Hotels build buzz with one-liquor bars
16 SEPTEMBER 2015 8:25 AM
Hotel bars choosing to specialize in one type of liquor have seen strong social media buzz, higher local-patron footfall and higher profits. To your (P&L) health!
GLOBAL REPORT—The increase in interest in artisanal, top-end liquor—for example, single-malt whiskeys, premium gins and small-batch rums—has not been lost on hoteliers.
Where else but in a warm, welcoming hotel can tired guests sit back in comfy leather armchairs and sip a Speyburn Bradan Orach whisky from Scotland or a Reyka vodka from Iceland?
Some hoteliers have decided to forego many bottles of different liquors, cordials and mixers and instead specialize in one particular drink and market events, tastings, pairings and other initiatives to help boost social media buzz and revenue.
Hotel News Now spoke to three hoteliers as to why they decided to go “solo.”
Jeremy Hopkins, GM of London’s independent Athenæum Hotel, with 164 guestrooms, claims his hotel’s Whisky Bar, which has more than 300 “expressions,” has London’s largest selection of single malts and blended whiskeys.
Scotland is the most represented nation, but there are also whiskeys from more unlikely sources such as Finland, France and The Netherlands, and earlier this year it produced its own signature blend named The Athenæum.
An on-site whiskey sommelier helps guests with recommendations and food pairings.
“Since we became privately owned in 1992, we have had an interest in whiskey, and five years ago decided to change to a whiskey bar destination,” Hopkins said.
“Our whiskey bar has both guest and non-guest patronage. … Non-guest involvement is marketed through word of mouth and recommendation, primarily as it remains one of the biggest hotel collections in London. We wanted to create something iconic, which was representative of the hotel and our guests, and the (signature) blend has been a big success,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said the whiskey bar worked closely with the hotel’s restaurant, notably in events focused on whiskey and cheese pairings and five-course paired menus.
Such has been the success of the bar, its head sommelier often is on the road.
“We held an Athenæum tasting in Los Angeles … which was a great success,” Hopkins added.
Barbara Ricci, GM of her family-owned Hotel Adriano in Rome, started a gin bar, The Gin Corner, at the property two years ago because of her passion for the drink.
“When we opened the bar, gin was not really known in Italy. There was no interest, but it became a big success after only a few months,” Ricci said. She maintains it is the only gin bar in the country.
Ricci said the bar has become a focus for the 77-room property.
“Locals in Rome have now come to appreciate the bar very much, and we also now host gin parties,” Ricci said.
When the bar opened, it had 60 different gins. Today that number is 95. Italy in September hosted its third Gin Day, which ran for two days in Milan.
For Ricci, a good bar won’t push any particular label on guests.
“We divide gin in classic, premium, super-premium and ultra-premium (categories) so that our guests can choose their preference, because our bartender can give information about each type of gin without suggesting one in particular,” Ricci added.
The bar Proof at the 241-key InterContinental Toronto Yorkville specializes in vodka; it has 65 different types for sale.
Frank Guerreiro, food and beverage manager at the property, said the idea first came to light six years ago. The bar was the first of its kind in Canada’s largest city.
“Of course we cater to our hotel guests first, though the percentage of patrons seems now to be higher on the transient side. We get a lot of foot traffic, as well as large parties and events, Guerreiro said.
For all three hoteliers, the business decision of focusing on one liquor came from a desire to be pioneers.
“Most important is to be ahead of trends and not follow them,” Guerreiro said.
“I have empowered our bar team, and they have become our ambassadors for our brand. The team that has been brought in treats it as though it’s their own bar,” he added, an approach mirrored in the bar’s standalone website.