Philip Duff on charity, love cuffs, and things that go “bang”.
Tag: Philip Duff
By Philip Duff
I just survived a hurricane. Well, I say survived. Hurricanes ain’t what they used to be. Last year here in New York I bravely battled Hurricane Irene, which turned out to be mostly an opportunity for cute girls on the Upper East Side to walk around in short shorts and knee-high rubber boots ( a sight I found disturbingly arousing – must have lived too long in the UK in my youth). It rained a lot.
Philip Duff: “So there you are, bartendering away when an otherwise normal human who, you can’t help reminding yourself, is in all likelihood allowed to vote, proffers an opinion with a foundation more flimsy than a Kardashian’s knickers.”
Creativity is knowing how to conceal your sources**. Do you know who said that? No? Well in that case, it was me! Aren’t I clever? Now give me some money.
Painful is the only way to describe the story of Tony Mason , who claims to have invented the Lynchburg Lemonade in 1980 at his bar. A Jack Daniels’ sales rep who visited the bar learned the recipe, communicated it up the corporate food chain, and JD rolled out a national Lynchburg Lemonade promotional campaign. A few years later, JD even launched RTD versions of the Lynchburg. Millions were sold.
This will not be the first column where I castigate drinks firms for pulling the wool over our eyes (or trying to) but it might be the first one where I point out whose fault it is – yours. A typically entertaining and well-researched piece by Wayne Curtis recently set me thinking. In it, Curtis explained how many of the brands that use ‘heritage’ as a large part of their appeal are actually selling porky pies. It’s been going on for a while and we’re not just talking St. Germain, Chambord and Bols, y’know. Benedictine was actually started by an 19th century millionaire who (even back then) saw that people loved old shit, so he spun a whole story about monks and 1510 etc. Ka-Ching!
We are never not distracted, so there is no thought going on, no chance for an idea to pop into our over-stimulated heads. We used to live in a radio, TV and newspaper world, where you were constantly exposed to influences and information you’d never have thought of: we now live in an iPod, TiVo and blog world, safely insulated from anything that might surprise, challenge or upset our cushioned misconceptions
A problem I’ve seen lately is that such brands are already anticipating being bought by big firms and have an only slightly daring take on things. They are like secretaries ordering Cosmopolitans instead of Fuzzy Navels and thinking themselves cutting-edge fashionistas. I recently evaluated a new whiskey brand for a potential client. It had an attractive, colourful, different appearance and layers upon layers of detail, but not one thing stood out.
From Harry Johnson to Salvatore Calabrese, Erik Lorincz and Francesco LaFranconi, the finest bartenders of past and present are those who have had to think about their words, who used smiles and body language to conceal their insecurity at speaking in a language not their own. The result? Charmed, entranced guests.
The industry is led by government regulation, consumer demand and the Big Four drinks firms: Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, Bacardi and Fortune Brands/Jim Beam (soon to split). Innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking are nigh-on impossible when you work for such a big firm, the more enlightened ones are even gracious enough to admit it.
Philip Duff, globe trotting drinks consultant, writer and founder of the award-winning Door 74 in Amsterdam will once again be presenting exciting and educational seminars at Sydney BarShow Week.