Bravo-lebrities & Booze

Do you know who that is holding the bottle of wine in the above advertisement? That's Ramona Singer. She's probably my favorite "Real Housewife" from any of the geographically-themed, reality-show extravaganzas on the Bravo network. Why do I know who Ramona Singer is? For the same reason my wife knows who The Undertaker or C.M. Punk is: we watch TV together. In return for two episodes of WWE Monday Night Raw, I am forced to watch the Real Housewives of New York, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, Orange County, and any other region that spawns its own spin-off. However, don't tell my wife this, but while she still abhors every minute of high-flying action she has to endure, I secretly love the Bravo-lebrities.

Maybe it's because there's so much on Bravo that has to do with my job. I'm the booze guy. I love booze. I love my job. If there's a show that has to do with boozing (a la Mad Men or Anthony Bourdain), I'm going to enjoy it. If there's melodrama involved, even better. I watched Beverly Hills 90210 every Wednesday for eight years. That's why the reality programming on the Bravo network has totally stolen my heart and turned me into an Andy Cohen junkie. The women on Bravo love to drink as much as they love to argue. So much so, that their new-found popularity has resulted in a number of brand creations that have crossed over onto my side of the couch.

Sassy, spunky Ramona Singer is always drinking Pinot Grigio on screen. That's all she drinks. In several hilarious episodes of the New York show, she ends up at a party without a glass of Pinot Grigio and throws a fit while trying to track down her beverage of choice. Ramona's side-splitting obsession with the Italian varietal finally lead to her own private label, a wine that eventually made it onto the shelf at the K&L Hollywood store. The moment that happened I called my wife. We had never bonded so closely over television before. Her passion for the Housewives and my passion for wine and spirits had finally joined hands and united. She watched it, I sold it. Viewing the show was actually going to count as research now!

Ramona wasn't the only New York housewife, however, to get her own specialty drink. The big payoff came when Bethenny Frankel created her own brand of low-calorie, pre-mixed margarita and sold it to Beam Global for more than $100 million. It was a huge part of the New York plot line and even turned into a separate series that focused just on Bethenny and her new life as a business woman. Once again, the programming I watched on television with my wife, the show that my friends would make fun of me for watching if they knew I secretly did so, resulted in tons of market research for me in my role as spirits buyer for K&L. At least, that's how I justified it to myself.

After the popularity of the Housewives began to skyrocket, producer Andy Cohen looked for a way to offer more programming for those who couldn't get enough of the show. He started an after-program called Watch What Happens Live that featured him, two celebrity guests (mostly Bravo-lebrities at first), and a special guest bartender to make them drinks while they chatted. The set became known as the Bravo clubhouse and the half-hour show, with its quirky games and fun-oriented atmosphere, became the secret obsession of people everywhere – for TV drunks like myself, and many a major celebrity as well. All of a sudden, the guests were no longer just various housewives and their friends, but actual men who enjoyed the show's energy. Jimmy Fallon would make an appearance. Actors like Ralph Fiennes and Ethan Hawke would drop by to promote their new movies. It turned out that a lot of talented, famous men really enjoyed a show that was mostly geared towards women. Imagine that!

How is it that a cable network producer single-handedly turned a group of eccentric women into one of the most talked about sensations on television? With energy, excitment, and a bit of alcohol. When you combine enthusiasm and a fun, friendly environment with cocktails and liquor, you're going to draw larger crowds than usual. This is the reason I always tell customers not to get too uptight with their drinking. Don't be afraid to have fun, drink some vodka, make some fruity cocktails, or even.....gulp.....put a little bit of ice in your single malt. You'd be amazed by what a difference letting down your inhibitions can make with your enjoyment of alcohol and life. Parties are always better when the guests can let down their guard.

I, for one, have had more fun drinking booze while watching the Bravo network than I have at most Bay Area bars lately. The programming actually was part of the inspiration behind our series of Salon parties, where we encouraged guests to drink and talk, rather than listen to a lecture on spirits. Who would've thunk it? I even have my own list of Watch What Happens Live-inspired drinks I make for my wife and her friends. Now I just need to get Andy to let me be his guest bartender!

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll