Percy started working the bar years ago at Otto under the tutelage of Dennis Mullally. He started getting his feet wet as a program director by creating the beer and wine program at the Washington Heights neighborhood gem Taszo. Percy helped open Babbo Boston in 2015, and later that year found his way to working for Chef Laurent Tourondel.
Here are four things we can learn from Percy:
Beverages need to match the focus of the restaurant.
I have different programs for each outlet, each with their own voice. L’Amico is our flagship restaurant, and as it is an Italian outlet, the beverage needs to match that focus. The wine list focuses on indigenous varietals that celebrate the different regions of Italy, with lots of hidden gems spread throughout. The spirit program is deep on amaro, the always surprising Italian digestivo. The beer offerings will vary from sours to accessibly hoppy to dark and malty, from all over the world.
Inspiration comes from all over.
It can come from a need for a holiday, it can come from food I’m eating at home, anywhere. If anything, cocktail development is more about being open to making mistakes, because when you make a bad drink, there has to be a cause for its quality (or lack thereof). Too much of one ingredient, or wrong combination of liquors, maybe it should be served over different ice or in a different glass; the variables are countless. Navigating the research and development of a cocktail is work, but it’s also pretty exciting when you hit upon a great recipe.
Your program needs an identity.
A successful program is one that is profitable while having an identity. You need to decide if you’re running a program with a higher cost percentage (lower markups) but you plan on going through quantity, or a lower cost percentage (higher markups) while assuming lesser quantity. Once you decide on that direction, make a plan on its identity. Will you be more of a sports bar with a beer focus? Will you strive for high-end craft cocktails? A Chartreuse only bar? The choices are limitless, but the more concise you are with your decision, and being able to stick to it, the better.
You need a great staff.
Finally, you have to hire quality staff that you can trust. You can’t do everything all the time. And having a team you can rely on allows you as a beverage director to focus on big picture needs.