There was a time when a “private label” brand sold by a bar or restaurant implied inferior quality, usually a cheaper substitute for a name-brand product.
But now, a handful of high-end bars are proudly trumpeting the launch of their own private-label brands as premium products. Some are using them as exclusive competitive differentiators, available only on-premise, while others are taking the opportunity to sell house brands to the general public.
New York speakeasy Employees Only is the latest to join the private label game, launching a new line of artisan bar mixers under the name Employees Only Brands. The first products will be Grenadine and Lime Cordial, to be sold “as an essential cocktail ingredient for bartenders,” as well as to home bartenders through grocery delivery service FreshDirect.
Among others, New York bar Death & Co arranged with specialty alcohol importer Haus Alpenz (perhaps best known for their recent revival of Crème de Violette) to release a limited quantity of aged Scarlet Ibis Trinidad Rum. Bottled at a higher proof than many rums, Death & Co. uses it to mix house cocktails like Kerala Cocktail (Scarlet Ibis rum, bourbon, muddled cardamom, fresh pineapple), but the rum is also available for general purchase.
By comparison, tiki palace Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco features two bespoke spirits. The first, Eurydice, is a local artisan product made with California-grown sugar cane and produced by the distillers at St. George Spirits in Alameda. It has a light, dry, floral style, similar to an agricole-style rum. Meanwhile the second, called Smuggler’s Cove Private Reserve, is created by El Dorado Rum, and is described as “a complex blend of El Dorado’s famous Demerara rums aged up to 12 years.”
However, forget about purchasing a bottle to experiment with in your basement tiki bar; according to owner Martin Cate, both are exclusively available to consume at Smuggler’s Cove and he has no plans to sell it elsewhere.