Creating a bespoke bar program—one that features three types of hand-cut ice—is an ongoing exercise in experimentation for Josh Loving, Owner and General Manager of Austin, Texas’ Small Victory. Loving has crafted a drink menu that is both simplistic and flexible, allowing for seemingly endless combinations the pursuit of the ultimate goal: designing a memorable experience for his patrons.
[A] bartender is the waiter, is the maker, is that everything for that guest, especially at a small cocktail bar like Small Victory. Where if you are sitting in front of me to make your drink, I don’t have a whole hotline of cooks that are going to put together different portions of your drink, or your plate, or whatever—it’s me. It’s my choices. It’s my skill set. It’s my whatever informs my decisions and whatnot that puts the drink to you.
A critical component of the Small Victory experience is the menu, which features eight mixed drinks, each paired with an illustration, a recipe, a line of history, and a related quote. While it stands out for its brevity in a crowded craft cocktail market, it sets the tone for the expected experience: No gimmicks or secrets, just expert craftsmanship and high-quality ingredients.
This whole package, this illustration, this little recipe description, and this other description is meant for you to sit with this menu and to get a real sense of where we are, who we are, and what you’re about to get without having to ask a bunch of banal questions that not everyone can come up to the bartender and ask.
The back of the menu is split in two columns: a small kitchen menu to the right, and on the left, a flowchart guide for concocting a martini your way. While both educational and visually appealing, it’s also an obvious solution to the age-old debate of how to properly order your martini and ensure it arrives to your specifications. Think of it as a “choose-your-own-adventure” with your favorite drink as the result.
Josh Loving, veteran bartender and former sommelier in Austin, Texas has served on the opening team for many of this city’s most outstanding cocktail bars, including Half Step, Midnight Cowboy, Weather Up, and Eastside Showroom. When McGuire Moorman Hospitality acquired and re-opened Jeffrey’s of Austin, Josh was tapped as bar manager, ultimately creating the beverage director role for the entire company.
His focus and passion is for authentic, perfectly executed classic cocktails using small production, high quality & traditional spirits, wines, beers, etc. He spends most of his time at Small Victory managing the large format ice program.
Since opening in 2016, Small Victory’s team has been nominated for or recipient of several local and national food and beverage awards:
- Eater Awards Bar of the Year 2016
- Time Out Recommended Award 2017
- Time Out Bar Awards Nominee 2018
- Multiple Culturemap Tastemaker Bar and Bartender of the Year nominations
Stream Episode 17 now, or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform below.
Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance![music]
Todd: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Nienkerk. On this podcast, we explore content—its creation, management, and distribution—by talking with the people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We design and develop digital content solutions that get results. Today, I’m joined by barmaster Josh Loving from Small Victory, and we’re going to be talking about cocktails. Welcome to The Future of Content, Josh.
Josh: Hello. How’s it going?
Todd: It’s going well. First of all, tell me a little bit about Small Victory and how you got involved in the cocktail industry and in being a barmaster.
Josh: Well, I, I guess, during college, worked in bars, restaurants, that whole thing. After college, that was something I really liked. Didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I got a liberal arts degree, so I fit right in [laughter]. And I was really into wine first, more than anything. But that was around 2005,and cocktails were on the rise on the coast and stuff, internationally; not so much in Austin. But it was just a natural progression, honestly. I saw a future for myself in hospitality, probably in wine. But then it just kind of bled into— And cocktails became this whole other avenue of creativity and all that stuff. And I was in a position at the place I worked to just be— I was the wine buyer, wine director, whatever, and kind of the part-time bartender. So it just kind of, hand in glove, went that route.
Todd: So when you talk about cocktails being an avenue of creativity, what do you mean by that?
Josh: It’s sort of like the “liquid chef,” where there’s your recipes, the standards, the hits, the things that everyone knows: the Manhattan, the Martini, and all that. But with cocktails, just like with food, if you just tweak an ingredient here, change something, swap something out there, then you’ve essentially created something new. Oftentimes, something that you might not even make again, or not for a long time. But in a way, it’s an experience that is kind of cool for the guests. Because you’re reaching them at that particular moment and that drink, which it’s kind of a cliché where people say, “Only this guy can make this drink.” And it’s really because they’re recalling that memory where they had that great time. They were four drinks, and you just happened to hit that sweet spot, and you’re forever the only one who can make this one drink for this person.
Todd: Right. Right. So I’m a layperson when it comes to this. But cocktails are my go-to. I got interested in beer when craft beer became a thing and suddenly beer was more than Budweiser. And it was just interesting and unique and there was a lot of creativity happening. I never really got involved in wine. That world felt kind of impenetrable to me. But the cocktail world kind of has a sense of humor about it and has a lot of history. And some of it’s kind of weird and dark but also kind of fun and funny. I’m thinking about the speakeasies and places like that, right, and the really classic cocktails and liqueurs that are associated with that time. But I personally started getting into cocktails, I would say, actually because of you and the experiences of going to the bars that you ran and watching you work. Cocktails are something that— It feels like as a consumer of the cocktail you get a lot more visibility into the creation of this product, of this content than you do beer or wine. Because beer is made somewhere else and then put in a keg and brought to you and then just dispensed, right? And wine, pretty much the same way. But cocktails, you have that— The kind of cocktail places where you’ve worked, the kind of bars where you’ve worked, it’s on display. Right? People can watch you do this and there may even be an element of performance to the creation of the cocktail. What is your thought about “cocktail as performance” as presentation in addition to just being a satisfying beverage experience?
Josh: Well, to speak to what you were just saying, beer has to be made on such a large scale, right? And it’s made for a large audience. Whereas cocktails can be but for the most part it’s a very singular, personal experience. You go to a bar. You tell them, “I like these types of drinks or I feel like this type of drink, and then either they’re going to point you to something that’s on their menu that’s a tried-and-true or they’re just going to make you something if it’s that kind of place. Small Victory has both: We have a menu that is meant for the uninitiated to kind of find their way, but then even if you’ve never been there but you know a thing or two about how you like to drink, what you like to drink, you can just say some keywords and just we’ll take it from there. And then, yeah of course, the performance part of it. You are a chef in a way even though I don’t like that necessary word. But a bartender is the waiter, is the maker, is that everything for that guest, especially at a small cocktail bar like Small Victory. Where if you are sitting in front of me to make your drink, I don’t have a whole hotline of cooks that are going to put together different portions of your drink, or your plate, or whatever—it’s me. It’s my choices. It’s my skill set. It’s my whatever informs my decisions and whatnot that puts the drink to you.
Todd: And it’s probably obvious at this point but to the listeners who don’t know the kind of experience we’re talking about this is not the kind of bar where you order from somebody and then they go disappear and they put the order in at the bar and they go pick it up at the bar and they bring it to you. This is you sitting at the bar or near it and you are interacting with the person who is going to be making the drink. They’re perhaps interviewing you in some light, friendly way, saying, “Well, what are you into? What are you in the mood for? What kinds of stuff do you normally like?” And maybe inventing something on the spot even, which is such a unique experience because when it comes to food everything’s just on the menu, right? Everything is very prescribed. There are lots of places that won’t do any kind of substitutions or changes or anything like that.
Todd: Yeah, yeah. But with a bar, it’s just such an intimate experience, especially this kind of bar that you run.
Josh: Yeah. No, it’s true. It’s one of those things where a kitchen might not have the opportunity to give you that bespoke experience where the menu’s the menu. The dish is the dish. I can’t just swap this out for this. Whereas a bar— Our bar, we’ve got 400, 450 unique spirits. Now that doesn’t mean you have 400 choices for a martini. But it does mean that we have 40 choices between vodka and gin for that martini and we might have three, four, five different vermouths; a couple different bitters; and then from there, you can— I mean think of the level of different combinations that can go from there. And it’s not to say that everyone’s going to hit, but it’s a single cocktail. The whole point of it is that exchange, that experience. Hopefully, it will hit, and hopefully, it’ll be great. But we’re also human and prone to our own mistakes, so.
Todd: Well, speaking of menus versus a bespoke cocktail, when you are developing your menu—because of course there is a menu—when you’re developing your menu or your program, how do you go about doing that? What does it take to create a menu or a bar program, and then what does it take to sell that to somebody?
Josh: Yeah, so I think I mean, at the end of the day, the content that is meant to— Well, I’ll use a Small Victory because it’s the best example. I’m trying to sort of inform but not be too pedantic and kind of add some levity—maybe a joke or something—because I’m sure you know that there’s this sort of kind of cringey sense that guests get when they go into certain cocktail bars, or programs, or restaurants with cocktail programs, and they see the staff, and they’re just waiting to be like, “Oh, you don’t know what that is. Oh, you don’t know what that is.”
Josh: And I feel a lot of menus honestly can be written that way because they are begging the question and that interaction. And while that might be fine and good or have good intentions, if you multiply that by 200, 300 guests, and you have some word that you just want on there to be like, “I’m going to call this ingredient ‘unicorn tears’ because that’s going to evoke some sort of like, ‘Oh my God, what are they putting into this drink? I must know.’” And it’s like, “Oh, it’s just vodka with a lot of salt.” [laughter] It’s a saline solution or something like that. So with our menu, balance, of course, is probably top of the order, but the cocktails are illustrated, and they’re illustrated to give that visual cue, “Okay. This is what I’m getting here. This Painkiller is in a tall glass, so I know it’s a large-ish drink.” And then next to that, we’ll have a proportion breakdown of the ingredients, and that’s the information part. We don’t try to get cute with it. We just serve kind of plain and simple, and we put everything in sort of a ratio format as opposed to a recipe format. So it’s something that someone who can just think in terms of, “Okay. Two-to-one, I can have an idea of what that might come out like.” And then we have a little blurb, and the blurb might be historical. It might be tongue-in-cheek. It might be a bit of both. But that’s kind of to blend in that like, “This whole package, this illustration, this little recipe description, and this other description is meant for you to sit with this menu and to get a real sense of where we are, who we are, and what you’re about to get without having to ask a bunch of banal questions that not everyone can come up to the bartender and ask.” So I think that’s kind of what I go for on the overview of the meat of the menu.
Todd: So to restate that—because I have your menu open right now and we’ll share this on the podcast website for anybody that wants to see it—this is a very different kind of cocktail menu. I’ve had the opportunity to go to lots of cocktail bars, and something I pay a lot of attention to and I tend to photograph the menus and kind of take them home and experiment. This is totally unique in that you show the proportions. So you mentioned the Painkiller earlier, so it’s one-third overproof navy rum, one-third pineapple juice, one-sixth orange juice, one-sixth coconut cream. You’re not doing ounces, right?
Todd: You’re just telling them, “Well, it’s going to be— Okay. Yeah. A third of it is navy rum. So I understand what that is. A third of it is pineapple juice. Okay, I get it. I’m starting to form the picture in my head. I don’t feel dumb, right? I see a very cute illustration. Not a photo, which could be kind of cheesy, right? But I see an illustration of the drink. So there’s— Oh, somebody— You had to go out and get an illustrator. That’s interesting. That’s an interesting bit of content. So I know what kind of glass it comes in. I know that it’s got crushed ice and a straw. These things are pretty clear to me. And then there’s this great description of the drink that’s pulled from a bar in the British Virgin Islands, which is maybe is that where the drink originated?
Josh: That is where the drink originated.
Todd: So you get a history lesson.
Josh: Exactly. Yeah. So I try to credit the origin of a drink. Now, when we opened, I went through a number of iterations of how this menu, how I want it to look, what I want it to convey. And a lot of it was sort of fighting off my own kind of biases and instincts. I want it to be— There was a point where I wanted every drink to either be rum, tequila, or brandy. And that was because I would tell myself, people who drink whiskey and vodka and gin, they will order that. I want to sing the unsung heroes here, and I want to do— You’re either getting— If you’re picking one of these eight drinks, it’s going to be a base or a split base of these categories. But I came to my better [laughter] sense on that and—
Todd: That’s leaving out a lot.
Josh: It is. It is. And you don’t want to— And that, well, that was one of those things where I just needed a little time to kind of self-edit and be like, “Who’s this menu for? This isn’t for you. This is your own sort of perfect like, ‘Wow. This guy made this menu that speaks to me.'” Well, it has to speak to most people who A) don’t know much about cocktails and B) might not give a shit about cocktails. I mean you hope they do because they’re in your place, but—
Todd: They might be there with a friend or it looks like a fun thing to do. Maybe they’re, yeah— They’re just stopping by or whatever.
Josh: You’re right. It’s a bar at the end of the day. On a Friday, Saturday night, most guests are not really there for that kind of like, “Oh, tell me more. Teach me more.” And that’s okay. The menu is designed, really, as a crutch for those people. It’s not for the folks that really know what they like and whatnot. So I had a lot of time before opening to really tweak that menu. And that was kind of— The ice and the menu were the two things that I wanted to really lead and drive that project.
Todd: Let’s talk about ice because it wasn’t until you told me about the world of ice that I realized there is a world of ice.
Josh: Yeah. Unfortunately. [laughter]
Todd: All right. So this probably comes as a big surprise to everybody, but just as there is a bar program or a grill station or whatever at a restaurant or at a bar, there is an ice program at a lot of these bars. So what does that entail?
Josh: Yeah. I mean maybe more people know now. But definitely, when we started, it was super or more novel. But it is still— It’s a lot to commit to. There’s not a lot of places that have a quote, “ice program.” But yeah. For our purposes, that means a big machine that makes these slab sizes of ice that ice carvers use to make ice carvings. So that’s basically a 300-plus-pound block of clear ice. It makes two at a time. Put filtered water in it and let it go to the top. There’s a little trick at the end where you vacuum off the last bit of that water, and that’s what keeps it absolutely clear. And then you pull it out, put it on a table, use a chainsaw for the big— [laughter] Yeah, for the “big cuts”, as we call them, and make these big 15-pound chunks. And then we put that on a butcher’s bandsaw to make all the sizes that actually end up in the cocktail. So we have three kinds of specifically cut pieces of ice: the old fashioned rock—the big, diamond-shaped rock, kind of; the spear that goes in a long drink, like a gin and tonic or something like that; and then shaker ice. And that’s kind of one of the ones, too, where some people, especially cocktail nerds, other bar managers, people that would come visit because they’re in Austin or whatever— Their minds would be blown that we were cutting ice to shake our drinks with because—
Todd: Because you don’t ever see that.
Josh: Well, right. Right. And you use it—
Todd: Yeah. It literally goes in a shaker then you strain it out.
Josh: Right. And you throw it out. And we would have guys that would see us do that, and they would say, “Wait, you’re throwing that ice out?” And we’re like, “Yeah, we’re done with it. We made the drink.” And they would be like, “Oh my God. We would wash that in our bar and reuse it.” And I was like, “Oh, yeah. Okay.” That’s what they did in the 1800s. So I guess that makes sense.
Todd: Yeah. Oh, wild. So, ice. That’s a part of making a menu because I imagine that when you’re putting together a menu or a program, you need to be thinking not only about proportions and about having variety and having something for everybody, having a good balance of flavors within a specific drink. But there’s also, “How long is it going to take you to make this thing, particularly on a busy night?” Right? So tell me a little bit about that, thinking about the process of actually producing this work and how you prepare for that and try to make a menu that’s doable within a relatively fixed amount of time under stress.
Josh: Definitely. That balance is the key to a menu like that, especially for a small, specific program Small Victory. A shaken drink we can put together real quick. So we would want to have at least one or two shaken drinks on that menu. And what I mean by a shaken drink is that daiquiri—rum, lime, sugar, two pieces of shaker ice like we use—shaken quick, served, garnished, out the door. On the flip side, we’ve got a stirred drink—a Manhattan or a martini. Well, when we cut ice, the scrap ice is what we call “cracked ice.” Those little bits and chunks is what we use to stir our drinks. And when you’re using pure hard chunk ice like that, it takes a real long time to get it the way we like it, which is as cold as scientifically possible, but also not over dilute. That kind of ice is what really helps that point where you don’t over dilute because it doesn’t melt fast. So that stirring, where you see us vigorously stirring, that is to get that vessel that it’s in that picture. Yeah, so when you’re stirring a drink it’s going to take us at least two minutes for that drink. So then you kind of have to think, “Well, what else do I have to do to get this whole order out?” Because that’s just two minutes if I don’t do anything else. So when it comes to our menu, we try to balance things based on, “Okay, how many you have whiskey? How many come in this type of glass? How many come on this type of ice? How many come with straws?” It’s a whole thing of that—lemon juice, lime juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, all of those things—but definitely the ice and glassware and the type of drink that it makes is kind of the lead.
Todd: This is fascinating. And I want to come back to— I want to come back to the ice, but for now, we need to take a quick break. So when we come back, we’re going to talk about the purpose of making a drink cold, and then what the experience of that drink is like as it ages in front of you.[music]
Todd: Hey everyone. Todd here. We’ll get back to the episode in a moment. I just wanted to tell you quickly about Four Kitchens. You probably know that Four Kitchens makes websites, but we do so much more than that. Our team of Web Chefs can help you make better use of your content, scale your web team, and create world-class digital experiences. To find out more about how Four Kitchens can help, visit us at fourkitchens.com. Now, back to the episode.[music]
Todd: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Josh Loving, Barmaster and Managing Partner at Small Victory. A classic bar and lounge in Austin,Texas. So when we originally broke, we were talking about wanting to ensure that a drink is cool when it is stirred or rather as cold as scientifically possible, as you put it, but without diluting it. So what is the purpose of making a drink super cold? And how does that impact how it’s served and then enjoyed over time?
Josh: Well, I think it’s the way it’s best enjoyed for the most part. I would guess most people, nine out of 10, if you gave them a slightly cold, say daiquiri, and then just real cold, shaken daiquiri, they’re going to prefer the real cold shaken one. And part of that is alcohol has that burn to it, right? So the colder you can get it the more that burn feels more like a buzz, right, and it doesn’t really sting as hard. Like when you take just a shot of whiskey versus a whiskey on rock, right? Now, when it’s a stirred drink, that’s all alcohol. So that means that we’re talking about something that— A martini that’s going in there, it’s got at least 80-proof vodka or gin. And then at least, what? 30-poof vermouth. So what we want is we want that drink to be so cold that it starts to warm up, and that’s when you really taste it. That first sip needs to just be like, crisp snap. And then, as you’re sitting with it, because you’re not gonna slam it, so that next 10, 20 minutes you sit with it, getting it down as cold as you can, and then letting it warm, that’s when all those great flavors start to come out. And you get that first impression, second impression, “Wow, I didn’t taste that 10 minutes ago.” Now it’s really bloomed like a flower.
Todd: I’m not really aware of any other food or beverage experience that is quite like that. Food, generally, if it’s served hot, you want it to stay hot, right? And if it served cold, you want it to stay cold because it’s kind of that’s how it’s intended. But a drink; is it partly because the experience of a drink is intended to take longer than a meal? That, maybe, the experience of drinking has lent itself to the idea of time affecting the flavor and experience.
Josh: Maybe. I’ve thought about it. One of it is that drinks don’t nourish you the way food does. So there’s kind of a relationship that people have with food that is a little bit more just hardwired than imbibing. And when you’re drinking, you are probably just laser-focused on that drink. If you’re in a cocktail bar, and that’s what you’re doing, and you’re sitting there and kind of— There’s just that way that someone, who, after the long day at work or whatever, and they’re just been thinking about that, and they take that first sip. You see people contemplate a sip of a drink way more than you see them take a bite of a pizza and just look at it like, “Man, you really made that pizza, didn’t you [laughter]?”
Todd: That’s true.
Josh: And it is funny because it’s like to put three ingredients together in a glass with ice and give them back to you is not really that complicated. I mean, I would have a harder time making a pizza, I think. But there is this sort of a sense of reverence, I guess, that the drinker gets when that drink comes out, balanced and cold and just what the doctor ordered.
Todd: Well, let’s talk about expectations, and that means going back to the menu. So there are a couple of aspects of the menu that we haven’t covered. You mentioned earlier the illustrations, right? And that gives people an idea of what to expect. There is also an avoidance factor in looking at the pictures, right? I mean, there are certain things that people won’t want to order because—
Josh: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Your alpha-type male: strong man, out on date, “can’t have drink in that glass.” [laughter] That is a thing. That is [crosstalk]—
Todd: It’s specifically like in a coupe.
Josh: Yeah, yeah. Whiskey is brown, and that’s cool. But the shades of brown to red— A Negroni is as far red as some virile men are willing to take their drinking [laughter]. If it gets any more shades of red or pink, that’s a girly drink. And I couldn’t be caught dead with that, so. Yeah, it actually does serve as—
Todd: And I’m sure anything bubbly, right? So definitely no Aperol Spritzers, because then you’re getting pink and bubbly.
Josh: And bubbly, right. So for those who need to affirm their gender [laughter], our menu serves as a great tool to help them. [laughter]
Todd: So I have made drink choices based on knowing how it would be served. But it’s primarily because I don’t have an issue— Please believe me when I say I don’t have an issue with the coupe because I somehow feel emasculated by it. But sometimes, I just find it a little bit difficult to drink out of. Right?
Josh: That can be true. Yeah, totally.
Todd: You get to a certain point in an evening and it’s like, “I don’t need to complicate this,” right?
Josh: I wish everyone listening: Take heed of what you said, because that is okay. That is how stuff gets broken. I have offered people— We’re not supposed to over serve and I don’t think I over serve. But there are moments where someone is obviously feeling good, but they don’t seem like they’re a danger to themselves or others. But they do seem like they’re a danger to that coupe. And I will say, “If you’ll allow me, I would like to put your drink in something a little bit more sure-handed and then give it back to you.” [laughter] And—
Todd: Have you actually done that where you’ve served it in the coupe and then you watch them and you think, “Uh-oh”?
Josh: Yeah. And it’s just a matter of being confident and kind of coy about it and funny and being like, “I’m looking out for you here, man. I don’t want you to break my glass because—” [crosstalk]
Todd: Yeah. Or spill it on yourself.
Josh: Or spill it. Yeah, exactly. And this is a short rocks glass that you can just palm and just—
Todd: You get all five fingers around it in a fist. You’re good.
Josh: Yeah. And it’s not going to sit on the edge there and then I’m going to stare at it for five minutes because I’m afraid it’s going to get whacked off.
Todd: Well, there’s another really interesting feature of your menu that’s worth calling out. And that is the martini flowchart. So I have never seen something like this in a menu. And I’ll describe it for those listening. At the back page of the menu, about almost half of the menu is a vertical flowchart that introduces the martini. And there’s a witty little quote. There’s a picture of it. And it begins with “Pick one: gin or vodka.” Then you choose your brand. And then it flows down to the style. “Do you want it dirty or dry?” If it’s dirty, you’re good, right? You’re done. But if you want it dry, you need to think about the ratio of dryness. So is it 1:1? 2:1? 10:1? “Dryness” referring to the amount of dry vermouth. And then “What garnish do you want on it?” Olives or an olive, lemon twist, or an onion. How did you arrive at deciding to portray the martini in this way?
Josh: Well, so I wanted Small Victory to be a classic experience first and foremost, right? The menu, everything about it was— I mean classic without feeling like you’re actually in the ’30s or ’40s. We play loud music we don’t wear—
Josh: Right. [laughter] Yeah. We don’t have our suspenders and all that stuff. We want people to feel comfortable. But we want the actual— We want to take the best of back then and bring it to this, right? Well, the martini is literally the most personal drink ritual for a martini drinker. It’s another cliché of the hospitality industry, especially for bartenders, where people describe their martini in such abstract ways that it’s just absurd. And what this was meant to do was sort of dispel a lot of the kind of the myths or the wording. There’s bar professionals, drink professionals that will still refer to martinis as a “wet martini,” which I will take exception and cringe. But it’s fine. I get it. People have used “wet” as an opposite of “dry” so long that in this sense, “dry” is the opposite of sweet, right? Because we’re talking about dry vermouth, which is a wine-based product that has sugar added to it. But it’s drier than sweet vermouth, which has more sugar. And that’s the only reason we call it the “dry martini” because the original martini, most likely—this is a disputed thing—but back then would have probably been made with sweet vermouth. That was the first vermouth imported from Italy. And so mixing gin and sweet vermouth makes a great cocktail. But if you give that to someone who asks for a martini in 2020, they’ll look at you like, “What did you just give me?” And so when you order a martini you don’t say, “Hi, I’ll have a dry martini.” And that was really the kind of point of this flowchart was all of these restaurants I’d worked in, especially the place just prior to Small Victory, which was just a martini crusher, I just had been— The gears in my head I was like, “I need to find a way to kind of get people on the same common language here.” If I have this then it’s kind of— It is another tongue-in-cheek thing where someone who might not want to put all their trust in us can turn it over, read it over, and then be like, “Huh, I didn’t know that.” And then say like, “Why does it end with dirty? Why don’t I pick my ratio?” And then that’s when we can say, “Well hey, for us we think that the best balance to dirty martini is basically a five-to-one. Let me make that for you. You’ll probably enjoy it, but then if there’s anything I can tweak there on your next one we can talk about that.” But we have a common language that we can go over this, where you’re not saying, “I need it filthy. Or I need it—”
Josh: Yeah, however many whatever word you’re about to use to tell me how disgusting you want your drink. Got it.
Todd: I just want just pickle juice and bright yellow—
Josh: Yeah, exactly.
Todd: So this is such an excellent example that— And there are so few menus that I’ve seen out there whether they’re food or beverage or whatever that not only serves to put the provider and the customer on the same page by providing a common language and an understanding. But also serves to educate the consumer. Because now you see that, “Oh, a martini isn’t simply gin or vodka plus some stuff that maybe, “I think there’s vermouth in it or something,” right? You actually see the steps and you see where there are different— Where it branches. Where the path branches into dirty versus dry. And then there’s different decisions based on all of these things that you choose. And thirdly, it gives, as you just mentioned, it gives the consumer an opportunity to experiment. Because now it’s not, “Well, I went to that bar and got a martini and I went to this bar and got a martini. And they were different, and I liked one more than the other, but I don’t know why. Because I don’t know the process and I didn’t know how to talk about it. And my inaccurate layperson’s description of what I wanted was perceived very differently in these two places.” Are you aware of anybody else in the beverage industry that is taking this kind of more educational approach to the menu?
Josh: Yeah. I don’t know about quite as specifically as that. But I was gonna say, from what you just said, we’ve had guests more than once come back and say that because of our martini chart they’ve had much better success going to a place like a steakhouse and saying, “Hi, can you make me a Tanqueray martini five-to-one.” And the bartender be like, “What?” Like, “I know what you mean. But why are you ordering it like that?” And get what they want. And then, because we’re downtown and we have all the places—we all know each other and whatnot—when people would go to a place and order like that they’d say, “Oh, you just came from Small Victory, didn’t you?”
Todd: Oh, right? Yeah.
Josh: I’ve heard them say that, too.
Todd: You got the education.
Josh: Yeah. No. And so I would say that there are definitely places that are trying to use their menus as an education tool. The Roosevelt Room has their big board where all of their classic drinks are listed in order of the decade. And how they might name that decade—the Dark Ages, for example, for the ’70s, or the Tiki Era for the ’50s and ’60s. The Golden Age—the ’30s and ’40s—stuff like that. And that in and of itself is a great sort of like, “Oh, cool. I like that drink from the ’20s because I’ve had that a bunch. I like that drink from the ’50s because I’ve had that a bunch.” And it kind of like just shows you that what you’re into— There’s more than just like, “I like gin.” There’s some kind of linear thread that can bring all the things that you’ve— [crosstalk]
Todd: One drink leads to another. And the ingredients are because of a trade route that brought certain cultures together.
Josh: Or a bartender that went here and here and here and started all these new trends. Yeah.
Todd: [music] Fascinating. Well, thank you so much, Josh, for joining me today. To those of you listening, I hope you learned as much as I did. And I can’t wait to see the content that you create next. Feel free to send that my way via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can reach out to me @FoCpodcast on Twitter. To find out more about Four Kitchens and how we solve complex content problems please visit fourkitchens.com. Finally, make sure that you search for The Future of Content in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts—wherever you get your podcasts. And click Subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. Until next time, keep creating content.
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