Five Questions with Nick Nistico, Beverage Program Specialist

Jan. 3, 2016

Nick Nistico is a Breakthru Beverage Program Specialist/Hospitality and Spirit Educator serving our partners throughout Florida. On a daily basis, he supports new and existing on-premise accounts through beverage development consultations and bar staff trainings. A two-time WSWA Best in Show winner, Nistico recently completed the BAR 5-Day Certification Program, an achievement only a fraction of the world’s most talented bartenders have completed.

Here, Nistico offers his insights about the thriving bar and restaurant scene in his home market, the spirits trends that reigned supreme in 2015 and his predictions for what the industry might look like in 2016.

What stood-out to you as the spirit trend of 2015 that reigned supreme?

It was the year of whiskey, which we knew going into it. Just seeing how much whiskey continues to grow is amazing and it’s great to see the spotlight put on quality. We just came off the vodka boom which often revolved around poorly-made flavored liquids. Now, [consumers] are interested in where and how things are made in a way that’s conscious but cool.

Some think pieces started circulating online recently about the growing number of consumers who prefer to have cocktails at home rather than at on-premise establishments. What’s your take?

No matter where you go, there are more bars and restaurants opening to the tune of success. There’s growth everywhere and people are curious and excited about the experiential nature of what their consuming in uncharted ways. So, I’d say that’s completely false.

What are some shifts in the public’s perception of the craft cocktail community that standout for you?

If you look at the culinary industry, there’s always been this network of chefs that work off of each other. The hospitality and bartending communities are forming more organizations to develop and educate the masses. The USBG [editor’s note: Nistico is the founding member of both the Miami and West Palm Beach chapters] is just one of many. The beauty of the new emphasis on quality is that it’s simple: just use fresh ingredients. A bartender with a base-level knowledge of craft cocktails can still keep things simple to make it better for the guests. The new movement is about being approachable.

There is a sense of theater in major nightlife markets like Miami and West Palm Beach. Talk about the importance of this element in making cocktails.

It’s important to tell a story about why you’re doing something, so that’s the significance. We’re in an era where people want to know where things are coming from and it’s great when they can make a connection locally or in person while sitting at a bar and watching their drink being made.

What are you predictions for the industry in 2016?

Craft cocktails are going to grow more and more. I think more national accounts and chains will take a step forward by featuring fresh ingredients and in turn, that is going to create a new standard for what a consumer’s expectations and standards should be. 2016 will be the year for Cognac, sherry, and Armagnac with more great mixologists and sommeliers harnessing the boom. The growing popularity of fortified wines allows spirits and wine people to reach across the aisle. We’re working on both sides now and my job gives me the opportunity to help bridge that gap.


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