Where Big Liquor Money Goes

This Neat Pour article, for me, is the most important and interesting and relevant article about the spirits industry to be published in the last few months, since the pandemic and protests took hold of the U.S. It’s not necessary new or unexpected news–not for anybody who has ever a casual interest or knowledge in the political leaning of liquor conglomerates–but it’s a gut punch nonetheless, and something that needs to be addressed within the bar industry.

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I was surprised this didn’t get a wider diffusion when it was published a few weeks ago. I wonder why.

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I suspect that members of the bar industry choose not to peer too closely into the practices and politics of liquor conglomerates, for fear of the faucet being switched off. So much of the cocktail world is and has been fueled and funded by a handful of deep-pocketed corporations.

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That is undeniably true.

It’s still quite sad to see brand people lecturing other industry figures on values, and how they should behave or debate while turning a blind eye on the politics of their employers. And no one says a word, no one denounces the hypocrisy (me included since I’m not even naming names here).

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Anytime I post anything on Insta about the politics of liquor companies: crickets. You can protest tirelessly against inequity and injustice among bar staffs, bar owners, booze media. It’s all a drop in the bucket if you’re hypocritically silent about Beam helping to reelect Mitch McConnell every six years.

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Today’s news isn’t technically spirits, but it’s spirits-adjacent (Mark Brown included it in his daily emailing), and touches on so many problems at once, it’s actually a little hard to unpack!

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If Kentucky’s senior Senator were a Democrat (would that she were!) I very strongly suspect that the big Kentucky-based distillers would be donating just as much. Influence costs money.

You’re no doubt right, Dave. Still, the complete silence from the bourbon industry during these troubled social times–particularly when so much unrest and protest is happening in the heart of bourbon country, Louisville–puts a bad taste in my mouth.

I don’t disagree—these times call for more than “business as usual” and “we don’t do politics.” A public commitment to what I used to consider basic human decency (turns out, not so basic) is the least they could do, and they’ve done less than that.

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