Fluid Dynamics 3 Pack - Only @ K&L

We're doing a little experimental test run with the folks at Germain Robin right now.  What if we were to offer the three most popular Fluid Dynamics barrel-aged cocktails in a discounted, sampler 3-pack?  I thought it was a fantastic idea and apparently our customers do to!  It's been sitting on our front counter for the last week and has really captured the curiousity of our Redwood City visitors.  For $46.99, you get the Brandy Manhattan, the 1850, and the Saratoga cocktail in a nifty little box.  Perfect for parties, either as the featured beverages or as a hostess gift. The 1850 is my favorite so far - brandy, white whiskey, and absinthe - but I also love the Saratoga - brandy, sweet vermouth, and white whiskey.   Germain Robin is bringing back the fun in drinking, doing all the mixing and barrel-aging so you don't have to! 

-David Driscoll


Tastings Tomorrow!

Dalmore Single Malts will be in Redwood City Wednesday night, while Epic Spirits will be in San Francisco pouring the Chauffe Coeur Calvados, Delord 25 year old Armagnac, and the Potocki vodka (my favorite vodka!).

Tastings start at 5PM and go until 6:30.  Free of charge!

-David Driscoll


Back From New York

New York is such an amazing city.  When my wife and I head to the Big Apple we try to walk as much as possible because we like to look at everyone on the street and what they're wearing (also because we have to burn off the excessive amount of food we eat).  I've become much more interested in fashion over the last few years because many of the same issues that I ponder regarding whiskey apply to fashion as well - namely, the desire to express what we're about.  Showing a picture of yourself standing in front of your Pappy collection is really no different than carrying a Louis Vuitton purse with the LV logo plastered all over it.  My wife and I have found so many similarities between our two interests that the crossover has been amazing (I actually identified former Project Runway contestant Austin Scarlet walking down a Greenwich Village avenue).

Needless to say, we went to a few bars while in New York, but not one of them served classic, Bay Area-style cocktails.  This wasn't by design, it was just that measuring out fancy, esoteric ingredients never occured to most of these places - they simply poured it in the glass and handed it over.  Juxtapose that with San Francisco where every single restaurant is scrambling to update their menu in an attempt to fit in and it makes for a totally different scene.  You can't even go out for pizza in SF anymore without seeing a Martinez or Bees Knees on the drink list.  That's not to say that you can't get classic cocktails in New York - it's just to say that we didn't run into one bar in Manhattan that catered to that crowd. 

Just like I didn't find one classic cocktail, I also didn't see one person wearing exercise clothing on the street (unless they were actually exercising).  Compare that with the Bay Area where every single person in line at Starbucks seems to have just come from the gym (even though they're not sweating).  The people in New York are some of the most beautiful in the world - both the men and women.  There are models everywhere, but, regardless of one's God-given attributes, everyone is making an effort to dress nicely.  Working out is for the gym. The point of doing it is to fit into that amazing outfit you just bought so you can wear it on the street. Here in the Bay Area, working out seems to be the actual fashion.  Women wearing yoga pants with fancy handbags and bling bling jewelry.  It's as if the act of working out is more virtuous than the result.

There's a clear parallel with the booze world and in how my two favorite cities sit down to drink.  San Francisco is so hung up on ingredients, that sometimes we forget about the pleasure involved with certain activities.  Sure, organic produce is healthy.  Sure, pre-Prohibition cocktails don't have all that sugary goop.  Sure, exercise is important and is something to be embraced.  However, while our bodies are sacred, I'm not willing to buy into this lifestyle unless the actual result is pleasurable. I want to eat organic produce because it tastes better.  I like classic Cocktails because they can taste unbelievably vibrant and pure.  I like to exercise because I feel good when I look good.  New York seems to understand that having fun is the ultimate goal.  People don't need to show others they work out - anyone can go to the gym.  People in New York care about dressing up and hitting the street.  When they stop at a bar, they're not obsessing about the cocktail or the ingredients - they're packing into a small room and they're socializing.  That's not to say the drinks aren't good either!  Everywhere we went there were various options for great libations.

I'm wondering what makes the Bay Area that way?  Why is the act of something more regarded than the point of doing it?  I'm not sure I have the answer yet, but I'm going to do everything I can to focus on the goals of my actions.  When I hit the bars, I want to have fun.  I've been to so many places in San Francisco that do it right (Smuggler's Cove, Bar Agricole, Slanted Door, Heaven's Dog) but so many others that are just plain drab.  They're way too cool to have fun because they're so hung up on how good their drinks are.  Meanwhile, in the West Village, I watched over one hundred people of all types pack into a corner Mexican restaurant called Tortilla Flats for cheap margaritas and beer.  They were all having a blast!

-David Driscoll


Lessons From An Artist

My wife and I took the subway out to the Brooklyn museum today to visit the Keith Haring exhibit.  Anyone who grew up in the 80's remembers his cartoon figures playing a huge role in the MTV and street culture of the time - the Very Special Christmas album covers and the animated commericals with Run DMC holiday jams blasting.  While I was very familiar with his work, I wasn't as well-versed in Haring's particular background or philosophy.  Apparently, I was the only one who didn't know about his "art is for everyone" motto.  One quote from the exhibition really stuck with me:

The public needs art -- and it is the responsibility of a 'self-proclaimed artist' to realize that the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for a few and ignore the masses.

I find I share Haring's big-tent sensibility, albeit with booze instead of art, in that I want it to be as inclusive as possible.  Haring's art isn't technically complex, but it is poignant while still easy to enjoy - exactly what booze should be like! After getting back to the hotel, my wife went down for a nap while I continued to browse Haring's history on the web, which led to me typing up a blog on my vacation.  I found another quote from him that also struck a chord with me:

People were more interested in the phenomena than the art itself. This, combined with the growing interest in collecting art as an investment and the resultant boom in the art market, made it a difficult time for a young artist to remain sincere without becoming cynical.

As we've seen with some of the big-ticket whiskies lately, the phenomenon surrounding their release has completely transcended the actual quality of the booze itself.  Haring became cynical about this trend in the art world over three decades ago, in that his art was no longer affordable for everyday people (part of the reason he drew on subway walls - access for everyone!) yet wine and whisky drinkers are just beginning to come to terms with the fact that certain bottles, once readily available, will now forever remain out of their reach.

Haring was also a fantastic curator - organizing art shows for everyone and inviting whomever would listen.  He really wanted as many people as possible to have access to his art and to be able to enjoy it without pretense.  I find his approach quite inspiring and I've been brainstorming all day with ideas to make whisky and other great booze more available to K&L customers.  Good booze, like good art, doesn't need to be complicated - and if it is I'm not all that interested in it.  As a specialty retailer, it is my responsibility to realize that the public needs alcohol, and good alcohol at that, so I can't be stuck doling out only high-end prestige bottles for the few.  We need to reach as many people as possible and make drinking as inclusive, fun, and exciting as we can - otherwise what's the point of imbibing?

-David Driscoll


Pappy Programs Clog K&L Server

Well, we thought we had it under control.  Sure, there's a huge demand out there for the Pappy Van Winkle Bourbons, but we get high-volume hits all the time on our webpage.  I asked one of our owners Tuesday night if he thought our servers were up to speed, able to handle the onslaught we were sure to receive, and he said "for sure."  However, never under-estimate the passion of a Pappy enthusiast.

Despite the fact that we had strict rules laid out about purchasing only one bottle, lest your order get cancelled, some people thought they had a pretty smart plan - they must have not read the part about us watching over the entire process and weeding out the troublemakers.  Some people were so desperate for the Pappy that they designed programs that would access the K&L webpage and place repeat orders every one to two seconds automatically.  These scripts were so effective that one person was able to attempt 300 orders for Pappy 20 year in a matter of four minutes.  While we were up for the demand of human capability, we were not prepared for the overload that ensued.

Instead of a quick-fingered showdown, we were stuck with a technological meltdown. The strain on our systems prevented the bottles from even being loaded (instead of arriving at 8:00 PM online they didn't show up until around 8:15).  These hand-crafted programs sent in repeat orders at a speed that no human could ever hope to achieve.  I was sitting here, enjoying my vacation in New York, when a mass flurry of emails overtook my Blackberry and sent me scrambing to get in touch with David OG.  People were pissed.

Instead of being able to place an order, our customers were flooded with "Internal Error" messages, of a type that have never before existed on the K&L webpage.  We are a high-volume online location, but we'd never been hit like this.  Only Pappy Van Winkle whiskey could bring this type of mayhem to K&L.  We ended up in a public relations nightmare, far beyond the stress that selling these whiskies entails as is. 

To those of you who spent a half hour online doing things the right way - we apologize and we will make it up to you.  What this has shown us, however, is that attempting to be open (letting customers know the date and time of the arrival) about the Pappy process has only brought dishonest players to the dance.  We're going to have to return to the drawing board and figure out a better way to get these bottles to the right people.  Until then, we hope that you understand our dilemma and that you will bare with us as we adapt to the brave new world of Pappy persuers.

-David Driscoll