Boston Cocktail Summit: Whiskey and the Bar
One could argue that it is an art to effectively sell whiskey to customers. I would further argue that it is a skill that cannot be taken for granted. The talented trio of Sean Frederick and Chad Arnholt of Citizen Public House, along with John Gertsen of Drink got behind the bar to spill their tried and true methods of increasing whiskey sales while effectively choosing a whiskey for each customer.
Frederick discussed his key points summarized below.
Confidence: When it comes to whiskey, sometimes it takes a bit of salesmanship to convince your guest of your whiskey suggestion. You want to have confidence and genuine enthusiasm; if not, chances are your guest will see through your BS.
Product Knowledge: When it comes to selling whiskey, if any BS is actually working, it can only take you so far. You are simply going to have to know about the product you are trying to sell to your guest. What grain is it? Is it peated or not? Where was it made? Was it aged in American or European oak? Learn these basics first. During this process, you will have blind spots; it’s important to recognize them and lean on your fellow compatriots behind the bar with you if their knowledge can fill in your gaps.
Be a Good Shepard: It is your job to guide your guest through a his/her whiskey choices. This task is easy for the guest that’s one and done, but significantly more challenging for one that’s interested in more of a flight. In the now famous words of Misty Kalkofen: “Don’t blow your wad!” Be sure to have a plan in mind so that the guest enjoys the flight without running out of room after the first dram because you started them with your favorite whiskey instead of building up to it.
Communication: Especially with beginners, it’s important to talk to your guest in relatable terms. Get their feedback. And be specific. Don’t ask if they like the whiskey, ask why they liked it.
And if you’re the one sitting at the bar, don’t be afraid to ask all of these questions! It might not be the best to do so on a busy Saturday night when the bar is three deep, but a reputable establishment with a good whiskey list should have this knowledge behind the bar, and in many cases will let you taste a whiskey before committing to it.
Remember that a bartender who is truly behind a product becomes a very powerful tool behind the bar. So start studying!
Other Cocktail Summit Posts:
Do you order a specific whisk(e)y or do you like to ask for a recommendation?