GSN Alert: Tales on Tour in Puerto Rico, March 10-13, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, LA – October 2, 2018 – Tales of the Cocktail Foundation is honored to announce a special edition of Tales on Tour 2019 will occur in Puerto Rico, in an effort to help the territory rebuild through supporting the region’s spirits community and hospitality industry. The four-day festival will occur from March 10 – 13, 2019. Old San Juan will be the host city for Tales on Tour with Hotel El Convento serving as the host hotel.

Tales on Tour is an annual initiative that partners Tales of the Cocktail Foundation with a domestic or international host city outside of New Orleans to further the foundation’s mission to educate, advance, and support the industry on a global scale.

“As New Orleanians, we live in a city rebuilt on hospitality in the wake of a natural disaster,” shared Gary Solomon, Jr., Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. “New Orleans’ culinary scene was instrumental in New Orleans’ long road to rebuilding and financial recovery. That shared sentiment really drew us to help a sister city through a genuine lens of hospitality.”

The Foundation’s Executive Board, Gary Solomon Jr. and Neal Bodenheimer, along with Executive Director, Caroline Rosen, recently conducted a trip to Puerto Rico to meet with bar owners, spirits professionals, and organizations, like Discover Puerto Rico, firsthand earlier this year. In doing so, they found there is a robust and beloved cocktail scene that, given support and resources, could prove impactful in the territory’s ongoing efforts to rebuild.

One of those bars that solidified the Foundation’s decision to venture to Puerto Rico was La Factoria, a 2018 finalist for a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award. La Factoria’s team will be a close partner for Tales on Tour 2019, working alongside the Executive Team to host a special takeover event during the festival. Co-founder, Roberto Berdecia shared, “It has been a very tough year and it has been incredible to see all of the support from the outside. Bringing Tales on Tour to Puerto Rico is going to make us feel part of something bigger. Those who come here will feel what we call ‘calor caribeño,’ meaning, make them part of the family!”

Similar to Tales of the Cocktail 2018, Tales on Tour will include a Day of Service, a Day of Education, Beyond the Bar programming centered on mental health and wellness programming, Spirited Dinners, and the organization’s signature Cocktail Apprentice Program.

“We are delighted that Puerto Rico has been chosen to host Tales of The Cocktail on Tour in 2019. There is no better place than Puerto Rico, the rum capital of the world, to bring together thousands of hospitality professionals from around the world and give them the opportunity to discover Puerto Rico, immerse themselves in the culinary and mixology scene while also learning about our culture and heritage,” said Brad Dean, CEO Discover Puerto Rico. “Aside from having a significant impact in the visitor economy of Puerto Rico, it will also offer the local industry a vehicle for continued education. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

More details will be released in the weeks to come as programming is announced.

For more information go to: Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

GSN Alert: Destilería Serrallés focuses on hurricane relief efforts for Puerto Rico

PONCE, Puerto Rico — In the aftermath of Hurricane María and its devastating path through Puerto Rico, Destilería Serrallés, Inc., producer of Don Q, Puerto Rico’s #1 family of premium rums, concentrated its initial efforts on ensuring the whereabouts and safety of its employees.  Immediately thereafter, the distillery quickly shifted its focus towards restoring its operations and assisting Puerto Rico with much-needed aid.

“As in other parts of the Island, the southern region, where the Distillery is based, is still offline in terms of the telecommunications infrastructure, making the company’s recovery efforts very challenging. A total lack of electric power and communications are the greatest obstacles that we are currently facing, along with the personal challenges and difficulties our employees are dealing with”, said Philippe Brechot, President and CEO of Serrallés.

On September 24th, the company launched a fundraising program throughout the United States, including Miami, New York, Houston and over a dozen other cities. Each participating bar is crafting a special drink menu with Don Q Rum where net proceeds will be matched by Serrallés and all proceeds donated to relief efforts.  The company is working with the nonprofit ConPRmetidos, in partnership with Foundation for Puerto Rico to raise funds for those affected by Hurricane María. At present more than 40 fundraisers are currently under way with additional events being scheduled every week.

Serrallés is also actively collaborating in helping facilitate temporary work on the mainland for local bartenders who have been out of work for several weeks as a result of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane María.  The bartending and hospitality community’s response has been immediate and overwhelming, very supportive and eager to help in any possible way.  At present, 21 bartenders have signed up to receive the company’s support and more than 80 bars in the mainland have offered help via temporary employment or housing local bartenders during this emergency.

The company’s stateside employees in Miami, Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas have also been very active in organizing collection centers for Puerto Rico Rises to collect a wide variety of basic necessities to help families on the Island. Other grassroots efforts are underway.

About Destilería Serrallés, Inc.: Destilería Serrallés is based in Ponce, Puerto Rico where it produces its flagship product, the award-winning Don Q rum, the #1 selling rum on the Island.  Please visit us at: www.donq.com and follow us on http://www.facebook.com/DonQ and @donqrum.

GSN’s One For the Road: Destilería Serrallés, Puerto Rico

Recently, I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend an awards ceremony for Destilería Serrallés’ Don Q gran anejo rum and tour the historic distillery.  Their flagship spirit is Don Q rum, which is the best-selling rum in Puerto Rico, far outselling Bacardi.  During the days I spent there, I spent a good deal of time enjoying the varied tastes of Puerto Rican food and beverage.  One thing I noticed over and over, was that rum based cocktails are regularly served with food instead of the more typical wine.  Most restaurants offer mojitos, rum punches or pina coladas made with Don Q Cristal, or you can order a gran anejo rum on the rocks.

Because of the high quality the Serrallés family puts into their products, Don Q rum continually receives spirit and cocktail awards year after year.  Their Blackbeard Spiced Rum won a well deserved Chairman’s award from Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Cocktail Challenge in 2011, and their anejo and gran anejo rums placed high in the challenge as well.  Not only that, but their rums have won numerous platinum and gold medals at other international competitions as well.

My journey really began the first night, when those of us who had been invited to attend the week’s festivities, carpooled to a local restaurant named Buddatai, headed up by Next Iron Chef, Robert Trevino.  Everyone started the evening with a round of mojitos and I had the pleasure of sharing a table along with Esteban Ordonez (seen at right with two friends), the national brand ambassador for Don Q.  I think I learned more about the world of spirits in those few hours than I have over the past several years.  After an evening of listening to stories about the history of rum in Puerto Rican culture over a delicious meal, everyone headed back to the El San Juan Hotel for a nightcap at the bar.

The next day was literally full of planned food & drink activities, and we began by taking two tour buses to La Plaza Del Mercado in nearby Santurce, for a lunchtime of fresh shrimp and octopus ceviches, grilled chicken, mashed plantains and the favorite local beverage of Don Q Cristal with coconut water and lime juice poured over ice.  From there, we went to local seaside restaurant Soleil for a heartier meal of beef, seafood and vegetable tapas plates served with fresh rum punches.  Lastly, we stopped for a taste of the entire Don Q product line at Casa Don Q which is the museum and shop in San Juan.  After the heat of the day, it was great to have a Pina Colada in the style of Ramon “Monchito” Marrero (seen at left), who is said to have created the drink back in 1954.

The evening’s main event was the 5 Star Diamond Award given to Félix J. Serrallés Jr., President and CEO of Destilería Serrallés (pictured 2nd from the left) held at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. In this day and age, when conglomerates regularly buy out small family run distilleries, it is a breath of fresh air to find out that Destilería Serrallés is still run by the descendents of the original founder.  During the evening, I took the opportunity to talk with some of the other attendees including Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, Camper English, Martin Cate and Estaban Ordonez about rum and it’s increasing popularity in the world of cocktails.  The event was packed and at times quite surreal with a Puerto Rican string band playing in one corner while the Serrallés family crest was shown dancing around the ceiling in a light show reminiscent of the Bat Signal.  The drinks were interesting too, as gran anejo Manhattans and spiced rum daiquiris flowed along with flutes of Cava.

The program itself was blessedly short and to the point, with American Academy of Hospitality Sciences President & CEO, Joseph D. Cinque and Karen Lynn Dixon, International General Manager giving a summary introduction to the history of the Serrallés family’s business.  During the award ceremony, Mr. Félix J. Serrallés, Jr. was joined on stage with other Destilería Serrallés Board Members & Family Members, including Roberto J. Serrallés, Vice President of Business Development at Destilería Serrallés and 6th Generation Rum Maker to accept the The Five-Star Diamond Award which is usually only given to restaurants and hotels.  In fact, Don Q is only the 4th spirit to receive this award and the only rum!  As Félix was about to leave the stage, he was also given a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the economy and welfare of Puerto Rico.  He gave a brief thank you speech, and the evening quickly ended.  Before we left tho’, several of us made our way over to Laurel, the museum’s restaurant/bar for a last Don Q gran anejo on the rocks before calling it a night.

The next day was the real highlight for most of us, as we all took a trip over the mountains to Ponce where Destilería Serrallés is located. Our tour was hosted by Roberto Serrallés, son of fifth generation Félix, and I was surprised to learn that the distillery doesn’t normally give tours to anyone.  Although considering the enthusiasm that Roberto showed during the next few hours, he could easily do so if he decided to retire.

We started with a short overview of the grounds via a blueprint in the boardroom, then took a walk through the headquarters.  We each donned construction helmets and went out into the late morning heat to inspect the barrel shed, then over to one of the aging warehouses where we got a chance to taste high-proof rum right out of the barrel.  The rest of the tour took us to the fermenting tanks, a decades old pot still (still in use) and the new gleaming steel column stills.  One area that Roberto was most excited about was a building which held cutting edge equipment designed to completely purify the waste water.  He said that they are one of the few rum distilleries in the Caribbean that does not dump their waste into the ocean, but rather recycles it for local farming use.  In fact, Destilería Serrallés is one of the “greenest” companies around since they reuse or reclaim virtually every aspect of their resources.  Within the grounds of the distillery they make their own bio gas, electricity, mulch and irrigation water.

After the tour, we got the chance to taste four different unblended spirits: two unaged rums made by pot still and column still; and two aged pot still and column still rums.  Each was quite unique and different from any rum I’ve ever tasted.  Ms. Silvia Santiago, the master blender creates a careful blending of several of these “unfinished” rums to achieve the taste profile they’re known for before anything is released to market.  Their master blender only has to smell the rums to know what the end result will be. Pretty impressive stuff!

We were all famished by this point, so we boarded the buses and drove  back towards San Juan to make a late lunch stop.  We ended up stopping at local roadside diner Guavate, for some awesome roasted pig, morcella, rice with pigeon peas, mofungo, and tostones. Looking around the diner, I saw numerous signs and bottles of Don Q once again.  It was apparent that Don Q, in a very real sense is the spirit of Puerto Rico and it’s people.  It is as much a part of the Hispanic lifestyle as their religious faith.  Perhaps, the angels are watching over the Serrallés distillery while enjoying their angel’s share.

My friend Chris Milligan, the Santa Fe Barman also posted his thoughts on the trip here