If the last year has taught us anything it’s that there is no need to waste minutes over an ice-cold shaker when your local cocktail bar can do it for you (and probably better). Most of us have taken advantage of ‘to-go cocktails’, but kicking that up a level to a subscription service actually makes much more sense.
And that is one secret that Jeff Bell from New York speakeasy bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell) does actually want to tell you, as the bar launches their members-only access to signature cocktails and an immersive whiskey tasting experience.
As Bell points out, “The idea behind it is value, and providing opportunities, using my buying power and my expertise, to create things that will enable people to have a nice experience at home. And it’s something that it would cost them way too much money to try to recreate for themselves.”
While Bell says that he had the idea to run a subscription service a year ago, the logistics behind making it happen were, at the time, too hard to work out. “I’m now working with a company called Table 22 to do the subscription service, and they’re helping me with the technology backend of organising it.”
As well as providing a service for the bar’s regular clientele or those who just like a superior drink, Bell is realistic that working with a subscription model is an advantage for the bar as well.
“It’s basically a way to provide a service for people that want to have some good stuff in the comfort of their own home,” he explained. “But it’s also a lot more controlled for us because the orders come in ahead of time, so we know how much we need and how many staff we need to fulfil them.”
Bell explains that both sides – the Cocktail Club and the Whiskey Club – both have three tiers.
On the cocktail side, it starts with an individual subscription which provides four single-serving signature cocktails. It then moves up to a two-person subscription that includes four signature cocktails, each bottled for two people (or as Bell points out, one true enthusiast).
The final tier is called PTD Private Stock, which is as exclusive as it sounds, with limited availability. It includes one 750ml bottle of a limited release PDT Reserve Cocktail featuring rare and allocated spirits. This tier is a continuation of the programme that Bell started at the end of last year before the bar had to close down again due to restrictions.
Using my buying power and my expertise to create things that will enable people to have a nice experience at home.
“I took really cool spirits and I made cocktails with them at a very fair price. I charged 25 bucks for them, as opposed to 17 for a regular cocktail. They were super-premium and rare spirits. Not super premium like crazy, but like Yamazaki 12 and John Mark Willow Apricots, and ingredients like Chartreuse VEP. Very special products that command a high price tag and are served in special glassware.
“So if you joined that membership and say did it for a year, you’re going to have 12 really cool bottles of insanely good cocktails,” he continued. “It’s something you can entertain with, and it’s like having a real baller bottle of wine lying around.”
Additionally, Cocktail Club members can also purchase add-ons of either a Classic Cocktail (so a choice of a Negroni, Manhattan, or Martini) or a seasonal cocktail (which, of course, will be dictated by seasonal availability).
The Whiskey Club works in a very similar fashion but will provide people with the opportunity to try some interesting and often difficult to find whiskey. While Bell points out that PDT has a really fun selection of Rums and other spirits, he chose to concentrate on Whiskey as it is a spirit that is better understood.
“Rum is a spirit where the value is not really understood by consumers, so it’s typically under-priced. I toyed around with Agave and rum, and stuff like that, but I think that these categories take more time to explain and sell.
“Whiskey is the opposite of that. I love Brandy. I love cognac, I love Armagnac. I love Calvados but often the only time people will drink these is when they are hand-sold to them, You really need the chance to explain that although this particular Cognac maybe $100, for example, it tastes more like a $500 bottle.”
The first tier of the Whiskey Club offers a monthly selection of whiskeys, that Bell says people may or may not have heard of. But he is clear that the entry-level tier isn’t going to just be your typical Maker’s Mark, Bulleit Bourbon and Basil Hayden’s.
Although the first tier will provide more affordable bottles, Bell is clear that they will not be offering whiskey’s that anyone can easily get their hands on, but instead, it will offer a selection of bottles that are often more difficult to buy.
“It’s like WL Weller Special Reserve, which is an allocated bourbon,” Bell explains. “It isn’t expensive, but you often can’t buy it because it always sells out. So it’s finding those gems to sell to people that they couldn’t get for themselves.”
The second level will provide a selection of off-the-beaten-path, limited-availability, not-on-the-cocktail-menu sort of whiskeys. And in this tier, the age statements will be more mature; so much so, that some may even be old enough to vote.
The final tier, which Bell is calling the Antique Collection will comprise rare, old, and allocated whiskeys from around the world. And he hints that these are some of our most cherished bottles that the bar has stashed away over the years and are now excited to share.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a try before you buy, but it allows people to really enjoy some unique whiskeys without breaking the bank,” Bell said.
“If you subscribed three months in a row at the premium tier, which is $250, you’d be spending $750, but you’d be able to have three and a half ounces each, of nine remarkable whiskeys. If you were to buy those nine bottles, obviously you’d have the whole bottle, but you’d be looking at a $4,500 to $7,000 spent to buy those nine bottles.”
Bell mentions that at the highest level, they are going to be pouring things like Hakushu 18 or Talisker 25, or Pappy van Winkle. The advantage, he points out, is that if you don’t want to go and spend $600 US to go buy a bottle of Pappy 12, you can instead spend $250, and get a sample of that, as well as two other unique whiskies.
“I don’t expect to sell a crazy amount of the top tier, but I think that it’ll catch on and people will be able to try some really cool stuff without having to spend way too much money. I don’t buy all the cool stuff that I taste because a lot of it just sits there. But this way, I can be like, “Guys, you got to try this. You eight people that are in (for example), you guys get this bottle. I’m going to buy it and split it between you guys.”
“Luckily, there’ll be a little bit left for me to have a half-ounce taste, so I can experience it. And then I’ll write a little note to each person about the whiskeys they’re going to taste, and then they’ll have some information, so they know they’re getting something cool. Each person’s going to get a card that’s going to explain the whiskeys or the cocktails, whatever package they order, and what each entails.
Bell points out that by joining the subscription, subscribers are not locked in and can cancel at any time. “It’s a pretty easy process. It’s not going to be like trying to cancel a gym membership or something. It’s not going to be a whole ordeal where we’re like, “No, you can’t cancel. No, you’re in for good.” It’s a simple click of a button to unsubscribe.”
At present, the subscription is limited to New York City. “We’re working on a delivery component, but we’re doing pick-up only for the time being, until we can figure out the best way to get it to people safely and compliantly,” Bell says.
For more information and to join, go to table22.com/pdt
Or if you want more information on PDT, go to pdtnyc.com