We’re far enough into July 2020 to get a handle on what drinking trends are defining this most unusual of summers. What’s even better than knowing what trends are big right now is whether they’re going to last — and if not, what will replace them.
That’s what Adam Teeter and Zach Geballe are digging into on this week’s episode of the VinePair Podcast, using VinePair’s proprietary Insights platform to help explain which trends will stick around, and why.
For example, were you aware that the No. 1 cocktail in American right now is the Margarita? And that tequila sales are spiking? What’s the reason for that? Can we expect to see some of that excitement carry over into adjacent spirit and cocktail categories, such as light rum and the Daiquiri?
Or maybe you’ve heard that Champagne is taking a beating right now. Is there any hope for the iconic wine region and its eponymous bubbly? Tune in for answers to these questions and more.
Or Check Out Our Conversation Here
Adam: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter.
Zach: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: This is the VinePair Podcast. Zach before we get into today’s podcast, let’s talk a little bit about our favorite rum, Goslings, who is bringing you this podcast. It’s a secret blend of three different distillates, each aged separately in once-used charred oak bourbon barrels. Goslings Black Seal Rum is the key ingredient in Bermuda’s national drink, which you and I spoke about a little bit early, about a month ago, the Dark ‘n Stormy. It was originally offered in Champagne bottles sealed with black wax, from whence comes its name.
Z: Spoiler alert for upcoming episodes, it’s good that they no longer need to use empty Champagne bottles because there’s a lack of them on the market right now.
A: There is. It’s a dark rum that still possesses the same, smooth, rich, intricate flavor as the original flavor from the 1850s. It’s still slowly aged in small batches, and it was awarded the highest award, the Platinum Medal, in the Beverage Tasting Institute. For a limited time, you can use code VinePair at checkout at Reservebar.com and you’ll get $15 off your Goslings rum order. I’m definitely going to have to make a Dark ‘n Stormy later.
Z: Oh, man. I might need one too after this podcast.
A: Zach, Erica is out on vacation this week. So, it is just you and me, like old times.
Z: Oh my gosh. Vacation? What is that? I forget.
A: I know. She went to a home that she’s rented in previous years in the Catskills, which is a very lovely place in upstate New York, so she’s having a good time.
Z: I’m pretty sure she’s not missing us at all if her Instagram feed is to be believed.
A: Exactly. It looks like she’s had some nice meals. She saw bear cubs. She’s had a good time.
Z: Yeah! So, here’s a question for you that this prompts. Let’s say you are in possession of a very specific kind of magic where you can safely travel wherever you want and be reasonably safe. Where would you most want to be in the U.S.?
A: In the U.S.? I was hoping you’d ask that. If you said the world it would be hard. Geez.
Z: I mean right now. Not any time of year.
A: Are restaurants open or not?
Z: You can dine outside. It’s not fully back to normal. You’ve got to fold into that that you don’t necessarily want to go somewhere that’s known for its many great, crowded nightclubs if that would be your choice. You can have a nice meal that would be presumably outside or something like that at least.
A: Honestly, I think I would go to the Outer Banks, in North Carolina, because I like to be at the beach. Although everything happening in the South right now scares me in terms of the levels. If we’re still saying we’re in Covid times, I don’t know if that’s where I would go. Or, the area of the country where Erica has gone. The Catskills area is very cool. There’s a lot of really amazing restaurants and things happening. There is some outdoor dining happening. There’s still water. For me, I want to have access to water. That’s summer for me. I would hope that whatever house I rented had a pool. The only reason I wouldn’t say the western coast of the U.S. is that I’m assuming I still have to drive there.
A: That’s too long of a drive. I am thinking about a vacation potentially in August, going down to either Virginia or Maryland. Something like the wine country area of Virginia. I’ve talked to a couple of producers about visiting them. I’ve been looking at rental properties for a week with Naomi. I don’t know if that’s something that I’ll end up feeling comfortable doing. Right now, I’m at least thinking about it. I would meet my parents. They would come up halfway. Who knows? What about you?
Z: The place that’s near that I would want to go to is the Oregon coast, especially a little bit further south, not all the way down to California, but closer to the border. It’s really beautiful there. It’s a little bit warmer than the Washington coast, which can also be lovely this time of year. It feels far enough away that it’s special. There are also some amazing golf courses out there, which is one of the few things that I will be doing this summer to have some outdoor enjoyment. That was my trip. It’s also the kind of place where you can find places to rent that have full kitchens. With a kid, it’s hard to think about dining out as being anything other than incredibly stressful. It already is with a child, and then when you add Covid on top of it, it’s just not worth it to me.
A: Is that area of the Oregon coast, it is “Goonies” land, like we discussed with Dan?
Z: Not far from there.
A: Interesting. I think the idea of being close to water or near something, a place where you can get fresh stuff, that’s also the appeal of places like the Catskills. They have all this fresh trout. Where my wife is from in Lancaster, Pa., is also a pretty cool place to get away for a little while because it’s a nice town with really good restaurants. We wrote an article about Lancaster being this big foodie destination for chefs and spirits writers recently. They have the country’s oldest farmers’ market.
A: It’s really cool. It’s right in the center of town. It’s in an actual food hall. It’s the oldest and longest operating market in the country.
A: I never realized this. It’s actually the country’s breadbasket, they say, east of the Mississippi. There’s all this fertile land. There’s tons of farms. If you’re a New Yorker listening to this podcast, you probably wonder why you see, “These tomatoes were from Lancaster County. This chicken is from Lancaster County. This meat is from Lancaster County.” It’s a really fertile area. It’s really cool. There’s a lot of things to do outdoors. You could go to some restaurants, but if you were looking for just access to really great food supplies so that you could cook yourself, you’d have that access, which makes it great.
Z: I’m just fond of Lancaster, Pa., because that’s where I was from on my fake Pennsylvania ID that I used in college.
A: That’s hilarious.
Z: I don’t remember my exact address. For years I had it memorized, in case someone asked. Yes, I was from Lancaster, PA, according to my ID.
A: Speaking of fake IDs, have you seen all these news reports that this is a hot time for people to be buying underage alcohol because they’re wearing masks? People can’t tell if they’re actually the face on the ID or not.
Z: These are the things that do give me hope for the future. Right? You know what, take this opportunity to make yourself look 70 years old, wear a mask, and yeah, go buy your $11 bottle of vodka. Have fun.
A: It’s hilarious. I’ve seen it. Look, I don’t support underage drinking, although I did partake in it. It’s just very funny. You always find a way. Let’s get into today’s topic which is talking a lot about the trends we’ve been seeing. I know you know this, and some of our listeners might be aware: Nine months ago, we launched this product as a part of the VinePair platform called VinePair Insights. If you’re more interested in learning about it, you can email [email protected] or [email protected]. We’re more than happy to tell you more about it. The way the product works is that it pulls in 225,000 data points a day, in addition to 800 million data points from Google every year. It’s well over a billion data points that we’re looking at every year to predict trends in the alcohol beverage market. Looking at 65 different categories of wine, beer, and spirits, we look at where demand will be. We knew that we had this larger readership, so we thought we could use that to help understand what’s happening in the industry. Right now, all the industry really has is sales data. We don’t really have a lot of demand data. As we’ve discussed previously, if there’s a demand for a product, when a product is in the market, you would never see that reflected in Nielsen data. If the product wasn’t there for people to buy then you would never know that it’s something that people want. This data shows you what people want, which is cool. There’s a lot of things we’ve been noticing since Covid, and I thought it would be fun to take this time to talk about some of the biggest trends we’re seeing, and try to understand why those trends are.
Z: It’s like back to the really old days, before Erica came in with all her facts and sourced data. We just talked about whatever we wanted to. This is just us shooting the sh*t. I like it.
A: Exactly. I figured it would be interesting to go through some of the things that we’re seeing and talk about where the opportunities are based on those things, what the causes are, and if we think they’re turning around. The biggest thing, which is interesting, is that the Margarita has become the cocktail of the year. It’s always been one of the most popular cocktails in America. Tequila, as a spirit, has become far and away the No. 1 spirit in America in terms of demand. We’ve seen double-digit growth since April. It’s continuing. It doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. This would be the time of year when you’d start to slowly see a shift into the brown spirits, at least into the next month. We don’t see that happening, at least based on the data. That’s really interesting. I’ve always known that tequila is something that’s very popular in America. It’s crazy to see that it’s taken this much of a boost from the fact that Covid has existed. I’m curious. What do you think is this reason for that? I think back to an episode of this podcast we did almost two months ago at this point, talking about what we expected to see in the summer. All of us were on board with the idea of some combination of fruit, blended drinks, and spirits like tequila, and I would’ve thought lighter rums would’ve been in this category in particular, things that people associate with summer and with escapism. So much of what we’re seeing in everything, is that most of us are house-bound or nearly house-bound. If we’re traveling, we’re traveling locally. We’re not getting on a plane and going to the Caribbean. We’re not getting on a plane and going to the Pacific Islands. We’re not going to Hawaii. All these things that people in our minds we associate with tropical, summary exoticism. It makes total sense to me that those things are booming. The other part of this is something we’ll see continue through all of these trends in some sense, is the Margarita at its core, a pretty easy drink to make. It’s pretty hard to mess up too badly. Even if you don’t get your ratios right, it’s a pretty forgiving cocktail. That’s a huge deal when you’ve got people who are suddenly facing their cocktail consumption being largely at home. I can’t say it surprises me when I think back on it, but I don’t know that I would’ve expected tequila and the Margarita to be the clear winner in this category.
A: Another point from the data is that we didn’t see rum start to grow until June. In those early months when tequila was still exploding, so April and May especially, rum was actually down year-over-year. Demand for rum started to grow in June. Now we’re seeing it up 15 percent year-over-year. It continues to expand. I think that will continue to grow as well, predictively. It is interesting that tequila came earlier and has sustained that growth longer and continues to see growth trends. You’re right. A lot of it has to do with escapism. For me, it also can’t just be about the beach. I, like you, think a lot of people do think of rum cocktails when it comes to the beach. I think that may also be reinforced when we discuss what we also thought about when we discussed frozen cocktails a few months ago, which is that they are difficult to make. They are intimidating to a lot of people. I’ve tried to make frozen cocktails a few times this summer, and I feel like every time I haven’t nailed it. I just want to be back at a bar where they have an actual slushy machine, and they can make it with the proper consistency, so that it’s still delicious. Sometimes my ice is too chunky. Sometimes it’s too watery. As you’ve said, the Margarita is a fairly simple cocktail to make. There’s a lot of variations. That’s what’s very interesting to people about the Margarita. It can be spicy. It can be heavier on the triple sec or the Cointreau. You can go super high and use Grand Marnier. You can add different fruits to it. You can have a Watermelon Margarita, a Peach Margarita, a Blueberry Margarita, or a Blackberry Margarita. There’s so much to it that I think that’s what’s allowed it to explode in the way that it has. I think there are certain recipes of the Margarita where the tequila is extremely important. A Tommy’s Margarita is one of those. That’s why I’ve been drawn to it so much over the last few months. There’s a little bit of agave. It’s really about the quality of the tequila and lime juice. That’s it. It’s much more in its pure form in the same way you can tell if it’s a good rum or a bad rum in a perfect Daiquiri. A lot of these Margaritas that we’re talking about, these super-spicy Margaritas, where you’re taking three jalapeños to the face, or some of these crazy blueberry-watermelon Margarita versions, the tequila doesn’t matter as much. There’s less intimidation of buying the right brands. There’s less pressure of buying the right brand or style. You just take the tequila on hand, find a recipe, and done. That’s what makes it so appealing to so many different people.
Z: There’s also this other factor going on. If you are at the grocery store, a liquor store, or shopping online, there’s this thing that happens with people where they see that they need to get liquor. Maybe they like vodka, gin, a brand of whiskey or a specific kind. Tequila is the kind of thing you see and you think, “Should we get a bottle of tequila?” Someone inevitably goes, “Well, I like Margaritas.” The reason that tequila has had that and rum hasn’t is that it doesn’t have the drink that immediately jumps out. I love a Daiquiri. In some ways I prefer a Daiquiri to a Margarita. I’m definitely not the average drinker. For me, I can think of a lot of applications for a bottle of rum. A Rum and Coke, that’s not something everyone wants to drink. As we’ve heard from lots of people we’ve had come on the podcast and talk about rum, that’s really not the optimal way to enjoy it. The question for people is, it’s harder to make that transition. Maybe what we’re seeing now is people have gotten more comfortable and interested in trying new things. Rum is the next logical stepping stone. That’s why it took until June and July for sales to pick up. Whereas tequila, you have the Margarita. If you ask people to name cocktails, it’s going to be one of the first ones that almost everyone names. That makes sense to me that that’s been where the average person has been comfortable branching out or continuing to buy.
A: Another point of data that has been really interesting to watch is what’s happened to Champagne. This is not just reflected in demand data. It’s also being reflected in sales data. Although, I think our demand data is showing that this isn’t going to be let up any time soon. Champagne continues to plummet. There’s very little demand whatsoever out there for Champagne. It’s depressing for a lot of people, especially people who work in that side of the business. It’s been hard on some companies that rely on Champagne for a good portion of their revenue. It’s sad that it doesn’t seem to be turning around any time soon, and it may not until the holidays. It just all depends on where we are as a country when it comes to Covid and whether we feel like celebrating at all this year or not.
Z: I was going to say, it may be Nov. 3 for some of us.
A: Oh, right! Exactly. Exactly. Although, I’m not going to make that mistake again this year because my wife still blames me. She says I jinxed the election.
Z: That makes sense. That’s definitely within your power.
A: I did get bottles of Champagne, and I had them ready to go. I was so excited that we were going to elect her, and it didn’t happen. My wife said we never should’ve had the Champagne. We got ahead of ourselves.
Z: Is Naomi a sports fan? Man, she sounds too much like me as a sports fan.
A: She said, “We should’ve done it. I knew we should’ve done it. We were so excited.” We looked at the polling data! Who knows if it’ll turn around? We’ve used a few theories before on the podcast. We talked about the lack of celebration. Do you think that’s really why it’s not turning around still? Is it just that people still don’t want to celebrate? At the end of the day, there are some decently affordable Champagnes, especially given a price point that people are still paying for other things that we still see them willing to pay for. Why is Champagne not rebounding at all?
Z: There’s a couple of reasons here. The first one I’m going to throw out is just making sh*t up. I apologize if I’m totally wrong. It’s just a hunch. One part of the challenge for Champagne, is that people are scared to open bottles of Champagne. The actually sparkling wine bottles. Maybe this isn’t backed up because they’re still going through the same amount of Prosecco, Cava, and all of that. There’s something a little intimidating about opening a sparkling wine bottle at home if you’re not used to doing it. It feels explosive, literally. That may be something that makes people uncomfortable, in a small enough way that when they’re at the store, and they’re deciding what they want to buy, or they’re about to check out online, they may go, “Well, maybe I don’t want that bottle of sparkling wine. I’ll buy a bottle of Cabernet instead, or two bottles of rosé. The other part to this comes back to the celebratory aspect. The other part is, you open a bottle of Champagne, and this is true for all sparkling wines, but I think that unless you have a sparkling wine stopper, it’s harder to re-cork. You can’t re-cork a bottle of Champagne with a Champagne cork. You have to put another cork in it, preferably an actual stopper that’s designed for sparkling wine to keep it around if you’re not going to drink it all. While you and I can probably go through a bottle of wine with our families, no problem, in a given evening, for a lot of people, that’s not what they’re doing on a weekday basis. Again, a sparkling wine bottle, especially an expensive sparkling wine bottle, like Champagne, feels like, “Am I really going to drink that?” It’s a wine that I want to share with eight other people, not a bottle I want to have by myself or with my significant other.
A: I do actually think as I’ve looked at this data, that it really is all tied to this amazing branding and marketing that Champagne has done over this last, you know, multi-decades century, that has connected it to being this premium brand that is for good times and celebrations. Prosecco is growing. I think this is an opportunity for Prosecco to get in front of people even more aggressively than it has before. Prosecco is a product that can be consumed on its own but it’s also a product that works really well in a lot of these refreshing summer cocktails that make you feel like you’re escaping. I do think that a lot of people don’t really associate Champagne with escape as much as some sort of monumental occurrence in their lives. I have memories of drinking a spritz in Italy. I have memories of having a glass of Prosecco sitting outside somewhere. I don’t really with Champagne. With Champagne, it’s always been because of an anniversary, or someone graduated from a doctoral program or masters program.
Z: Or you’re stuck going out with a bunch of sommeliers.
A: Well, I don’t do that very often. That doesn’t happen. Also, Champagne is expensive. The reason I brought that up is because there are a lot of sections of the wine business and the alcohol business in general that, even during Covid, are growing and doing fine. You look at the two sectors of wine that are still continuing to expand in the off-premise, and it’s wines that are $20 or $25, and wines that are $25 plus. Maybe some people would be willing to trade up once in a while for Champagne, but I think it really does boil down to the fact that you only trade up for that when it feels like the good times are rolling. Right now the good times really aren’t rolling. What would be the reason to open that wine? Besides, yes, you being out with sommeliers who are saying it’s the greatest wine ever to exist in the world and we should drink lots of it. Besides that, you’re really not seeing it. I’m sure that means that there are a lot of people getting really great deals on Champagne right now, or there’s probably allocations that used to exist that probably don’t right now. There’s just so much of it not being consumed. It’s very interesting. It’s one of these products that’s done such an amazing job of positioning itself in a way that should always be a strength. This is one of those times when we’ve never seen a global pandemic before. You just couldn’t plan for it. There’s no one that thinks that there’s good times happening. Maybe a few people, but not a lot.
Z: Definitely not here in the U.S. Maybe Champagne sales are doing OK in Europe at this point.
A: Right, exactly. Another thing that I think has been interesting to look at is the continued growth. You know what I’m going to say, of hard seltzer. It just isn’t stopping. I also find that to be really interesting. I have a few theories on that as well that I think are reinforced by things we’ve already seen. It’s propping up the entire beer category at this point. It’s hard seltzer’s growth that’s continuing to allow for a lot of these breweries to be OK in a Covid world. It’s crazy, and something I think no one thought was going to be possible a year ago. Even in the fall, people were saying, “This can’t last.” Our data showed that it was going to last, but you had a lot of people writing pieces in publications that are not ours saying, oh, it was going to die, be a phase, or go quiet in the winter. And it never did. I think that now there’s certain things happening in our world that are reinforcing why people are choosing seltzer instead of other things. I’m curious. Have you drunk any seltzer in quarantine? Or are you a seltzer person at all at this point?
Z: Not the hard seltzer. I just finished a can of LaCroix as we were recording here, as I muted my mic. For a lot of people, there’s just a lot of emphasis on comfort and on ease when it comes to alcohol at this time. Again, one of hard seltzer’s greatest strengths is that literally all you have to do is open the can and drink it. It’s something that you could drink at 2 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. You can drink it at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday night. You can probably drink it on a Zoom all if you pour it into a glass. It looks like you’re having a regular seltzer.
Z: It’s the anti-Champagne. It doesn’t have any one specific use case. You can drink it any time. For people shopping right now, that’s really important. I did an interview with Jake Kirsch, the guy who’s the VP of innovation at Anheuser-Busch.
A: Yeah, that was a good interview.
Z: Thank you! It ran last week. We were talking about a lot of things that his job involves. One of the things that he was talking about was that even more than before, they’re seeing a ton of demand for variety packs when it comes to hard seltzer. It’s no surprise. It’s the same thing with non-alcoholic seltzer. People want to be able to have things on hand that are really easy. You just have it on hand and pull it out of the fridge and pull it out a couple of hours later. It gives a few options. They’re super simple, predictable, and safe. For most of us, if we’re going to do drinking outdoors, whether it normally would have been at a restaurant or bar or patio, or in the outdoors more generally, that’s seltzer’s sweet spot, even if it does well year-round. It’s going to be in those outdoor settings. People are still hiking around here at least. This is the prime use case for this drink. People are definitely still trying to do those things as much as they can, when it’s permitted and where it’s possible. I’m not surprised. Is there anything in the data you find that’s surprising?
A: Not surprising. I’m not surprised that seltzer is surging. I think there’s other reasons besides the ones you mentioned, which are good and valid. It’s also worth mentioning that the variety pack seltzer is the No. 1 SKU for almost every seltzer producer, which most people wouldn’t realize. It’s interesting that most consumers aren’t going out and saying, “Oh, I love Black Cherry, and I want a full Black Cherry pack.” Most people want that variety, which is really interesting. I actually think a lot of it has to do with calories. The people that I’ve talked to that have become really avid seltzer drinkers, and it almost always comes down to calories, especially in Covid, where a lot of us are less active than we used to be. For me, my daily commute was walking a little over a half mile to get to a subway to get on, then walking a little over a half mile from that subway stop to my office was a mile walk in the morning, a mile walk home. I usually ran errands. I was probably walking two-and-a-half or three miles every day, just getting to work and doing stuff. I was carrying bags. Other people were running more. You also have a lot of people in certain places of the country, especially where mask-wearing is mandatory as it should be, who aren’t running as much because they don’t want to wear a mask when they run. It’s uncomfortable. Then you’re watching increases for these apps like Peloton, and people bring that into their home, thinking about trying to exercise in whatever way they can. People are drinking more regularly. They’re not just drinking two nights a week, or four nights a weeks, they’re drinking seven nights a week. Some of those nights, people are wanting to watch the calories going into their bodies. People are going for hard seltzer instead. I do think that’s playing a huge part in a lot of people’s decision to look at that. Again, it’s one of these benefits that seltzer always knew that that was going to be one of its sort of key selling factors when it came on the market, was this calorie count. Again, a benefit that they’re now seeing, it’s why they’re selling more than a lot of other products. It’s very clear that it is this low-calorie product that gets you just buzzed enough to take the edge off, but not too buzzed. It doesn’t make you feel as guilty as if you pounded a double IPA, or finished a bottle of wine. It doesn’t make you feel that way in a lot of ways. People are really paying attention to it, which is interesting. You’re going to see more. Watch. You’re going to see a lot more calorie-conscious drinks products come out in the next year or so because this is proving a huge point, that a lot of this country cares about that.
Z: As you pointed out, that was the case even pre-Covid. Now, for so many of us with our routines around fitness, around dining and eating, all of those things being so disrupted, it’s definitely the case that that’s something that’s higher on everyone’s mind, or more everyone’s mind. Given what the scale said this morning, I might need to start incorporating some of this hard seltzer.
A: Think about it! Even if you don’t live in a place where you walk to work like we do here in New York, you probably had a gym routine or something that’s been completely changed because most gyms are closed.
Z: I used to spend my work nights on the floor or a restaurant walking around. I definitely have noticed the lack of that amount of activity affecting my health in various ways.
A: This is our last data point for the conversation. That’s why I think it’s really exploded, on top of all the other things. It’s tasty, there’s a variety there. It speaks of summer and being outdoors. It’s easy. You can hide it during Zoom calls. All of that. I really think that this idea of health when all of us are also making sourdough bread is why people are really embracing it the way they have. Well, Zach, this has been really interesting again. I think in three months we can revisit this. With Erica back from vacation we can visit some other data points. If this is data that’s interesting to you, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected] if you’re really interested in the data and getting more access to it. There’s a lot of stuff that we’re seeing that’s really instructive as to what people could be doing to take advantage of a market that’s very volatile at this point in time.
A: Alright, man! I will talk to you next week when Erica is back. Until then, be well. Have a great weekend. For those listening to this on Monday, I hope you had a great weekend. We will see you again next week!
Z: Sounds great.
A: Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair Podcast. If you enjoy listening to us every week please leave us a review or rating on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever it is that you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show. Now for the credits: Now, for the credits. VinePair is produced and hosted by Zach Geballe, Erica Duecy, and me: Adam Teeter. Our engineer is Nick Patri and Keith Beavers. I’d also like to give a special shout out to my VinePair co-founder Josh Malin and the rest of the VinePair team for their support. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you again right here next week. The VinePair Podcast this week was sponsored by Goslings Rum. A secret blend of three different distillates, each aged separately in once-used, charred oak bourbon barrels, Goslings is the key ingredient for Bermuda’s national drink, the Dark ‘n Stormy. Originally offered in Champagne bottles sealed with black wax, from whence comes its name, this deep, dark rum still possesses the same, smooth, rich, intricate flavor as the original recipe from the 1850s. It’s still slowly aged in small batches, and Black Seal Rum was awarded the highest honor, the Platinum Medal, from the Beverage Tastings Institute. For a limited time, you can use code VinePair at checkout on Reservebar.com for $15 off your Goslings rum order.
Ed. note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.