Gretchen Thomas, Wine & Spirits Director for Barteca Restaurant Group, oversees the beverage packages for the group’s two ideas, Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant and bartaco.
Each ideas have greater than 13 places every nationally and proceed to develop! Gretchen can also be in cost of one of the most important Spanish wine packages in america for Barcelona Wine Bar. As well as to being a bona fide one-woman Spanish wine ambassador inside the nation, Gretchen additionally heads the craft beer packages in any respect Barteca places, is a veritable professional on all spirits on the market, and just lately was in Mexico to style 80+ tequilas to assist develop bartaco’s proprietary tequila, Libélula, which is now being bought in choose retail places.
Some highlights from Barcelona Wine Bar’s cocktail menu embrace “Henry’s Alibi” (Banhez Mezcal, Cappelletti, Dow’s LBV Port, Angostura Bitters) and “Bourbon Spice Rack” (4 Roses Bourbon, Berto Rosso Vermouth, pure maple syrup, lemon juice, Scrappy’s Cardamom & Lavender Bitters). The most effective vendor at bartaco is certainly their basic “bartaco margarita.”
Chilled sat down with Gretchen who shared the whole lot from how she obtained her begin within the enterprise to the place her inspiration comes from. Gretchen additionally shared her ideas and tips for operating a profitable beverage program. Right here’s what we will study from Gretchen:
Photograph by Mariel Olivo
Speak to us briefly about your background within the business.
As a teenager in Kentucky, simply to have some spending cash, my mother received me my first job at a Chick-fil-A. She selected them particularly as a result of they have been closed on Sundays, so I might by no means have an excuse to miss church. I keep in mind sitting in on that interview, with my mother there beside me, as a result of I used to be nonetheless a minor and she or he had to be current. That was my begin in eating places, at 14.
Like many restaurant “lifers,” I began out washing dishes and dealing on the money register. I ended up as a prepare dinner most of the time, actually simply because I hated being a hostess, and in Kentucky, you might have to be over the age of 20 to wait tables and serve alcohol. I used to be too younger on the time, and by no means in a position to do this, so to bypass the hostess stand, I ended up within the kitchen. After these first few years in eating places, once I was gearing up for school, I by no means thought I might find yourself again in that business. I truly pursued performing arts in school, and labored within the tech business for a time, however type of knew deep down that wasn’t the place I might finally land.
I feel I ultimately realized that I simply “fit” in eating places, and slowly discovered myself falling in love with the prospect of that being my profession. I used to be motivated. I needed to study. I might do something I might to study extra. I began to get totally different jobs so I might study totally different cuisines. Once I wasn’t studying as shortly as I needed to, that’s once I made the choice to go to culinary faculty, on the age of 21. Earlier than embarking on that exact journey, I took a lot of recommendation from some of the cooks with whom I had labored. They have been very clear with me that that this was not a “leisure industry.” This was an business that might be very demanding of my time, and my household’s time, and I wanted to be prepared for what I used to be signing up for.
In 2001, I moved to New York and went to culinary faculty on the Culinary Institute of America. Whereas I used to be there, I acquired a scholarship from the varsity that despatched me overseas my junior yr. Once I got here again, I made the shift to entrance of the home and that’s once I actually determined that wine was my future. I began working as a sommelier within the Hudson Valley whereas I accomplished my research. I caught round there for a time after I graduated, as a result of I had a good job at a nice restaurant that allowed me to keep shut to the culinary faculty, so I used to be in a position to proceed my wine research with the Courtroom of Grasp Sommeliers. Then, I used to be simply prepared to transfer, and transfer on. I used to be prepared to get out of my security internet.
I came upon about Barteca once I was “company hunting” for my subsequent spot, and so I jumped to Connecticut and took my place right here within the early half of 2006. That’s primarily my background within the business. I actually have been throughout in lots of positions in eating places. I’ve been within the beverage business for 15 years and even doing different variations of that – model ambassador, gross sales, importing – however that stuff simply doesn’t curiosity me. I would like to be in eating places. There’s one thing about being in a eating room that works for me. I can’t think about myself doing anything.
Photograph by Mariel Olivo
Inform us concerning the beverage program in your group/bar. What’s the inspiration for the drinks you create?
Barteca, as you in all probability know, encompasses two ideas: Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant, and bartaco.
Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant is a tapas bar impressed by the tradition of Spain. The menu is consistently evolving, and actually focuses on clear flavors, seasonal elements, specialties from Spain and the Mediterranean, and rustic small plate shows created by our cooks. Barcelona was based in Connecticut in 1996 and now has eating places in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
Impressed by a wholesome, outside way of life, bartaco combines recent, upscale road meals with a coastal vibe in a relaxed setting. Bartaco is specialty cocktails crafted with freshly-squeezed juices, beer out of a bottle, and hand-held meals delivered on metallic trays. There are 15 bartaco eating places in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
There’s actually an overarching character of the beverage program over each ideas. Integrity is most necessary to us – we would like to offer the absolute best cocktails, the absolute best wine, the absolute best beer, all actually with worth in thoughts. We aren’t wanting to be the “expensive” place, we’re wanting to be the worth place. That doesn’t imply “cheap,” we simply imply you’re getting nice worth in your cash.
The majority of my work is absolutely asking (and making an attempt to reply) these questions: How do I make magic occur? How do I make issues superior, and worthwhile, and make friends really feel like “wow, I just got a great deal!”?
Clearly, there are variations between the 2 ideas simply by nature. bartaco is a little tighter, and smaller in scope. This system is extra cocktail heavy, and the margarita is crucial factor on that menu. Perfecting tremendous easy drinks is essential at each ideas, however at bartaco, we’re taking very basic Tiki and south-of-the border cocktails and actually simply making them good, and crave-able. We make them actually recent, utilizing in-the-moment squeezed juices which is basically distinctive. There’s additionally a nice ice program there, which could not be one thing individuals take into consideration. We’re getting to the purpose the place we’ve all customized wines for bartaco which is thrilling. We even have a actually enjoyable craft canned beer program and a few of everybody’s favourite Mexican beers. The beverage program at bartaco is small, so we will do a lot of quantity with restricted issues. Then of course, tequila and mezcal are every little thing to us there. Because the years go on, I discover that individuals are consuming increasingly of each of these issues, which makes me actually glad.
At Barcelona, wine is absolutely the main target. The wine listing is in depth, and we would like to supply a giant selection of flavors, tons of areas and all types of tales. Our wine listing is admittedly a novel of the unimaginable issues occurring on the planet, notably in Spain and South America. There’s a pretty restricted beer program – we’re not wanting to be the geekiest beer menu on the town; extra wanting to be accessible, as a result of actually, individuals are coming in for the wine.
The cocktails at Barcelona are basic, Prohibition Period drinks. Often, you’re going to see some aspect of sherry, vermouth or port in some half of the drink (we’ve got a little bit of the old-fashioned European factor happening). The identical type of love and care goes into the drinks at Barcelona as is the case for bartaco, and there’s additionally a lot of Spanish affect there. Take the Gin & Tonic for instance, or I ought to actually say GinTonic. Being a Spanish restaurant, I don’t assume you will get away with not having a correct GinTonic on the menu. It’s for that very same purpose that we’ve got to have a margarita at bartaco!
Any ideas/tips for operating a profitable beverage program?
One is – get your priorities straight. I’m very lucky to work for a firm that basically prioritizes the visitor expertise. I’ve labored for different corporations that basically simply prioritize the P&L, relatively than working to “wow” their friends; they’re simply wanting to make it quick and easy, and in addition not likely devoting a lot of time to coaching. They do offers with giant suppliers as a result of the suppliers are prepared to print their menus if their merchandise are on the menu.
One of my tips is ensuring that each one of that’s completely not occurring. I get provided that kind of factor on a regular basis however I don’t take it. I’m not going to marry our beverage program to some provider as a result of then I gained’t give you the chance to change the menu tomorrow once I need to! The one those that matter to me, to please, are the friends, and I like the liberty to make the suitable selections that I really feel will lead us in that course.
The integrity of the beverage program is most essential. Strategy your beverage program with that in thoughts, and you will notice it come out in gross sales. Additionally, your employees will actually purchase into that. They’re not going to purchase into a cocktail menu if X beverage firm is paying you a sure greenback quantity to function their product. Coaching can also be a large half of operating a profitable beverage program, I feel. And it simply by no means stops. When you’re not creating cheerleaders for this system from inside, then it’s going nowhere. To sum it up, making all of your buying selections with integrity in thoughts and correctly and constantly coaching your employees: that may lead to success.
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