This episode of the VinePair Podcast is sponsored by Tequila Ocho. Tequila Ocho is the world’s first single-estate tequila. Growing and harvesting only the very ripest agave’s from their family owned fields in the Highlands of Jalisco, one field harvested for each of their annual vintages. Where some take shortcuts, Ocho is made in the old-fashioned way and takes care to ensure maximum agave flavor in your glass. Every expression is certified 100 percent additive free, underlining the purity and nobility of this magical tequila.
Let’s face it: When we look back at 2020, Covid-19 and the seismic effect it had on the world will be the thing we most remember. The many ways that the drinks industry has changed as a result of Covid, as well as some changes that happened before March and the spread of Covid-19, also deserve to be remembered. From the sudden need for every cocktail lover to invest in their home bartending set-ups, to the explosion of takeout, delivery, and ready-to-drink cocktails, from tariffs once looking like the biggest threat to the drinks industry to multiple scandals rocking the Court of Master Sommeliers, it was an eventful year to be sure.
That’s what Adam Teeter and Zach Geballe dive into on this week’s episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” a look back at the major stories, trends, challenges, and even success stories that defined 2020. Plus, hear from the entire VinePair team about their favorite drinks of this most ignominious year.
Or Check Out the Conversation Online
Adam: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter.
Zach: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” And Zach, we’re at the end.
Z: Oh my God.
A: This is the last podcast of 20 motherf****** 20.
Z: I look forward to never saying the numbers 20 and 20 consecutively again, except in regard to my vision.
A: Is “20/20” still on the air? The Barbara (Walters), “This is 20/20.” Because I feel at this point, it has to be canceled.
A: No one wants anything to do with 2020. Also, I don’t know if you saw this amazing ad that was put up by I think the Mental Health Association today, there was an ad that said, “f*** 2020” and all these people saying, “f*** 2020” over and over again. F*** 2020. So, yes. I feel that way. I’m sorry if you’re really offended that I curse, but f*** 2020.
Z: Have you ever listened to his podcasts before?
A: I know seriously, but before we get into everything, a word from our sponsor of the last podcast of 2020, Tequila Ocho. And it is magical, as you’ve all listened to past episodes. Thank you so much Tequila Ocho for sponsoring. Yeah man, I definitely will drink some tequila in the next week or so. I plan to drink a little bit on New Year’s Eve, but I’m curious not only what you’re drinking now, but since this is the last episode of the year, what you drank this past week, I’d also love to know what you are planning to drink for New Year’s Eve. But first, what have you drunk up until now?
Z: I think the two most exciting things that I’ve had recently: One was, I taught a fortified wine class this past week and the plus and the minus to teach in a class like that is, there’s always leftovers for me. And the one thing about fortifieds is that they last, right? Typically for me, when I teach a class, it’s that night or the next night that my wife and I have to drink what we’re going to drink, or just give it up. With fortifieds, you have much more leeway depending on what you have. And so to me, the big thing that I have rediscovered, because I’m sure I’ve had it in the past, is I made a white Negroni. One of the things that I poured for this class was a manzanilla sherry. So this white Negroni was equal parts gin, manzanilla sherry, and white vermouth. And it is f****** delicious. What’s cool about it to me is, whereas the classic Negroni goes in that pretty bitter, citrusy, orangey realm, a dark Negroni, which I also really like, which uses amaro, tends to get even more bitter, earthy, kind of nutty quality. This white Negroni, the dominant flavor, besides the standard gin flavors, is a salty, briny, it’s fun. It’s a little nutty as well, but not in the way that an amaro-based nuttiness would come through, more like almond skin. I really enjoyed it. Then the other thing that I had was some Madeira, because it was also part of the class. Some 10 Year Old Bual. Even I, who love it, don’t drink it very often because how often do I really want Madeira? But it is one of those things where everything about it, from the crazy growing conditions on the island of Madeira, to the history is very cool, and I enjoy it and I hope that Madeira sales continue to exist so that people will keep making it because I would be kind of sad if they didn’t. What about you? What have you been into? And then I’ll come back. You tell me what you’ve been drinking then I’ll tell you what I got planned for New Year’s Eve.
A: Sure. First, I do want you to send me that white Negroni recipe.
Z: I will, I’ll post on the website.
A: Yeah. I’m very curious, man. ‘Cause maybe I’ll try to make that in the next few days. Gosh, what have I been drinking? So I have been doing this thing where I took a detox for the last few days, just getting ready for the push for the next week. I definitely have not been drinking, actually. But prior to that, and I guess everyone’s listening to this post-Christmas holiday. I do plan to drink a few nice things. We’re recording this the Wednesday before. I do plan to drink a few nice things, but that’s not what you asked me. You asked me what I’ve been drinking. What have I been drinking? Actually, I had this really fun thing where my wife and I, on Saturday night, we recreated our version of going out for Mexican food. We made a bunch of different Mexican food and then had a Margarita tasting. So I made three different Margaritas with the different tequilas and different ingredients. And that was really fun. It was like it would be on a menu. I’m really extra, so therefore it’s probably a little bit more than most people do, but that was super fun. And then on Sunday, I met up with a friend whose birthday it was and we did some freezing cold outdoor dining. But we went outside to split a bottle of wine and have some light bites. And I had this really cool orange wine from Soave, made from Garganega. It was weird, I’m going to totally butcher the winery’s name, but it was Angiolino Maule. And Sassaia was the wine and it was amazing. It was perfect because we had the person whose birthday it was, she’s really just a white wine drinker. But then it was cold and we were looking for something that had some body to it and that could really stand up to some of the different light bites you were getting. And so I saw there were some orange wines on the list. I talked to the guy that owned the restaurant. There’s actually this just really cute pasta restaurant in Fort Greene. We were talking to him for a while, and he was like, “look, this producer is really great. They’re not really well known.” And so I was like, “OK, well, I trust you. You’re Lorina Pacifica, you have amazing wines and delicious food, let’s do it.” And it was really, really great. And again, who knew that they were making orange wine in Soave?
Z: I sure didn’t but that’s super exciting. I’ll have to see one of these days if I can check that out. That would be cool.
A: Probably some f****** hipster. Anyways, so what are you drinking on New Year’s Eve?
Z: Well, typically, New Year’s Eve is this weird combination of things for me. New Year’s Eve is typically in the restaurant, one of our busiest nights. And last year, I was just thinking about this the other day, last year I was preparing for a very busy dinner service. And I was opening some large-format older wines that we had been sitting on for quite some time, and we had built this whole menu. And this year, my New Year’s Eve is going to be me and my wife and my son. And honestly, I might not even make it to midnight ‘cause I don’t really care to. But it’s also complicated because New Year’s Eve is also my birthday. And so we will still probably not be doing very much. I think we’re going to invite, if the weather isn’t terrible, a few friends and family to stand in our driveway at a safe distance and like have a glass with us in the afternoon.
A: That’s nice.
Z: But yeah, honestly, I haven’t exactly figured out what I’m going to make for dinner, which will go a long way to determining. But I am sure that there will be sparkling wine, knowing my wife and I. I’m also a little bit on the fence, I think I might make some eggnog. I’ve been telling my wife that I will make it for, frankly, years. This might be the year to do it, because what the hell else am I going to do with my time but make and drink eggnog?
A: If you’re going to make the eggnog, you should follow the Aaron Goldfarb model, and you should make it tomorrow and you should age it.
Z: Yeah. I’ve been thinking of that. I was like, “well maybe I’ll make enough that I can age a little bit of it in the back of the fridge and come back to it in three to six months.” Because we had a conversation about that, what feels like a lifetime ago, but maybe this time last year.
A: Yeah, he’s like a huge proponent of it. And I think it really does work. He did talk about it in The New York Times. I do think it’s a really interesting idea that like the eggnog gets better as it sits and all that stuff. So for me, obviously, I’m going to drink sparkling wine. At least one or two bottles. I have a few that I set aside. One being a bottle of Blanc de Blancs Pierre Peters that I’m really excited about.
Z: Always a good one.
A: Always a good one, right? But then, I’m trying to figure it out. So we decided what we’re going to do this year, which is different than years before. Naomi and I, in order to try to help support restaurants, are gonna order in. So normally, I always cook on New Year’s Eve, right? It’s too crazy for me to go out to restaurants. I mean, as someone who does not work in the industry now, but knows the industry well, it’s not a night that I want to be there. It’s just, as you said, it’s insane. So I’ve always cooked. But this year, we’re going to order it. I’m trying to figure out from where and what to do. And so I haven’t really thought a lot more about what I’m going to drink because I really haven’t figured out what I’m going to eat. But I definitely know we’re going to order in, so we’ll figure that out. I mean, obviously there’s like some insane things happening in New York. I think 11 Madison Park is doing a duck dinner that’s $450 per person that you can order in. Yeah, definitely not doing that. I would also like to support restaurants in my area. So waiting to see what places like Olmsted and things like that are doing. And Vinegar Hill House and whatever. So we’ll see. And then I’ll figure out what I drink. We’ve got something really fun, before we get into the year-end review conversations. So for those that listen to podcasts, you may be aware that we launched VP Pro. VP Pro is the email newsletter that is specifically designed for people in the trade — whether you work on the producer side or you work on the server side, right? So you’re on the floor, you’re a bartender, you’re a somm, you’re a server, you’re an owner, or you are someone who is a maker, right? So you’re a producer, you’re an executive, whatever. VP Pro covers the gamut of the business of alcohol. We’ve launched this really cool newsletter along with all the content. That’s the VP Pro newsletter that you can sign up for. Just go to VP Pro on VinePair to sign up. And if you refer three friends and they also sign up, then you can ask a question that we’ll answer on the podcast. So we have a question right now from Liz Barrett, who is a CSW, and she asks us this Zach: “Why do you think tequila sales are en fuego right now compared to sales increases for other spirits?”
Z: Well Liz and everyone else, I think this is a question that will actually kind of feed us nicely into the rest of the conversation about the year in review. But I think one thing that we definitely have seen from the early days of the pandemic through I think still till now, is that while people have sort of shifted a lot of their consumption home, obviously necessarily, they’ve done so in piecemeal ways. And one of the things I think we’ve seen, in the early days of Covid and through till now is people stocking up on and going back to things that they’re relatively comfortable with. We discussed this in a podcast a couple of weeks ago with Jesse Estes, about the familiarity that people in this country have with tequila. Most everyone in the U.S. has experiences with tequila, certainly early in their legal drinking age, if not before. And I think it makes total sense. I think it has two components that people love. It’s familiar but it also feels a little bit like a vacation. You, yourself Adam, were just talking about making three different Margaritas at home on what I’m imagining was a cold-ass December evening. And that is the kind of thing that tequila can do for you, that a lot of other spirits can’t do. It can help provide that transportation. And the Margarita, in particular, is a familiar drink to almost everyone and not super difficult to recreate at home. And that gives it a leg up on some of its brethren in the spirits field. I don’t know. Do you have other thoughts beyond that?
A: I do think tequila, in a lot of ways, has gotten past its reputation as being that cheap s*** you drank in college. There are so many high-quality tequilas on the market now. I think whether this is correct or not, there is a perception of a health halo there — that it is a better spirit for you than other spirits. That it’s cleaner, that it is less likely to give you a hangover. I will be the first to tell you that for me, personally, tequila does give me a hangover less than other spirits. I don’t know why. Maybe I just drink less of it when I do drink it. But for the most part, if I am out drinking tequila and get a little tipsy, I don’t feel that terrible the next day. Whereas if I drink a lot of heavy brown spirits, I do. I do tend to drink blancos and reposados when I drink tequila, I’m not heavy, “like, let’s drink añejos”. Maybe if I was dealing with that, I’d have the same impact. This isn’t an endorsement that I think tequila is healthier, but I do think that there is that perception of the market. And I think then the one thing that’s really true that you nailed, is the vacation of the glass. I think that is 100 percent what is fueling a lot of this. It’s this idea that it reminds you of a place that is beautiful and warm and that has a delicious cuisine and that is just completely different than what you’re experiencing now. And I think tequila is prime to be a massive spirit for a very long time in the U.S. I don’t think it will anytime soon overtake whiskey and whatever. But who knows? It’s still to be determined for sure. I think that there are just so many people that love this spirit. So hopefully that answers your question, Liz.
Z: I want to add one last thing, which you kind of touched on, but I think this is relevant to the upcoming conversation. And that is you’re right. There is now in the marketplace in the last few years, there are recognizable and identifiable premium and ultra-premium brands for people. And one of the trends of 2020 for sure was premiumization. God, that word is hard to say. Five or 10 years ago, it was hard to find for most people premium tequilas, especially at their grocery store or local liquor shop or whatever. Now, there are many of them. Often, they’re associated with celebrities, but even the ones that are not, are more recognizable to people. And therefore, for the person who in March or April was like, “let me just get my cheap, everyday tequila.” And then in June, July or August was like, “you know what? I want to step up.” Tequila was better positioned to do that in 2020 than it had been in previous years. And so I think that’s the other piece of it that that’s relevant here.
A: Agreed. So, alright, man. Let’s get into this year in review. Next week, obviously those listening, we’re going to do our predictions for 2021. I feel so much better to say that date than 2020. But f*** you 2020, it’s time to talk about you, s*** year. So, year in review. I think the biggest thing to kick off with this is the perfect segue to talk about, which is at-home bartending. No one expected this to be to happen this year, right? No one expected Covid. I think in our conversation, Covid is going to sort of be in the background the whole time. None of us need to do a Covid recap segment in this conversation, right? I’m like, “holy s***, Covid.” But I do think that it changed a lot of behaviors and one of the biggest things that changed was at-home drinking and especially at-home cocktail making. One only needs to look at the exploding sale of vermouth to realize that as a proxy, to realize that people are drinking and making cocktails at home a lot more. But what has really been interesting when we look at the VinePair insights data is that while vermouth has exploded and not just in sales, right? I’m talking about traffic to the VinePair site, where people are reading about vermouth content, are trying to learn about vermouth, or are looking for the cocktails you would make that include vermouth, right? If you look at the traffic to our cocktail library, which is up by hundreds of percentage points in Covid, the top cocktails are getting traffic and have two, three, or four ingredients, right? So at-home mixology is booming, but still for the simple classic cocktails, right? The Old-Fashioned, the Manhattans, the Martinis. These are all in the top 10, by the way. The Martinis, the Daiquiris, right? Lime juice, simple rum, vermouth, gin, right? Vermouth, Angostura bitters, rye. That’s what people are looking for. So, while I think that at-home mixology is going to continue post a sh**** 2020, and probably has caused a lot of people to realize they can make really good drinks at home, I do still think that doesn’t mean that they won’t go out for the more complex drinks, right? No one made tiki at home this year. Right? Well, maybe some people did, but most people didn’t. No one made their own bitters or again, maybe some but not most people. And then also their own flavored syrups and all this stuff to create crazy concoctions. There’s not a ton of people smoking cocktails. I think with all of that, the height of high-end bartending will be what people go out for. But I wouldn’t be surprised that people are now comparing the Negroni that they have out to the one they make at home. Or the Manhattan out to the one they make it home. Which is going to be different, right? And it’s going to also make sure that everyone, when we go back to bars, ups their game. I think that that trend has been amazing to watch over the last year. And no one expected it to come.
Z: For sure. For sure. And I think you and I will touch on this next week when we do predictions for 2021. So I’m going to try and be backwards looking for now. But know that yes, I agree with you. And well, I have some more thoughts. But as far as connecting to the at-home bartending in a way, and that dichotomy between what people were comfortable making at home and sort of being tethered still to the classics. I think one piece that was fascinating about this year was the proliferation, mostly to do with necessity and having to-go and delivery cocktails as well as the continued growth in ready-to-drinks. And so I think both of those categories were huge. I think RTDs we probably could have seen coming in that everything in a can has been getting more popular and understandable. And they fit, even in a pre-Covid lifestyle, people wanted to be able to do things outside. But the combination of mass closures of bars, or at least great limitations on them for much of the year, and the fact that lots of people want to be able to enjoy these great cocktails that even if they felt confident making a Daiquiri or a Manhattan at home, they didn’t feel comfortable as you said, with tiki or with elaborate ingredients or with tinctures and infused spirits and syrups and the like. I think that what is really cool about this is seeing a lot of iterations in the last nine months on what can be done technologically: how to preserve cocktails, how to distribute them, whether on a small scale, local level or a broader level. And I think that we’re going to see a lot of really amazing products that were in one way or another born this year, whether, again, out of necessity or not. And the other piece of it that’s really exciting to think about is, one of the hardest things about talking about cocktails, even for you and me is, you’re in New York, I’m in Seattle, and you can tell me until your face is blue about a great drink you had. But the honest truth is unless I go to New York, typically, I can’t have it. I’d be happy to fly out there when it’s safe and have the drink. But the thing that could be really exciting about this is there could be a little bit more really great cocktails, even at bars we’ve talked about in the past, cocktail bars looking to expand their business beyond the capacity to have in-person on a given night. And I think as people get more comfortable with takeout and delivery cocktails, packaged cocktails, and potentially as laws continue to change or remain loosened even once Covid restrictions are taken off, hopefully, I would be super excited to find out that in a year or two, we’re talking about getting great cocktails from a cocktail bar in New York delivered to me in Seattle. I don’t think that is a pipe dream. I don’t know quite when that will happen, again, that’s more of the prediction side of it, but I think that iteration and innovation in the cocktail spaces was a huge part of 2020.
A: One hundred percent agree. You hear people talking about them in two different ways, right? Ready-to-drink and ready-to-serve. I think both are going to be huge. Ready-to-drink is, for those listening, when we’re talking about things out of the can, right? So, literally ready-to-drink. Ready-to-serve are these larger formats. I think, Zach, you’re also talking about, which is a cocktail that comes in basically a 750. And you can put it in the fridge and you pour it over ice, you can have it for a dinner party. It serves six to eight people. Watching places like St. Agrestis go into box has been really interesting. The fact that I can tell you, Zach, that the St. Agrestis Negroni is delicious and that you could go online right now and order it, and it will be delivered to you in Seattle, is really cool. We can have these shared experiences. And I think that goes back then to where the opportunity truly will be, which is we now know if we combine the two ideas and again, this is more of a prediction, but, I wasn’t gonna include it in the next episode, so it’s fine. If we include the fact that most people are making simple cocktails at home and there’s this opportunity to make them more complex cocktails and put them in a bottle and then send them out — boom. I think that becomes really interesting for people, right? It’s been a really crazy phenomenon.
Z: All right. So let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about a piece of this that I think connects, but is broader than just spirits or cocktails. And that’s just the incredible explosion of direct-to-consumer everything. This is a situation where, f*** you 2020, but I think if we’re looking for silver linings, I think one of them could potentially be that this could be the year that really breaks the logjam that’s been holding back more direct-to-consumer sales. Some of it is just by necessity, and people have gotten familiar with ordering everything online, getting everything shipped to their door. Some of it is the other side of the coin, which is a lot of businesses, whether they’re wineries, breweries, distilleries, whatever, cocktail bars, et cetera, have learned that if you can’t deliver something to someone’s door, your business might not exist. And certainly during a pandemic, but frankly, moving forward in general, people have gotten used to the ease and the comfort of it. And I don’t think that’s going to change, either. And I think the last piece of it is that there’s an ongoing fight, like everything seemingly, for a sense of equal access to the consumer market for larger and smaller players. And the thing that I’ve been really heartened by is that you’ve seen a lot of different people, whether they’re in beer, wine, spirits, or all of the above, trying to develop platforms that connect smaller producers to consumers in ways that at least from my perspective — and I’m not a producer, so I don’t know — but from talking to a few of them and talking to some of these people who, who have developed these platforms or are working on them, they do seem to centered around providing a service in a way that isn’t as exploitative as we found GrubHub and DoorDash and UberEats to be. And that would be a boon to the industry at all levels.
A: Yeah, man. I think this is the year when we realize the producers need to have a more close relationship with their end consumer, right? It’s the time when we realized that you can’t rely on the person at the restaurant to be that ambassador for you. If you can now make a sale to them directly, you can have that relationship. You can own that relationship. You can reinforce that relationship. That’s been really cool and that’s going to continue. I think there’s going to be a lot of brands we don’t even know about yet that are going to be born in the next few years, purely as direct-to-consumer brands at least to start. You may not even see them ever go into a wine shop or a restaurant first. Then once they have a market share, they go. NeueHouse is this perfect example of one of those. And people who listen to podcasts this year heard that interview. I think there’s going to be a lot of them. So yeah man, we’re taking it in a little bit of a twist. I think one of the biggest things to think about this year, just prior to Covid, was the tariffs and what happened with them. Obviously, a lot of them are still there. We’ll see what happens within the new administration and whether these tariffs stay or go away. We cannot deny that on top of Covid there was this other really sh****ty thing that happened to the wine industry and the spirits industry with these tariffs really hitting the market pretty hard. There are a lot of people out there that are in a lot of pain because of them and they f****** sucked.
Z: Yeah. Well and it’s one of those things where you think a lot of people were going to take a beating this year because of Covid. And if you were a business who relied on importing and distributing, especially niche, European wine and spirits, you probably were selling most of those niche, European wine and spirits to restaurants and bars. And you were probably not selling a lot of them to grocery stores and wine shops and liquor shops — maybe some wine shops for sure. And those are the kinds of businesses that obviously have just been cataclysmically affected by Covid. And you combine that with the added reality that you probably took on additional costs. You probably offset some of the cost of the tariffs on your end if you’re the distributor or the importer. So you had to potentially pass them along to a much smaller potential audience. It would have been bad had Covid never happened. We would have been talking about this at the end of the year and been like, “man, this is really bad for the industry.” And obviously it got eclipsed by a much bigger catastrophe. But I agree, I hope once things on the Covid front are returning a little bit to normal and hopefully we have a new administration that isn’t as obsessed with these, I think, deeply counterproductive tariffs, we may see some relief relatively soon. But it is something that we all as a part of the industry and as consumers need to be aware of and push on soon because it’s not helping, it’s hurting. And even if it’s not as visible as the big, big, big issue facing the restaurant and wine industry right now, it’s still an issue for sure.
A: One hundred percent. Let’s keep with wine and talk about the other big thing that happened this year, which is the Court of Master Sommelier scandal.
Z: Oh my God. Yeah, boy, scandals, actually, I think it’s fair to say, because it’s true and easily forgotten in light of the horrific news that broke about the widespread sexual predation and assault throughout the court and things that were both committed by Master Sommeliers, and to a larger extent and not investigated fully or treated seriously. But there’s also a big crisis in the community about a total lack of response to the Black Lives Matter movement and a real rift especially with the previous board of directors and the leadership of the Court of Master Sommeliers, which is almost entirely older white men, and the membership, which includes aspiring Master Sommelier candidates, which still includes plenty of white men but they’re younger and also joined by a cohort of women and people of all sorts of racial and ethnic backgrounds. And it was a really, really, really, damning set of crises. And I think it has shaken a lot of confidence. We’re in this weird holding pattern in the industry and the profession of the sommelier where so much of the work that people do is just not possible right now. So no, nothing has really changed as of yet, as far as I can tell, and I’m relatively plugged into that community. But I think that it’s going to continue to be an issue. The tensions are still there. The frustrations are still there. The new board of directors will be given a chance to make substantive changes. And we are, again, in this period where it’s hard to do anything because there’s, no one’s doing exams or anything now. There’s no way to do that safely. And so it is very difficult to get a handle on whether things have changed and will change. But it’s something to monitor and something that was big this year. And coupled again with just a sort of broader issue facing the profession. The question of whether sommeliers have outlived their usefulness in a restaurant industry that’s going to be very different, and we’ll talk next week about that. But definitely was a rough year for the Court of Master Sommeliers.
A: Totally, man. What else you got?
Z: The last thing that I wanted to throw out there as an end of the year wrap-up was, for you and for me and this podcast is, one of the things that happened in 2020 as a result of the Covid crisis, not to be too self-congratulatory, but we spent a lot of this year talking to a lot of people throughout every part of the beverage alcohol industry — whether they were the CEOs of major corporations or the owners of tiny cocktail bars. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as aware of what is going on throughout all of the industry in beer, wine, spirits, et cetera, as I do now. Again, I don’t want to toot our own horns too much. You all can agree or disagree. I do think it’s been a remarkable year for covering this industry in the way that we do. And obviously in print at VinePair as well as on the podcast. But I hope for you, Adam, it’s been felt that way. And for listeners, of course, that you feel like this coverage has helped open your eyes and shine light on places that you might not have been aware of or brought some attention to something that you yourself are doing or are passionate about. And I think it’s our intention very much to continue to do this into the foreseeable future.
A: 100 percent, yeah. Hopefully everyone who listens has found value in this. We definitely plan to do this moving forward to keep talking to people and understanding what’s happening in the industry. I think we’ve got a long road ahead of us. There’s some exciting things coming, obviously, with 2021 and I can feel energy, which is really interesting. These last few days watching people get the vaccine and are excited for what potentially might come in June, July, August of next year, when hopefully we have a large majority of the country vaccinated. But we’re going to be there the whole time. We want to talk to industry people. If you are some of those people, please reach out to us. If you have ideas of who we should talk to, please reach out to us, [email protected]. Zach, before we go, you put together this amazing package that I can’t wait to share with listeners. We asked all of our employees at VinePair, if they wanted to, to submit us an audio recording of the best things they drank this year. And I’m really excited to share it, because they drank some delicious stuff. If you’re a listener of the podcast and also a reader of the site, you may not get to hear a lot of these people’s voices that often. So it’s really great for you to get to know some of these people that really help make VinePair sing and have been responsible for VinePair’s amazing growth over the course of its history, but especially this year. And have been people that I’ve just come to really love and respect who work at the publication. So Zach, let’s play the package.
Z: Let’s do it.
Tim: Hi, my name is Tim McKirdy. I’m a staff writer at VinePair, and looking back over the last 12 months I realized it’s kind of impossible to pick the best bottle that I tried. But I’d like to share the most memorable drinking experience I had this year, and that came from the GlenDronach Kingsmen Edition. This is single-malt Highland Scotch, distilled in 1989. And I realized shortly before trying it, the bottle of whiskey had actually been distilled three days after I was born. So sitting down with something that had been on this planet for almost exactly the same time as I had, I found that to be a very profound experience. From a more technical point of view, it had depth and complexity, but also still great youth. I’d like to say that same thing about myself right now. But this was a wonderful whiskey, and one that I will no doubt remember for years to come.
Nicole: Hi, I’m Nicole, and I’m an editorial intern at VinePair. One of my favorite drinks of 2020 was a 2018 Viognier from an Okanagan Valley winery called Ex Nihilo. I had it back in February, and it stayed with me as one of my favorite white wines of the year. I enjoyed it mostly because I’ve never tasted anything remotely similar from another British Columbian producer. Most whites from the area are fruit-forward with high acid, but this Viognier was aged five months on lees with sweet floral aromatics and ripe stone fruit flavors. It was luxurious, elegant, and so delicious.
Keith: Hey guys, Keith Beavers, tastings director of VinePair and the “Wine 101 Podcast” dude, what’s up? A favorite thing that I’ve drank this year? I would say the entire Top 50 List of VinePair. OK, can only pick one. Right. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Oh fine. Paso Robles. That region just blew my mind this year. It was new to me. Never really dived into it, dove into it? Anyway, Denner Vineyards Dirt Worshiper. Oh my, this wine is awesome. It’s mainly Syrah with a white wine grape called Roussanne blended in. And it’s smooth and it’s earthy and it’s spicy and it’s herbaceous and it’s powerful, and it’s got dark fruit but got great acidity. It is just a very unique wine for California and a really good representation of the awesomeness going on in Paso Robles.
Katie: Hi, I’m Katie, VinePair’s editorial associate. My favorite drink of 2020 has definitely been the Bloody Mary. During the early days of the pandemic, I was making them for my pod basically every weekend. At this point, I’ve definitely perfected my recipe. I think the Bloody Mary is a drink that’s often pigeonholed as a brunch or breakfast cocktail, but I’m a huge proponent of making them and drinking them any time of day, even with dinner. When I look back on the early days of the pandemic, when things were so uncertain and kind of scary, I think making and sharing Bloody Marys with my roommates was a high point for me and something that definitely took my mind off of Covid.
Josh: Hey, I’m Josh. I’m one of the co-founders at VinePair, and my two favorite bottles from 2020 were both for cocktails. Plantation 3 Stars for making Daiquiris and Fortaleza blanco for making Tommy’s Margaritas. Just fresh, delicious cocktails that were easy to make, and really enjoyed them all summer long, starting on July 4 through Labor Day.
Jenny: Hey everyone. This is Jenny Riddell, I am director of brand partnerships and events at VinePair. And this year I started discovering sour beers. One of my favorites is Grimm’s Sabro Pop! Pop-style sour. It’s fruity, light, and refreshing, and not to mention the can has a fun, colorful design, which perfectly complements this delightful beer. Grimm is a Brooklyn-based brewery, so I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of their releases in 2021.
Courtney: Hi, my name is Courtney. I was an intern at VinePair. My favorite drink of 2020 is Ranch Water. It’s my favorite because of how easy it is to make and how light and refreshing it is, especially on a hot summer day. And there’s pretty much never a time where I don’t have the ingredients already on my bar. They’re just such simple ingredients that I pretty much always have readily available.
Gerry: Hello, my name is Gerry Selian and I’m a freelance junior designer for VinePair. One of my favorite drinks that I had this year was actually a cocktail that I made at home. The funny thing is I was trying to make a Margarita in the first place, but I ended up adding and changing stuff so that it’s not really a Margarita anymore. I started out with Cazadores Tequila and added in a passion fruit syrup and a grapefruit flavoring from a powder that my roommate had and we just decided to add it in. And then after that, I top it out with a seltzer and then use it as a mixer. Everything mixed together so well, and it tastes amazing. It will definitely get you through the night…
Danielle: Hi, I’m Danielle and I’m the art director of VinePair. One of the best drinks I had this year was actually before quarantine. My boyfriend and I were at Scarpetta for dinner and I had the San Remo cocktail. I believe it was a mixture of Four Roses, Campari, Carpano Antica, St. Germain, and fresh orange juice. It was so good that we bought all the ingredients during lockdown and have made it a bunch of times at home. So here’s to hoping to drink more of these at actual bars again in 2021.
Jeff: Hi there. My name is Jeff Licciardello, and I’m the director of marketing here at VinePair. The best thing I drank this year is less of a specific bottle or brand, but more of an experience I had earlier in the year. Back in February I joined staff writer Tim McKirdy on a crawl, tasting, and ranking the best Cosmos from New York City bars featured in “Sex and the City.” As we hopped from bar to bar waxing poetically on the balance of cranberry and citron vodka, I couldn’t help but wonder, were we enjoying the bar crawl so much because of the ridiculous nature of it, or did this experience represent exactly what this industry is about? Exploring the world through the lens of drinks and making great memories with the amazing people you meet along the way. While times have certainly changed, and the Cosmos I make at home aren’t quite the same, I look forward to when we can all be together again and enjoy comical, but delicious bubblegum pink cocktails all night long.
Emma: Hi, I’m Emma Cranston, and I’m an editorial intern at VinePair. I tried a lot of phenomenal wines this year, but I have to admit that one of my favorite drinks of 2020 were the hard kombuchas by Local Roots. I was so surprised by how fresh they are and how they accomplish everything that I no longer get from hard seltzer. They’re really closer to a sour beer or saison, so I can’t wait to enjoy them through the spring. If you haven’t tried them yet, I seriously think they could be the next orange wine of 2021.
Zach: Hey, this is Zach Geballe, co-host and producer of the VinePair podcast. And my favorite thing I drank this year was a magnum of Pinot Gris from Alsace that my wife and I brought back on a previous trip there. While I don’t know if it was necessarily the absolute best thing I drank this year, it was my favorite just because of that connection to a wonderful trip that we had taken a couple of years prior. The experience of bringing a large bottle of wine back, and the fact that we did it at Thanksgiving with a very, very small gathering of immediate family made it feel a little bit more festive and celebratory than pretty much anything in 2020 had any right to be. So while I certainly hope that in years to come this end-of-year podcast features some, yeah, more exciting travels and dramatic bottles of wine, beer, spirits, whatever, in 2020, just something that felt like it connected to a pre-pandemic time was victory enough for me..
Erica: Hi, I’m Erica Duecy, former editor-in-chief at VinePair. My favorite wine from 2020 was a white blend called Heart of Gold from Edmunds St. John. For the past 30 years, winemaker Steve Edmunds has quietly been making wine his way in Berkeley, Calif., with fruit from the Sierra Foothills. This wine tastes like beaming rays of sunlight with golden apricots and sea spray. No single bottle brought me more joy in 2020, and you can snag your own for under $25.
Adam: Hey, this is Adam, VinePair co-founder and CEO. I drank a lot of really great things this year. It was a weird year for me, as it was for everyone else. I went through a lot of phases. I started the pandemic really getting into making cocktails at home, made a lot of really amazing Martinis, especially with gin like Monkey 47 and Ki No Bi. Then I got into a phase of Daiquiris and fell in love with Ten To One and turned to amazing rosés. And I also decided I should drink a lot of incredible wines I hadn’t had in a long time, like Cogno Barolo and stuff like that. And then I really turned back to beer. It was one of the things I was missing the most in the pandemic is that draft beer. And you got to get reacquainted with breweries I love in Brooklyn, like Threes, and KCBC, and things like that. So that was really a roundabout way of saying that I drank a lot of really great stuff this year. In a year that was hard, it’s hard to say there was one thing I drank that was better than anything else, I think. What I’m most thankful for in this entire year is all the incredible wine, beer, and spirits, producers that just keep making delicious stuff that helped get me through the pandemic. Thanks to them. Cheers to everyone out there, and here’s to a much better 2021.
Cat: Oh, hey there VinePair podcast listeners, I didn’t see you there. This is Cat Wolinski, senior editor. And one of my favorite drinks in 2020 was Calavera, an imperial stout from Browns Brewing Company in Troy, N.Y. I loved this beer because it really surprised me. It’s aged with lots of tasty things like chili pepper and vanilla and cinnamon, and it’s super smooth and it’s not barrel-aged and yet still tastes so rich and delicious. What I also loved about it is that it’s a crowd-pleaser. Every person I’ve introduced it to has loved it. It’s also one of VinePair’s 50 Best Beers of the year, so check it out.
Adam: Wow, that was awesome. Hope that you enjoyed that as much as we did. Zach, it’s been a crazy year, but I got to say, man, throughout this entire year, it’s been just a real treat to get to record this every single week with you. You’ve been an incredible co-host, and it’s been just amazing to digest what’s happening in a world that’s been changing literally every single minute of the day. This has been one of the most challenging years that I think any of us have gone through. But hopefully those of you that listen to the podcast have found value in what we do. And I know certainly for me, Zach, I found value in being able to talk about everything with you, so thank you very much.
Zach: Yeah same here.
Adam: And yeah, everyone listening, we’ll see you in 2021 for our predictions episode. And Zach’s gonna actually have a fun little project for you after the credit. So stay tuned and listen. If you’re a die-hard listener, you’re going to hear what those instructions are and for everyone else, see you in 2021. And Zach, I’ll see you next week.
Zach: Sounds great.
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, Spotify, or wherever it is that you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show. Now for the credits, VinePair is produced by myself and Zach Geballe. It is also mixed and edited by him. Yeah, Zach, we know you do a lot. I’d also like to thank the entire VinePair team, including my co-founder, Josh and our associate editor, Cat. Thanks so much for listening. See you next week.
Zach: Hey everyone. Thanks for sticking around. We’d love to get the feedback of our dedicated diehard “VinePair Podcast” listeners on what they think the trends of 2021 will be in the drinks world. And so if you can record a short audio file, either on your phone or computer and send it to us [email protected], we’d love to include it in next week’s episode. Just please make sure to include your name, your professional affiliations, if any, and keep it to 30 to 60 seconds so that if we can fit as many in as possible. Again, just give us a brief thought on what you think will happen in 2021 in the drinks world and we’ll add it to the podcast for next week. Thanks.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.