h1 With a single line Ian Fleming, and by extension James Bond, messed with one of the most elegant and perfect cocktails in the world.
Geoff Kleinman, Drink Spirits
What does the drink you order say about you? Probably that you're just defaulting to something familiar – a fact that Geoff Kleinman would like to change. As the founder of Drink Spirits, Geoff and his executive editor Heather Kleinman have created a place for exploring the wild and wonderful world of distilled spirits, from vodka and whiskey, to bourbon, cognac and liqueurs – to anything in between. A panel of taste testers do regular tastings and reviews on the site, and you'll find some fun video interviews and behind-the-scenes scoops on the Drink Spirits video channel. If you've ever wondered where to go for answers, inspiration or to learn more about what you're drinking, this is a great place for newbies and know-it-alls alike.
We caught up with Geoff to find out more about what drinks he recommends for exploring, what Frenet says about the people who order it, and what drink trends he sees for the year ahead (spoiler alert: get ready for an energy drink backlash and flavored whiskey). Sit back, relax and join us.
You started Drink Spirits when you noticed people always ordering the same thing at a bar. What are some drinks you recommend for people trying something new? Classic cocktails are always a great place to start your exploration of cocktails. The basics I always recommend are the Old Fashioned, Martini (made with gin and stirred, damn it), classic Margarita, hand shaken Daiquiri (not the alcoholic slurpee variety), Negroni, and Manhattan. It's a nice mix of sexy stirred drinks and citrusy shaken drinks. In six drinks you'll quickly discover what kind of cocktails you like the best.
Fess up: What do you think the drink someone chooses says about the person drinking it? Liquor companies count on that. Most people who order a Grey Goose and soda aren't doing it because they like Grey Goose vodka better than Absolut or Belvedere or Ketel One, they're doing it because it's a premium drink and so they become someone who drinks premium. Most people order what's familiar to them. I don't fault them for that - it's the whole reason I started my online magazine, to help people become familiar with more spirits. On the flip side, my head does turn when someone orders something special. Also, if you order Fernet, odds are you are connected to the spirits biz in some way or you are from Argentina.
For those that are new to your site, what are some great posts to start with? I'm very proud of our piece James Bond Was Wrong – Don’t Shake Your Martini. I think it helps put some of the major drinking issues in perspective. I also think our extensive story of Maker's Mark is something to really read. This is a piece that couldn't possibly fit in a conventional magazine, and it was great to be able to really tell the story. But if you want to start somewhere easy, we have a Best of Drink Spirits post with some great places to start.
How do you decide what products to cover or review? What's your filter for what your readers want? That's one of the most difficult things we do. First and foremost we look at relevance: is a product really relevant to our readers? Then we look at the spirits that interest us one way or another. Finally there are some spirits that are timely or topical that we will cover. We get tons of spirits in each week (yeah, I know, big problem, right?) and so we spent a lot of time really figuring out what's a fit and what isn't.
What are your all-time most popular posts? And what do you think they say about your readers and what they crave? By far our most trafficked post has to be our Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey review. We were the first publication to review it, and it was a major release from one of the best selling whiskey companies in the world. Honestly, any time we write about whiskey, people come in droves. Our Best Rye Whiskey wrap up has been huge, as well as Top 10 Irish Whiskey Picks for St. Patrick’s Day. Our readers also are interested in other spirits and our Top 10 New American Gins not only got us monster traffic, it created a lot of buzz in the industry. So, at the end of the day, our readers love whiskey but also want to explore other things.
Why do you think people are fascinated by your behind-the-scenes tours? And what have been some favorites? Our society has become much more aware of what goes in to what we eat and drink, and where it comes from. Spirits come from around the world and are made in a wide variety of ways. Our readers have shown great interest in learning more about how and where they are made. It doesn't hurt that many of the men and women who make these spirits are among the most interesting people we've ever met. Some favorites include Behind the Scenes of Jack Daniel’s Barrel Making, Behind the Scenes of Ketel One Vodka, and Port Ellen Maltings – How Barley Becomes Malt Whisky.
You have a rotating panel of tasters – who are they and how does that work? Do you throw a big party or is it a serious event? It has evolved over the years. We used to have several people over at a set time and taste through 5-7 different spirits blind. Only one person would know what spirits we were tasting and another would mix up the order. It was a serious undertaking with formal note pages and score cards. We found that we were trying to tackle too many spirits with too many people, so now it's much more intimate and usually with less people, and only 1-2 spirits tasted at a time.
How do you like to work with brand sponsors on Drink Spirits? We love creativity! Although we're one of the most respected spirit publications, we and our readers understand that drinking is fun! We've really let our hair down lately with a video series like our Trinidad Carnival Diaries. We feel video is extremely important going forward, and so we think there are some great opportunities to do fun, creative, and effective things with video. The opportunities are vast! A branded cocktail e-book? Regional bar guide? A drinking guide? There are really so many great things we can do with brand sponsors that fit our brand, are a match for our readers, and are effective advertising for the brands sponsors.
What are some trends you're seeing in the spirits world right now? Funny you should ask, I just got back from speaking on this topic at this year's Nightclub and Bar show in Las Vegas. It was an hour long presentation, so there's a lot we're seeing. The main things are more flavored vodka (mainly low calorie), flavored whiskey (lots of cinnamon, honey, and maple) and an increased awareness of Canadian whiskey. There's a lot to explore in that category and most people aren't aware of it. We're also tracking a very serious backlash against energy drinks. Tennessee even has a bill that would outlaw serving energy drinks and alcohol! But the biggest trend is bourbon and rye whiskey. There's a real love affair going on right now with whiskey, and so it's really one of the biggest trends.
How would you finish this sentence: When in doubt, drink… What you love. Don't let people tell you something is an acquired taste or order a cocktail because you're trying to show that you can drink "fancy." We imbibe to relax, let go, and have fun, so don't forget that!
Drink Spirits is a Say Media partner. Follow Geoff and team on Twitter @drinkspirits.