“I wish I knew then, what I know now.”
- Rod Stewart/The Faces 1973
It is a story as old as time, an older generation such as myself, regrettably, criticizing a younger generation, that much to everyone’s dismay, may have gotten it right. Let me explain. My youth as a Gen Xer was lovely, nothing exceptional about it, except for being left home alone with the rest of the latch key kids. We grew up with little more than our wits and some kind words from Nancy Reagan, which subsequently meant that our drinking education was below average. University parties were rife with cheap beer and a quality drink usually meant some frozen sugar water shot with gold flakes floating in it.
Oh the kids these days. Somehow they learned from our past mistakes or hangovers. Perhaps it is because today’s Millennials grew up seeing the craft beer boom, finally great beers. Maybe it is because they were around when craft cocktail bars began to infiltrate the landscape. It could be they just grew tired of sub par Margaritas being served in glassware referred to as fishbowls. For whatever reason, they learned well.
Today's Millennials have the spirits industry all a flutter. Millennials refer to the generation born between 1980 and 1994. That’s right. Millennials are knocking on the door of 40 years old and they are bringing their drinking preferences with them. When once younger people preferred quantity over quality, this generation aims to seek out quality. Not just quality but value and authenticity. They insist brands must be acutely aware of their environmental impact and social responsibility. Quite simply, Millennials demand more from a bottle.
This generation also demands the same from their experiences when they go out. The days of watered down vodka being slugged on the Jersey Shore are behind us, and a perfectly crafted Old Fashioned in a lounge has replaced it. As a category, spirits are now more dominant in the US marketplace than wine. Spirits bring versatility to the table, quite literally, whether the chosen spirit is to be sipped on the rocks, neat, or in a cocktail. Millennials are more engaged with home entertaining than we have seen in a generation, and spirits have proven to have a rightful place on the dinner party table.
On first pass that may come across as outlandish, but I agree with them. If I go to the farmer’s market where I will most certainly pay more for my tomatoes, I am paying extra for freshness, I am also assuming they are organic, and that they have been grown with care and sustainability in mind. I am paying to support a small grower with an ethos that I agree with. Ultimately I am paying for the personal touch. Is that too much to ask from a liquor producer? I don’t believe so, maybe these Millennials are on to something. We should thank them for it.