don’t stock vodka are setting themselves up for disappointing their guests, which is the worst thing you can do in the bar world,” he argued.

The panel, which was led by William Grant & Sons US portfolio ambassador Charlotte Voisey, argued that vodka cocktails – which can often be lighter than other drinks – give consumers a starting point in cocktails without being too heavy or strong.

Naren Young, head bartender of Baccahanal in New York, said: “Simple vodka cocktails have a place on menus as they are vital to balancing out more esoteric drinks. There is no shame in having them.”

In recent years, as the cocktail renaissance began to grow in cities like New York and London, some bars took to abstaining from featuring vodka on their menus as a method of “raising the bar” and setting themselves apart from the deluge of new bar openings.

The most infamous example is that of Milk and Honey in New York City, which upon opening in 2000, omitted vodka from its menu.

Its opening kick-started the global speakeasy trend, and, arguably, sparked a widespread fall-out between bartenders and vodka, particularly big-named brands.

“This hatred of vodka is a way for craft bartenders to separate themselves from the industry,” said Ryan Magarian. “Saying it – illogically – is a way to be different.”

The panel agreed a good bar should stock around five vodkas of various fame and base ingredient to cater for the majority of consumers.

“Some bars will still stock obscure vodkas, but you need one or two brands people have heard off, otherwise you are wilfully insulting your guests,” argued Briars. “Sometimes they just want a simple choice they can enjoy.”

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