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VinePair Podcast: Can Six Expulsions Salvage the Court of Master Sommeliers?

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News broke recently that the Court of Master Sommeliers has expelled six of its members following investigations into sexual harassment allegations. This is an ongoing matter that has been met with a string of resignations and calls for change within the Court. But in the wake of the scandal, many within the industry are left wondering whether these repercussions will be enough to inspire meaningful change within the larger wine industry.

On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe tackle the topic of sexual harassment within the wine community. Does the court value its reputation more than putting an end to the persisting issues found within it? What can be done to address the court’s power imbalance? How should news outlets cover these issues going forward?

Tune in to learn more.

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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.

Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.

Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, this is Zach Geballe.

A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” So what have we been up to? What have you guys been drinking? How are we feeling? We’re moving into December, it’s cold as sh*t here, I’m not really feeling it. But besides that, Joanna, what have you been drinking?

J: Recently, I celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday, and we went to Temple Bar.

A: Oh, now you’re a regular.

J: It’s such a scene now. There were multiple celebrities there that night. Sienna Miller, Emily Blunt, allegedly, but I did not see her. And Heather Graham.

A: Really? Wow. Quite the little trifecta.

J: Yes.

A: Were they there together or separately?

J: I think separately, I don’t know. Who’s to say?

A: Their publicists should talk to each other.

J: So I had their version of an Espresso Martini. It was really good. It’s called “Sick as the Espresso Martini.” It uses cold brew, and it’s flavored with vanilla and banana. And I love banana drinks. I’ve realized this about myself.

A: Do you like banana ice cream?

J: You mean the one-ingredient banana ice cream?

A: No, banana-flavored ice cream. One ingredient of ice cream is not ice cream, it’s frozen banana. Get a clue. I am sick of that sh*t on social. Here’s how you can have ice cream, but not — it’s pureed frozen banana. That’s not ice cream. Get that sh*t away from me.

Z: I bet vegan ice cream does not go over well with you.

A: No.

Z: Me neither, to be fair, I’m very much with you on this one.

J: Adam’s the dairyman.

Z: I don’t like it when they’re like, “What kind of milk do you want?” I’m like, “I’d like milk.” And they say “What do you mean?” You know, milk that comes out of a cow.

A: Anyways, so you had a nice Espresso Martini cocktail. Anything else?

J: We had a few different drinks. I had another Gibson, which is very good. I’d like to make a Gibson at home.

A: Will you pickle your own onions?

J: I just might. We have a nice recipe from “Cocktail College.”

A: Can we stop talking about that podcast?

Z: It’s the only thing that gets mentioned more than Temple Bar.

A: Yeah, seriously.

J: Moving on. What about you, Zach, what are you drinking?

Z: Over the weekend, my wife and I made one of our favorite dishes. We make a lot of pizza at home.

A: Do you have a pizza oven?

Z: Not a separate pizza oven, no.

A: What do you use then? What do you do? Do you have baking steel?

Z: Yes, we call it a cast iron platter, basically. It’s basically baking steel. You need something that gets very hot so that you can get the texture on the bottom right.

A: Exactly.

Z: We actually had a pizza stone for a while, and it bit the dust. And frankly, the cast iron is way better, in part because it’s not fragile. But what we did this last time was instead of making it the way we normally do, which is more conventional, we made something that we do occasionally. It was a tarte flambée, which is a German/Alsatian dish. Instead of using a tomato sauce base, you use a dairy base. You slice onions very thin and marinate it in a mixture of crème fraîche, sour cream, and ricotta for a couple of days. The acid in the dairy helps break down the onions, you put that on top and usually add bacon bits or lard. I like to add a thinly sliced Yukon gold potato over the top, or some other things. We made one with Brie as well. And you just bake them for as hot as your oven can get for nine minutes or so. Along with that, my cousin came over and joined us for dinner. So he brought over a bottle of Albert Boxler Muscat.

A: Did you mandate that the wine had to be Alsatian?

Z: Well, I told him what we were making, and he’s a wine professional also.

A: How can you have more than one wine professional in the family?

Z: It’s a family business of sorts. So we opened a bottle of Pinot Gris that we had, and he brought that bottle of Muscat. And I gotta say, that Muscat really surprised me. It’s a class of varieties that produce very floral wines and sometimes can be annoyingly or cloyingly floral and often made sweet. But there’s a growing trend in Alsatian in general towards drier styles of Muscat. This was quite dry and very aromatic, but not cloying, and went really beautifully with the flambée and was just a lot of fun. I love Alsace as a place, I had the opportunity to visit a few years ago and it was one of the more spectacular wine regions I’ve been to. I love the wines and it was a really fun opportunity to do that little thing where you travel without going anywhere. How about you, Adam?

A: I had a really amazing wine, a Cinsault, from the producer De Martino from Chile. They basically age it all in amphorae that they have dug up from the ground that are antique amphorae. So they’re all different shapes and sizes, and they found them all around Chile, and then they refurbish them and age the wine in them. It’s like before the egg, if you will. So that was a delicious wine. Then I had a few cocktails recently, and I’ve been noticing this growing trend, which is acid correcting. Three of the cocktails I think I had or shared with people that I went to this bar with all had acid-adjusted orange juice as one of the key ingredients. I think it’s interesting because I know that this was on the fringes in terms of what was happening in cocktail culture. And now it feels like so many bartenders are adjusting the acid components of their drinks.

J: What does that mean when a bartender does that?

A: So they can either be upping it or lowering it. But they are adjusting the acid.

J: Are they adding citric acid?

A: Yes, so it’s really interesting. Then, I had a Milk Punch at the Horse Inn, which was delicious. That’s about it. So a little more serious podcast post-Thanksgiving. For those of you that really found a lot of value in the Black Friday episode, you’re welcome.

J: I hope you got your Blundstones, Adam.

A: Oh, I did. But on a more serious note, in the last few weeks, news has broken. It’s been an ongoing issue for the last nine months to a year. The ongoing sexual harassment assault scandals that have been plaguing the Court of Master Sommeliers, and it was reported that the six people who were accused of sexual harassment have been stripped of their titles. They are allowed to appeal, though it doesn’t seem like anyone is going to appeal — at least not that we know of right now. I don’t know about you guys, but this announcement was kind of a thud. Like, that’s it? You’re stripping them of their titles? In nine months, that’s what you did?

J: And this is just six cases out of 22.

A: I was doing a little bit of research on the six individuals who have been stripped of their titles and OK, so they’ve lost their titles and can no longer call themselves a “master somm.” But they all seem to be doing pretty fine. One of them still owns a restaurant in Napa. Another one, the biggest offender, is still working for Dao Vineyards, at least according to LinkedIn. It’s really interesting to me that their titles were stripped, but nothing else.

J: Right, how much is this hindering their careers?

A: Yeah. I don’t want to name any names here because it’s not what we do.

J: You can look it up online in the article that we published on VinePair.

A: But in terms of people who know them, right? There’ve been a lot of people who defended them in the wine community who said, “Oh, well, I know that person, they’re a good person. They were having a hard time in their relationship with their significant other, so they decided to cheat” or whatever it was. There’s been a lot of that. So I feel like it’s a lot of, “People are bad, but not the person that I know.” So, many of these six are not all in the same community — they are all in the wine community — but then they actually exist in this wine community in California and have been insulated by the people who know them really well. So these people are saying, “Well, they’ve been really great to hang out with and they’re a mentor to me” and things like that. I think it just shows how hard it is to stop this kind of behavior and actually eradicate it, because you never want to believe, even when someone’s accused, that it’s the person you know. Look at this across the board with sexual harassment, all the comedians that have defended Louis C.K., for example. It’s always, “Oh, he’s a good dude, I loved him.” Even Sarah Silverman came out in defense of Louis C.K. He might have been a great mentor to you as a comedian, but what he did is really bad and really wrong. You have to start separating that personal relationship you have with him and what you think he’s done for you with what he truly did to people. This is kind of the same here. Stripping them of their titles, there seems to be no economic retribution. There seems to be no one pulling back and asking them to step aside professionally in the world. So I don’t really understand how this will completely impact them. Does losing the MS title really matter that much in their longterm career? I don’t know, but those are my thoughts.

J: What’s actually really surprising to me about this is that we’ve seen over the past year or two or five that this has happened in different industries, of course. But it seems like the immediate repercussions are that the accused or the perpetrators are without a career, or they have to step away, or they don’t have jobs for at least a little while. Maybe they come back, Louis C.K. is back, right? But what is surprising to me is that it doesn’t really seem to have affected them, even in the immediate term, that they are without jobs or anything or that they’re shunned. People in the wine community are defending them and their careers.

A: Does that mean that the title of master somm is f*cking bullsh*t? Because if losing the title has not lost them everything else, then maybe the title didn’t matter for sh*t to begin with.

Z: Well, that’s certainly something that you and I have talked about a few times, Adam. I mean that for a variety of reasons. I think there’s always been the conversation about, to what extent does the title truly indicate something meaningful about the person who holds it? Even setting aside all this horrible behavior, just in terms of what they know about wine and their ability to serve wine and communicate about wine. It is certainly not a precondition for being very, very good at that to hold that title or any title from any accrediting organization. Beyond that, you guys both got at something very important here that I think is relevant, which is that one of the things that is difficult about this situation is that in the end, the Court of Master Sommeliers does not actually have all that much power. And again, it’s also important to note this is the most horrific of the scandals that have embroiled the court. But there have been a lot of them over the last few years. And there are a lot of things about the court that — as we have again gone into detail on in past episodes — do not work for a lot of would-be professionals. The way things are handled, the way things are administered, the structure of it, all that. But in some sense, it does show the toothlessness of the court in some way that they don’t have any kind of a greater ability to punish other than to say, “Hey, you can’t be part of our club anymore.” What it says about our broader society — that some of these people are not necessarily being completely driven out of the industry — that’s a whole other part of this conversation. I don’t think it’s something that the court itself can do. It’s frankly something that the larger community has to do. One of the things that comes into this, and I’d be curious to know both of your thoughts is, do we as a publication and as individuals avoid talking about these people and their endeavors? Do we mention, by the way, that person was expelled in disgrace from the Court of Master Sommeliers. I don’t like this in general, but there has to be kind of a scarlet letter attached to them by everyone or else this stuff does really recede into the background. Obviously the celebrities we mentioned, the comedians and whatnot, are much more famous than any of these people and have a much larger fan base. Master sommeliers don’t have fans in the way that Louis C.K. had fans. So it’s not just that other comedians defended them, it’s that hundreds of thousands or millions of people defended them. Or they thought, “wow, that’s bad but I think they’re funny.” There’s a lot of excuse-making for men who do this — especially famous ones who people have a personal connection to. That is a little less the case here because again, people who don’t work with or around these master sommeliers or former master sommeliers don’t necessarily have a personal connection to them. But like you said, Adam, these peoples’ businesses didn’t stop existing. People are still going to Compline in Napa. They’re not like, “Well, Matt Stamp was forced to leave the organization in disgrace; we’re not going to go there anymore.” Maybe some people have made that decision, but presumably, if everyone made that decision, the business would stop existing. So I think there’s that piece of it. The other thing I want to throw out there is, and we kind of mentioned it, that these are not the only six or seven if you include Geoff Kruth who was previously expelled back when the allegations first came out. These are far from the only people about whom formal allegations have been put forth to the court. In part because I think there were a lot of people who maybe were connected to this who were frankly not sure what the court would do or how they would handle it, I know there are other people who, as far as I’m aware of, have not been formally accused of anything but that the rumor mill has been swirling pretty aggressively about. The problem with this whole resolution is that I don’t think anyone thinks that these six individuals should have been allowed to remain a part of the court. I don’t think anyone thinks that was a mistake. There are some people who think that what else was done with the other people who are accused, not naming them and telling them to just shape up …

J: Undergo training.

Z: Yeah, exactly. For the people who have sort of skated to this point, many of whom have been accused of doing essentially the exact same thing that the people who were kicked out did, it does again raise this question raised by the Court of Master Sommeliers over and over again, which is: Who does it exist for? Who does it exist to protect, and why should anyone who isn’t in that inner circle believe that the powers that be will listen to them will protect them, as opposed to the powerful members already within the circle?

J: There are so many things in there, Zach, that I want to address. To what you just said, though, I was reading some of the articles that were written last year when this all transpired. This idea that the board was aware of these patterns of sexual misconduct and coercive sexual contact between masters and candidates, and that the rules about reporting that stuff were largely disregarded. There were ignored reports of abuse, and I think that’s really disgraceful and horrible. What confidence does that inspire in the court members to feel safe or comfortable or trusted to come forward with this kind of information?

A: As we’ve been talking, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have actual consequences. The one thing that we said at the very beginning of this conversation was that no one has appealed. I think that the reason no one has appealed, if they do believe that they are innocent in this, is that there were no consequences. If there are no consequences, there’s no need. It just shows how toothless this all is. And it shows why people who had the courage to come forward are so upset because, like in other cases like this across the country, the person knows they were a motherf*cker and they slink away and never return like Mario Batali or Matt Lauer.

J: But there were huge consequences for Batali.

A: Huge.

J: No more restaurants, kicked out of his restaurant groups.

A: He lost it all. Matt Lauer, same thing, no more public spotlight. You be the news network that’s going to rehire him. It’s never going to happen. Maybe he’ll be on local Hampton news doing the weather, but besides that, he’s done. Anyways, I think there will be something, but he’s basically gone. In this regard, most of these people are still OK. So they’re not speaking up to defend themselves because they’re OK. That’s what makes it so weird, too. If you’re not saying anything, I’m assuming you’re really guilty.

J: But what I want to mention, and this is going back to a point that Zach made or a question that he asked. That’s why I think it is our responsibility as a publication to make it known what these men are accused of or what they’re being expelled for. Because I think about my parents. Would they know any of these people by their names? No, absolutely not. So maybe they would go to one of their restaurants or have their wines or whatever it is. But then I think about Batali.

A: They all knew him, yeah.

J: His name is big enough. But it was covered so heavily as well by the food media and the “actual” news. So I think it is our responsibility as a publisher to have a stand on these things and to share the news with our readers and then also not cover these men ever again in a positive way.

Z: In addition to that, there’s also this other piece. You mention this and I think it’s a good point, Joanna, that there’s a pretty big gulf in terms of the fame of these six or seven men. The piece of this that is important, and why I think some of this is different, is that Batali faced real consequences for his actions. Let’s keep it in food and drink just because I think this analogy will hold better. But part of what was necessary about that was getting the message out broadly that this sh*t is unacceptable. Batali obviously wasn’t the only chef or restaurant, there’s John Besh. There are some other well-known chefs around the country, too. Undoubtedly, that kind of sh*t is still going on all over the country. Why this had to happen in addition to just, “F*ck those guys,” the court needed to be proactive about saying, “This is not allowed.” And that is where that frustration comes from, because there’s at best a mixed message here. Again, it’s sheltering the other 16 who were accused. Maybe you weren’t willing to expel any of them. Maybe what they were accused of doing seemed less severe. Maybe there were fewer people willing to go on the record and say what happened. Within the Court of Master Sommeliers, there remains this very dangerous power imbalance and hierarchy. It creates these kinds of situations. To come back to something you said at the beginning, Adam, people are defending some of these men and saying, “Well, they were going through a tough time in their marriage, and it was really just an affair and they weren’t taking advantage.” But the whole point of these power structures is that there was such a power imbalance and so many advantages that these men didn’t have to drunkenly force themselves upon a woman for them to abuse their power. That is a problem that we face societally when dealing with these allegations is that some people only consider this to be a problem when it’s grotesque, violent, or persistent. The thing that is, for lack of a better word, dramatic. And it can be insidious and hard to hard to define. There are a lot of cases that I know about but can’t speak about because they don’t involve me directly and have been said to me in confidence. But if you look at many of them there is a lot that’s insinuation. It’s relying on the fact that the people who aspire to reach the inner circle and the master sommelier level, especially women, know what some of the men who hold that title and are the gatekeepers might want from them. It may never be spoken, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s no better to take advantage of someone’s lack of power in an interpersonal dynamic because you don’t force yourself upon them drunkenly at 2 a.m. That’s obviously really bad. But the other stuff isn’t OK. Where the frustration with the court is that the court has kind of said, “Well this grotesque stuff we can’t allow because it’s obvious, but we’re not really doing anything to eliminate the other stuff.”

J: This other stuff is less bad. So maybe we’ll just suspend you, but we won’t expel you.

Z: They won’t even tell anyone that you’re suspended. There’s no “We couldn’t kick this person out because we didn’t have enough evidence, but we think there’s something going on here.” They obviously think there’s something going on; the other 16 were apparently required to take training. So it wasn’t that there were zero problems here. There’s obviously a problem, but you’re saying this is a problem that we can live with.

A: Would you think that that speaks to how little influence or power that the court actually has? It’s like, “Sh*t, we can’t lose another 16 of these f*ckers, we got to keep them in the fold.”

J: Do you think that’s a consideration?

A: I wonder.

Z: I think it’s more about the very way that the structure is designed; it’s oriented around protecting the members. This is going to be a vaguely controversial thing, I apologize. It gets said a lot these days in work circles that human resources is sometimes just there to protect the company. And in this case, I think this investigation is to protect the reputation of the Court of Master Sommeliers. It’s not really an end to protect the master sommeliers, male and female, who are not a part of this.

A: Well, that’s what I’m saying. If they lost 16 more people, it would completely ruin the reputation. It’d be over.

Z: I don’t think that’s necessarily true. There are several hundred of them. If you were to say we are taking a very forceful stand here, we are getting rid of anyone who is credibly accused, you might actually engender more support. The thing for the court is that their model has been, they want people pushing to reach that level. That’s what supports the classes, the tests, the employment of a number of master sommeliers. Their job is to work for the court. And if you protect the existing members at the expense of potential members, I’m not sure that’s a good long-term plan.

A: Since this all came out, I have not looked to see if people who are choosing to pursue the court or take the test have gone down.

Z: Because they don’t make that information public.

A: Then you might stay status quo, because who knows what happens if we expel 22 members?

Z: There are already some very high-profile resignations.

A: But those people were in protest. This is expulsion.

J: To Zach’s point, if I’m somebody who’s interested in joining the court but I know that there are 16 predators, why would I ever want to join?

A: I agree, but then what’s the fear? Because they have to be scared of something.

Z: Maybe there’s a threat of some of these other 16 where the evidence is a little less clear-cut. You could face a lawsuit. Obviously, there’s big financial ramifications, even if we don’t see it, with the six who were just expelled. There’s lawsuits, there’s liability. And again, the system exists to protect the people already within it. That goes back to the cheating scandal. Why did they do what they did? Because they wanted to protect the reputation of the court and of the existing master sommeliers at the expense of a bunch of people who did nothing wrong. They had all had their testing invalidated because they happened to be taking tests at the same time as a former master sommelier who wanted to give his buddies an advantage. The decision of the court at that moment told you everything you need to know. They did not want to dig into what had happened. They did not want to know what was under those rocks because it was ugly and it was easier to say, “We’re just going to invalidate this entire exam and give everyone another chance. That’s such a great solution and please don’t ask any more questions.” That’s been their M.O. for years. As someone who participated in exams through the court — and had my certified exam proctored by one of the men who has since been expelled — my feelings about court changed a lot over the last half-decade or so. There’s a bigger conversation to be had that we’re not going to have now about whether there’s any point to it at this moment. I don’t really know that there is, but certainly, no one can believe that it exists to do anything other than protect itself. That’s its function these days.

A: The only way that you could make the case is by following the money, and we again can’t have that conversation right now. If salaries are still higher or if job opportunities are still better with this certification than without it, then unfortunately, it will still continue to exist. At the end of the day, it’s all about money.

J: And power.

A: Yeah, both. If you get a more powerful position and more pay because of the certification, then you can see people continuing to pursue it. People of all sexes and all backgrounds, because that’s the way in. It would have been nice if the court had taken more of a dramatic and really strong step here. Just the stripping of titles is not enough. But as Joanna was saying, we have to continue to talk about it. When we do write about these individuals, we have to say what it is about them. And the same for the other 16. When they’re mentioned, we need to say “Those who have been accused of X, Y or Z,” when that information is public. If it’s not public, there’s very little we can do. Well, all right. Very interesting conversation. I will see you both back here on Friday.

Z: Sounds great.

Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.

Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.

The article VinePair Podcast: Can Six Expulsions Salvage the Court of Master Sommeliers? appeared first on VinePair.

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178 days ago
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National Security Risks of Late-Stage Capitalism

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Early in 2020, cyberspace attackers apparently working for the Russian government compromised a piece of widely used network management software made by a company called SolarWinds. The hack gave the attackers access to the computer networks of some 18,000 of SolarWinds’s customers, including US government agencies such as the Homeland Security Department and State Department, American nuclear research labs, government contractors, IT companies and nongovernmental agencies around the world.

It was a huge attack, with major implications for US national security. The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the breach on Tuesday. Who is at fault?

The US government deserves considerable blame, of course, for its inadequate cyberdefense. But to see the problem only as a technical shortcoming is to miss the bigger picture. The modern market economy, which aggressively rewards corporations for short-term profits and aggressive cost-cutting, is also part of the problem: Its incentive structure all but ensures that successful tech companies will end up selling insecure products and services.

Like all for-profit corporations, SolarWinds aims to increase shareholder value by minimizing costs and maximizing profit. The company is owned in large part by Silver Lake and Thoma Bravo, private-equity firms known for extreme cost-cutting.

SolarWinds certainly seems to have underspent on security. The company outsourced much of its software engineering to cheaper programmers overseas, even though that typically increases the risk of security vulnerabilities. For a while, in 2019, the update server’s password for SolarWinds’s network management software was reported to be “solarwinds123.” Russian hackers were able to breach SolarWinds’s own email system and lurk there for months. Chinese hackers appear to have exploited a separate vulnerability in the company’s products to break into US government computers. A cybersecurity adviser for the company said that he quit after his recommendations to strengthen security were ignored.

There is no good reason to underspend on security other than to save money — especially when your clients include government agencies around the world and when the technology experts that you pay to advise you are telling you to do more.

As the economics writer Matt Stoller has suggested, cybersecurity is a natural area for a technology company to cut costs because its customers won’t notice unless they are hacked ­– and if they are, they will have already paid for the product. In other words, the risk of a cyberattack can be transferred to the customers. Doesn’t this strategy jeopardize the possibility of long-term, repeat customers? Sure, there’s a danger there –­ but investors are so focused on short-term gains that they’re too often willing to take that risk.

The market loves to reward corporations for risk-taking when those risks are largely borne by other parties, like taxpayers. This is known as “privatizing profits and socializing losses.” Standard examples include companies that are deemed “too big to fail,” which means that society as a whole pays for their bad luck or poor business decisions. When national security is compromised by high-flying technology companies that fob off cybersecurity risks onto their customers, something similar is at work.

Similar misaligned incentives affect your everyday cybersecurity, too. Your smartphone is vulnerable to something called SIM-swap fraud because phone companies want to make it easy for you to frequently get a new phone — and they know that the cost of fraud is largely borne by customers. Data brokers and credit bureaus that collect, use, and sell your personal data don’t spend a lot of money securing it because it’s your problem if someone hacks them and steals it. Social media companies too easily let hate speech and misinformation flourish on their platforms because it’s expensive and complicated to remove it, and they don’t suffer the immediate costs ­– indeed, they tend to profit from user engagement regardless of its nature.

There are two problems to solve. The first is information asymmetry: buyers can’t adequately judge the security of software products or company practices. The second is a perverse incentive structure: the market encourages companies to make decisions in their private interest, even if that imperils the broader interests of society. Together these two problems result in companies that save money by taking on greater risk and then pass off that risk to the rest of us, as individuals and as a nation.

The only way to force companies to provide safety and security features for customers and users is with government intervention. Companies need to pay the true costs of their insecurities, through a combination of laws, regulations, and legal liability. Governments routinely legislate safety — pollution standards, automobile seat belts, lead-free gasoline, food service regulations. We need to do the same with cybersecurity: the federal government should set minimum security standards for software and software development.

In today’s underregulated markets, it’s just too easy for software companies like SolarWinds to save money by skimping on security and to hope for the best. That’s a rational decision in today’s free-market world, and the only way to change that is to change the economic incentives.

This essay previously appeared in the New York Times.

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444 days ago
Again with the market and security infrastructure not going hand in hand.

Teaching by making people uncomfortable

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A lot of people say often "if you're comfortable, you're not learning", "the only way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone", "don't expect to enjoy changing yourself" and the like.

And you know what? This is wrong. Sure, sometimes when you're doing a new thing you don't know how to do, it feels weird and scary and you're a little embarrassed and a little lost. But not all learning is like that. Sometimes learning a new thing is joyful and exhilarating and marvelous. Sometimes you have a teacher who is reassuring and supportive, sometimes you're just discovering connections and trying things that work and it's just fantastic. Don't tell those people they're not learning! Learning can be one of the most pleasant and wonderful things we do. I try to live my life that way both while I'm learning and while I'm teaching.

I think it's some sort of leftover Calvinist thing: we're not supposed to like work, we're not supposed to find joy in good things, we're supposed to push ourselves and do them even though they're horrible. Think of sayings like "No pain, no gain", "Feel the burn", or "They call it work for a reason." Sure, some stuff is difficult and you don't really want to do it but you do it anyway because it's important, or you said you would, or someone's paying you, or you know you want the end result of it. But some stuff is fun and joyful and delightful and you do it with happiness and it's still important, still something you said you'd do, you still get paid, and you still get the end result. I remember teaching someone some stretching exercises and they said with complete surprise "I like doing these! I thought exercise was supposed to be horrible!"

How would it change your learning to you let yourself enjoy it? If you let go of the idea that learning only happens in discomfort? If you could feel yourself improving at whatever you're learning and enjoy that?

But that's not the worst of it. Yes, people are missing out on a ton of joy that they could tap by just sitting up and thinking "hey, I really like my work. learning this stuff is super fun. Wow, what a great time I'm having." But on top of that, there are a pile of "teachers" who basically make you feel bad, and if you object they say you're resisting learning. Fitness instructors who literally make the fat people cry while exercising, because "that's the only way they will change what they've been doing." Activists and influencers and everyone who wants to change your opinion starting with upsetting you and keeping you upset. "hey, don't blame me. If you're comfortable, you're not learning." "If you're happy, you're not growing." First, that's not true. And second, it doesn't then follow that if you make me uncomfortable or unhappy I magically grow and learn. You need to focus on teaching, leading, inspiring, educating, showing, demonstrating, and modelling.

Yes, I may feel clumsy as I learn a new technical skill, lost as I try to understand new facts, embarrassed as I realize things I did wrong in the past. When those come as a side effect of learning, I need to embrace them because discomfort can be part of learning and growing. But there isn't some short cut where you tell me I'm horrible, say things to upset me, and claim that upsetting me is proof you're a great teacher. It's not. There is no need for you to actively try to put me in a bad place. Sure, I may need to be ok with feeling bad as part of learning. But yelling at me, telling me I am not good enough, speaking roughly to me -- these aren't teaching skills. They're psychological tricks and I am not ok with them. Perhaps you truly believe it's important to cry in order to learn. Well, you're wrong.

I'm not saying everyone has to centre my happiness to teach me. What I am saying is that some teachers (and I have names) claim they don't care if they upset others, but that's a lie: they do care. Step 1 is to upset the learners. It's their trick to get people to listen, or to let themselves feel important, or to say they have changed a person by making them feel bad. If you meet a teacher like this, whether it's a fitness trainer, a culture improver at your workplace, a twitter influencer, a tech trainer, or a conference speaker, walk away. You can find someone to learn from who won't emotionally manipulate you as part of the process. You can learn in comfort, or in the discomfort that comes from realizing you have a lot to learn; you're not obliged to learn in artificial discomfort imposed by someone who thinks it makes them a better teacher to do that to you.


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How Will We Understand The Craft Era?

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Source:   Rex Mandel  , whose photos are  awesome.

Source: Rex Mandel, whose photos are awesome.


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I’ve been writing a lot more “passages” posts in the past couple years than I ever did before. Breweries are aging, and many are passing away or being sold to larger concerns. Very few of the largest US breweries are independent anymore, and a lot of older breweries are shrinking, vanishing, or turning into something other than breweries. Meanwhile, hard selzters have achieved a market share it took craft breweries decades to match, and many erstwhile beer-makers are busily investing in the latest hard coffee or canned cocktail.

There is every reason to believe the year-plus Covid disruption will have long-lasting effects on the alcohol market, and I wonder if we won’t use 2020-‘21 as a convenient place to divide the “craft era” with whatever we’re about to inherit. It will mean reckoning with this era, attempting to make meaning out of how we got here. We are a species of story. We knit together selected events and facts to create meaning out of a disorganized world. The stories we tell ourselves create the reality we inhabit. In our little corner over here in the beer world, that narrative, which has been broadly consistent since the late 1970s, has begun to fray. As we enter this new phase, where the very notion of “craft” loses any coherence, we’ll begin to tell ourselves a new story. In an effort to begin that reckoning, I’ve started to think about the last 44 years, noticing where it was less than we imagined in some ways, but also, perhaps, much more.


The Craft Era

Although brewery numbers hit a nadir around 1980, it was in many ways the pinnacle of a certain kind of beer culture in the US. The country, with a population of 230 million people, drank 188 million barrels, and almost all of it was made domestically. In the four hundred years Europeans lived in America, people never drank more than they did at that moment. (By comparison, last year we drank 191 million barrels, but had a hundred million more citizens.)

The craft brewing “revolution” was, measured in dollars, a tepid one. As an economic force, craft brewing had almost no impact on the US brewing market for decades. It didn’t achieve a single percentage of the market until 1994, and by the end of the century was still around 3%. Meanwhile, domestic beer steamed along, holding steady around 200 million barrels annually.

Craft brewing didn’t start becoming a real player for another decade—thirty years after its birth. And even then, it was making slow inroads into the fuller market. Only by the mid-teens had it achieved real substance, with 12% market share—though more important to an industry, it was earning more than one in five dollars of revenue.

So already we see two competing narratives emerge. Craft was a slow-building, minor phenomenon—or it was a revolution that changed everything. In fact, both are true. In the lived experience of beer drinkers, something more profound is happening. That’s why when we think about the post-Covid world of beer, we may have more luck understanding it if we look beyond sales figures. Indeed, my guess is those will appear relatively static—possibly for years to come. As I worked through a conceptual model for understanding the period, three different lenses emerged: financial, cultural, and evolutionary. Each has something to tell us about beer in America over that span, and yet each has limitations. Taken together, perhaps they come close to telling the full picture.

Volume growth in three Phases

Let’s stick with dollars for a moment but pull out the microscope and take a more granular view. The craft era didn’t proceed uniformly, but went through periods of growth and retrenchment. The first started with New Albion and ran through the middle-90s. This was a period of rapid brewery expansion but little real growth. By early 1996, entrepreneurs had founded a thousand breweries, but sold almost no beer.

That doesn’t quite capture the full picture, though. Josh Noel revealed a fascinating detail in Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: in the early ‘90s, Sam Adam’s Boston Lager and Pete’s Wicked Ale accounted for a third of all craft beer sales. I suspect adding Sierra Nevada and one or two others would account for half the market. That success and dominance by leading brands both alarmed big companies and encouraged investors. The big companies began responding, making their own versions and investing in the new breweries, which probably helped craft beer attain broader cultural salience (see below). Meanwhile, investors created a gold rush atmosphere—not quite as big as the dot com era that followed, but with similar results.

Source: Brewers Association

Source: Brewers Association

Then craft beer crested. Sales never declined, but in 1998 they were completely flat, and a lot of breweries failed. The second phase was more like a hibernation. Brewery counts didn’t budge, and volumes barely ticked up. Breweries tried to survive, paying off debts from overspending in the mid-90s, and going through the first round of consolidation.

In the third phase craft beer became big business. It went on a decade-plus run of growth and became a substantial force in brewing. It featured the second round of consolidation, which confounds data analysis. But if you sweep up all the breweries making IPAs in the country, this segment probably now accounts for a third of the total revenue. Finally, by 2015, it had delivered on that early-‘90s promise.

Beer Evolution Before and After IPA

In some ways 2011 is the most important year in American craft brewing. That was the year IPAs finally became the best-selling craft style. It signals a watershed in beer evolution, and in this regard craft beer’s influence has been far more profound. Up through the turn of the century, most US craft breweries were reproducing European styles. They were learning different techniques and processes. Then, in the late 90s and early 00s, they began to rework those techniques to serve their own purposes and developed a new tradition in brewing built around the flavor and aroma of their native hops. It was a watershed moment that transformed not just the US brewing industry, but brewing around the world.

We notice what an effect this had in the US: brewery numbers skyrocketed, hoppy styles metastasized. From around 2,500 breweries in the early ‘10s, new brewery growth hit staggering levels, more than tripling in the next seven years. Breweries started building business models around IPAs, and those that did generated the most excitement. Breweries with different identities had to adapt, remaking themselves as IPA breweries or at least offering IPAs to satisfy that thirst.

Roman’s Sloeber IPA, made with Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe.

Roman’s Sloeber IPA, made with Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe.

But the effect was bigger than the US and rippled out worldwide. I really noticed this traveling around Europe in 2011-‘12. “Craft brewery” now meant a small operation making IPAs (along with a smattering of other styles that spoke “craft” in a loud American accent), usually down to the sleek, austere industrial spaces Americans favored. It was just starting then. When I returned for a European tour in 2019, American-style IPA breweries thrived in every city I visited.

American IPA has become a worldwide phenomenon, and is largely responsible for the thousands of new breweries that have opened since 2010 from Beijing to Guadalajara. Not since the spread of Bohemia’s pale lagers in the 19th century have we seen a style spread so fast to so many places. I would have found it literally unbelievable a decade ago if you told me staid Belgian breweries like Roman would be making IPAs, but now they must. And here at home, it is becoming as dominant among craft breweries as the classic European styles are in their home regions.

The Cultural Revolution

Applying a cultural lens is the final way to consider the impact of the last four decades. A lowbrow beverage in 1980, it was not considered worth drinking with food—pizza and burgers excepted, perhaps. A “pub” was a bar, a smoky, windowless room that attracted a hard-drinking crowd. Of course, most beer of the era was purchased in bulk at the grocery store, not on draft. People lugged home “suitcases” full of dozens of cans. Beer culture started in vacant, late-night parking lots among teens and didn’t become more sophisticated as they aged. This is another of the ways in which the change has been large, and why it feels large as well.

Breweries are everywhere. They are family-friendly and no longer lowbrow. They’re considered fun places for young people to go. Alcohol in general has lost its tawdry associations, but beer has managed to transition to a category of wholesome fun, safe for mixed parties and kids. (Brewery taprooms remain predominantly White spaces, however, as pubs have been for generations. This is one unfortunate area of stagnation.)

As beer has become respectable, the number of places serving it have multiplied. Restaurants mostly have taplists now, and chain restaurants, hotels, airport diners, and even coffee shops sell craft beer. I know Portland is an outlier, but businesses have learned that adding a few handles of draft adds fun, so now venues from movie theaters to game shops sell beer. That in turn has shifted who drinks beer, which now includes every demographic. In one of those strange paradoxes of culture, the more beer became special, the more it penetrated ordinary activities. Creating an upscale market has made it ubiquitous.

Cultural change didn’t proceed in phases, like the industry and style evolutions did. Nor did it happen at the same pace nationally. Some pockets of the country shifted sooner, and others still lag. Culture proceeds gradually, by accretion. And yet even in areas where breweries have been slow to sprout, pale ales and witbiers have found their way into mainstream life.

In 1977, beer played a stable role in the US, one most Americans would describe in similar terms. The beverage itself was easily definable. In the following decades, our perceptions changed, fueled by an evolution of the beverage itself and the people who made it. Once “brewery” evoked a factory, massive in scale and therefore unknowable to those outside its walls. Later, it became human-sized, and called to mind small buildings where you could meet the person who made the beer in your glass. Beer once meant something straw-colored and fizzy and now it means something slightly darker, less fizzy, and probably hoppy. Once it was common and unremarkable, and now it is accused of being twee and over-elaborate.

The past is always rewritten to conform to the story of the present. As beer begins its inevitable transformation—possibly accelerated by Covid—we will revisit the craft era over and over again. It has been a hugely consequential time. Yet the largest effects may be in areas we’re least likely to recognize them—the water to a fish’s eye. In the end, craft beer may not have been a financial rainmaker. The era changed beer, though, both here and abroad, as well as the way we drink it. We shouldn’t lose sight of how important those changes were.



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Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler — How New Orleans is Forging the Next Chapter for U.S. Rum

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You hear the music of a jazz band floating on a breeze as you go wandering after dark. Though the streets are lined with bars, there’s almost as much activity out in the open. Maybe it’s the moist heat in the air, but there’s something about New Orleans that compels you to have a cocktail in hand as you explore. Whether you’re drinking al fresco like this, at a historical hotel bar, or at a neighborhood joint, you’re sure to find a good time here—and an even better beverage. 

“People in New Orleans have always wanted to drink. The French are pretty famous for their libations. They planted tobacco crops because they wanted to smoke, and they made sure there were good drinks around at all times. You definitely have to give the credit to the French for the mega cocktail culture,” says Fred Minnick, spirits expert and bestselling author of books such as Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World’s Spirit and Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey


As bartender Ryan Hughes tells it, decadence is still a defining element of New Orleans’ drinks scene today. Hughes began his career in the industry five years ago in Jackson, Mississippi before relocating to New Orleans to work at craft cocktail and Champagne bar Effervescence. Located in the French Quarter, Effervescence has a relatively high-end focus that contrasts with the kinds of bars that Hughes describes as being centered on “partying, quick, high-volume, rum and Coke, and beers.” But despite the difference in ambiance, they’re all united by joyful excess.

“I drink a lot—I’m a bartender in New Orleans,” Hughes says with a laugh. “I have gone to a wide array of places. Effervescence is special in that there aren’t that many nice craft cocktail bars that you can easily go to that are reasonably priced. I really enjoy the clientele. I’ve worked in gay bars and chain restaurants, but this is a place where I feel most able to explore my craft. It’s more about creating an experience and providing a service rather than a bottom line—which I think is a really commendable thing.” 

New Orleans is the birthplace of many classic drinks, from the Sazerac and the Vieux Carré to Brandy Milk Punch and the Ramos Gin Fizz. As much as the city’s cocktail culture takes place behind rarefied doors, it also spills out into the fresh air. “Because there aren’t any open container laws down here, you can take a drink out into the street,” says Erik Morningstar, head distiller at the city’s Seven Three Distilling Co. “There are wonderful cocktail bars here that are on par with the best in the world. It’s the stereotypical frozen daiquiri world or you can have these amazing craft cocktails, along with amazing food, of course. Everything is very easy and very relaxed, but also extremely high-quality.”

“It’s a city with a world-class cocktail and bar scene,” adds Eileen Bivalacqua, co-founder of Seven Three Distilling. “Not bad considering our population is a small fraction of New York or London or Singapore. We consider ourselves so fortunate to live in a city with such an outsized cultural footprint. The music, the art, the food, and of course the drinks—it’s magical.”


In 1964, Congress declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit.” But before there was whiskey, there was rum. As early as the 1700s, the two major rum centers for colonial America were Massachusetts, which had between 60 to 70 rum distilleries, and Rhode Island, which had 30. “If you really want to dial into what the true American spirit is, it’s probably rum,” Minnick says. “As a country, before we were formed, we were drinking a lot more rum than after we were a country.” Although rum’s U.S. history is tied to the East Coast, it’s the molasses—rum’s base ingredient—that has its origins in the South, specifically Louisiana. “Molasses was really special to Louisiana. They were world-famous for their molasses.” 

It’s a city with a world-class cocktail and bar scene. Not bad considering our population is a small fraction of New York or London or Singapore. We consider ourselves so fortunate to live in a city with such an outsized cultural footprint.
— Eileen Bivalacqua, Seven Three Distilling

Eventually, the balance tipped towards whiskey. “The U.S. penalized rum distillers because they tariffed the molasses they were buying,” says Minnick. “There just wasn’t enough production coming out of Louisiana and places like that to kind of fill in the gaps. So, they’d steeply tariff the molasses to open the road for whiskey distillers because the whiskey distillers were connected to the farmers and the farmers were basically connected to the feeding of the communities. So, they looked at rum as a bit of an enemy for growing in the United States of America because it was connected to the English.”

It’s impossible to tell the story of rum—and molasses and sugarcane production—without acknowledging its darker histories. Rum reminds of the brutality of British empire, the triangle trade that enslaved West Africans and brought them to sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and sugarcane’s notoriously vicious labor practices. Those practices were also replicated in Louisiana’s early industry.

“In 1795, Étienne de Boré, a New Orleans sugar planter, granulated the first sugar crystals in the Louisiana Territory,” writes Khalil Gibran Muhammad in a piece for the New York Times’ 1619 Project. “With the advent of sugar processing locally, sugar plantations exploded up and down both banks of the Mississippi River.” This boom of sugar plantations was due to the “abundantly rich alluvial soil, combined with the technical mastery of seasoned French and Spanish planters from around the cane-growing basin of the Gulf and the Caribbean — and because of the toil of thousands of enslaved people.”

The uptick in the arrival of French planters and their enslaved sugar workers in Louisiana was in part the result of Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ successful revolution to secure Haiti’s independence from France. “Within five decades, Louisiana planters were producing a quarter of the world’s cane-sugar supply,” writes Muhammad. “During her antebellum reign, Queen Sugar bested King Cotton locally, making Louisiana the second-richest state in per capita wealth.”


These days, rum is not the first spirit that many would reflexively associate with New Orleans. But within the last six years, the city, and Louisiana as a whole, has seen a small influx in the number of distilleries focused on rum as a key part of their portfolios, and which are ushering in a new chapter in the spirit’s history. Among the distilleries forging new paths for local rum is the New Orleans-based Seven Three Distilling Co. 


“Louisiana is such a massive producer of sugarcane. Given our access to the fresh sugarcane and molasses, it makes sense for strong Louisiana rum traditions to emerge, and you’re starting to see that,” says Seven Three’s general manager, Tristan Johnson. “We’re not the only producers of it here in the state. Most distilleries in Louisiana have a rum in their repertoire, if not their entire repertoire. It’s very much the spirit you see down here. It’s very exciting to be part of what’s an emerging American rum tradition—a Louisiana rum tradition—and helping to shape that.” 

Husband-and-wife co-founders Sal and Eileen Bivalacqua launched Seven Three Distilling in 2015. “It’s hard not to find inspiration in New Orleans, especially when libations are involved. The city has had a thriving bar and cocktail scene practically since the Sazerac was first invented, but the distillation community here is comparatively young,” says Eileen. 

The distillery gets its name from the 73 neighborhoods of New Orleans. All of Seven Three’s spirits are named after local districts, such as Irish Channel Whiskey, Gentilly Gin, Black Pearl Rum, and more. 

If you really want to dial into what the true American spirit is, it’s probably rum. As a country, before we were formed, we were drinking a lot more rum than after we were a country.
— Fred Minnick, historian

Seven Three’s Head Distiller, Erik Morningstar, trained under the late renowned whiskey distiller, Dave Pickerell. “It was an amazing experience. He had such a depth of knowledge working with whiskey. I get most of my spirit-making chops from Dave.” Morningstar got his start working for a small distillery in his home state of Michigan before eventually relocating, at the end of 2016, to New Orleans to help with Seven Three’s launch. 

“Having the background with Dave Pickerell, rum was very new to me. I didn’t have supreme self-confidence, but I also thought, ‘How hard could this be? It’s molasses, water, and yeast—and that’s pretty much it.’ As with most things, it turned out to be a lot harder than it first appeared. In order to get a really robust, flavorful rum, it’s a lot more moving pieces there,” Morningstar reflects.

Having access to fresh molasses no doubt sets Louisiana rums apart. Morningstar explains the strenuous process of creating Black Pearl to me. He starts with blackstrap molasses. “If you’re familiar with the process of making sugar, you start with sugarcane juice and boil it down and agitate it at the same time you’re boiling it, and that helps the sugar to crystallize.” The crystallized sugar is then removed before it’s boiled again. More crystallized sugar is removed and voila, you get blackstrap molasses. “We use the first boil, so it’s closer to sugarcane juice. It still has a robust flavor like a blackstrap molasses rum, but it’s a little bit more nuanced, with a grassy note to it; but it still has some of those deeper flavors from the fruit notes you’d come to expect from rum.”


Black Pearl is an approachable rum that certainly serves as an accessible entry point for those new to the spirit. Its alluringly sweet, ripe banana aroma is an immediate draw. The palate is a welcoming blend of the things I loved about my childhood: fruity rock candy and airy cotton candy. The slight heat on the finish gives way to a hint of grassiness. Black Pearl can be sipped chilled on its own, or in a spirit-forward cocktail.

Recently, Hughes and the Effervescence team included Black Pearl Rum in several drinks on their fall cocktail menu. “We took the concept of a daiquiri and Mai Tai and fused them. We used a cherry syrup, a honey grappa—which you don’t see in a lot of cocktails—amaretto, and some lime, and fresh ginger that we juiced ourselves.” 


Local sourcing underlies Effervescence’s approach, which is part of the reason Seven Three held particular appeal. “That’s why we wanted to use Seven Three Distillery—because they’re local. We like to focus on and support local businesses. It’s something very close to the owner’s heart,” Hughes says. It helps that Black Pearl, while distinctive, is also versatile. “I always think that a spirit is only as good as what you can really mix it with, and Seven Three’s Black Pearl Rum is easy enough to mix with a wide variety of things,” Hughes says.

Most of the cane that is used for the distillery’s Black Pearl Rum is grown along Bayou Lafourche (pronounced “La-foosh”) in both Assumption and Lafourche Parishes. The distillery has a direct relationship with the Robichaux family and their farm in Labadieville, and has worked with them to source fresh sugarcane. The cane stalks grow over 12 feet tall, and Morningstar describes standing in the midst of the field at harvest time as a humbling experience. “Feeling so small when looking into the vastness of the freshly cut fields extending to the horizon with your back to the impenetrable walls of uncut cane,” he says. “There are waves of frenetic activity to cut the cane and transport it to the mill, before it spoils.” It’s a short harvest season, typically falling at the end of the year.

The distillery’s proximity to the fields and the sugar mills gives it the opportunity to utilize different grades of molasses as soon as they’re made. Distillers can even choose where and how their preferred cane is grown and processed—a primary advantage for Louisiana distillers (and drinkers). “The craft distilling scene isn’t as established here as it is in other places, but we have the potential to do great things, and I am excited to see what the future holds for our industry here in Louisiana,” Morningstar says.


The onslaught of the pandemic caught everyone off-guard, especially those in the spirits industry. However, the Seven Three team’s resilience is thanks in part to timing and benevolence. “We certainly started with trying to build a strong base here in New Orleans and Louisiana. We donate everywhere we can. It’s about building a brand that’s meaningfully connected to New Orleans, our community,” says Johnson.

Most distilleries in Louisiana have a rum in their repertoire, if not their entire repertoire. It’s very much the spirit you see down here. It’s very exciting to be part of what’s an emerging American rum tradition—a Louisiana rum tradition—and helping to shape that.
— Tristan Johnson, Seven Three Distilling

One way the distillery has helped out is by producing hand sanitizer.  “Like everyone, we’re taking it day-by-day. We began very quickly into pivoting into hand sanitizer production, which is what many of the distilleries did,” Johnson says. “That was tremendously helpful and got us through many months of the year. We are fortunate that we’re finally at a point in the city where we’re able to reopen for tours and tastings. We’re lucky that we have space to really set anyone’s mind at ease who’s coming in here.”

The business has layered in additional precautions to help protect visitors, including limited tour sizes, a new layout, and a policy that guests must wear masks when not seated and sampling spirits.

Out of necessity, the pandemic has also forced the distillery to add a strong distribution model to its business. It has moved forward with off-premise distribution by way of liquor stores and online sales. “That’s been one of the great wins of 2020 for us, is that we have online shipping throughout the U.S. and actually even some international selling all available through our website,” Johnson adds. In 2021, Seven Three will expand to South Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama markets, in addition to shipping via Passion Spirits to nearly all 50 states. It will also release a bourbon to round out its portfolio—a project that has been on the horizon for as long as the distillery’s been open.  

The pandemic is a formidable hurdle, but its residents believe New Orleans will remain unbeatable in its distinctive approach to cocktails—and now rum. “I love the city because it has a particular kind of magic that I think has an undeniable magnetism. There’s a reason people flock to the city from all over the world,” Hughes says. “The culture is unique and singular. There is no place in the world like New Orleans. Every time I drive over and look at the skyline, I’m like, ‘Oh, I do live here now, and I love it!’”

Words by Gabrielle Pharms
Illustrations by Ryan Troy Ford

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