Category - Vacations

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Frankie’s Tiki Room Is In For Tiki Month
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Bar Review: Rye in Louisville
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Bar Review: Liberty in Seattle, WA
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The Big Tiki Fetes
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Bar Review: Sable in Chicago
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Tales of the Cocktail Session: Intellectual Property II

Frankie’s Tiki Room Is In For Tiki Month

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Each year, more and more folks join in the understanding that if Man ever needs Tiki, its drinks, its ambiance, its vibe, he needs it in the dark, cold days of February. Warm tropical breezes, short-sleeved, festive shirts, and lots and lots of rum are just what the doctor ordered to fend off the gloom!

On the same day I got the two cool new mugs I want to talk about below in the mail, I got a tweet that the purveyors of said mugs, Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas is on the Tiki Month bandwagon! (Caveat: I am aware that since Frankie’s is a Tiki bar, this is not exactly an heroic leap ‘cross a chasm of faith for them. Still, every solider I can recruit is welcome in my battle to warm February with passionfruit and cinnamon!) I first became aware of Frankie’s about two years ago, which makes me sad, because the last time I got to go kill someone in Las Vegas was three years ago! So if you live in Las Vegas, or are having a small event there, and want a really great murder mystery party, do give me a call. I’ll even discount my travel expenses to make it a better deal for you, just so I can visit Frankie’s. (Further caveat: I always discount travel expenses to Las Vegas, because… craps tables.)

Anyway, part of my annual Tiki Month tradition is treating myself to a few new mugs. These two from Frankie’s will likely get the most use this year of the new ones, and will likely be among my top five overall.

Wild Watusi—from Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas

And

Bombora Blast Tiki Mug
Bombora Blast—from Frankie’s Tiki Room, Las Vegas

I like both these mugs for both aesthetic and practical reasons.

As a matter of personal taste, I like cleaner designs. The Watusi has a nice scary Tiki face, but you don’t lose the facial features among scores of notches all around them. The Bombora is a volcano, which I love anyway, and is a very clean design. I only question the decision to not have the little Tiki man on the front be depicted throwing a virgin up into the caldera. Gotta keep the gods happy, you know.

As a practical matter, These things are the right size. Too many really cool mugs consume well over twenty ounces, which is just too damned much because:

  1. Given the strength of many Tiki drinks, that is just not a good idea.
  2. I appreciate the variety in Tiki drinks, as do my guests, and having a twenty three ounce drink will fill you up with only one taste experience.
  3. There is no way you are getting through a drink that big without all the ice melting into a watery mess.

More mugs the size of large highballs, please!

Bar Review: Rye in Louisville

VISUAL | RYE
The good photos in this post can be found larger on Rye’s site.

Rye is a restaurant and bar located in Louisville, Kentucky, and while I am sure I’m not revealing any secrets to residents, people who visit Louisville should keep in mind that the corner of Market and Campbell is an outstanding location to both eat and drink.

Rye occupies a narrow, renovated, brick two-story with an attractive patio and extensive kitchen garden outside. They have their own parking, though I have no idea how sufficient it is, as our visit was late on a Sunday evening. The main floor is split into two fairly equal parts, the dining area and the bar. The barroom is huge, with high ceilings and lots of open floor space. The bar itself is a massive, light-colored, wooden surface with very heavy iron and wood stools that provide seating for 6-8 guests at each end of the bar, with a wide standing area in the center. I really like this design element in a bar as this stretch provides patrons access to the bartenders when the place is packed. The rest of the room is fairly open, with the length of the opposite wall lined with standing height shelf-tables, complete with more stools. There is plenty of light as well. The overall feel possesses that vaguely 20′s vibe that seems so de rigeur of craft bar/restaurants these days, but completely avoids the twee bits which send such decor over the edge in many instances.

We ate at the bar, and I will start with the food. To be honest, I was really paying attention only to the drinks when we arrived, so the extraordinary quality of the food caught us pleasantly off-guard. The “Coulotte Steak” was a perfect medium rare, no ordinary feat in itself for such a thick cut. And while I must admit to usually viewing any significant sauces on my beef as distractingly gilding the umami, the gorgeous one offered here complimented the meat both to the eye and to the tongue.

The triple-cooked fries we shared were exactly what french fires are supposed to look and taste like. I think we may have been the last customers of the night, and the kitchen had already started to break down the fryer when we came in and ordered. Instead of saying it was too late for the fries, or some other excuse, they set it back up and got us our deliciousness. This is called a desire to take care of the customer….

The real highlight however was the Berskshire Pork Chop my wife had. Delicious, but what struck me was that it was every bit as moist and tender as my steak. That is something you just don’t see with modern pigs. I understand that Rye buys their pigs whole and cuts them on site, so our chops had likely still been part of a whole pig that morning.

Rye Pig
They do other interesting things with pig, too.

All in all, chef William Morris knows what he’s doing, as you can see from all the time I’ve spent on the food in a bar review.

Our bartender was Ben Greer, and he took great care of us, even when I lingered over dinner on a Sunday night where he might otherwise have gotten home at a reasonable hour. Thanks, Ben.

The back bar at Rye is not one of those showy craft bar walls with the bewildering floor to ceiling selection of bottles you will never get around to trying. It being Kentucky, they simply spread out their excellent, sizable collection of whiskeys all the way down the back shelf. It didn’t surprise me that they had a truly impressive selection of ryes, in addition to all those lovely bourbons. The rest of their more than sufficient inventory is tucked away, leaving a neat, uncluttered arena.
Rye Backbar
The cocktail menu holds two pages of a variety of originals, as well as a page of suggested classics. The offerings tend toward the strong and aromatic, but there are enough lighter efforts to keep any responsible drinker happy. Among the real standouts is their Santa Anita, which is made with Cerrano-infused tequila, a bouquet of citruses and cilantro, and Hellfire Bitters. We were warned it was spicy, and it was. But lordy was it delicious, and seriously refreshing, too. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of spicy cocktails, I recommend giving this one a try.

Of course, you also learn a lot about a bar staff by going off the menu, and the slightly modified Whiskey Sour, complete with Peychaud’s-garished froth, was just as delicious.

Rye features fresh juices and house-made syrups, of course, but these days that could just mean the kitchen boils up some simple every Thursday. Not here. Any time I can have a fifteen minute conversation on the making and application of bar syrups, I a) am in cocktail geek heaven, and b) can tell there is going to be all manner of clever and interesting flavor offerings for the clientele. (Beyond those I personally sampled, that is)

To wrap up, I’ll come back to where I started. If you live in Louisville and haven’t tried Rye, why on Earth are you waiting for me to tell you to get down there? And if you plan to visit Louisville, I don’t think you’ll go wrong making an evening of it at Rye. They’re on Open Table, so set up your date. They are also on Twitter @RyeOnMarket, and their feed is active and full of information and good pictures.

Oh, and a quick thank you and shout out to Lindsey Johnson (@LiveTheLushLife on Twitter), who sent me to Rye, and who has been a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of places to perch, in Louisville and elsewhere.

Bar Review: Liberty in Seattle, WA


I had a chance to visit Seattle this Summer with my family. Since we had the kids with us, I didn’t get a chance to do a real detailed exploration of this, one of America’s premier cocktail towns, but I made sure to have enough time to hit a few highlights, and to get a feel for the general cocktail environment in town.

For a variety of reasons, I will lead with a review of Liberty, at 517 15th Ave. E. (@LibertyLovesYou on Twitter) Liberty is the love child of cocktail warriors Andrew Friedman and Keith Waldbauer. Andrew started Liberty in 2006, with Keith joining him later, so that makes this a very well-established and long-lived high-end bar. I’ve known, or at least “internet known”, Keith since I started blogging, as his now fallow Moving at the Speed of Life was one of the first cocktail blogs I read and among the first such blogs written by a working pro.

Liberty and its owners take great care to characterize it as “just a neighborhood bar”, rather than some Fancy Dan Craft Bar.
This is a load of bull fritters.
I insist that this is a fabulous, high-end bar. From the back wall (pictured above) full of a head-spinning array of ingredients headlined by a magnificent but not over the top selection of whisk(e)ys, to the menu filled with a great selection of classics and modern creations, to each and every drink that I saw placed before me or any other customer, Liberty is a cocktail lover’s dream. This is place with drinks like the Point of No Return, which simply lists fire among its ingredients. (If you visit Liberty, be sure to try one. It’s both delicious and a lot of fun to watch being made.)
There is also an excellent balance between the types of drinks on the menu. Andrew and Keith offer not just a wide variety of spirit bases and flavor profiles, but also what I’ll call “levels” of drinks. Many craft palaces I enter have menus of naught but ridiculously baroque concoctions that will be awesome to talk about with one’s fellow geeks at Tales of the Cocktail, but are too bitter, complex, or simply weird for anyone else. There are drinks here for the snob who isn’t “on duty” that evening, and the “training wheels” offerings still have something of interest to be learned from.

That said, Liberty also really is a neighborhood joint. Liberty’s location is one of the things that really strikes me about it. It is is located on a fairly modest stretch of retail shopping in a quiet residential neighborhood, rather than in the restaurant, tourist, or entertainment districts where most “serious” craft bars dwell.
Tourists like me are an anomaly in Liberty, and businessmen drinking here are likely doing so on their own dime, rather than an expense account. As a result, the prices are almost shockingly modest for such offerings.
To satisfy the Licensing Gods’ demand for food service, not to mention that of any reasonable drinker’s stomach, Liberty has the elegant and tasty solution of devoting about five feet of its bar to a sushi counter, with one or two cutters as demand warrants.

The place has that well-used feel of many older bars, the kind that have been open forever, have seen weddings and wakes, sometimes for the same customer, yet never ever feel run-down, through the sheer force of the love and responsibility of its proprietors. The seating is comfortable, both at the bar and around the room. The bar itself is moderately sized and fits in visually, rather than dominating the space like some altar to the Gods of Fernet and Angostura. There is even a large back room for meetings and private parties, but which is essentially invisible to the regular clientele.

Your average oblivious Jack and Coke drinker could make of Liberty his Third Place happily for years and never care or even realize that he was spending his time in a temple of high-end concoctions.

And this last point, the seamless melding of tavern and cocktail palace is what makes Liberty so interesting to me and, so important to the craft movement.

Craft cocktails as an industry have had a fascinating decade-plus of growth now, and are in a different stage of development in nearly every city in America. When you travel like I do all over the country killing people, you can move forward and backward through the whole history of the craft, using airline or auto as your time machine.
Many locales still have yet to see the first blush of our passion; the only “lime” in bars still has with the word “Rose’s” writ upon the bottle. Other cities have merely discovered the joys, and the commercial possibilities, of fresh or more exotic ingredients. Many, like my own Columbus, have a few restaurants and bars that are making a try at true high-end drinks. And cities like Seattle or New York have reached the point where the craft bars are a well-understood phenomenon, and most high-end restaurants have reached the point of having to offer competitive programs of their own.

But like any movement that is reaching maturity, at least in some markets, there is now a lot of angst about where to go from here. Because the simple facts are, craft cocktails made with exotic syrups, or oddball bitters, or cinnamon smoke, are not for everyone. And even among those who do enjoy them, they are unprepared to drink them all the time. There are very real limits to speed of growth and profitability in the craft movement.

This is why bars like Liberty, and Anvil in Houston, and to some extent Passenger or Bourbon in Washington, DC, are so significant, and why I admire them so much. These are places that serve all drinkers well, not just our specific clientele. The aforementioned Mr. Jack and Coke can happily hang out there with his buddy Mr. Vieux Carre. And Mr. Sazerac can find the opportunity to hit on Miss Greyhound here. (Mr. Grey Goose Martini, don’t waste your time hitting on Miss Knob Creek Old-Fashioned. It’s not going to end well for you.)

Bar like Liberty are where previously undiscovered reserves of cocktail lovers (as opposed to cocktail drinkers) will be uncovered. The easy atmosphere provides no barrier to entry for the uninitiated (quite the contrary), but the magnificent offerings are the sort that can open doors and minds. If you visit Seattle, take the time one evening to cab your way to Liberty and settle in for a great evening. If you live there, this is the kind of place you take your uninitiated friends when they are resisting being initiated….

The Big Tiki Fetes

I don’t want Tiki Month to end without a quick listing of what appear to me to be the big three Tiki events of each year. None, alas, are held during Tiki Month, but each seems to sell out, so now is probably a good time to make your plans to get your pagan on.

For all my fellow classic cocktail nerds, if you don’t get enough of Jeff Berry at Tales of the Cocktail, where he is treated like a rock star, visit one of these events, where I’m pretty sure the Bum is considered the Messiah….

For West Coast Americans, there is Tiki Oasis in San Diego. The 2012 event will be held August 16-19. There aren’t a lot of details at the website for this year’s event yet, but it seems that this year’s sub-theme will be spy genre fun.
Having a sub-theme at a Tiki event is an interesting idea, and ought to help broaden the appeal and perhaps bring in a few new folks to the movement, though I think that spy fun is a better fit with Tiki than last year’s South of the Border idea. You can see, and hear, the way Tiki and spy stuff overlap and compliment each other in this audio podcast episode of The Quiet Village, which I profiled earlier this month.
[powerpress url="http://www.digitiki.com/podcast/QuietVillage45.m4a"]


Next up is Ohana, Luau at the Lake. Alas for me, even though Ohana is a production of the Fraternal Order of Moai, whose origins are right here in Ohio, Ohana is held at Lake George, NY. This year’s dates are June 21-24, 2012.
Lake George appears to be a perfect place for a retro event like a Tiki convention, as it is one of those time-capsules of the pre-Disney, honky-tonk vacation era like Niagara Falls, ON or Ober Gatlinburg, TN. The headquarters for Ohana is the The Tiki Resort (autoplay video at that link). Tickets went on sale for Ohana just a month ago, and rooms at the Tiki are already sold out. Tickets for the event, and other rooms in Lake George are still available.


In Fort Lauderdale, FL, you can attend the Hukilau. The Hukilau will be April 19-22, 2012, and while it is headquartered at the Best Western Oceanside, it is spiritually centered on the legendary Tiki palace, the Mai Kai. I’ve been to the Mai Kai, and it rocked at 6:30 on a normal Thursday. I can only imagine what it will be like during Hukilau.
The Hukilau is the first of these big fetes and if you want to go, I’d get on the stick. South Florida in April is frankly awesome, and if you go to Hukilau, you should add on a day or two so you can go to the beach. You’ll have no time to do so during the event, I’m sure.

I’ve never been to any of these, and I’d dearly love to. But I know for a fact I can’t make it to any of them this year, drat it. If any of you do go, and write about it, drop me an email. I want to read the story, and I’ll throw some Tiki supplemental linkage your way!

Bar Review: Sable in Chicago


Over the Martin Luther King Holiday, I took my family to Chicago for the long weekend.

Wait… What?
You voluntarily went to Chicago… in January
Why?

Because I have a nine year-old daughter, who absolutely had to have one of these:

She had saved up her money (a lot of money), so we took her to Chicago to the American Girl Doll store to buy the doll, and do the Experience, including brunch in the store’s restaurant.

We’d have done dinner instead, but I hear the cocktail program there is terrible….

This, however, left me with a powerful thirst each evening. Fortune smiled upon me in this in the shape of Sable Kitchen & Bar. I’ve written before of my fondness for the Kimpton chain of boutiquey hotels. We chose one of their Chicago offerings, the Palomar, because it has a pool, only to find from my “legion” of cocktail geek twitter correspondents that adjoining its lobby was one of the most highly recommended bars in the city!

I was surprised to such a nice hotel bar, Bambara, in the Hotel Marlowe in Boston. I was amazed to find not just an above and beyond hotel bar, but an absolute top-shelf craft bar in the Palomar. Really. It rocks.

Sable is a restaurant as well. And a delicious one. Chef Heather Terhune (@HeatherTerhune) runs a smooth and elegant operation. The menu is an eclectic mix of range of dishes from sides such as duck fat french fries and all sorts of game entrees, to things like sweet corn creme brulee and bacon jam with toasted baguette points. They offer fried chicken on waffles for both dinner and weekend breakfast. Most of the larger dishes are offered in half-portions to facilitate a Tapas-like sharing experience.

And it is all really very good, though I’ll admit that while the bacon jam was as tasty as I expected, it had more of a novelty appeal for me. Still, you know if you go, you’ll order it, because, well, bacon jam.

Terhune is a contestant in the current season of Top Chef. I don’t watch the show myself, but I was told by some fellow guests that she is being given the “villain’s cut” by the show’s editors… poor girl. But that probably means she’ll be around til the end. Regardless, I don’t care. I’d eat at Sable often if I lived anywhere near.

But the bar….

The room is on a corner of the hotel, with solid glass walls on two sides of the very large space. The decor is modern, all dark leather and wood with metal accents. The bar itself is huge, about 40 feet long, with a massive liquor wall behind, boasting an impressive selection of all manner of spirits, rather than the 73 identical bottles of Grey Goose you find behind too many bars.
The bar has a design element that I’ve not really seen before and which works very well. Most of the bar is dark wood, and fronted by large, comfortable bar stools. But two segments of the bar, about 6-7 feet long each, are glowing blocks of white marble. There is no seating here and these spaces are for patron standing, rather than server access. For all its high-end nature, Sable is not an intimate environment. It is a hotel property after all, and well situated in downtown Chicago, so I’m imaging it is packed to the gills with power ties after regular workdays. It was plenty full every night we were there on a holiday weekend. (Yes, I had at least one drink there every night. Shut up.)
Crowds suck especially hard for a cocktail geek, as once the seats at the bar fill up, it is ordinarily impossible to interact with the bartenders without looming over or squeezing between other patrons. If they will put up with you trying. These blocks of standing room only at Sable’s bar go a long way to fixing this. Yes, they can fill up too, but people who are standing are more likely to make room happily, and the crowd in these segments naturally turns over much faster. The bottom line is, even on a busy night, you can still get to the bar staff.

And at Sable, getting to the bar staff is well worth the effort. Lead Dog Mike Ryan (@gastronautmike), who is currently sporting a lot more hair than in his picture on Sable’s website, is a star. A former chef, I’m guessing he just liked people too much to stay in the kitchen. Mike has a terrific resume, including Violet Hour; can carry on a cocktail geek conversation with the best of them; mixes drinks with care, craft, and style, while somehow also being swift; and has allegedly read this blog before. So what more can I say? Oh yeah, he also has what I consider the most important quality in any manager, bar or otherwise: He attracts good people.


Mike Ryan, now with 250% more hair.

I drank there every night, but Friday night Sable was the only place I drank. I spent a couple of hours bellied up to one of those glowing marble sections of the bar, trying to find the limits of former Pittsburgh bartending fixture, Fred Sarkis (@FredSarkis), and failing. This is how the Official Illustrator of the Cocktailosphere™ told me on Twitter to recognize Fred: “Reddish mustache, powerful build, probably wearing a vest. Moving swiftly & smoothly, making shakers beg for mercy.” Accurate but incomplete, as Fred has added a gigantic bartender’s beard since Pittsburgh.
I felt like being a pain in the ass, as usual, so I just kept describing elements I wanted in my drink and letting Fred decide what to make me. Everything he returned to me was not only essentially what I asked for, it was good too. He made me an Old-Fashioned with yellow chartreuse and cinnamon syrup that was particularly good.

I blush to say that I can’t remember the name of the bartender who served me Sunday before an early bedtime, but he too knew his drinks and his drink talk.

The cocktail menu is lovely, as you can see in the picture above, with a thick cover and page after page of about half original cocktails and a listing of spirits. The word “vodka” appears but twice. And while they put a certain cocktail on the menu, they have the puckish balls to refer to it by its proper name, the Kangaroo. The menu is also liberally sprinkled with a variety of excellent quotes of cocktail jokes and aphorisms. Many of these I had not read before, which is saying something. I was able to resist stealing one only because it is available online.

Sable is a wonderful cocktail bar, earning a spot in the overall top echelon of bars I’ve been to around the country. It bests a number I can think of with far wider reputations. It isn’t intimate, but the noise level is reasonable, and the crowd surprisingly manageable due to the innovative bar layout. There are no crazy high-end Ice Programs or Soda Programs, but I could perceive nary a corner cut either. Most importantly, should your fancy extend beyond the menu, the staff has the inventory and tools, and moreover the knowledge and inclination, to take you there. If you live in Chicago, you really need to explore Sable for yourself. And if you travel to the city, Sable alone is enough to put the Palomar on your short list of places to stay.

Tales of the Cocktail Session: Intellectual Property II


Last year, innovative bartender and consultant Eben Freeman led a seminar at Tales of the Cocktail on Intellectual Property. I ripped Eben a new one about it, based mostly on coverage of the session in The Atlantic. Eben was gracious enough to visit this venue himself and respond at length in the comments. The gist was that while the Atlantic article did a reasonable job of outlining the issues that concerned him, it did him a disservice as to his suggested remedies. He also suggested that had I actually attended, I’d have had a different view. That’s the problem with blogging, we usually don’t have the resources to do enough shoe-leather reporting.

Well, this year, I did manage to attend Tales of the Cocktail. And there was one session that I was looking very much forward to attending in person: Intellectual Property II, with Eben Freeman….

Eben was joined on the panel by intellectual property attorneys Sheila Fox Morrison and Riley Lageson of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLC. All three began the session with the explicit declaration that their mommas hadn’t raised no dummies, and that they had learned much from the general reaction to last year’s event. This presentation was a refinement and clarification of what they presented last year, with a focus this year on proactive business practices to protect your intellectual property, rather than legal action.
Since this approach was essentially what I’d ranted in favor of last year, I naturally am of the opinion that this year’s version was a giant, riotous success….

The seminar was broken up into several segments, the first ones dealing each with a specific kind of intellectual property protection. Sheila would define the segment and outline its legal implications. Riley would amplify business consequences, and Eben would add anecdotes or other context for the bar world. They would then conclude with a discussion of the best means of conflict resolution and, more importantly, prevention.

They began with patents. This is the most complicated, most laborious, most expensive, most lucrative area of intellectual property protection. It also has the least application in the cocktail world, so I will summarize the while thing thus: If you really do invent some new bar tool, machine, or culinary process, consult with a qualified IP lawyer. (And either get ready to dip into the vast reserves of accumulated capital most culinary types have built over their careers… or start sizing up your better-heeled customers as investors.)


The first legally registered trademark was for a booze product.

Next for discussion was trademark protection. Given much of the controversy on this subject of late, there was a real buzz in the room when we got to this point. I thought Eben did a good job heading off the crowd’s urge to make this topical by briefly addressing, then spiking any discussion of navy rums, bar syrups, or tiki bars. This was good, because there was a lot to go over here on a subject that has been pretty hot lately, is important, and is not well understood. For my part, I was glad to have some of my beliefs confirmed, and to discover that some other things that I “knew”, turned out not to be true. (Turn of phrase copied from Ronald Reagan, lest anyone think I’m being a plagiarist.)

Here’s my definition of trademark, as gleaned from this discussion and other reading: A trademark is a word or phrase, in some circumstances a logo or graphic, to which the holder is granted exclusive right of use in commercial speech in a specific arena of commerce to identify the holder’s goods or services. In some circumstances relating to well-known and long-standing trademarks, this protection can extend beyond the holder’s own commercial field to broader commercial speech. Trademarks are more of a living property than other IP protections in that they remain in force indefinitely, so long as the holder maintains and nurtures that property in certain specific ways. Finally, the societal good which justifies trademark protection is not property protection for the holder’s investment, but consumer protection. Trademarks exist to prevent consumer confusion in the marketplace.


One of the more famous, and complex, trademarks.

There were several key takeaways from this part of the session for me. First was that as a matter of practice, trademark is less an intellectual property protection as it is a marketing device. I felt confirmed in my main takeaway from my last post on this, that the negative marketing consequences of employing trademark protection in the cocktail industry may often outweigh any positive ones. Companies and individuals should think long and hard before they go around trademarking cocktail products, recipes, etc. The discussion never got around to the process of how or whether a particular trademark should be granted (e.g. Disney’s near-debacle with SEAL TEAM 6), and I apologize for not thinking to ask the question myself.

The second thing is that the “evergreen” protection of trademark protection is only maintained with a lot of fertilizer. It is not just a part of the requirements, but it is the responsibility of the trademark holder to actively monitor and guard the use of the trademark. Remember that trademarks are at their heart a consumer protection. The holder of a trademark only maintains it by ensuring what Sheila termed “quality control”. The point here is not that a holder has to make sure that everything sold under its trademark is “good” (we all buy crappy stuff with ® on it all the time), but that it is what the consumer expects when they see the trademark. Fulfilling this requirement requires active vigilance, and sometimes active measures, for as long as you wish to maintain the trademark. So, if you are Gus Tatory, private bartender in Peoria, you have every right and power to trademark your new Calcutta Cooler® cocktail if you like. Just expect to lose money every day you maintain that trademark yourself.

The last big thing to come out of this part of the session was a big clarification for me, regarding the aforementioned requirements of protecting trademark rights. In actual practice, the bright-line enforcement requirements of preserving a trademark we keep hearing about, and which holders keep brandishing in defense of bullying charges are not in practice so bright-line. The use of private contracts or licenses can provide protections for all sides in many disputes. Marginally infringing behavior does not have to be forbidden outright, every time, just to preserve the copyright. Minor considerations or even just a mutually-agreed upon disclaimer may be enough to settle many disputes in a manner that won’t result in a PR nightmare and damage to the very brand being protected. The only real requirement that I think overrides is ensuring that efforts are made to maintain that “quality control” in consumer expectations.

The last main segment of IP protection discussed was copyright law, with a healthy does of work for hire. Much of this segment was new ground, added this year in response to requests. Most of that, I’ll be covering in a separate post, as it pertained to journalists and writers, rather than the industry professionals targeted in the material I’m discussing here.

The big thing about copyright is that you can’t copyright recipes. As creativity in the bar industry becomes more and more valuable, this central fact continues to escape many professionals, and to rankle those who do understand it. So Gus Tatory from our example above can require Bob’s Bar on Central Park to make his Calcutta Cooler exactly the way Gus says it is to be made (through the use of trademark protection), but he has no way to stop them from using his exact recipe, and calling it something else. Nor can he get one red cent from them for this either. It’s not gonna happen, and whining about it is both bad business and bad for your stomach lining. And, since most of us are one good bitch session away from a peptic ulcer anyway, it’s a good idea to turn our eyes to what you can do to protect and profit from your ideas.


Not Shown: Actual amount of money to be earned creating cocktails….

Having outlined the traditional forms of raw Intellectual Property protections, Eben took a few moments to tell a parable. It starred… Eben Freeman.

Eben took a one year job with an establishment to design and implement a new bar program. Only a few months in, he had done his job well and the bar program was humming along smoothly. The menu worked. The bartenders were trained and capable of training replacements. In short, all the work had been done.

And the business terminated Eben long before his year was up….

Um, not to put too fine a point on it, but of course they did! Frankly, any business person who would not do this (given these raw circumstances) is unlikely to be a successful one. If a consultant or other contract professional has completed the work to be done, then they are dead weight going forward.

Back to the parable. Not only is Eben out several months of promised compensation, but all the work he did, all the ideas and creations he produced for the bar, is now the property of the bar, with no residual value owned by him. Most of what he produced, most of what anyone produces in the bar consulting (or any other consulting field for that matter) isn’t really protectable property through any of the above rights we discussed. First and foremost, you can’t protect recipes. And if there is anything of his work that might be considered ownable intellectual property, it doesn’t belong to him, it belongs to the bar. This is due to a concept called Work For Hire. Any idea, invention, or piece of passionate, purple prose you produce while on the job for someone else is by default the property of the employer.
[UPDATE: Sheila Fox Morrison has written me with a correction/amplification to the previous paragraph:

It would be important to note the if a person is a traditional employee (paid by the hour or on salary, with benefits, etc), the above underlined statement is true. However, it is the opposite if one is a contractor (project based, contractor is responsible for its owns taxes, no benefits etc). If one is a contractor all protectable IP is owned by the contractor unless there is an agreement to the contrary, but the hiring party likely will have a non-exclusive license to use all work product.

Thanks, Sheila. I'll note that her response provides a useful example of what I'm saying below.]
In the end, Eben was left with a third of his expected pay and no residual value for all the work he did.
It’s a sad outcome… and it’s exactly the way things should have worked out… given Eben’s actions.

Yes, it’s cold.
It’s business.
We may love to think that the cocktail business is a congenial, collegial, friendly environment where gentlemen rule. But the facts are that it is an intensely competitive, low-profitability business segment where nice guys are likely to finish sitting on someone else’s barstool.

Please note, I am not suggesting that good business people should or do screw everyone available, as hard as they can, at every opportunity. Hollywood villains aside, in the real world acting this way often makes it hard to hire the next good person, and impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

But in Eben’s own story about himself, he wasn’t getting screwed. It was just sensible business. So why was he unhappy? Because, as Eben himself and his panel emphasized this year, Eben had been a bad businessperson.


A formerly bad businessperson speaks….

Eben has learned how to prevent, painlessly but painstakingly, virtually all of the ways this job failed to work out. He learned the hard, bloody way, and has been banging away at these IP sessions at Tales for two years now to help others get the same knowledge without the whole professional road-kill part of the learning curve.

The answers to the problems in Eben’s parable, and to most of the others that arise from the limitations discussed above in traditional IP rights are: Contracts and Licenses. A reasonably, intelligently crafted contract will put employer and consultant (or bartender or manager) on the same side, with the same expectations.

Eben took on a contract with project-based responsibilities, but time-based compensation. He did a bang up job on the job, so there was no need to pay him for more time than it took to do it. Had the contract specified that payment for the project was X, then Eben would have gotten X. It might have come in 12 monthly payments to accommodate a new business’s cash flow, but it would have been for the project, not 12 months of work.

And all the work Eben did became the property of the bar. The concept of Work for Hire bit him on the ass. But WFH is not absolute. A reasonably well-drafted contract can dictate any assignation of these rights. Do any new ideas, drinks, etc. belong to Eben? The Bar? Both?
Through a license, perhaps Eben owns them, but the business has an indefinite license to use them. Maybe the restaurant’s license requires Eben to not sell his ideas to any other joint in town, or for 18 months. Sheila made the point very clear that, “the great thing about a contract is that it can say pretty much whatever you want it to.”

And as I alluded to above, this doesn’t just apply to contract workers. Employment contracts can be crafted in the same way, preserving rights for the employee (or the business owner).
Of course, it is possible that one side in a contract won’t want to be a reasonable negotiator. This is absolutely fabulous, if you ask me. If a guy wants to be a greedy, unreasonable sonofabitch over your contract, what on Earth makes you think he’d be anything other than poison to work with? Go find a better job (if you are worth a damn yourself) and watch for whoever buys his assets when he goes bankrupt… a bankruptcy that won’t be spilling onto your reputation.

There was a tremendous amount more in this session than I can go over in this already over-long post. A last concept I’ll touch on in closing was advocated by both Riley and Sheila. One somewhat sure way to prevent your ideas from being copied is to go all Don Beach and Vic Bergeron. They can’t steal your stuff if they don’t know what it is. And if you must let employees mix your secret Fabulous Fandango, make them sign a non-disclosure contract as a condition of employment.
Of course, while keeping lots of secrets in the drinks world may make you seem an exotic force of nature, it also might leave you viewed as a colossal douchebag…. There are no truly free lunches.

The whole discussion was an incredibly useful and interesting hour and a half. If you missed it, I bet Eben will be doing some variation on it next year at Tales. The lost year you save may be your own.

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