South Korea’s Soju War, 4/26 – Wall Street Journal
The struggle to dominate the market for the world’s best-selling spirit has escalated from an advertising skirmish to an all-out legal war in South Korea, distilling into not one but two court cases. The principals: Lotte Liquor BG Co., one of the nation’s largest alcoholic-beverage makers, and rival Hite Jinro Co. The subject: soju, a vodka-like drink made from rice, sweet potatoes and other starches that is the nation’s favorite hard liquor.
Diageo Drinks to American Health, 4/18 – Wall Street Journal
Diageo DGE.LN -0.20% PLC should be grateful Americans haven’t lost their thirst for hard liquor. The U.K. spirits giant said that European and some emerging-market sales had been weak in the first three months of the year. But North America, which generates nearly 40% of Diageo’s operating profit, delivered a roughly 7% increase in organic sales last quarter. But how much more can Diageo squeeze out of the U.S. drinker? Much of the recent revenue growth is the result of a series of price increases implemented since last May, which have continued to boost sales. In just a few weeks, the anniversary of those price increases will raise the question of whether more will be needed to boost revenue growth.
Diageo, Remy Flag Asia Woes, 4/18 – Wall Street Journal
LONDON—Diageo DGE.LN -0.20% PLC and Rémy Cointreau SA RCO.FR -2.00% warned Thursday of slowing sales growth in some of Asia’s most lucrative liquor markets, highlighting a new source of trouble for European distillers. U.K.-based Diageo, the world’s largest spirits group by revenue, said Korea—one of its largest markets in the region—is showing weak consumer trends, while Rémy Cointreau followed French rival Pernod Ricard SA RI.FR -2.94% in warning that sales during the crucial Lunar New Year season slowed this year. European drinks makers, along with other consumer-goods companies, have pushed deeper into developing markets such as China and Russia in recent years, hoping to offset slowing sales of premium spirits in austerity-hit Europe. But the industry is finding it difficult to sustain growth rates in the developing markets.
Book Review: The Drunken Botanist, 4/12 – Wall Street Journal
Thanks to Amy Stewart, they can stroll through a bibulous garden. “The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks” goes beyond the shaker and the still and takes readers down an enchanting path overflowing with grains and berries and stone fruits. Ms. Stewart, co-founder of the blog Garden Rant, is a bit of a wizard herself. She makes plants and insects fascinating, even for those of us who hear the words “phyla” and “taxa” and think “April 15.” Ms. Stewart divides her exploration of plant life into three categories: plants that can be converted into ethyl alcohol, plants that can flavor a liquor, and, in the shortest section, plants that find their way into a drink just moments before being served, like strawberry or mint. “The Drunken Botanist” is more an attractive reference book than a narrative, and it is especially fine for casual reading. One fact often leads to another, and then another. The book might best be approached as if you were exploring a cocktail list: Read. Savor. Sip. Try another.
Craft distillers aim to pour it on, 3/21 – Los Angeles Times
ALAMEDA — In a 65,000-square-foot structure that once housed Navy fighter jets, Lance Winters of St. George Spirits makes popular Hangar One vodka, along with gin, bourbon, rum, whiskey, liqueurs and even absinthe. Unlike vast distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee that make and bottle hard liquor by the millions of barrels, Hangar One is produced by one of a growing breed of small-batch, craft distillers. There are already more than 30 of them in California, and — like wineries and microbreweries — they want to charge for tastings and sell bottles for their visitors to take home. But in recent months, the craft distillers have run up against the powerful liquor lobby in Sacramento, led by wholesalers opposed to changing state law. A legislative hearing is set for next month, and the battle is on.
Fizz Ed, 4/26 – Tasting Table
A learning resource for the cocktail-minded
Bartending schools are typically known for teaching long pours of prepackaged sour mix and Rose’s Lime Juice. There is one grand exception: the Beverage Alcohol Resource (B.A.R.) certification programs, each so rigorous that most industry veterans worth their salt swear by them. The five-day program ($3,750), conceived by drinking monarchs Dale DeGroff, Steve Olsen, David Wondrich, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour and Doug Frost, is comprehensive and geared toward professionals. But now that same dream team has smartly introduced DrinkSkool, a free online database of the lessons in abridged form. From the very first article, the site offers enough knowledge to successfully stray from the recipe book and mix the contents of your liquor cabinet without hesitation. DrinkSkool also offers technique videos, spirit histories and how to properly taste.