Booze For Charity

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I was a spectator at the Macallan Ice Ball Plunge at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail when I was struck with an epiphany. The booze industry is even more philanthropic than I thought. Almost every person in the industry we know has donated time, booze, classes, swag and more. Even DOTW has gotten into the act, sponsoring the Martini Luge at the Silicon Valley Humane Society’s Fur Ball and donating multiple classes as fundraising items.

As I watched bartender after industry insider after bartender plunge into the water, I was struck by the depths of charity. The event was sponsored by Macallan, which is owned by the Edrington Group. The Edgrington Group, itself, was established by three sisters in Scotland in the 1950′s in response to repeated hostile takeover attempts by Seagram’s. The sisters set up the Robertson Trust and the Edgrington Group with the the mission of keeping jobs in Scotland and aiding the community. We have been truly astounded by the commitment of the Edgrington Group, as well as their amazing booze. If you read this site, you will know that we are huge fans of Highland Park, Macallan, Famous Grouse and Brugal. When it decided to expand beyond it’s Scottish borders, the Edgrington Group teamed up with another charitable distiller, Brugal, which produces rum in the Dominican Republic. Not only does Brugal make great rum, they are committed to their country. This commitment is demonstrated by Brugal’s many acts of philanthropy, including putting up street signs throughout the country.

While Macallan sponsored the Ice Ball Plunge, it was the people that work in the industry that made the event. The crowd wildly cheered as bartenders, insiders and enthusiasts walked the gauntlet and jumped, dove and cannon-balled into the icy water.  All money raised by these brave and daring souls (seriously, it takes guts to strut in your speedos and swimsuits) was donated to the Museum of the American Cocktail. My only disappointment was that the “ice balls” were not the ice made by the Macallan ice ball mold but inflatable balls. Next year, real ice balls!

Many others in the industry raise money for charity. One of my favorites is Speed Rack, whose motto is “Booze for Boobies”. Earlier this year, Speed Rack put on an amazing American roadshow with women bartenders competing for the title of Miss Speed Rack, which culminated in the national showdown at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in May.  Another favorite is the Barmen’s Fund, a collection of bartenders from New York, Charlotte and New Orleans, that donate a night of tips each month. Seriously, how cool is that, and in the little over a year that they have been around, they have donated over $73,000 to charity.

My favorite, hands-down, are the Bon Vivants out of San Francisco. I know that we have a bit of a hometown bias, but, these guys are truly amazing. Not only do they make terrific drinks and great food, they donate a ton of their time to helping others. For the third straight year in NOLA and the first in New York, they spent a week fixing schools and then put on the fabulous Pig and Punch, which is my personal favorite event, to raise money for local charities. The Pig and Punch is a gathering of the booze industry and NOLA locals, all noshing on great barbequed pork and other goodies. We heard that this year, they made over $21,000 in NOLA, alone – all of which went to help those in need in the community. Now we just have to figure out a way for a stop in the Bay Area on the Pig and Punch roadshow.

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