The Way We Drink – Part II

There's a long history of American stars reviving their careers overseas. Jerry Lewis in France. David Hasselhoff in Germany. Nicholas Cage in China. Sometimes what is considered stale, antiquated, and passé at home is considered rustic, traditional, and romantic abroad and that foreign interest can often spark a new renaissance of appreciation. In the booze world, there's no better example of this than the new American fascination with Italian spirits and amari. A genre of drinking that is associated with older, conservative generations in Italy is finding new life with the modern, cocktail-drinking youth of the U.S. Take Campari, for example, a brand with absolutely flat growth for decades that has seen annual double-digit sales growth over the past four years in the states. Business is booming all of a sudden for a segment of the industry that was once struggling to remain relevant and these guys couldn't be more excited. I was emailing with Orietta Varnelli, the head of the eponymous Marche producer, this week and she had just returned from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Imagine that: an old Italian family that's been making old school, traditional herbal liqueurs since 1868 flying out to Louisiana to party with a bunch of tattooed bartenders and hipster mixologists. It's incredible! She wrote to me:

What American trade and media are doing about Italian traditional spirits is amazing and all producers have to be sincerely grateful. It is crazy to say, but only thanks to the wind which comes from the U.S. there is an evident revival of Amaro also in Italy and more generally in Europe.

It seems the new twist that Americans are putting on Europe's traditional beverages has sparked renewed interest back at home. On the flip side of what I was talking about yesterday, the nontraditional American drinking culture—one based more on the drink itself rather than its accompaniment with food—is single-handedly reviving the remnants of another, albeit in an entirely new fashion. Once again, it's evolve with the times or potentially fade away. Take the enthusiasm and run with it while it lasts!

Right, Mr. Cage?

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll