Happy Hour

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There’s a specific time in the late afternoon when the light hits my apartment in such a way that makes me both relaxed and thirsty. It’s my favorite part of the day. Work is winding down, the cats are itching for their dinner, and the sun is inching its way to the horizon, reflecting off the scattered bottles in my apartment, and enticing me with the thought of a cold beverage.

It’s happy hour, and I’m ready to whet my whistle.

Believe me when I say that, if you read this blog for the whiskey content, I’m well aware you’re probably in no way interested in 1.75 liters of Gruven vodka. As a specialty retailer, I wasn’t either. That being said, if you’re a bartender and you run a drinks program that measures profits by the ounce poured, I invite you to continue further. I’ve written continually and consistently over the years about my affinity for Polish vodka and my belief that it is indeed the best in the world. They’ve been making it in Poland for centuries, they have both high-quality rye and potatoes for distillation, and the water from the underground wells is some of the purest for dilution. That’s not to say one can’t make good vodka elsewhere, it’s just to say that I prefer the Polish version. I drink a LOT of vodka, and for the last five years I’ve consumed Belvedere and Potocki almost exclusively, due to that personal preference. That’s about to change, however; because I’ve just discovered Gruven at Pacific Edge—the best deal on Polish vodka I’ve ever encountered.

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(Bartenders: when you see the cost per bottle and taste the quality, you’ll be adding a Gruven Moscow Mule to your happy hour menu. Ounce for ounce, there’s no comparison.)

When you mention the word “deal” in association with vodka, you need to be specific as there’s no shortage of inexpensive options on the market. What makes Gruven such a deal is that, in my personal opinion, it’s every bit as clean as Belvedere and Potocki (in line with the classic Polish profile), and just as satisfying in my cocktail. More importantly, I put the purity element to work last night, slurping down four Moscow Mules during my own personal happy hour at home (the lighting was too perfect and I was in the mood). If you cut back on the sugar and use a top-notch vodka, you should be able to consume four solid cocktails and wake up just fine the next day (not that I’m recommending you do that). It’s just my own little test I like to do with a bulk spirit like Gruven. I use the Fever Tree “Light” Ginger Beer religiously (30 calories, but bursting with ginger), and I put the standard Gruven to work last night to analyze the results. Not only was each drink utterly delicious, I woke up this morning with a spring in my step: clear-headed and ready to meet the day!

Nothing is more important than using quality booze in your well for happy hour, otherwise your customers wake up the next day particularly unhappy. Unhappy customers don’t return for more unhappiness if they’re plied with cheap hooch and a hangover. Happy customers are the ones who come back again and again, which is why finding the right house vodka is much more of an art than the average consumer often thinks about. I know Mexican restaurateurs who have swapped out the house Tequila for a cheaper mixto, only to watch their happy hour clientele dwindle by the day. “I don’t get it,” one owner told me last year as we sat in his near-empty cantina. Really? It’s called a headache, dude.

I invite you to put Gruven vodka to the test. It’s going to be my house brand for the foreseeable future, and I wouldn’t recommend anything that I didn’t passionately consume myself. And wait until you see the price.

-David Driscoll