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Beyond The Bar -Restaurants, Bars Influence Home Cocktail Culture

It seems as if overnight, the wine, cocktail and beer culture has seemingly exploded. With new infusions, flavors and techniques popping up in all sectors across the adult beverage industry, there is no lack of imbibing amongst consumers. Trends include the resurgence of Prohibition-era cocktails, organic and natural wines and small batch specialty brews, all of which are designed to look as good as they taste for social sharing.

   And, those independent gourmet stores that live alongside bustling restaurant scenes have been seeing growth due to the creativity that is hitting the cocktail scene, while accessible wine programs and microbreweries, too, have inspired people to bring their favorite type of libation home with the help of independent gourmet housewares retailers.

“Barware has always been of moderate interest in our store, as part of our customer base consists of local restaurants and bars, but we have seen an increase in sales across the category in last year or two. In response, we doubled the amount of space devoted to the category in our store, and better organized the items,” said Nadia Vesci, buyer, Fante’s Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia, PA.

Samantha Fagan, co-owner of Culinary Square in Troy, NY, has been seeing this impact her business as well. The hamlet she is located in has seen a revitalization as younger residents have settled into the area. This has spurred businesses, including the restaurant and bar industries, to cater to this group, and has created a butterfly effect on other local businesses. “People come in looking for an item to make a specific drink, usually one they had while they were out. Then they build off what drinks they like to make at home and what they have available in terms of bar tools,” she said.

Vesci echoed Fagan’s sentiment, noting that Fante’s has been seeing customers looking for pieces that will allow them to create, or re-create, a particular cocktail at home.

“We have been selling more bottle pourers, jiggers and bar strainers in open stock pieces, as well as corkscrews. Customers seem to be coming in with particular cocktails in mind that they have planned for a party, and are buying the tools they need to properly execute those drinks,” she said.

Another influence that consumers are building off of at home is the craft beer trend. The brewing industry has taken crafting to a new level as microbreweries and beer pubs have been popping up throughout the U.S. with new flavors and styles of brewing.

AJ Albrecht, owner of AJ’s Kitchen Drawer in Tampa, FL, has noticed this influence on his customers recently.

“Florida in general has been a huge hub for microbreweries. My store is five minutes away from a microbrewery and IPAs are huge here,” he explained.

Since this trend is growing in his area, he has tapped into products and accessories that allow his customers to enjoy happy hours at home, positioning him as the go-to in his community. 

“We want people to be able to come into the shop and be able to get all the basics so we make sure we always have a few different options in stock,” explained Albrecht.

As for the beer enthusiasts, Fagan said Culinary Square sells plenty of GrowlerWerks growlers. And while those carry a higher price point, price is not always the deciding factor for customers, especially when it comes to specialty goods, she said.

“I don’t think there’s a price point that is best for people because in our area customers are looking for that quality item they’ll be able to use for awhile in their home bar and don’t mind spending extra money for longevity,” Fagan said.

And while beer is taking off, wine is settling in as a regular indulgence, as people look to grab quality products for opening, savoring and saving.

“We sell so many of the True TrueTap double hinged corkscrews. It works really well and at a $5.99 price point you really can’t beat it. There’s a natural wine shop around the corner and we get customers from that shop after they’ve purchased their wine and realized they have no way to open it,” Fagan explained.

But, added Vesci of Fante’s, she has seen more interest in people trying to save the wine they have opened and are looking for quality products that will get the job done.

“We have been steadily increasing sales of the Vacuvin wine savers and pump stoppers, indicating the people are drinking wine as more regularly and as part of a lifestyle at home, and saving wine in open bottles,” she explained.

However, while cocktails and wine aren’t going anywhere, there is another adult beverage that has been getting some more attention lately — champagne. This is due to the popularity that brunch is garnering, as older Millennials head out to enjoy the weekend staple and get ideas (like a mimosa bar) for hosting small brunches for friends and family in their homes.

“We are having trouble keeping champagne stoppers in stock with the increase in popularity of home brunching and morning cocktails,” explained Vesci.

Elevated Merchandising

While it’s important for store owners to stock the goods their customers are seeking, merchandising the goods in such a way that entices, inspires and complements their shopping habits adds to the experience.

At Culinary Square, items are grouped together on shelving, as well as peg racks to provide easy access for the grab-and-go crowd. In addition, Fagan likes to get a little creative and also make her own displays that help elevate merchandise, such as her collection of specialty glassware. The pieces are displayed in an old bookcase that Fagan refurbished and added lights to.

“We keep all of our barware at the front of the shop because a lot of times people run in and run out knowing exactly what they need. It’s not by theme as much as it is an area of the shop for all things bar related,” she said.

For Albrecht, he tends to organize his bar and wine accessories on their own tables, often pulling in other items such as local gourmet foods to help the store tell a larger entertaining story. And, as expected, the store’s collection of wooden flight sets is its most popular seller, especially when it comes to gift giving, as Albrecht offers free personalization.

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