Spirits in 2015: A Conversation with Paul Pacult - The Ravens Club
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Spirits in 2015: A Conversation with Paul Pacult

I was recently contacted by our friend, Mr. Paul Pacult, author of The Spirit Journal and the foremost expert and critic of spirits worldwide, to comment on his yearly “State of the Union” for all things alcohol related. His essay is submitted yearly to the trade journal, Cheers on-Premise BARometer Handbook (which sells for $3,000 a copy).

Ok, ok, so most folks will never read it–but, what is so cool for The Ravens Club-Ann Arbor is the company Zack Zavisa and I keep in the 25-page article. Paul asked several industry leaders 15 questions related to beverage service, their customers, trends, and tastes, all to gauge the future direction of our industry. Being asked to join in the conversation with Paul is a huge honor in and of itself, but to be in the company of industry icons such as Sean Kenyon of Williams & Graham, Denver; Alex Day, award winning co-owner of Death & Co., New York; Dushan Zaric, award winning founder of Employees Only, New York; Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco– what an unbelievable honor for Zack and I.

Although we were not quoted on each question, we had comments in several such as with Issue #2: Are consumers savvier about spirits and cocktails than in previous years? What do operators need to do to stay ahead of their patrons? Zack and I both answered an emphatic “YES, consumers are much more spirit savvy, more educated, and interested in quality of ingredients”; especially so in our own highly educated Washtenaw County. Our customer base keeps us on our toes regarding spirits knowledge and the desire to understand all facets of imbibing, with questions such as why we chose one brand of rye whiskey to feature in a cocktail over another brand. We end up discussing the various facets of flavor profiles, etc. Paul’s essay speaks to consumers’ interests in receiving not only knowledge, but also interesting stories from their bartenders about brands of spirits and sources of ingredients–this is information that guests enjoy sharing with their family and friends. In our experiences at the bar and on social media, this is undeniably true.

We were also asked to provide feedback on sales of each spirit category and Paul crunched data and provided predictions on how each category would sell in 2015–for example, Agave-based spirits such as Tequila and Mezcal will continue to rule with the vast majority of customers nationwide.

At the end of the day, it was most interesting to see how our comments lined up with those of the folks we so look up to. Ann Arbor should be proud to be represented alongside such industry titans, and the journal we are quoted in will be read and studied by global hospitality industry leaders who will hopefully stop by Ann Arbor to check out our great scene!

We were also in company with the following industry icons:

Andy Seymour,owner of Liquid Production, Ridgefield, CT

Troy Clarke, Director of Mixology & Spirits Education at Martignetti Companies, Braintree, MA

Geoff Kleinmann, editor of DrinkSpirits.com


by Jeff Paquin