By Stefanie Collins, editor bars&clubs

Grey Goose global ambassador Joe McCanta is in Sydney to host the international party Boulangerie Bleue, and while he was here we sat down to chat why vodka is cool again, the importance of catering to branded calls, and why brand events are essential for consumer engagement.

Has Grey Goose noted the trend of a branded call, in the same way that premium gins and whiskies have?

Very much so. When I was bartending in New York, which was the early 2000s, people would come to the bar and order a “Grey Goose Martini” or “Bombay Sapphire and tonic” or whatever it was. But when I moved to London no one would call out brands at all, like the Brits were almost too timid to make that decision.

But I think what has happened is that we now have the most informed consumer that we have ever had. Anyone can be in any bar and pick up their phone and they can look up anything about any brand.

So the brands that have a bit or provenance and have been around for a while, those are the ones that your guests will be leaning towards and I think they’re getting more emboldened to say, “I want this brand of vodka because I like it, I know where it is made, I know it only comes from one place and I know it’s made in a certain way”.

Have you found that the resurgence in popularity of gin has been to the detriment of vodka?

Interestingly I did a seminar at Tales of the Cocktail this year – and this was the whole topic. It was me, and the global ambassador of Belvedere (Claire Smith-Warner, who is a friend of mine), Audrey Saunders (co-owner of Pegu Club, one of the best bars in the world), and Jared Brown (master distiller of Sipsmith gin). And we called the talk: Vodka is Dead, Long Live Vodka.

Because there was this moment in time where you would walk into a bar and order a vodka and the bartender would look at you out of the side of their eyes and try to convince you to drink gin instead.

But I think, and we’ve seen it with our sales figures as well, that has come full circle. People have gone through that period and have realised that vodka is one of the most versatile spirits.

Guests want a vodka brand they can believe in, so there is no reason to dissuade a guest from ordering it. Our job as bartenders is to give people what they want.

I was in New York and I had an amazing twist on a Negroni with Grey Goose in it, and at the American Bar at The Savoy their key menu item right now is a twist on a vodka Martini with Grey Goose and a caviar-stuffed olive. So vodka is back, baby.

What can people expect at Boulangerie Bleue?

It’s the first time in a while that we’ve done an event that really spans the globe and spans the cities that are loyal Grey Goose lovers. So there are key cities and we’ve done it in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, LA, Chicago, and Toronto.

You’ll be transported to a complete other setting. And that setting is very much inspired by the French Riviera. We're trying to take that setting on tour and bring it to life with the drinks, the food, the ambiance – everything should be like you’ve been transported to the south of France. And we’re just going to have an epic party.

Do you find events like these are key for building brand awareness with consumers?

Absolutely. If you look at a brand like Grey Goose, the first real super premium vodka to come out, the first vodka made in France from this fine French wheat, and there is so much richness – I think – to Grey Goose that the best way for people to come into contact with the brand is not always just through going to a bar and ordering a drink but through these events.

So, our culinary background and heritage, our love and passion for great cocktails, and just the fact that we have a bit of a French panache, for want of a better word, and the best way to get that is by going to an event.

To read more about Joe's opinion on key global cocktail trends that will be impacting Australia, head to bars&clubs' online portal.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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