Hot News – September 2014

Updated: September 1, 2014

Press Release

The IBA is coming to South Africa! We are very excited and honoured to welcome the IBA family to the beautiful city of
Cape Town. One of the largest bartending competitions to date that challenges different bartenders across the globe
in classic mixology as well as Flair.
The Cape Town International Convention Centre is a state-of-the-art events facility and is on par with some of the best
conference facilities in the world. Two minutes’ walk from the convention centre is the five-star Cullinan Hotel where everyone
will be staying. The IBA WCC streamed LIVE last year and hopefully they will do the same again this year. The IBA has been
steadily progressing in their efforts with Flair each year, and this year we hope to see great things from them. Dario Doimo will
be representing the United States by qualifying in first place at the USBG WCC back in July. You can read the full
“Comp Review” by Ram Ong in this month’s issue of Flairbar.comFor. Fingers crossed that he will make
us proud!
Here is a brief glimpse below of the last few winners of the IBA WCC.



To learn more you can CLICK HERE!


Press Release

The competition challenges professional bartenders around the country to create the perfect Manhattan, using Woodford Reserve’s bourbon as their spirit muse. In a national display of bartending brawn, contestants will serve up their most-inspired versions of the cocktail at exhibition events in 30 cities. If a recipe wins its regional round, the bartender behind it will head to Kentucky to enjoy a bonafide Bourbon Country distillery tour and educational experience. Of these 30 regional finalists, six will then be chosen to face a Manhattan mix-off in the grand finale, hosted in where else but New York City. There, one brilliant bartender will rise to the top and be crowned “Master of the Manhattan,” a skyscraping achievement capped off by hosting a video shoot with Woodford Reserve in San Francisco, plus years of bragging rights to boot. Deadline is October 1, 2014.


To enter you can Click Here!

By Richard Woodard


Late last month, in Pernod Ricard‘s full-year results, the spirits company flagged a tough time for Absolut vodka. Richard Woodard surveys the wreckage and considers the brand’s future.

Here in the UK, football (alright, soccer) fans will need no reminding that the transfer window has just closed, during which increasingly desperate clubs fork out tens of millions of pounds to enlist the services of already-overpaid players in the vain hope that “Everything Will Be Okay This Season”.

Of course, it rarely works, but it keeps the sports journos busy at an otherwise quiet-ish time of year, drooling over the ever more obscene sums coughed up in what is, in terms of the wallets in use, the survival of the fattest.

Such unsavouryness set me thinking: How about an equivalent “acquisition window” for the drinks industry? That might add a little spice to M&A activity.

Feverish, last-minute ‘phone calls from Ivan Menezes and his crew as they try to land the registration of a world-class Cognac or Bourbon before midnight… Beam Suntory touting around a journeyman whisky brand to anyone who’s interested… Whyte and Mackay up for grabs for the third ‘window’ in a row…

And, what about the deals already done? As with footballers, it’s not so much the money that’s important, it’s how the player (or brand) reacts to the price-tag. Take Cristiano Ronaldo and Grey Goose: Real Madrid paid GBP80m (US$131.7m) for the former, Bacardi over US$2bn for the latter. The subsequent performances of both have, most would agree, justified the sums paid.

In this context, unkind observers might come up with a number of analogies for Absolut, for which Pernod Ricard paid US$8.88bn six years ago (also including the rest of Vin & Sprit). Juan Sebastian Veron? Fernando Torres? What about Andy Carroll, who repaid his GBP35m transfer fee by scoring six goals in 44 Liverpool appearances?

The timing doesn’t help here. Buying Absolut for top dollar in July 2008 was, at the time, a bit like investing in a Spanish property developer or ploughing your cash into Lehman Brothers shares. How the Pernod board must have winced when they saw what happened to the US spirits market in the ensuing 12 months.

Six years on and, in the company’s latest set of full-year results, Absolut continues to miss the target with alarming regularity. But, I think the negative headlines disguise the brand’s more impressive form in other areas of the pitch.

Absolut’s under-performance – volumes down 4% to 11.1m cases, revenues down 1% – is all down to the US market, where the brand reaps close to half of its volumes. It is here (if you’ll forgive an overworked metaphor), that Absolut is enduring something of a perfect storm.

First, it’s caught in the middle of a price squeeze between value vodkas and higher-end offerings; second, the US vodka market was already ultra-competitive, and now there are endless craft vodka launches to muddy the waters still further (witness Tito’s, priced to compete directly with Absolut and now shifting well over 1m cases a year); third, in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a whiskey/brown spirits revival going on.

Step away from the US, however, and Absolut’s prospects are decidedly rosier. Beyond destocking in the US’s Travel Retail, tax and distributor changes in Israel and unrest in Thailand, there’s a long line of markets with positive stories to tell: double-digit growth in South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, India and France; sales up 8% in a near-static UK; strong investment and growth in China; good prospects in Russia and Kazakhstan.

The problem, of course, is that none of these destinations have the scale to offset the poor performance in the US. In time, that may change, but when one market is responsible for nearly 5m cases of your annual sales, it acquires a slightly greater importance than countries now taking six pallets of product, rather than five.

Absolut’s problems in the US run deeper than cyclical consumption trends, price pressures and a fad for ‘craft’ spirits. As a brand, it’s reached a middle-aged maturity where it can all too easily vanish from its core consumer’s radar: No longer new, fresh and cool, but not yet retro and heritage-laden.

How can this conundrum be resolved? CEO-designate Alex Ricard has spoken of the need to focus on product quality and convince everyone that Absolut is the world’s best vodka. But, other brands have already taken that path – and, anyway, how do you justify the claim, beyond subjective statements?

Absolut Craft is at least an attempt to reconnect with the bartenders who have increasingly moved on to more esoteric spirits and making their own bitters and barrel-aged cocktails – a range of three flavoured offerings, formulated by bartending guru Nick Strangeway and only available in bars (so far, in the US, UK, Sweden and Germany).

Absolut Elyx is, Pernod clearly hopes, a huge part of the answer. Early signs for this “artisanal” take on the brand are “very good” in the US, and if the company is not exactly betting the farm on Elyx, it is willing to wager a couple of paddocks and a barn.

At a time when the Allegro efficiency programme is trimming costs around the world, Elyx is to get its very own New York-based MD (ex-Absolut marketing director Jonas Tahlin), based in an “Elyx House” and charged with “agitating” the market and targeting key accounts.

It’s as if Elyx is aiming to hark back to the exciting early days for Absolut – the benchmark TBWA ads of the ‘80s and a cult status that every brand loses once it achieves huge success – all reinvented for the 21st Century and a very different US market.

Will it work? Two things need to happen: First – Elyx’s early success must, obviously, continue and gather momentum; second – it can’t be wholly detached from the parent brand. If Elyx doesn’t cast a beneficial halo around the entire Absolut franchise, it will have failed.

Either way, even if $9bn still looks like quite a lot of cash, it’s too soon for that Andy Carroll analogy. Who knows? It might turn out to be a game of two halves.

There’s clearly still all to play for.



Press Release


CHOPPED! Best Bloody Mary in America perfected by Absolut®

Calling All Bartenders! ABSOLUT® Vodka and CHOPPED! are on the search for the country’s perfect Bloody Mary and the bartenders who create them. Finalists will be brought to NYC to shake, stir and pour the spiciest, most elaborate and delicious bloodies in the 50 states.

And even if you’re not a finalist, you can still join us on October 18, for the CHOPPED! Best Bloody Brunch perfected by ABSOLUT® at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. Come taste the finalists’ recipes and place your vote along with Food Network celebrity chefs as they determine the best Bloody Mary in America.


To learn more you can CLICK HERE!




Roadhouse is an American themed bar & diner in the heart of London’s Covent Garden. Known throughout the world for its phenomenal bartenders and elite bar team, Roadhouse is also reputable for its recruitment process where only the ‘best of the best’ bartenders are selected to grace their presence & skill – making their own contribution to the success of the world famous Roadhouse.
That was then……..the year of 1999. Roadhouse identified the interest on Flair through the bartenders’ skills fast becoming a competitive game on shift, that we recognised the potential of bar teams all over London & beyond that we hosted an in-house Flair competition against another fellow Flair bar team, TGI Fridays. The night was so successful Roadhouse decided to develop the idea and open it up to the public…..this was the night where it all started.

Over the years the competition has been tweaked and molded to move with the times. People change, and so does the face of Flair. Roadhouse remains the leader in this field with the innovation of multi objects and strategic judging criteria. Still working on a ranking system and part of a league, Roadhouse utilises every month to make sure that the grand final holds host to the biggest names of flair in the world.
A special recognition must go out to Brett Seychelle who identified and pursued the interest in Flair to develop the Roadhouse Flair Competition. In addition to all who have participated, competed or contributed to Roadhouse Flair, we also thank previous organisers Troy, Andy Collinson, Lord Tugworth and Jay Du Toit for their involvement and promotion of the Roadhouse Flair competition, for whose efforts have made this competition the biggest in the world!!




Tom Dyer’s winning round from Roadhouse in February.



Luca Valentin’s winning round from Roadhouse in March.

30th Roadhouse World Challenge

Open to all international competitors. 2 places will be available for the Grand final in November.

(UK entrants will have their scores separated from international competitors and will be measured against their UK peers for the UK final in August. 3 spaces will be available for the UK Final)



Chicks with Flicks Video collage
13th Chicks with Flicks

Roadhouse will be holding the third ALL FEMALE flair competition in 13 years. Its a chance for all the great female flairers out there to show off their moves, and compete against an all girl line up. First place will win a whopping £1000, and a place in the Grand Final in November. Its a day not to be missed!!

27th Roadhouse World Challenge

Open to all international competitors. 2 places will be available for the Grand final in November.

(UK entrants will have their scores separated from international competitors and will be measured against their UK peers for the UK final in August. 3 spaces will be available for the UK Final)



18th Roadhouse World Challenge

Open to all international competitors. 2 places will be available for the Grand final in November.

(UK entrants will have their scores separated from international competitors and will be measured against their UK peers for the UK final in August. 3 spaces will be available for the UK Final)



29th Roadhouse World Challenge

Open to all International competitors. 2 places will be available for the Grand Final in November.



27th Roadhouse World Challenge

Open to all international competitors. 2 places will be available for the Grand final in November.



31st Roadhouse UK Final – UK Only

Every year, the UK’s finest dominate the Roadhouse stage to earn their UK ranking order. Battling it out live on the stage, we witness 25 of Britains Finest Bartenders going head to head, to see who will be crowned the UK champion.



14th – Chicks with Flicks

Roadhouse will be holding the fourth ALL FEMALE flair competition in 13 years. Its a chance for all the great female flairers out there to show off their moves, and compete against an all girl line up. First place will win a whopping £1000, and a place in the Grand Final in November. Its a day not to be missed!!

28th – Invite Only


26th October Roadhouse World Challenge and ZANTE REUNION

The Zante reunion has been a summer workers tradition thats working its way into its 8th year. After 6 solid months of drinking and working 7 days a week in the bar industry in the sunny island of Zante, all the workers meet up at Roadhouse for one last celebration to raise a glass to a great summer and to cheer on their favourite bartenders/conquests in true Zante style. This is a day NOT to be missed!



29th November Roadhouse World Challenge Grand Final

The first day of the Grand Final runs between 1pm-5pm, and will see all the World Final competitors completing a working flair drink, and getting their rankings for the next days exhibition flair.

30th November Roadhouse World Challenge Grand Final

The Grand Final will be in full swing, with the Best in the World competing for a whopping £10 000 1st prize!!!!!



For more info you can CLICK HERE!

by Olly Wehring


While it was a predictable bit of business, William Grant & Sons’ purchase of Drambuie – announced yesterday – still carries a slight element of surprise to it for me.

No sooner had the MacKinnon family put the Scotch whisky liqueur brand up for sale in May, than just-drinks brown spirits commentator, Ian Buxton, flagged that there was only really one company well-placed to win its hand. While Morrison Bowmore – the Scotch whisky unit of big-spending Suntory Holdings – produces the liquid (and bottles it), it was William Grant that Ian suggested as being the shoo-in. “The firm has the scale and finances to absorb the brand without undue strain, can leverage Drambuie’s Scottish heritage and could easily supply the whiskies for the base product,” Ian said at the time.

Two months later, and the national press caught up with our columnist, as Sky News claimed that the Scottish distiller was sniffing around Drambuie. And so, yesterday, it came to pass that the liqueur is now part of William Grant’s portfolio.

The surprise for me is that the company is up for the challenge of re-energising a dusty brand that, while a staple on any back-bar, has had a tough time of it in recent years. Any brand that has Greece as one of its key markets will have had sleepless nights a-plenty in the last five or six years. Indeed, a 12% fall in net profits for the 12 months to the end of June last year, on the back of a 3% dip in sales indicates that the challenging times are ongoing.

William Grant has always positioned itself as a progressive company; witness its plans for Tullamore Dew and, of course, it owns the eccentric Hendrick’s gin brand. Where will Drambuie sit in its colourful portfolio of spirits?

Of course, the firm may – like SABMiller did with Foster’s - consider the brand as a cash-churner: An ATM that just keeps on giving, while rarely troubling the bottom line.

As a (fiercely) privately-owned company, the sad news is that William Grant will probably only share Drambuie’s numbers with us in the future when it chooses to.

Be assured, though, we’ll ask them every time we see them.




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