As part of our “Stocking the Perfect Bar” series, last month we covered essential spirits, elixirs, cordials, and other specialty types of liquors that can help your bar and your restaurant business flourish. This month, we asked Molly Horn, Head Bartender at Farmers Fishers Bakers in Washington, D.C., to highlight some best practices for wine lists and bar programs.
Our goal for this bar-centric series is to offer helpful guidelines to achieving higher sales and increasing the appeal of your overall bar program, while showcasing the spirits you offer, along with compelling wine lists + bar offerings – a program, if you will – for guests to enjoy the best possible bar experience in your establishment. Here are some of Molly’s recommendations:
Wine: what goes on the list? The objective here is to offer a great selection of traditional favorites that can complement most dishes, along with introducing a few new, local offerings of your choice to catch a guest’s eye or interest.
For traditional regional whites, Molly recommends these primary selections: sauvignon blanc (New Zealand, California, Bordeaux), pinot grigio (Oregon, Italy), riesling (Washington, Alsace, Germany), and chardonnay (Napa and Burgundy). As for traditional regional reds, Molly suggests: pinot noir (California, Oregon), temperanillo (Spain), malbec (California, Argentina), merlot (California, South America), cabernet sauvignon (California, Bordeaux), and zinfandel (California or Australia).
Include these traditional white and red favorites while rotating in a few unique and interesting local wines on a regular basis to add some flair and tempt guests to try a new varietal with their meal.
Beer: it’s not just about bottles anymore! A good beer program can be as simple as utilizing six dedicated draught lines and one seasonally rotating beer, to showcasing over 20 regular selections on tap at any given time. The development depends on your vision, but the most important aspect of any good beer program, says Molly, is that the beer selections reflect the integrity of the bar program as a whole. For example, if you use top-shelf spirits, take the same measures with your beer selections.
To build your beer program, Molly recommends starting with a good light beer, such as a Kolsch or a Pilsner, balanced with a big, hoppy IPA and a medium-bodied local Amber, like a good wheat-driven Hefeweisen. She also suggests adding items such as a fun, seasonal beer (like an imperial stout in the winter or a spiced ale in the fall), as well as local microbrews to support area producers and distributors. She always recommends having beers available on tap – it’s a much more economical way to receive, store, and serve your beers. But if space is an issue, consider a mix of tap lines and bottled or can selections.
The References: more to learn! Always a great go-to series for beginners, Molly suggests Wine for Dummies and Beer for Dummies, as well as Karen Macneil’s The Wine Bible.