Discover more from Fingers
Flipping curly-fry vodka on eBay, call that Arby-trage
Plus: To whom the Bell's sold, D.C. cops be bootleggin', Starbucks union vote + more!
Editor’s note: Welcome to the 4 new readers who have joined the Fingers Fam in the past week. We’re glad you’re here! If you haven’t yet, please consider purchasing a subscription to support this project! You’ll get access to bonus stories, podcasts, and more, plus my eternal gratitude.—Dave.
🧾 The Settle-Up
— Arby’s Crinkle and Curly Fries Sprout Inspiration for Limited-Edition Vodka: So sayeth the fast-food chain’s press release, which I’m linking to here because all of the “coverage” of this transparent PR stunt is basically just regurgitated versions of company-issue marketing copy anyway, so you may as well go straight to the source. Anyway! The fast-casual meat-havers at Arby’s recently announced a collaboration with Minneapolis’ Tattersall Distilling to produce potato vodka branded around the chain’s various French fry offerings. To the extent that this product exists IRL at all and not simply as reverse-engineered share- and/or ragebait for elder millennials who semi-ironically liked a “We Have The Meats” Facebook page in 2014, the vodka will be available in two sales on November 18th and 22nd. Retail price is $59.99, a handsome sum for what is essentially vodka into which someone dumped a bunch of paprika. But: as the fine print warns, “Quantities [are] extremely limited,” which, of course they are, because this is just “the latest in a long line of liquified marketing gimmicks hustled down our willing gullets by The Brands™.” In other words, you don’t actually have to lay hands on Arby’s French fry vodka to savor its essence, because its essence is the reaction it has already elicited from you online.
That said, if you do manage to score a bottle of this stuff upon its release next week, get in touch. Like Teslaquila before it, I suspect there may be money in selling Arby’s vodka “empties” on the secondary market to “sad, sad end users who volunteer to be taken advantage of.” Flipping curly-fry vodka-bominations to potato-brained brand-humpers on eBay for quadruple your money? Call that Arby-trage. (Sorry, I’m so sorry.)
— Bell’s Brewery to Sell to New Belgium Parent Company: Kalamazoo, Michigan’s Bell’s announced earlier this it would be acquired by Lion Little World Beverages, an Australian subsidiary of Japanese macrobrewer Kirin. Lion bought out New Belgium Brewing in 2019, which is presumably why founder Larry Bell—who will retire at 63 after 38 steering the Two-Hearted producer, congratulations Larry—framed this transaction as “join[ing] forces with New Belgium” in a letter about the sale. (NBB’s chief exec, meanwhile, is moving up to run Lion.) I’ll have more on this Monday, but for now, just revel in the familiar feeling of a Midwestern craft brewing pioneer selling out to a major multinational firm and promising nothing will change. Feels like a decade ago!
— The rise and fall of the Jack Daniel’s committee: How D.C.’s police unions made thousands selling whiskey online: This Washington Post feature on how an umbrella organization of cop unions in The District got together in 2017 to buy, sell, and ship across state lines a bunch of engraved Jack Daniel’s bottles to raise money to keep funding social activities at the org (a “lodge”) is a must-read. Experts say the entire scheme was flatly illegal, which is what the lodge’s own internal inquiry found in 2020. It made a ton of dough! Per the triple-bylined report (emphasis mine):
Revenue from the Jack Daniel’s committee soared, from $124,000 in 2017 to $179,000 in 2018, according to internal lodge documents. The committee added new, more expensive bottles: one for the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup win, one for the holidays and a “Ladies Only Bottle.”
Extremely normal shit here, folks. The distillery says it assumes everything was on the up-and-up because the people buying the barrels and decanting them into badged bottles were the literal police. Classic mix-up! Anyway, repeat after me: cop unions are very good and require no reform or higher-level scrutiny. Moving on.
— Starbucks Union Fight Escalates as Company, Workers Battle Over Vote: Mail-in ballots went out this week to workers at three Starbucks stores in Buffalo, who will now vote whether to unionize or trust their bosses to have their best interests in mind. Last week, workers at three additional Starbies stores in the area announced their plans to unionize, too. And last weekend, the big green giant shut down its stores in the city so employees could attend a talk from former CEO, current largest shareholder, and future presidential hopeful Howard Schultz at a local hotel, where he… uh… sorta compared working at Starbucks to being in a WWII concentration camp (?):
Yeesh. I’d like to see the rest of that transcript. Anyway, stay tuned for results from Starbucks’ first-ever union election by early next month, if all goes smoothly—which, judging by the company’s appeals and maneuvers so far, it may not. We’ll see.
— Meet Paris Hilton’s Fiancee, Who Invented Not-Vodka (I Guess?): Friend of Fingers and fellow newsletterer Meredith Haggerty had a delightful item in last week’s Heir Mail (subscribe, highly recommend) about Carter Reum, the soon-to-be groom of hotel heiress/NFT peddler Paris Hilton. Carter and his brother apparently ran a spirits brand I’ve never heard of called VeeV, “a one-of-a-kind vodka alternative” made from acai and wheat, which they sold to the company that owns Everclear (sure!) in 2016. Said company, Luxco, also sells another Reum-built RTD called Vitafrute. My question to you, dear reader: have you ever tasted, or even laid eyes on, either of these brands in the wild? If so, share your experiences with Carter Reum’s not-dka with the rest of the Fingers Fam, wouldja?
— Speaking Of Things I Haven’t Seen In The Wild Yet: Maine-based beer writer Carla Jean Lauter tweeted a promo image of what appears to be a new line extension on Bud Light Seltzer (itself a line extension on the same-named light adjunct lager.) Behold:
As Carla rightly points out, this is a clunky play from Anheuser-Busch InBev on its own merits. Why spin off yet another strand from the increasingly frayed fabric of Bud Light’s brand, rather than simply creating an entirely new hard soda brand? Oh, wait, everyone already tried that in like 2015 and it failed miserably. What… uh… what’s going on in ABI’s product development department? Inquiring minds (me) would like to know. Get in touch, anonymity guaranteed.
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📬 Good post alert
New Twitter quote-tweet game just dropped:
This went pretty wide on Twitter earlier this week. Kind of corny, kind of cute. Participate at your own risk.
🔝 This week’s top comment
A Friend of Fingers who preferred to remain anonymous wrote in to share an account of his one and only run-in with RumChata’s coffee creamer, the real rum/real dairy headliner of last Friday’s newsletter:
A buddy of mine worked for rumchata when it first came out and I was visiting him in Chicago one weekend and he had a leftover case of rumchata creamers. He gave me one and it exploded in my bag on the way home to NY.
A cane-based carry-on catastrophe, that. Thanks for the report!
On Wednesday, I asked the Fingers Fam for book recommendations: “fiction or non; new or old; alcohol-focused or just generally in the orbit of food & drink.” Thanks to everyone who shared their picks! For the rest of you, pop into the comments with favorite recent reads of your own, or just check out the selections from our community. Some recent favorites of mine:
The Moonshine War by Elmore Leonard
Citizen Coors by Dan Baum
The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lorr
Many of these titles are available via The Fingers Reading Room, a shoppable Bookshop page where I catalog all the books I’ve read since starting this project. If you’d like to support the boozeletter, consider buying you books via my unique link. I get a small commission on your purchases, you get to avoid buying shit on Amazon, we both win.
If you haven’t followed Fingers on Instagram yet, you’re missing out on free daily original content about the booze business. Don’t do that! Do this instead:
Your feed will thank you. (Not really, that would be weird. But you know what I mean.)