10 Facts about Bourbon

Bourbon is the only truly "American" spirit.  It's tough but sweet.  It's great on its own in shots or sips or just on a big ice cube.  It also plays well in cocktails.  As a beverage professional it is a good starting point for any cocktail program.  
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1. Bourbon has to be distilled from at least 51% corn.

2. Bourbon has to be made in the United States.

3. Bourbon has to be aged in new American White Oak Barrels/containers.

4. Unlike many other spirits, the only allowed additive to Bourbon can be water.

5. Bourbon may be bottled from 80-160 proof.

6. Bourbon can be no more than 125 proof on the way into the barrels.

7. In order for it to be labeled Straight Bourbon the liquid must be aged for a minimum of 2 years.

8. Unaged "bourbon" is clear off the still, and it is referred to as "White Dog".

9. "Bottled in Bond"  means that the liquid is produced from one distiller in one distillery from one distillation process. It also has to be under a government regulated "lock & key" (supervision) for at least 4 years.

10. Bourbon barrels can only be used once for producing bourbon. After their first time aging they are often sold to tequila, rum or even beer producers to age their liquids in them.


To have the bar team know how to make a proper old fashioned is absolutely foundational.  The old fashioned is the most basic of cocktails, allowing the whiskey to shine through.  Some folks like their old fashioneds made with rye, which is a little spicier.  But me, I got a sweet tooth and I like it with bourbon.  The old fashioned is the quintessential cocktail.  It uses sugar, bitters, and spirit...maybe a little help from the zest of a citrus peel to balance it all out.  It is a great starting point for bartenders to learn the basics of cocktail techniques.  For those who are scared of it's toughness I recommend a smash (whiskey, sugar, mint, citrus).  



The Best way to Add Speed and Consistency to your Cocktail Program


I have been in the hospitality industry for over a dozen years.  My first job ever was at the age of 14 making pizzas.  I liked making pizza, I liked making people happy.  Little did I know that I would be a lifer or a hospitality career professional.  I always considered my "start" at the hospitality profession many years later when I started working part time in bars as a doorguy.  I quickly realized that making people happy made me happy.  The transition from full time desk jockey to hospitality was not as smooth as I would have liked it, but it made me adapt and become better.  

I was a solid door guy, the friendly face that welcomed guests in, and also the dickhead to tell you to gtfoh at the end of the night.  Working the door was fine, but I wanted more.  I was good with people, so they gave me a shot at becoming a bartender.  I wasn't good, or didn't know drinks, or how to make them, but I cared, I wanted to learn, I wanted to get better.  I excelled at trying hard, and that made other people care about teaching me.  I learned from hundreds-thousands of the best in the industry.  

I have worked in over 20 different bars, nightclubs, restaurants, music venues, and cocktail lounges all over New England and New York.  Most of my experience has been behind the bar as either a barback, bartender, or bar manager.  I have won many cocktail competitions, lost more, and learned from some straight up legends.  I have traveled to distilleries around the world to learn about spirits: Ireland, Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, to name a few.  

At this point, some may consider me a bonafide expert, but I have a never ending thirst for knowledge and improvement.  This quest for knowledge and experimentation is what led me to the concept of barrel-aged cocktails.

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What are Barrel-Aged Cocktails?

Barrel-aged cocktails are fully batched, meaning all of the ingredients in the recipe are measured and poured and aged in a barrel.  

Why Barrel-AgedCocktails?

I was inspired by whiskey.  Bourbon to be specific.  Bourbon is a corn based distillate that comes out of the still clear in appearance--the same look as water (a still is an apparatus used to distill liquid mixtures by heating to selectively boil and then cool to condense vapor).  In bourbon, only water can be added to the liquid that has been aging in the barrels.  More specifically, all of the color, and much of the flavor of bourbon comes from the wood in which it is aged in (think vanilla, caramel).  I wanted to build off this principle and utilized it for this barrel-aged cocktail process.

The Benefits

If you think about bourbon, it goes into the barrels clear from the stills.  It is literally as clear as water before it goes into new american oak barrels.  Most of the magic, the flavor, and ALL of the color occurs from that toasted or charred wood.  When an entire cocktail enters the barrel, it mellows out, adds color, flavor, and MOST IMPORTANTLY adds value.  

I absolutely love how much time it saves.  Instead of the bartender measuring out 2 parts bourbon, 1 part sweet vermouth, 1/2 part dry vermouth, 1/2 part amaro, 2 dashes angostura bitters, 4 dashes rhubarb bitters (even the fastest bartender in the world couldn't accomplish this in under 10 seconds), the bartender merely measures out 3 oz of pre-batched liquid and stirs it with ice and served.  The time it takes to measure out 5 ingredients is more time than it takes to measure one ingredient, so the barrel is really reducing five steps to one.

What’s the deal with barrels?  Why do they matter?

Prior to filling the barrels, they need to be proofed (barrels are made from staves {individual pieces of wood} without any adhesive).  Barrels need to be soaked in water to swell the wood up so that it remains air tight.  A barrel is filled with a specific cocktail (approximately 19 liters)  All barrel-aged cocktails are purely spirit based (no juices, no product that can spoil).  After at least a month of aging, some liquid is removed and put into cheater bottles to keep on display or behind the bar.  All barrel-aged cocktails utilize the solera concept, meaning that when liquid is removed from the barrels (to be bottled), new liquid is filled on top, mixing with the aged liquid that remains inside the barrel.   

There are many different kinds of wood that barrels are made from.  Bourbon, for example, has to be aged in New American Oak that has been charred or toasted on the inside.  The more toasted/charred the barrel, the faster and more drastic the changes occur in the liquid.  Cognac for example has to be aged in limousin oak.  The liquid is influenced by the type of wood and the time it is spent in it.  The longer the liquid spends in the barrel, the more color and flavor come out.  If using a previously used barrel, it will incorporate that influence (for example if we aged a cocktail or spirit in a used tequila barrel, it will taste more like tequila).  Spirits are sometimes finished in a sherry cask that brings some sweetness and balance into the flavor, so why not do it for cocktails as well?

“Best Practices” to the Process

Label & date.  I like to write out all ingredients and measurements on the barrel to avoid confusion.  You also want to know how long the liquid has been aging in that barrel.  

Utilize the solera style system.  Basically what that means is removing some of the aged liquid and adding new (unaged liquid/batched cocktails) liquid on top.  When the bar would pour these barrel-aged cocktails, they wouldn’t run over to the barrels on the display wall and pour it from the spigot into the mixing glass every time a barrel aged cocktail was ordered--that would be slow and inefficient.  Prior to shift, they would fill at least 6 “cheater” bottles behind the bar for easy access, and newly batched unaged cocktails would be added into the barrel and mix with the currently aging liquid.

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What’s the impact on beverage cost?

By batching cocktails in large format it reduces the risk of human error when making the cocktails and generally allows for a more fixed beverage cost.

How many different flavors?

I’ve used at least 15 different barrel-aged cocktails.  The best sellers would be:  Manhattan, Negroni, Boulevardier, Mr. Perfect, Vieux Carré.  

In theory, you can barrel-age just about anything.

Is there any noticeable benefit from the guest side that they would want to order, for example, a barrel-aged Manhattan over a regular Manhattan? Are there flavor pros and cons for some of those classics people are used to?

When using new american oak there are lots of vanilla and caramel flavors that come from the charred wood.  Different barrels(wood) have a different flavor profile and add different flavors and colors.  Whereas sometimes the guests will exclaim it's the best Manhattan or Negroni they've ever had because the time the liquid has to mellow out in the barrel and really blend together in balance.  

However, if guests have a certain preference or brand loyalty to a specific spirit, it may cause them to opt for the non barrel-aged version.

Barrel-aged cocktails are a good way to increase efficiency, consistency, and value.  For doing large scale high end cocktails, it is a no-brainer and should be implemented at any bar.  

Want to be an employer of choice? Do these 3 things.

Every organization wants to be an employer of choice.  They want ping pong tables and fancy perks programs because they believe it translates into team member happiness.  What these organiizations miss is that to be an employer of choice, it starts with the actions of the leaders.

People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.  Anywhere you want to look, you will find overwhelming data that team members leave due to their bosses.  Nobody we’ve encountered has started a job with the intent of being terrible and getting terminated.  People want to do well and feel good.  They are driven by a desire for autonomy, mastery and purpose, but they need to want to stick around long enough to pursue them.

Perks are great, but they don’t substitute for having a good boss or leadership team.  As a leader, there are 3 things you can start doing now that will help you improve morale, lower turnover, make you more profitable and an employer of choice.

The core of our philosophy is CARE, LISTEN and COMMUNICATE.



This starts on day one.   

“Shower new teammates with attention and positive energy always, but even more so in the first few days. There are many studies that show that most employees make a determination if they'll stay or go based on that early experience. Roll out the red carpet, give them a "buddy" to show them around, provide some personalized company swag, give a taste of your culture. This will set them off on the right foot!”  -Doug Warner

Letting someone begin their tenure anonymously is the fastest way to lose them.  Why would they come back if they feel like it doesn’t matter or not?  According to Officevibe Vibe, 20% of turnover happens in the first 45 days!

Do you know their dog's name?  What’s going on in their lives outside of work?  You don’t have to be their new best friend, but to understand what’s going on in their lives will go along with developing your empathy with them.  Team members are humans and lead full and complex lives outside of work.  Embrace it!  Use this knowledge to tap into passions they have that may be helpful in the workplace.

When team members know that you care about them, they are more likely to embrace what you have to say. Candor becomes easier.  They will view “hard” conversations as an act of care not criticism.  They know you are invested in them being successful. 

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“People want to know they have a voice and are being heard. The way we commit to allocating time to talking to our teams and how that trickles down to every team member has always been something I believe makes us unique. Take time and go for a walk and just talk to someone. You have no idea how much that can impact someone’s work.”  -Joshua Rossmeisl

When the team believes they have a voice, they will work as your partner in the business.  Not giving the team a voice is the fastest way to find a disengaged team.   

How do you respond the first time a team member comes to you with negative feedback?  Do you shoot them down?  Are you dismissive?  Or do you take the time to hear them out and empathize with them.  This is where you have one shot at a great first impression.  If you aren’t perceived as listening, you may never get another chance to earn their trust.

You may think someone is “fine” because you haven’t heard anything from them.  This false sense of security comes from the fact they find you unapproachable and aren’t comfortable coming to you with something that may not be right.  

Ever have a team member quit for a “silly” reason that could have been easily resolved if you had known about it sooner?  Ask yourself why the team member was not comfortable enough to come to you sooner.

You’d be surprised at how much you won’t hear from a team member if they are nervous to come to you because they won’t believe they will listen.

Listening also leads to innovation.  Your team will become comfortable sharing ideas to make their jobs and the business better.  The first idea will probably be bad.  As will the second.  Don’t shut them down, but help them nurture their ideas as the 17th idea may be the one that changes your business!

This isn’t to say you need a suggestion box outside your door, but your door does need to be open.



In interviews, the most common reason we get as to why people left their last job was “communication”.    Nobody wants to be left in the dark.  Be transparent with challenges and wins.  Share growth opportunities and regularly provide feedback.  Recognize good work.

Nothing is worse than doing your best and not receiving feedback, regardless of it being good or bad.  You want to be noticed and recognized.  This shows that their work matters.  We know from Dan Ariely ignoring work has the same impact on productivity as destroying it in front of their face.

“Appreciate the work of your team members and show them there is a supported path for development and growth. When people can see a future for themselves instead of feeling like they will be stuck year after year, it gives them the motivation to learn and pave their way within your organization instead of bringing their talents elsewhere.”  -Amanda Murray

When you care, listen and communicate, you’re able to build trust and truly connect with your team members.  This leads to loyalty and improved retention.  Build your team members with those pillars in mind.  It needs to be intentional and consistent, but you will see results!


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7 Design Resources to Help You With Your Brand

Working as a designer for 15+ years has allowed me to experience many parts of the design world. I’ve been in an agency setting, an in-house designer and freelanced, all for a variety of industries. Along the way, I’ve collected favorite resources that have helped me learn and create successful branding. 

While technology has evolved and social media has come into the game, a lot of design principles remain consistent. Below are some general design tips and some of my go-to’s when designing!  

Design Advice:

  • Don’t use too many fonts - keep it to 2 or 3 and use them consistently.
  • Don’t be afraid of white space - not every inch needs to be covered in an image or text. Let it breathe.
  • Respect the margins - unless it is meant to bleed off the edge - keep text & important content at least a half inch from the edge.
  • Create hierarchy - use fonts & color to highlight the most important information, while the rest can be more subtle.  
  • Please do NOT stretch your logo out of proportion for any reason at any time. If you are finding your logo does not work well in certain circumstances, it’s better to create an alternate version with those proportions to use when needed.   
  • When in doubt keep it simple. Clean & clear design will always be more impactful than one that is cluttered. 
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Here are some resources that I find to be most helpful in my toolbox:

Ted Talk

Dao Nguyen: What Makes Something Go Viral

This is a great talk focused on content creation. While we can’t always work the magic of making something go viral, we should be striving to make content that our audience finds value in. No matter your industry or business, you should take the time to map out the categories that your content should cover. Whether this is for social media, blogs, emails, marketing campaigns - anything you are putting out in front of your audience should hit on at least one of your categories. 


Creative Market

Creative Market is my favorite site for design assets. They have a wide range of reasonably priced fonts, vector graphics, images, templates, mockups, images to elevate your design. They also regularly offer great bundles and 6 free assets each week with the creation of a free account!


Milton Glaser’s Unseen Design for New York: “Together”

Milton Glaser was an iconic graphic designer, best known for the “I ❤️ NY” logo. His final work in 2020 was in response to the pandemic as a way to connect people through art. This interview with him gives amazing insight into the thought behind this design and others with his goal of bringing people together.

Stock Photography

Unsplash & Pixabay - Both of these sites have some great options for Free Stock Imagery. Unsplash is only photography but more unique than traditional stock sites, while Pixabay also includes illustrations, vector graphics and some video. 

Adobe Stock - Great option for a paid stock site. It’s a monthly subscription, but unused downloads roll over month to month. It includes photography, illustrations, vector graphics, mock ups & templates. 


What The Font

This site lets you upload an image of a font you are trying to identify. If it can’t find an exact match it will suggest some close options for you. Can come in handy!



I use Hootsuite for all of my social media scheduling. It gives you a great calendar view showing when your content will post and you can easily set up 1 post to go to multiple accounts or platforms. They also have a really great newsletter that goes out every two weeks with articles from their blog giving useful, actionable tips for social media marketing. 



Impresso is an app that allows you to easily make dynamic image/video posts for social media. They have a number of free templates & features or layouts you can use to start from scratch. Easy to use for anyone - no design experience required! 


Learn more about Amanda Murray




Improving The Server Experience

In ‘eatertainment’, we design and build our venues around the guest experience.  We want to maximize their journey through the venue and “wow” them with artistically clever touches.  We’ve all seen Bar Rescue and know how design can influence guest behaviors.   Who doesn’t want a beautiful space that leads the guest to the desired experience?  

What gets lost in this mindset, is the most important variable in the guest experience: The Server.

An unintended consequence of this design forward mindset is that the space for the service team to work becomes a marginalized afterthought.  

We expect the servers to “figure it out”.  Run around in circles when necessary and cram into tight wait stations because that’s what needs to be done.  The servers eventually get frustrated, service suffers, and the frustration builds until they finally quit.  From there, the turnover cycle continues.  Less experienced servers go through growing pains, get good, then get frustrated, quit, repeat.

We eventually got to the point where we assumed a nice light bulb or clever piece of art will inspire a “raving fan” to be created.  

Have you ever heard a guest leave a restaurant and say:  “Gee, that was a nice light fixture, I think I’ll come back in a week to look at it some more”.  We certainly haven’t. 

Why do we design buildings with the guest in mind first rather than with the people who have the greatest impact on the guests experience? 

It’s become  more important to create “novelty” that could end up on social media than it is to take care of our teams.

Waitress Holds Credit Card Machine As Customer Pays Bill In Bar Restaurant

The Facts

  • A guest's willingness to return is the biggest indicator of success for our business (“raving fans”).
  • The server has the most contact with our guests and has the greatest impact on their experience.
  • The average size entertainment venue in America: 23,000 sq ft.
  • The average server takes 10,098 steps per shift. 

With those in mind, to make the guest experience better and increase the likelihood of a repeat visit, we need to maximize the server’s experience as well.  The layout of the building should be designed around the server experience so that the server can do their job as well and as efficiently as possible.

The Opportunity

"There is always a smarter, faster and better way."  AMP Up1 Values

If the service experience is great, it will translate to increased sales. 

The two most impactful ways to impact the service experience are through design from the team’s perspective and through training.

Start by building a location with our team members being our first priority. Taking design to a new level and thinking about the amount of steps our team members are taking, and most importantly how we can ensure each step is filled with purpose. It’s a reality that 85% of all guest complaints stem from speed of service.

Imagine if a server went from doing $800 in sales with 10,098 steps in a shift that equals 8 cent per step versus doing $2,500 with 10,098 steps in a shift that equals 25 cent per step. How much happier and productive would they feel? Putting the servers in a position to succeed is our goal, while giving their steps purpose and maximum return is key to the equation.

What if servers spent less time walking needlessly due to something’s inconvenient location? If they had less room between what they were doing, there is a far greater chance they would be tending to guests' needs and selling more. 

Through efficient design of wait stations, service stations and expo, we can minimize unnecessary effort.  Embracing ordering technology and “help” buttons saves servers time and assists them in prioritizing who needs their attention.

Next, rethink training.

Start by defining your expectations and values.  Define what the ideal guest experience looks like- what is the end result of a great visit? This is the “what”.  Then re enforce your company’s values as the driving force in how team members behave, this is the “how”.  Then remove the “red tape” and empower your team to connect these dots.  Acting within your team’s values, they are allowed to do everything they can to navigate the guest experience to your expectation.

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Provide tools and confidence.

The best service comes from anticipation of guests' needs, which comes from pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is developed through experience and more “reps”. The more you see something the more you begin to recognize patterns and “connect the dots”.  Maximizing the server’s experience accelerates the timeline of these reps and retains these experienced team members.

The downside to pattern recognition is that it takes time.  To accelerate this, training is centered around predecision.  Predecision is like a roleplay in that it focuses on the decision making process of the new team member in potentially high stress situations.  Addressing these early gives the server the tools and confidence to handle the situations when they occur.

We can predict the future in terms of common guest requests, needs and questions.  Why wait until the server is in front of guests to expose them to these?  Walk new team members through these situations and have them solve the “opportunities”.  Help them define their decision making process (using your values as the guide).  That way, when finally on the floor, they will have the confidence of already having refined their process and heard the opportunities before.  

Making our teams (and their potential sales per step) a design priority, providing them with clear expectations, and preparing them through predecision, we ensure our servers a better experience that will lead to higher productivity, higher sales and lower turnover. 

In the end whether it’s due to the design, training, or overall autonomy we give our team the ultimate goal is to reduce the turnover of our team members. The value of a tenured team member that believes and understands our mission and goal highly outweighs the value of a fancy light fixture.

You don’t build a business that succeeds because of its aesthetics. You build people, and your people build the business.


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