The Cocktail Bar: Notes for an Owner & Operator
by Chall Gray
Hayward, White Mule Press, 2018
Chall Gray has opened six bars including Little Jumbo, in Asheville, NC, and he leads the bar-consulting firm Slings & Arrows Consulting. With more than a decade in the bar industry, Gray was inspired to write The Cocktail Bar: Notes for an Owner & Operator after a friend asked him to recommend a book on opening a bar. The book sets out to provide a contemporary look at what it takes to open and operate a successful cocktail bar as opposed to a high-volume nightclub. Gray is very candid that most establishments will fail, and the book outlines how to avoid some of the most common reasons for failure.
The book is divided into two sections: the cocktail bar as a concept, and the reality of opening and operating a bar. In part one, Gray emphasizes that not only should every cocktail bar have a clearly defined concept, but also that concept should be correct for the city and neighborhood where it resides. In part two, Gray covers the practical topics: financial projections, design, lighting, working with contractors, accounting, waste, staff training and more. Each topic is discussed in a clear and unexaggerated manner intended to allow readers to honestly appraise if they are ready and willing to do what it takes to build and run a successful bar.
The Cocktail Bar should be required reading for any distillers looking to add on a cocktail bar to their business. While some states only allow small tastings of neat spirits, a growing number are allowing full bar programs. Distillers should go into building a bar program fully cognizant that this is a very different business that can be done well given the proper attention and should not be treated as a simple add-on.
Field to Flask: The Fundamentals of Small Batch Distilling
(Fourth Edition) by Malcolm Bucholt
Regina: Wood Dragon Books, 2019
For 30 years, Malcom Bucholtz was a homebrewer and winemaker, and in 2013, he was bit by the craft distilling bug and decided to leave his job working for a mineral exploration company. Dissatisfied with the available materials for those entering craft distilling, Bucholtz wrote Field to Flask: The Fundamentals of Small Batch Distilling to use in his five-day distilling workshop, which he has been instructing in Kelowna, British Columbia, since October 2014. And currently Bucholtz is working toward his master’s in brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In 22 chapters, Field to Flask is as comprehensive in its scope as its name implies. Starting with a brief history of alcohol, Bucholtz covers regulatory requirements, marketing and business plans, but the core of the book is its focus on the science of converting agricultural products into distilled spirits. Here is where the book shines with detailed discussions on the yield of various raw materials as well as basic information on microbiology, yeast, fermentation, distilling, aging and proofing spirit.
Field to Flask aims to be the starting point for those with the passion “to start distilling as a hobby or to start a licensed small-batch craft distillery.” To that end, Bucholtz has done an excellent job. There are plenty of more detailed books on the history of alcohol or marketing or individual styles of spirits, but it is no small feat that Bucholtz has condensed so much useful information into a book of this size. Overall, it is one of the best serious introductions to the science and business of craft distilling.