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Idealistic Spirits

Spirits marketers are increasingly leaning on “idealistic mixologists” to create innovative new products, reports Robert Simonson in The New York Times (1/24/13). “Bartenders are reaching a level of influence that they had pre-Prohibition in how they’re introducing consumers to new and exciting cocktails,” says Giles R. Woodyer of Bacardi USA. “They’re looking for spirits that add a dimension to the cocktails they create.” The bartenders bring a very specific perspective: “Most people these days make a good spirit but they make it for sipping,” says Simon Ford, co-founder of the 86 Co., a spirits maker. “They never consider how it’s being used. That’s the key thing for us.”

The other focus, at least for 86 Co., is the tools of the trade. Each bottle of its spirits has a special ridge around the neck “to make it easier for the bartender to grab the bottle, upend it and pour.” In addition, each bottle’s “mouth is slightly tapered so speed-pouring spouts don’t slip out when they begin to wear thin. The bottle has liter and ounce measurements on the side, so that once empty, it can be used for other juices or syrups.” Dushan Zaric, also an 86 Co. co-founder, says it’s all about utility, and “creating the tools that make our lives better.” Dushan, Simon, and a third co-founder, Jason Kosmos, “all have backgrounds in bartending.”

Their offerings — gin, vodka, tequila and rum — are also “concocted to be affordable yet pass the quality test and be eminently mixable.” Pernod Ricard, meanwhile, is collaborating with “renowned London barman Nick Strangeway … to create a series of bartender-friendly Absolut vodkas.” The challenge was to translate his vision into mass production. “I was fairly naive about how the big company works,” says Nick, “and they were naive about how exacting I would be.” But they have succeeded in producing Herbaceous Lemon as the first entry of the Absolut Craft series, made exclusively for bartenders. Nick is pleased with the result, saying it’s about giving the Absolut brand “back to the bartender.”