BarNone Drink Recipes Newsletter )
June Issue
In this issue
  • How about a dark, mysterious Italian stranger after dinner?
  • Why bad things happen to good bars - by Robert Plotkin
  • Search the Drink Recipe Database
  • Are you cool yet? Summer is heating up so cool your party down with a special ice cream treat!
  • Ikon - True Russian Vodka
  • BarNone Updates
  • Article Suggestions
  • Dear Valued Reader,

    Hi and welcome to the BarNone Drinks Newsletter. We'll be collecting facts, reviews, articles and other features to send to you once a month. We hope you enjoy it.

    Dan Hutchinson

    How about a dark, mysterious Italian stranger after dinner?

    Liqueurs are mysterious things by nature. Most of the world's more popular ones are prepared with carefully guarded, centuries-old recipes consisting of complicated mixtures of herbs and spices. The Italian favorite, Sambuca, is no different, with its tightly guarded secret recipe that's kept as close to the pinstriped vest as the blood oath of La Cosa Nostra.

    Sambuca has its subtle and mysterious side, just like Brando in The Godfather, but it's the fiery kick-in-the-ass anisette flavor (think Joe Pesci in Goodfellas or Joe Pesci in Casino or maybe just Joe Pesci) that takes over and boldly smacks you upside the head. Deceptively potent at 84 proof, Sambuca is first and foremost an anise liqueur, in the same family as Ouzo, pastis, raki and even absinthe. Sambuca's the smoothest and most internationally popular of all the black-licorice-tasting cordials -- the capo, if you will. And of all the Sambuca capos, the inimitable Capo di Capo is Romana Sambuca: available in over 50 countries worldwide, it's the world's number-one selling anise liqueur.

    If you've ever eaten at an authentic Italian restaurant, you've been to a place where the owner hangs out with his patrons like they were having a party; where straw-covered Chianti bottles hang from the ceiling; where the pasta is made fresh; and where after dinner you're given a snifter of sambuca -- on the house, probably -- with three coffee beans floating in it (odd numbers, never even, for good luck) to sip with your coffee. And if you want to stick with Italian tradition, make sure your coffee isn't a cappuccino: Real Italians drink cappuccino only at lunchtime. (Of course, if you're unconventional by nature and like to thumb your nose at tradition, then sip your cappuccino any old time you want. Just don't come crying to me when you wake up with a severed horse head in your bed!)

    Sambuca Coffee Bean

    Anisette's been respected as a wonderful digestive for centuries, hence sambuca's popularity in Italy, where they'd rather sip a soothing after-dinner digestivo after enjoying their bountiful multi-course meals than toss back a couple of Tums. You can spell relief R-O-L-A-I-D-S if you want, but make mine S-A-M-B-U-C-A, with a cafe macchiato, per favore.

    If you're not a coffee drinker, don't fret. Sambuca's also popular served straight up, either neat with coffee beans or over ice. In recent years it's also become more popular as a shot, and many in-the-know bartenders enjoy the fact that its high alcoholic content makes it flammable, and also that its high density makes it ideal for layered shooters. It's always fun to try a new twist on an old standby, but a drink doesn't thrive for centuries unless it just plain tastes good on its own.

    Next time you're seeking a little Italian mystery after dinner, order up a sambuca. And whether you're superstitious or not, make sure to count those coffee beans. Sleeping with the fishes is probably not nearly as glamorous as it looks in the movies.


    This article has been submitted by the great people over at Wine X Magazine. They've agreed to bring you a new article every month from one of their amazing writers. If you like living out on the edge and feel the Gen X isn't well represented in the world, have a really good look at Wine X magazine. They've also given us an offer you can't refuse if you're looking to subscribe: $15 for 6 issues. To experience the full magazine, Subscribe Here.

    Wine X is a young adult lifestyle magazine with wine and other beverages grafted on to it. With regular features on music, fashion, videos, books, travel and other relevant young adult culture, it's specifically designed to create a comfortable forum in which young adults can learn more about the tasty juice without the usual intimidation. In no other publication will you find a more concentrated effort to inform, entertain and enlighten a new generation of wine consumers with such a fresh, cutting-edge approach. At Wine X Magazine we believe that wine is not a lifestyle, its part of one.

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    Why bad things happen to good bars - by Robert Plotkin

    This is our next Robert Plotkin article. Last issue we looked at advice for rookie bartenders. This issue we'll take a focus on the management side of running a bar. Robert is the founder of

    For the past 17 years, Robert Plotkin, has been working to provide beverage operators with the right career tools they need to attain success. He has created the best management systems, tools, software and books available in the hospitality industry. His nationally acclaimed products are in the offices and behind the bars of the most successful hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and hot spots worldwide.

    Why bad 
things happen to good bars

    My grandfather once told me, "If you want to be successful, watch carefully what the majority of people do, then do the opposite." I confess it had little meaning to me at the time. Fortunately for me, I remembered his advice, and I've made it the cornerstone of my professional career ever since. How can you benefit from this same wisdom? Ours is a highly competitive industry, with a failure rate that exceeds the norm. It's a demanding business, in which you have to work harder than most and keep mistakes to a minimum. It's this last part that seems to trip most people up. Back to my grandfather's advice. While avoiding the mistakes of others and steering clear of the pitfalls might not necessarily lead you on a straight- line toward success, it may very well lead you away from failure. So to a number of industry professionals, people who have been around the block, the question was posed: Why do bad things happen to good bars?

  • THE RIGHT STUFF - "I'll tell you one reason why so many potentially good bars hit hard times, because the business lacks leadership," states Mark Pollman, head bartender and featured attraction at the Fox & Hounds in the Cheshire Lodge in St. Louis. "Most managers today lack leadership ability. They don't understand that a bar has a lot of moving parts, most of them are living, breathing individuals. People need to be lead, not managed. It requires character, experience and the desire to do whatever it takes to get the job done. People respect that and respond accordingly." Deven Black, long-time general manager of the North Star Pub in New York City agrees. "I've made more than my fair share of mistakes, but if I've done anything right, it's that I've learned from those mistakes. I seek advice from those around me with more experience and perspective, and I let the good, competent people on my staff do their jobs. It's a management philosophy that's worked well for me." Worked well it has. With Black at the helm for the past fifteen years, the North Star Pub has been one of the city's most popular watering holes. Black contends managers must respect the limits of their authority. "I think it's important not to inflate the importance of your role in the business. My job is to ensure that we're doing the things necessary to be successful. I watch, I listen and I take care of the business end of the bar. That's my job. The challenging part, like working the bar and taking care of our guests, I let our service professionals take care of that."

  • LIQUID ASSETS - Tracy Finklang, a veteran bartender and bar manager, has been the corporate beverage manager for the Rock Bottom Brewery for the past several years. She contends the most critical mistake most beverage operators make is not paying close enough attention to their inventory. "We, like all bars and restaurants, invest a great deal of working capital into purchasing and replenishing our beverage inventory. From a business standpoint, it's imperative that we track the flow of inventory through the operation to make sure we're getting the return we need on that investment." After years spent behind the bar, Finklang knows what fate awaits many products. "It seems it's always open hunting season on alcohol. Your inventory can get ripped off even before you put it into the store room. I think tight inventory controls are an effective deterrent-people know that any losses will be detected quickly. I can only imagine the losses beverage operators must suffer without these systems in place." Deven Black agrees that lack of adequate inventory control is a major source of problems. "For example, several years ago I found some considerable discrepancies between the number of bottled beers our registers said we sold, and the amount of beers we actually depleted from inventory. So I started to count all the bottled beer at the end of every day. You know, the problem all but disappeared."

  • LEARNING CURVES - As the labor pool continues to shrink, and the number of qualified job applicants diminish, employee training will have an increasingly more significant impact on day-to-day operations. "There's no question in my mind that the number one challenge facing beverage operators today is training," states Al Ferrone, food and beverage director for the Promus Hotel Corporation, operator of the Doubletree Hotels. "Allowing uninformed, marginally trained employees behind the bar, or on the floor, is the ultimate in mismanagement. Essentially you're putting people in pressure situations that they're totally unprepared to handle. The only possible eventual outcome is financial failure." Ferrone contends employee training provides the bridge between concept and execution. Few managerial strategies can be effectively implemented if the staff lacks the tools and knowledge to execute the program. Training encompasses everything from product knowledge, sanitation procedures and alcohol awareness to menu familiarity, handling guest complaints and rendering proper customer service. If it's crucial to maintaining established professional standards of the business, Ferrone stresses it should be incorporated into an ongoing training program. Rick Fogel and Phil Raimondo, owners of Bar Starz, a leading beverage consulting firm specializing in training and beverage program development, deal with the operational impact of poor employee training every day. "The amount of dollars being invested into training bartenders today is dropping. As a result, employers are lowering their standards, so we're seeing far more order takers behind the bar, people with little technical proficiency or sales abilities. "This causes a ripple effect," observes Fogel. "Their lack of professionalism inevitably lowers gross sales, especially during peak hours, and negatively affects guest satisfaction. Without training, the most you can expect behind the bar is a smile and a heart beat." Adds Raimondo, "And often you may not even get a smile."

  • BLACK HOLES - In industry parlance it's referred to as shrinkage, an innocuous sounding word with dire ramifications for a bar. Shrinkage refers to losses due to over-pouring and theft. "Just because you purchase a bottle of liquor doesn't mean you're going to get anywhere near its potential sales value," says Finklang. "The liquor can get stolen, spilled, wasted, given away or drunk by employees. Theft and over-pouring alone can chew up between 10%-20% of your bottom line, and that's in operations with good controls and managers who know what to look for." While the Rock Bottom Brewery allows its bartenders to free pour liquor , they are tested for accuracy on a regular basis. Those who don't measure up must use a jigger until they are capable of pouring with precision. Being a former bartender, Finklang entertains no illusions that testing alone will curb over-pouring, "but it does convey to our staff that we're aware of the problem and taking reasonable precautions to deal with it." "Most bartenders think that when they give away a free drink all the bar is losing out on is the cost of the liquor," observes Ed McCullough, owner of the Balboa Cafe, a landmark bar located in Tempe near the Arizona State University campus. "It wasn't until I took over this place that I realized there's a hidden opportunity cost tacked on as well. If a customer's personal limit is four drinks, for example, and the bartender gives away one, for whatever reason, I'm potentially out 25% of my sales. Either that, or the person will consume five drinks and now we're looking at an over-service situation." Another insidious problem is theft. Bartenders control both ends of every transaction at the bar. They portion and prepare product, as well as handle all sales proceeds. McCullough, like many, has been burned. "I've learned the hard way that some bartenders operate with a hidden agenda. It's been an expensive lesson, but now I've implemented solid cash controls. I randomly pull cash drawers and take mid-shift readings of the registers. I think these types of security measures help keep the honest bartenders honest."

  • BATTING AVERAGES - Business is challenging enough without flying blind. Sophisticated registers and point of sale systems are capable of generating a wealth of operational data, which if analyzed correctly, can provide invaluable insights into what is transpiring behind the bar. "Because we have tight inventory controls, I'm reasonably confident that our cost of goods figures are accurate," states Deven Black. "As a result, I use the pub's pour cost percentages as reliable indicators of our profitability. They're remarkably consistent, so if one of the percentages slips out of variance, my curiosity is piqued and I look for the explanation. I even post the percentages for my staff to see. They take pride in hitting our target cost percentages." At a high volume college bar like Balboa Cafe, speed of service and theft are constantly on McCullough's mind. "When I learned about tracking bartender productivity, the idea just clicked with me. So now I calculate their sales per hour for every shift and use that as a running basis for comparison." According to McCullough, it didn't take long for some interesting patterns to develop. The figures showed which bartenders consistently registered the highest sales per hour, and cast suspicion on several individuals who regularly fell short of the staff average. "Once I saw those patterns, we started to watch a few of the bartenders more closely, and it became apparent why their sales figures were so low. They were ripping us off." Al Ferrone also believes in tracking staff productivity, but he focuses on sales per hour during peak hours. "I think analyzing staff performance during prime hours is a highly revealing statistic. That critical period of time affords us an opportunity to analyze employee performance on a level playing field. It reveals volumes about their level of technical proficiency, their sales abilities, and their cash handling propriety."

  • NEVER SERVE AN INFERIOR DRINK - In this business, quality assurance is measured one drink at a time. Make sure that what is being served is exactly what the guest requested. Check that all of the ingredients being used are good-don't commit bad products to good liquor , and hope for the best. Ensure, also, that each glass is clean and not chipped or cracked.

    Robert Plotkin is a well established writer. You can enjoy his work in print as well. Below is a book that may help you manage, or learn to manage your bar.

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    Are you cool yet? Summer is heating up so cool your party down with a special ice cream treat!

    Play & Freeze Ice Cream Maker (Ball)

    Just in time for summer! Finally, a way to try all those great Ice Cream related recipes on Bar None.

    Try a few recipes and let us know your favorite.


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    It's fun and easy to make homemade ice cream anywhere you want! Since you don't need electricity, it's ideal for camping, picnics, backyard and beach parties and boating. Simply add cream, sugar rock salt and ice and 20 minutes of rolling later, you have one pint of homemade delicious ice cream! The fun design will delight the whole family.

    Ikon - True Russian Vodka

    On the steep bluffs above the Vytaka River, near the medieval city of Kirov, stands the skeletal remains of an ancient monastery where Historical Chronicles claim the first production of vodka in Russia. For close to a thousand years vodka has flowed through Russian life and society. Not far from that ancient monastery, in 1862, Vladimir Vasilivitch Alexandrov built a distillery that became renowned throughout Russia and Europe for producing outstanding vodkas. Today, Ikon True Russian Vodka is made in that distillery, to the same exacting standards, Alexandrov demanded over 140 years ago. And with all outstanding vodkas, Ikon begins with nature's bounty, purity and harvest.

    It should come as no surprise that the Ikon distillery is situated amongst the rich fields of a strong and vibrant farming community. For centuries this black earth has produced some of the finest wheat and rye in Russia. Come Harvest time, Andrey Pyssine, general manager of the Ikon Vodka distillery is out on the farms buying only the most select wheat and rye for his vodka. Pyssine selects his raw and essential ingredient for vodka with an expert eye. He can tell if the wheat and rye have received too little or too much sun by smell, taste and touch. Once Pyssine is satisfied of its quality the wheat is transported to the distillery.

    Distillery Interior Image

    The Ikon Vodka Distillery is not a giant corporate monolith. It is a modern, compact, complex comprising efficient and hygienic storage units, a testing lab and vodka production unit the size of a football stadium two stories high. The original faade of Alexandrov's creation still stands to greet workers and visitors. The factory although set in a rural almost unchanging part of Russia is high tech and the distillation facility was retooled with North American equipment 3 years ago. It employs a little over 200 workers comprising distillation technicians, food scientists and assembly line workers. These employees are fiercely loyal to their distillery because of its pedigree and ability to always produce award- wining vodka.

    Distillery Column Image

    Early in the morning begins the process, which will turn the farmers' harvest into Ikon True Russian Vodka. The procedure will take close to week from start to finish. The wheat stored in a humidity controlled storage container on the distillery grounds is brought to the main manufacturing building where it is cleaned, washed and separated into giant cauldrons which will cook the wheat into an alcohol mash, the first of many steps into turning this raw material into Ikon Vodka. Now liquid, now with an alcohol strength closer to rocket fuel, it is pumped into long towering column stills where it will be continuously distilled 4 times. Ikon is now 190 proof and must be diluted with pure spring water. The distillery still taps into the ancient artesian water trapped far beneath the clean countryside above. The water source has been in continual use for centuries and the distillery lab technicians test its purity daily. Cutting the vodka with the crisp artesian water will insure the vodka has a consistent 80 proof. Near perfection but still not ready to be bottled, the vodka is filtered 4 more times through another series of giant filtration columns that contain quartz diamonds and Russian birch wood charcoal.

    Ikon Factory Girl Image

    Upon completion, a sample of the vodka is sent to the testing lab located on the distillery grounds where it is checked for imperfections. If it passes the strict guidelines for vodka established by the Distillery and the Russian Agricultural Ministry it will be approved for bottling.

    Ikon Production Line Image

    The test completed, the lab approves, and a phone call is placed to the assembly line to begin bottling Ikon. Empty, un-labelled bottles glide through the assembly line each being filled, capped and labelled while moving effortless down the conveyor belt where at the end they are hand wrapped in tissue paper and boxed for shipping. For Ikon True Russian Vodka to get to your local store or restaurant, it has been a long and steady course which has taken centuries to perfect. It may be said that vodka is a neutral spirit, but those that know vodka understand there is nothing neutral in a liquid which has taken centuries to craft, has outlived Czars, Revolutions and welcomed home democracy. So the next time, you use Ikon for your martini, remember how far it has traveled to reach you, almost a thousand years from that ancient and now silent monastery on the shores of the Viatka River.

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