Our recent Spirited Conversations talk in Los Angeles this past Monday was focused on what bars and restaurants look for in choosing their cocktail mezcals. Moderator Jason Horn guided panelists Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza Restaurante, Bryant Orozco of Madre and Michael Capoferri of Thunderbolt LA through a wide range of topics to get to the heart of the what and why of their cocktail mezcal selections. In short, for you brands and brand ambassadors, know your product, be able to answer deep questions, and talk about what your brand is doing when it comes to sustainability – and not just how many agaves you are planting. Here’s the presentation: 

During the Q&A, Steve Codella, asked a great question, and followed up with me later to clarify and dive deeper into it– how are they explaining their values based decisions to customers on what is in their well and how are they promoting the brands they consider doing it right?

There was of course the simple answer, that by using a particular mezcal in the well they were showing their support and that the selection of mezcal on the shelves was a reflection of literally putting their money where there mouth is. But in my follow up back and forth with Steve it came down to the question of how clear would that be to a customer? Or in other words, where or how is that conveyed to a customer?

There is the reality of the business of a bar – it is busy, and when bartenders are cranking out drinks for impatient customers, is there really time to explain with each cocktail served, ‘we use X brand in this cocktail because we believe in the values and quality of the product and their commitment to sustainability or traditional process or support of the community?’ The drink menu may name the brand they use but is there space to also say why they use that brand? Is the solution something as simple as having a sign, or space in the menu, to say we proudly serve X brand in our cocktails because of their commitment to <insert your reason why here>?

The question goes to the overall challenges of bar education – not only in the training an establishment develops for its employees but also in the programs they develop for customers, whether they be special tasting events, agave clubs, or in how they design an agave menu? Bryant Orozco recently re-designed the agave menu at Madre to showcase the wide and varied world of agaves used in the production of agave distillates. Max has a piece here that goes into it. But how do you explain the values behind your bar to a customer that is just ordering a drink and may ultimately not care?

My gut instinct is to look at this like the Know Your Farmer campaigns that took shape in the aughts, or even in the coffee world and how important provenance and the idea of fair trade became in guiding what coffees people were ordering– these programs got people to think, and ultimately care about what they were consuming.

So, here is the question to the industry, what are ways in which you can more clearly articulate to a customer why they are being served what they are being served so that eventually, they will care as deeply as you do of what is in their glass?