While wine flights have long been served by many operators in the business, surprisingly few have offered truly unusual spirits flights. That’s because they are harder to sell, they don’t often pair as well with food and can cost the customer more than wine or cocktail flights. But all that hasn’t discouraged a handful of innovative bartenders from putting some interesting lists together.
When Revival restaurant in Berkeley, CA, opened in May 2011, bar manager Nat Harry rolled out some interesting samplings of house-stocked brands. She initially used them to “showcase spirits that I found particularly exciting. It’s a great way to get people to try new things, especially for folks that tend to play it safe.”
The restaurant’s indie style and cuisine is inspired by local meat and vegetable producers and they even do their own butchering in-house. This isn’t a new trend in the Bay Area or the country, but seems uniquely in keeping with the Berkeley vibe–despite the high concentration of vegetarians in the area. “When someone’s carrying a pig in the front door, you know that bacon is going to be pretty darn fresh,” Harry notes.
Harry honed her bar chops in Ithaca, N.Y., at a place called Felicia’s Atomic Lounge, which was “doing farm-to-table cocktails before it was really popular,” she notes. “There was always something new and experimental in the works.”
Her selections are inspired by smaller, artisan distilleries, “and I like to feature products that people may not have been exposed to at other restaurants or at larger liquor stores,” she notes. “It also satisfies the cocktail geeks and spirits aficionados who are always looking for something new.”
Revival’s current offerings include a trio of 1-oz. pours of Amari and Rye, the first priced at $16 and the second at $28. Harry changes them out every couple of months, sometimes based on the seasons, although she is often driven by finding “something that I’m passionate about, and I want people to try it.” She has offered rotating rye, Bourbon, Scotch, and tequila flights, all generally priced from $16 to $32 for three tastes.
Harry rarely suggests flights to her customers as an ideal pairing with a meal—Revival has a fairly extensive and esoteric list of local and imported beers, wine and cocktails—but typically thinks of them as “a stand-alone item.” But she does encourage customers to try the Amari flight instead of or with dessert.
It doesn’t occur to guests to order the flights, she adds. “If someone’s having a hard time deciding on a spirit, I’ll suggest a flight, or even offer to build them a custom flight. We have a large spirits list, so it can be fun to work with the customer to create something they can get excited about.
Revival takes a low-key and interactive approach to flights. “You put a list of 20 single malts in front of your average bar patron, and they can be intimidated,” says Harry. “They’ll probably order what they’re familiar with. Flights are like having a little guide that says, try starting here!”