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Spirits: Filling the Need in a More Essential Nature

By Mike Espindle | May 19, 2020 | Feature Drink Features

The role of alcohol during a crisis has given way to its more essential nature. Nearly all major distillers and liquor groups are shifting production to hand sanitizer or component making. And many are directly addressing the needs of hard-hit hospitality professionals—from mixologists to housekeepers.

Bacardi Group Boost

Eight distilleries within the global Bacardi group are producing thousands of gallons of vital neutral alcohol spirit for sanitizer use. French vodka-maker and Bacardi portfolio brand Grey Goose, in partnership with L’Oréal, has ramped up to ultimately deliver 160,000 liters of essential alcohol for hand sanitizer on the heels of an initial delivery of 7,600 gallons. Portfolio brand and tequila-maker Patrón has committed $1 million to organizations such as the James Beard Foundation, CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees and Another Round Another Rally, and has started an enrichment program that will provide financial assistance to nearly 200 bartenders across the U.S. and Canada who will be paid to participate in cocktail recipe creation, virtual happy hours and webinars. As a group, Bacardi has also committed $3 million—in addition to Patrón’s donation—to support the bar and restaurant community via its #raiseyourspirits global initiative. “Bacardi is a family company, and for us, business is personal. We always say that love for our brands is built in bars, and now it is our turn to show them our love,” says Bacardi Limited CEO Mahesh Madhavan.

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Patrón added to parent group Bacardi’s donations to hospitality worker aid­—a combined total of $4 million.

LVMH Lift

Spirits, fashion and other brands under the LVMH umbrella have mobilized to help medical staff around the world with large-scale sanitizer, mask and gown production. In France, local hospital workers are being hosted for breakfast at Moët & Chandon’s Champagne facilities. In the U.S., Woodinville Whiskey is producing high-proof alcohol to make hand sanitizer for donation to local healthcare establishments and government organizations. In addition, the U.S. arm of Moët Hennessy has donated significant funds to the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “Our teams around the world are stepping up to the challenge with admirable solidarity. All contributions, large or small, are invaluable, and together we will make a difference,” says Philippe Schaus, CEO of Moët Hennessy, in a statement to associates.

Beam Suntory Bright Spot

Beam Suntory, a leader in premium spirits (with Jim Beam bourbon, Courvoisier cognac and Bowmore Scotch whisky in its estimable portfolio), and distributor-partner Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits have donated $1 million to the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild and the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation. These organizations support the bar and restaurant community and provide financial aid and other resources for workers most impacted by COVID-19. “The people of Beam Suntory and our colleagues at SGWS are passionate about helping support the bartenders, restaurant workers and their families whose lives have been turned upside down by the global pandemic,” says Albert Baladi, Beam Suntory president and CEO.

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In addition to direct donations to relief organizations, Cointreau is launching a series of social media interactions that will employ local bartenders across the country.

Rémy Cointreau Contributes

In step with the industry, liquor group Rémy Cointreau has pivoted to sanitizer support and medical donations. Cointreau and Rémy Cointreau Americas have collectively donated $200,000 to the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild and the USBG Foundation Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. The group has also created new programming around the cocktail industry, including a Virtual Margarita Monday Instagram (@‌cointreau_us) series, which features brand ambassadors teaching viewers how to craft cocktails, and every Friday Cointreau Cocktail Hour hosts local mixologists whipping up signature cocktails. To make it better, Cointreau will match all social media donations up to $10,000. “Since the beginning of this crisis, more than ever, it seemed essential for us to embody our values, to show solidarity and mutual aid,” says Eric Vallat, CEO of Rémy Cointreau. “It is as close as possible to our markets and our production sites that our teams personally commit to help… and for as long as the pandemic requires it.”

Pernod Ricard USA Produces

All of Pernod Ricard’s U.S. spirits production sites are manufacturing sanitizer, including the facility in Fort Smith, Ark., and distilleries in West Virginia (Smooth Ambler), Louisville, Ky. (Rabbit Hole), and Fort Worth, Texas (TX Whiskey). Portfolio brand Jameson Irish Whiskey was among the first to contribute to the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild charity fund, with a $500,000 donation just before St. Patrick’s Day and an extensive social media campaign that added another $200,000 in donations, 50% of which were matched. One of the brand’s largest distributors, Republic National, also matched the $500,000 donation. “Our company is proud to support the efforts of the administration and communities across the country in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Pernod Ricard North America chairman and CEO Ann Mukherjee.

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In addition to hand sanitizer production and direct relief donations, liquor group Diageo is making its online bartending classes free to all temporarily displaced workers.

Diageo Digs In

A pledge of no less than the constituent ingredients for 8 million bottles of hand sanitizer globally for healthcare workers leads the efforts of Diageo—of Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff fame. “Healthcare workers are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic, and we are determined to do what we can to help protect them,” says Ivan Menezes, chief executive of Diageo. In the U.S., Diageo North America pledged over $4 million to support front-line workers and the bar and restaurant community; and portfolio brand Guinness has committed $1 million to assist affected communities via its Guinness Gives Back Fund. Similar initiatives were rolled out globally. Plus, Diageo is offering complimentary Bar Academy training courses online for industry workers to brush up on their skills while homebound.

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A staffer from Pernod Ricard’s Smooth Ambler distillery poses with their now-essential product.



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Photography by: Photos courtesy of brands