Although guests today tend to be more interested and knowledgeable about whiskey, operators say that customer education still matters. So does staff training.
“It all really depends on our knowledge—people come in to find things out, and having a good staff ready to speak about whisky with a customer, who knows what he or she’s talking about makes all the difference,” Rundle says.
Seven Grand runs a whiskey society with monthly tastings and classes on rare whiskies, old and new, hosted by their “spirit guide,” Pedro Shanahan. Memberships include a bottle locker purchase in Bar Jackalope. There are weekly bartender trainings at Jackalope and biweekly sessions in Seven Grand proper to keep staff on top of the latest offerings available.
Hurst says it’s important—even in whiskey-loving operations—to use the menu to help sell any item until it catches on. “We make sure we say something about why we have something so it stands out and the guests can get an idea without asking the server.”
Some guests don’t ask questions, he notes. “They’re shy about not being knowledgeable, so the more information you can give them without them having to probe for it, it makes navigating a list as large as ours much easier.”
Jack Robertiello is a wine and spirits writer/consultant based in Brooklyn, NY.