Today in Creative Beer Advertising: Heineken’s New TV Spot, ‘The Voyage’

As I was saying the other day, unless you time-travel to Brezhnev’s Soviet Union circa 1968, advertising is going to get you one way or another. On the plus side, not all ads have to deaden your brain and destroy your soul like a local TV spot for a car dealership. These days, in fact, some ads are downright cinematic and fun. And for whatever reason, the alcoholic beverage industry is leading the way. There are creative, film-like ads for Dewar’s and Chivas Scotch, Captain Morgan and Bacardi rum, among many others. But the king of them all appears to Heineken, as the Dutch beer brand seems to revel in creating fun, entertaining ads that feature actual stories along with their iconic green bottles. Remember "The Date," which featured that song Jaan Pehechaan Ho? It was so good you stopped fast-forwarding the commercial on your DVR and backed up to watch it. Well, they’ve got a new one out today, called The Voyage, and it’s a fine one. It features a rakish young man (all Heineken heroes are rakish and young) visiting India who ends up chasing a goat who has absconded with his beer bottles. 

The ad’s only two minutes long, so I’ll spare you the recap, but I will say this. I’m not an actor, but I know some people who are, and, for the most part, they much prefer doing proper TV shows and movies to doing ads, even though they’ll sing the odd Just for Men Gel jingle to pay the rent. But I imagine that young actors are clamoring to be a part of film-esqe ads like this. Can you imagine what the shoots are like for these things? Probably just like shooting a scene for a massive blockbuster movie. There’s every chance that the protagonist who eventually gets his beer-goat will also eventually get some great offers for mainstream, non-commercial work.

In the meantime, I’m sure we both appreciate ads like this, ads that are actually a pleasure to watch. The question, of course, is whether they actually sell beer, or just give away some entertainment for free. Well, it’s 10:34 a.m. on a sweltering Friday morning in New York City, and I’ve just watched this thing three times in a row. Do I want an ice cold bottle of Heineken right now? I do. 

[Related: BlackBook New York Nightlife Guide; Dewar’s is from Glasgow, and Glasgow is Gritty, and Maybe You Are Too; Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna Make Cool Mini-Movie for Chivas Scotch; Today in Creative Spirits Advertising: Bacardi’s ‘Cuba Libre’ Film-mercial; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Today in Creative Spirits Advertising: Bacardi’s ‘Cuba Libre’ Film-mercial

Advertising. It’s not going away. You can hide, but it will find you. Your best option is to become an educated, media-savvy consumer, and then just lie back and enjoy it. Of course, some ads are easier to lie back and enjoy than others. Take this new Bacardi spot, which is a cross between a commercial and a short film. It tells the fictionalized, probably apocryphal story (it’s "inspired by a truth") of the origin of the Cuba Libre, a highball made with white rum, cola, and sometimes lime. Its origins are somewhat murky, but we do know that it comes from Cuba, was somehow connected to the Spanish-American War, may have involved Teddy Roosevelt, and was first sipped sometime between 1898 and 1900. And it’s a fine drink, maybe not the fanciest of cocktails, but a successful marriage of flavors and nations. Coca-Cola, from young, fizzy America, and Bacardi Rum, a longtime product of old Cuba connected to its sugar industry. (Since Fidel ran Batista out of Cuba in 1959, Bacardi’s been based in Puerto Rico. Read more about this fascinating story in the Bacardi archives. Few companies have such a wild history.)

But getting back to the romantic version of events, the spot features an American messenger delivering a scroll to TR and his Rough Riders in a tent. On his way out, he swipes a bottle of generic cola (we all know it’s Coke). He offers it to a raven-haired beauty leaning against a tree. She pops the cap off with a dagger, dumps about half of it out, pulls a cork out of her rum flask strapped to her sexy thigh, adds a small measure of rum (revolutionaries always drink responsibly), and hands it to him. She says "Cuba Libre," and walks away.

Why does she walk away? No idea. She was there first, it’s her tree, she’s not done peeling whatever fruit she was peeling, and now she has a drink. I guess she just doesn’t want this American guy hitting on her. In any case, it’s a nifty advert, and it will hold you until Friday, when the next slickly-produced spot from Heineken, Hot Woman, comes out.

Check out Cuba Libre below, then go to your favorite local rum bar (we like Mayahuel) and order one. And when you do, make sure to pronounce it like Cuban dagger-woman. It’s Kooba Lee-bray, not Cube-uh Lee-ber. And it’s definitely not let me get a, um, rum ‘n’ coke.  

[BlackBook New York Nightlife Guide; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Summer Spirits to Beat the Heat

It’s summer up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and you’re probably looking for ways to keep cool. The best way, of course, is to sip a nice cold glass of beer, wine, or spirits. Here are a few of my favorites for afternoons under the sun and breezy evenings in shirt sleeves. 

Beer’s as casual as summer itself, and I’m always happy when someone puts an ice-cold bottle of Heineken or Amstel Light in my hand. I also enjoy Samuel Adams Summer Ale, a crisp wheat with a citrus bite, and Samuel Adams Belgian Session, an ale with a quaffability far beyond that of its Flemish cousins. 
When it comes to whiskey, the light and flavorful Gentleman Jack ($32) goes down well on sultry nights. The new Whistlepig Straight Rye ($70) boasts a complex spiciness that leaves you feeling cool. The Macallan Fine Oak 10-Year-Old ($41) is the closest there is to a summer Scotch, with a whiff of leather in the bouquet and a hint of caramel in the finish. 
Rum loves the sun, and the lively Bacardi Oakheart ($15) gives a great little kick to your Cuba Libra. 10 Cane ($30) is made from fresh sugar cane juice with a touch of extra old rum. Appleton 12-Year-Old Rum ($42) makes me feel close to Jamaica, with a playful bite up front and a banana and vanilla finish. It’s dear, but Ron Abuelo Centuria ($130) is amazing. A wave of buttery oak leaves behind a medley of spice notes. 
For tequila, I enjoy Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Silver ($53) with its pleasant grapefruit finish. Herradura Silver ($40) brings out the best in the agave, proof that quality tequila doesn’t have to be aged to drink neat. And Patron XO Dark Cocoa ($25) takes the nighttime chill out of your bones, even if it comes from sitting too close to the air conditioner. 
For oenophiles, summer is a time to grab a crisp white, like the Kim Crawford 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($19), a refined wine from New Zealand with cherry flavors. The elegant Robert Mondavi Reserve Fumé Blanc ($40) from California has an aroma of country air and flavors of apple and pear. And I love Veuve Clicquot Rosé ($70), with its tiny bubbles and dry, fruity notes. 
Summer doesn’t last long so drink it in while you can. 

A Supreme Stash of Winter Spirits

Who needs central heating when you can blow your bonus on premium spirits that will have you feeling toasty inside and out? Here’s a baker’s dozen that will keep you warm and happy until the first buds of spring appear.

I don’t normally love holiday beers – enough with the cloves already – but Samuel Adams Griffin’s Bow Ale ($7) hits all the right citrus and floral notes. To really get in the spirit, pop a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage 2004 ($75). It’s crisp and balanced with hints of pear and that austere oaky note common to vintage champagnes.

Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey ($32) has complex notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel. It’s a tough southern boy dressed in his Sunday best. Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($35) is earthy and warm, with a whisper of orange and a nice kick. Let the ice melt for five minutes and it’s heaven. I love the new Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky ($40), from its gorgeous amber color to its woody aroma to its vanilla and honey notes. A peppermint nip mellows its peaty undertones.

Winter’s a wonderful time for dark rum, and Bacardi Reserva Limitada ($110) is one of the best, with a smoky bouquet, vanilla and coconut flavors, and subtle sugars that tickle the tip of the tongue. The new Brugal 1888 ($50) is a delightfully smooth rum, with a flawless balance of oaky and sweet. The even newer DonQ Gran Añejo ($60) is a fun rum, sharp and spicy at first, then mellow and sweet.

Vodka knows no season, but Stoli Chocolat Razberi ($24) seems perfect for a snowy night. It smells like Cream Savers and tastes like a fancy box of chocolates. The interplay between flavors makes it quite sexy – put a glass on your nightstand. I wasn’t sure I’d like Patrón XO Cafe ($25), but I do, a lot. Its aroma alone perks you up, and the agave flavor of the tequila melds surprisingly well with the coffee. I’d want this in my rucksack during a cold night in the Sierra Madres.  

Moving up the sweet scale, the new Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice ($20) is everything it should be. The cinnamon knows its boundaries, and the sweet coffee flavor massages the palate. Baileys Irish Cream ($21) has always had a light touch. You can taste the whiskey, but the creaminess makes it the smoothest dram you’ll ever sip. Finally, when you’re really ready to indulge, open a bottle of Godiva Original Chocolate Liqueur ($30). It has a velvety texture and it’s as chocolatey as you’d ever want it to be, yet balanced enough to not be cloying. It’s delicious chilled, mixed in a cocktail, or even poured over ice cream. Feeling cozy yet?

For Father’s Day, Dad Wants Liquor

Screw the tie clip, the sweater, the lawn-care implements. A card is nice if you actually write something in it, but if all you’re going to do is sign the thing, save your $3.99. Absent absurdly expensive toys, Dad bought himself what he wanted long before you knew he wanted it. In fact, forget all that traditional Father’s Day stuff. You’ve put Pops through a lot over the years, and since you can’t give him back the youth you stole from him, the least you can do is give him a brief respite from the noise of the world: Give your dad a good bottle of booze this Sunday. Here are a few favorites that I’d totally expect my brood to offer up if I didn’t already have them.

Whisky: Perhaps the iconic dad spirit, it’s hard to go wrong with a bourbon, rye, or Scotch. I’d be happy uncorking anything from Jack Daniel’s, Dewar’s, or Johnnie Walker. Give dad a great drink and a Scotch education with a fifth of Glenlivet Nadurra 16 ($60), which is bottled at cask strength and is non-chill filtered. It has the flavor of apricots and oak and a healthy kick. If you’re ready to spend some serious – but not quite insane – cash, Talisker 30 is worth every one of the 350 dollars you’ll pay for it. With notes of vanilla, sandalwood, and caramel, he’ll forget about how you took out the lawn gnomes with his Buick that one time.

Tequila: Perhaps your dad prefers an agave-based spirit. If so, head straight to the tequila section of your local booze-mart, where you’ll find an amazing selection of quality bottles that simply weren’t around when he was coming up. While cheaper tequilas work well in margaritas, I’d definitely spend some extra scratch on the primo stuff if he’s just going to be sipping it. Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Silver ($53) has just a touch of grapefruit in its flavor profile, while Jose Cuervo Platino ($60) has citrus notes and a fun assortment of botanicals that dance on the tongue. I absolutely love Gran Patrón Platinum ($200), and offer it to guests who tell me they’ve never had a really good tequila. It’s butterscotch smooth, with flavors of honey, cream, and pear nectar. It’s so nice, in fact, that my prized bottle of the stuff is almost empty.

Rum: Rum’s having a moment, at least in my liquor cabinet, with so many varieties with wildly different flavor profiles – which means you have to try them all. You definitely can’t go wrong with Mount Gay Extra Old ($50), which has an oaky bouquet and flavors of vanilla and cinnamon. Creeping upscale, there’s Ron Zacapa XO ($100), a delicious drink with hints of birch and ginger, and the mind-blowing Bacardi Reserva Limitada ($110), which is made from rums that have mellowed in charred American white oak casks. Limitada is as smooth as rum gets, with flavors of lemon and orange practically jumping out of the glass. Educate dad on rhum agricole, which is made with fresh sugar cane juice instead of the traditional molasses. I like 10 Cane ($30), with a pleasant vanilla flavor, and Clement Premiere Canne ($32), which boasts a pleasing sandalwood aroma and coconut and citrus flavors.

Vodka: It might be the un-booze, but vodka’s supposed absence of flavor might be the ultimate expression of peace in your old man’s soul. I just wrote about vodka, so I’ll only mention a couple of standouts. At $23, Ketel One punches way above its weight class. It’s as smooth as a whisper and perfect in a martini. 42 Below ($22) is another good bet, traveling all the way from New Zealand to the side table by Dad’s TV chair. It has hints of grain and straw and a great mouthfeel. Square One Organic ($35) is delicious and has a great story. It’s made in Idaho from American rye and has vanilla notes and a hint of spice. Grey Goose ($40) tastes as good as it looks, and you know how sexy those bottles are. And I was impressed with Stoli Elit ($60), the iconic Russian vodka house’s most refined offering. The bottle looks like something from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, and the liquid tastes like a Siberian winter, with the faintest hint of grain. Chill it, pour it, and let dad sip it.

Of course, the obvious benefit of these bottles is that Dad will be obliged to share them with you, at least for a drink, so be sure to pick something you like as well. You’re a good kid, did I ever tell you that?

Bacardi’s Genesis in Cuban Liberation

imageRum and revolution have an awesome history, which is why Tom Gjelton’s Bacardi and the Long Fight For Cuba is such a good read. Use it as a travel guide; I would. Because if you follow the rum, you’ll find the fun. Trust me on this. Years ago I found myself pinballing around post-revolution Nicaragua (don’t ask). Fortified with several bottles of Flor de Cano, my friend and I boarded a bullet-ridden puddle jumper and headed for Corn Island, a Nicaraguan outpost in the Caribbean Sea. The island was founded and owned by privateer Captain Henry Morgan (the rum brand namesake) and was teeming with friendly native girls, modern-day pirates called Moskitos, and beach-roving pushers slinging eightballs for $5. Amazing history all locked into one tiny little island. Fun? You bet. Well, Gjelton’s is a different story — it’s Cuba — but the same theory applies.

The book, out this week, follows Cuba’s fight for Independence from Spain and the Bacardi family’s long history as activists, and it offers an alternative glimpse to pre-revolutionary Cuba and Fidel Castro’s 50-year reign. But social, political, and economic histories aside, at heart of the story is Facundo Barcardi’s gamble on rum. Since Cuba was a sugar-producing island, Barcardi realized he could use the molasses byproduct to distill and export rum. The rest is history. So, the next time you drink Bacardi, make it a Cube Libre.