What'll It Be?

Bartenders and distributors share their “research” into the area’s most popular libations

Many bars like to brag about the number and variety of the beers they offer. Whether on draft or bottled, an extensive collection of domestics, imports, and microbrews can attract the serious beer drinkers as well as those just looking for some variety. But no matter how many choices a bar might offer the average drinker, Bud Light is still the king of beers.

“Bud Light is far and wide the most popular beer we distribute,” said Ray Moore, Key Account Manager for Ruch Distributors. Ruch, located in Albany, distributes beer to bars, restaurants, and grocery stores in Albany and Rennselaer counties. Ruch distributes all kinds of Anheuser Busch beers, including Budweiser, Stella Artois, Bass, Becks, and Kona, a specialty Hawaiian beer.

According to Moore, Coors Light is the second most popular beer, especially among “contemporary adults.” Busch and Keystone are popular choices for the more economic drinker, and Bud Light Lime and Corona also do well in sales.

“On draft our specials normally are Bud Light, Coors Light and Bud, so we obviously sell a lot of that,” said a bartender from Professor M. Barley’s, a bar and restaurant on the corner of Western and Quail in Albany. He said that they also carry 67 different types of bottled beer. “We have a whole lot of popular ones, but people come in specifically for their own particular brand,” he said. “It’s just popular for people to come in and try new things.”

According to the bartender, Professor M. Barley’s serves a pretty wide age range, from 21 to 40. “It depends on the time of day and the day of the week, like on weekends. We’re near a college, so it’s obviously a young crowd,” he said.

While beer is more popular, he said that vodka is the liquor of choice for mixed drinks.

“The obvious answer any bartender is going to give you is vodka or flavored vodkas, because 75 percent of the drinks made in the world are made out of vodka,” he said.

At higher-end bars and restaurants, patrons like to experiment with flashy and fashionable varieties of mixed drinks.

“Specials have become kind of the big thing, especially since the Cheesecake Factory and the Standard came in,” said Christine Kennedy, a waitress at Albany restaurant and wine bar the Ginger Man. “People want to know what the hot new drink is.”

“Obviously, at the Ginger Man we sell a lot of wine,” Kennedy said, who also noted that there has been an upswing in popularity of red wines. She also said that because of rising wine prices, patrons have been ordering more mixed drinks and liquor.

According to Kennedy, the kinds of drinks that people order depends on the weather outside. During the winter she notices a lot of orders for sweet, hearty drinks like a specialty mint chocolate martini or a warm cider drink. For the upcoming summer season, she expects customers to shift to lighter, fruity drinks, especially those with citrus.

“Anything with pomegranate is really popular,” she said, echoing a general upswing in the popularity of the fruit that was found to reduce heart disease risk factors in recent studies.

. She also said that Limoncello, a specialty home-made lemon vodka is returning this summer and is expected to do well.

It’s all about beer for those who prefer their alcohol with hard-hitting live music at Valentine’s in Albany.

“Beer is definitely the most popular choice,” said a bartender at the two-story venue and bar on New Scotland. PBR sells well among those soaking in indie rock, along with Heineken and (of course) Bud Light.

“We also sell a lot of microbrew and specialty imports,” he said.

For those seeking something more spirited at Valentine’s, whiskeys like Jameson and Jack Daniels are popular, as well as shots and bombs of Jagermeister.

“Vodka and Red Bulls are pretty popular too,” he said.

While there are some recurring favorites among the drinkers in Albany, everyone has their own ideas about what actually is the best drink. With hundreds of bars in the Albany area, chances are there is a bartender able to accommodate any request, from a cinnamon-infused apple-cran martini to . . . a bottle of Bud Light.

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