What’s shakin’ cocktail fans?
Welcome to Episode 252 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast! I’m your host, Eric Kozlik.
Thanks for joining me for this year-in-review episode, which is an annual tradition I like to uphold as we ring out the old year and welcome in the new one. Not only will we break down 2022 by the numbers, but we’ll also look ahead to 2023 and give you a few things to expect coming down the pike.
Also, as a little nod to the holidays and a fond send-off for this year, we’ll also hear from some awesome bartenders I interviewed before the McClintock Distilling Holiday Bar Room Blitz a couple weeks ago! This was a fantastic event where bartenders from Maryland came together in support of charities and showed off their mixological skills to a packed room of 200 cocktail enthusiasts.
2022 By the Numbers
This past year, we had just shy of 95,000 downloads, which is about a 45% increase from 2021, where we logged about 65,000. So thanks to each and every one of you who contributed to that statistic – it’s crazy to see the reach we’re achieving in our niche, and I’m extremely excited to keep growing that impact year-over-year.
Those downloads came over a span of about 46 – 48 episodes, depending on whether you count the non-numbered ones, which represents a slight dip in publishing frequency from 2021, but the big factor there is that I’m a new dad trying to figure out how to manage that tricky work-life balance, and overall I think we’re doing pretty well if the frequency is dropping only slightly due to this massive life event on my end.
Our most popular episode of the year, by pure downloads, is actually – for the first time! – an audio essay that I wrote, rather than an interview I conducted. It’s Episode 227 – The Margarita: A Sweet Technology, which is clocking in at about 1500 downloads and is followed closely by Episode 223 – Rethinking Vermouth, which was my interview with Birk O’Halloran of Rockwell Vermouth. My takeaway here is that sometimes you guys really DO appreciate all the work I put into those audio essays, and I will say that if you haven’t already checked out that 2-part deep dive on the Margarita, I think it’s worth your time to go into the backlog and check it out.
From a qualitative perspective, there’s one big achievement we picked up this year that’s completely new for The Modern Bar Cart Podcast, and I’m pretty proud of it. We were selected, a few months ago, and completely out of the blue, to be featured in Apple Podcasts’ “Mastering Mixology” playlist. With the launch of Drink Masters on Netflix, as well as the pop culture “Negroni Sbagliato with Prosecco in it” trend, you know that cocktails have been more on the forefront of the cultural conversation than ever before, so it’s fitting that Apple Podcasts wanted to create their own tailored playlist on the subject, and I’m honored that they listened to our show and thought it was a good fit to be featured on that list for all to discover.
Looking Ahead to 2023
Well, the first thing I can say is that we’re slated to kick off the year with a pretty big interview. This person has been on my bucket list for a long time now, and fortunately the stars have aligned for an exclusive interview. I don’t want to spoil the surprise completely, but if you have questions you’d like to pass my way for someone who has opened world-famous bars on multiple continents and been honored with the cocktail world’s most prestigious accolades, then pass them my way. This person is a master of cocktail technique, the use of innovative ingredients from around the world, and sustainability, just to name a few areas of expertise.
This person also has a six-syllable last name, so go ahead and start racking your brains for all the hexasyllabic surnames in your cocktail rolodex.
Improvements and Community Building
Back at the beginning of the pandemic, I thought that live streams were going to be the way to go. So I went out and tried to improve my video and streaming setup, we set up a twitch channel, and I did my best to throw a few events that people could join in and watch live. The reality is: we’re no longer in lockdown. People have lives – you don’t all have endless time to sit around and watch me do an interview that you could just as easily listen to on your commute or at the gym. I get that. It’s how I operate, too.
So what I thought might be interesting is to shift focus away from live streams, per se, and think about other ways to add value to the Modern Bar Cart community.
This could look something like a community discord server, where we can share ideas, cocktail recipes, bottle recommendations, and the like. Or, it could look like something else entirely. Ultimately, what I’m hoping to do is find more free ways to give all you fine people value in 2023 and beyond. And, for anyone in the distilling or bartending industry, I’m also looking into a couple fun ideas to foster community and find ways to help one another, but in a setting that’s completely reserved for people who work professionally in the spirits, cocktail, and hospitality industries.
So if you have any strong feelings about Discord vs. some other way of getting together in the virtual space, or if you’ve got any super sweet ideas about how The Modern Bar Cart Podcast can provide even more value in your life, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line in the standard inbox: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’d be happy to chat.
2022 Holiday Bar Room Blitz
Now that you know what’s coming your way in 2023, I think it’s high time we hear from some of the bartenders that helped ring out 2022 in fine fashion. We’ll start with a little snippet from my introduction, and then dive right into the interviews. Take a listen.
So, after meeting these folks, let me tell ya how it all panned out. The runner up in the people’s choice round, narrowly beating out the previous champion, Damon Shattuck with his Benedictine citrus concoction was Sergio Fenton, from Sabor de Cuba. And by far and away, the people’s choice winner of the evening was Billy Ensor of Union Mills Public House.
Each of these gentlemen became team captains, and Billy had the advantage of selecting which of the two mystery ingredients he most preferred to work with. Those ingredients were: a bright, snappy verjus, which is the juice of un-ripe grapes. Great for creating citrus-like effects in a sour cocktail. And blackstrap molasses, which the fine folks at McClintock distilling were able to turn into a simple syrup for easy mixing. So we had one very bright ingredient, lending itself well to sour drinks, and one sweetener with some smoky, slightly bitter notes that could go in almost any direction.
Billy jumped on the verjus, which he turned into a delicious whiskey sour, while Sergio went in a more tropical direction, using the blackstrap molasses syrup in conjunction with pineapple and cream of coconut in a painkiller rendition that would ultimately make his team the winners of the secret ingredient round.
I gotta say: I love cocktail competitions like this. They’re tricky to pull off, but if you’ve got a great team like the bartenders you just met and a great venue like the one at McClintock Distilling, you can make a lot of guests very happy indeed.
Definitely hit me up if you need any advice on setting up a cocktail competition in your neck of the woods – or if you’re in need of a goofy, but lovable MC to run the event – and for all of you listeners out there, I wish you a safe, festive end to 2022, and an excellent start to the new year.