Photo by Gabi Porter

People are devoted to their liquor brands.  And often militantly so.  I’ve found that, sometimes, the only way to get them to try a local, artisan spirit is to simply NOT carry their tried-and-true old standbys.  Remove them from the equation entirely.  Plain and simple.

If you’ve ordered a Grey Goose Martini up with a twist the last twenty times you’ve gone out to dinner, it’s pretty safe to say you’ll do so the next twenty times you go to dinner.  In your eyes, that brand is the only brand that gets you.  Its a safe, warm lighthouse in the dark, stormy seas.  A haven waiting fireside after hours of being jostled through the icy jaws of your day.

So, this puts us, a restaurant wholly devoted to local, craft spirits in a jam.  Sure, we can grab patrons when they’re young, impressionable and up for experimenting (Jesus, I sound like a schoolyard crack dealer), but what about the stalwarts?  The diehards who will go to battle defending their Ketel Ones, their Stolis, and their Absoluts like a soldier does his flag.  Don’t fuck with my life raft–this is what I got going for me; the only pure, reliable thing I ask for.  I am a simple person with simple needs, and I want my Tanqueray security blanket.But if you remove those from the premises entirely, here’s how the conversation of hospitality can go:

“I’d like a Grey Goose martini dirty, on the rocks”

“Sorry, maam, we don’t carry Grey Goose”

“WHAT?!  Why, you the little snot-nosed s#t%!  What kind of fine-dining restaurant doesn’t carry Grey Goose??”

“‘Maam, I apologize for the incovenience, but let me explain.  Just like with our food and wine offerings, the spirits program focuses on, and celebrates, small, artisan producers.  Our goal is to introduce our guests to some of the great products we’ve sourced, and have you leave tonight having tried (and hopefully enjoyed) something new.  Did you know they make great vodka in Long Island?”

“Long Island?  You mean that silly strip of land just past Queens?”

“Yes, that’s the one.  It’s a great area for growing potatoes.  And I think you may find it quite nice.  Would you be open to trying that in your martini instead?”

And then slowly, the guard starts to come down.  A conversation about what they like ensues, and the fun can begin.  Will everybody like this approach?  Maybe not.  But, maybe, just maybe, by taking their bottle away, and essentially leaving them no choice but to try something new, they’ll thank you for shining a light in a corner they never even knew existed.Sometimes we need a nudge into the great unknown of the new.