Episode 215 – Last Call 2021

What’s shakin’, cocktail fans?

Welcome to episode 215 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

Thanks for joining me for this year-end recap episode, where I take a few moments to zoom out and appreciate the highlights from 2021, then take a quick peek into the crystal ball to anticipate what’s coming down the pike in 2022.

Featured Cocktail: The Millionaire Cocktail

This episode’s featured cocktail is The Millionaire cocktail. To make it, you’ll need:

  • ¾ oz of either Jamaican rum or bourbon (which is…a weird way to start a cocktail recipe. Don’t worry, we’ll get into it)

  • ¾ oz apricot brandy (which, in most cases, is going to be a flavored liqueur)

  • ¾ oz sloe gin (which is a berry flavored gin liqueur)

  • ¾ oz lime juice

Combine these ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, give them a good, hard shake until the ingredients are properly chilled and diluted, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and enjoy.

Like the “corpse reviver” cocktail family, which doesn’t seem even remotely concerned with sticking to a set ingredient or flavor template, the millionaire cocktail family seems to pair a spirit with a couple different fruity liqueurs that somehow produce a pinkish color. Sometimes you’ll find egg white. Sometimes you’ll find a citrus juice. But none of these things are a given in the millionaire cocktail family.

Personally, I think the Jamaican-style rum is the way to go here. It just has so many more fruit-friendly flavors than most bourbons do, and it’s probably one of the best spirits to counteract what I’ll call this recipe’s problem child: apricot brandy. With only a few very rare exceptions where you encounter a true apricot eau de vie, apricot brandy refers to a sweet, often artificially-flavored liqueur. It sits on liquor shelves in the “sour mix” section and is often frowned upon for its cloying sweetness.

In the 1930s when the Millionaire cocktail was popular, were bartenders infusing actual grape brandy with apricots? Did they have access to a supply of actual apricot eau de vie that has since vanished? It’s hard to say. But next time you’re in the market for an equal-parts sipper that goes down easy and is absolutely bursting with fruit, you’ll know exactly what to pick up at the liquor store.

So, now that you’re equipped with an affluently-named, yet elusively formulated cocktail that will most certainly impress your guests this holiday season, let’s turn our attention back to the rollercoaster of a year that was 2021.

2021 By the Numbers


Starting off here, I always like to begin with the numbers, which is kind of like a statistical check-up or wellness visit that looks at the vital signs of our weekly spirits and cocktail show.

In terms of downloads, we rocked 67,000 of em, which is a full 10,000 more than we earned last year. So thanks to all the new listeners who represent those 10,000 extra downloads. I’m so glad that you’re part of our growing community, and I can’t wait for you to see what we have in store next.

Most Popular Episode

Our most popular episode by sheer quantity of downloads was Episode 188 – Reviving Ancient Stills with Dr. Eric Stroud, which clocked in at over 1,500 downloads by itself! It was a really eye opening interview for me personally, so I’m not surprised that it was so popular with our audience. If you haven’t checked it out yet, hopefully this is all the incentive you need.

TOTC Spirited Award Finalist

And I’ve got one final number I’d like you to consider: 10. That’s the number of podcasts that were finalists at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards ceremony, and we are so honored to have been one of them. Unsurprisingly, David Wondrich and Noah Rothbaum (who graced us with their presence in episode 200) were the recipients of that award for their show, Life Behind Bars, but I and the rest of the Modern Bar Cart team are just so unbelievably honored to have been among the finalists, and we’re super flattered that you all took the time to nominate us.

Improvements Made in 2021

PR Partnerships

Next up, I want to share some of the more qualitative things we’ve improved on over the course of the past year – the strides we’ve made that are hard to measure in terms of raw downloads. I kind of view this as a mini “shareholder’s meeting,” since I think of all our listeners as having a stake in what we do. So let’s look at a few KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that I think are really important to our show and its ability to keep thriving.

The first one is something that’s very evident to me, as the person who does most of the leg work for the show, but it might not be super apparent to you, as the listener. But the thing I’m probably most proud of in 2021 is how we’ve been able to leverage partnerships with PR firms. I know it doesn’t sound all that exciting, but let me break it down for you.

Our inbox ([email protected]), as well as a couple other email addresses I maintain, have been flooded over the past several years with pitches from PR firms and publicists trying to get us to feature their clients’ products, books, and brands. I get dozens of pitches each month, all of which take time and energy to sort through. From the beginning, I’ve been super picky about who comes on the show, and I’m very clear that I’m not in the business of running an hour long infomercial. I’m here to provide real, nutritious content that makes you, the listener, a better drinker and home bartender. That mindset definitely narrows the field and ensures quality interviews for YOU, but it’s still a lot of work to wade through all those cold pitches from low-level PR interns and associates who get paid to blast out a generic pitch to as many email addresses as they can. This is the way that 95% of all PR firms go about business. I don’t understand it because it’s sloppy and a bit disrespectful, but it’s the norm.

So this year, I focused on really pouring all my attention into a couple of really high-quality PR partners who pitch me directly and thoughtfully and offer incredibly high quality guests who all have something to say, rather than just a product or a book to pitch. 

Great examples of interviews that were placed on our show through these strong PR partnerships include Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, Tim Warrillow, co-founder of Fever Tree Mixers, Ryan Christiansen, co-founder and head distiller over at Barr Hill Gin, and Ian Burrell, co-founder of Equiano Rum.

It felt like, in the years leading up to 2021, I spent most of my time squaring off against the inbox noise and waging an active battle against these PR firms, but by changing my approach and partnering with only a few of the best-run shops, I think I was able to really bring on some top-notch guests.

Interview Quality

This leads me to the next item I’ve been working hard on since – if we’re being honest – the very beginning: becoming a better interviewer. This past year, I really made it my focus to make the interview process an engaging and rewarding experience for our guests, which almost always leads to a better quality interview. What does that look like?

Well, partly, it looks like asking more open-ended questions and making sure I don’t interrupt the guest while they’re communicating the information that they’re uniquely qualified to share with you. Again, this might not be something you notice. It’s actually designed to be invisible because when i’m doing it correctly, I’m more of a facilitator that pushes the conversation from one bread crumb to the next until we eventually reach our destination. But if you want to sanity check this whole interview quality thing, just pick an interview episode, and as you’re listening and find a segment that you really enjoy, and ask yourself the simple question: how much “Eric” is there in this? Chances are, you’ll realize that the best moments are when I’m mostly invisible except to ask for clarification or elaboration on the subject at hand.

The other way I’ve really doubled down on interview quality is in the research and question writing department. I send out interview questions to all our guests before the recording so they can prepare and figure out what I’m most interested in discussing. But most of these folks – especially the heavy-duty guests who come to us through our PR partners – are interview veterans. They’ve been asked the same handful of questions a zillion times, so if I’m not careful, they’ll just spit out the same canned response they give every other interviewer. That’s not useful to you. That’s doesn’t extend the conversation or add value in any meaningful way. So this past year the two main improvements I made in this arena were to make sure I read or listened to other interviews with my guest to see what a “baseline” set of questions looked like, and then intentionally avoid those surface level questions by figuring out what the true heart of their brand or their product or their story seemed to be.

In my conversation with Sam from Dogfish Head, the heart of the interview was about maintaining creativity at a truly large scale. In my recent interview about American Whiskey with Eric Zandona, the heart of that conversation was identifying the historical and regional forces that are responsible for a lot of the whiskey trends we’re seeing in today’s market. And when I interviewed Dave Wondrich and Noah Rothbaum in episode 200, the real story turned out to be how different it is to research and report on spirits and cocktails in the 2020s, compared to 15 or 20 years ago.

There’s always something a little deeper, more complex, or just plain beautiful behind each guest, and I’ve been trying to make all the good interviewer “moves” to try and pull those out for you. I think it’s what sets us apart from more casual or banter-driven shows in the space, and I hope you’ll let me know if there’s anything else you think I can do to keep becoming a better interviewer.

New Co-Host (Kind of)

Finally, I have one big “improvement” to share on the personal front. All of a sudden, one day earlier this month, I became a dad! Occasionally you’ll hear me mention little tidbits from my personal life when I’m on the air, but this is a huge event for my wife and me, so I thought I’d give it more of a formal announcement.

Our daughter’s name is Ivy – she joined the human race as a happy, healthy bundle of joy, and she and her mom did great throughout the entire pregnancy and birth process. Luckily, the timing of her arrival was pretty good because I’ve been able to take the last couple weeks of December to have a little mini-paternity-leave away from the podcast to bond with her and give my wife a hand around our home as we adjust to the new routine.

This does, however, present the following question: What does the arrival of a newborn mean for the podcast? 

To be honest, I’m still figuring that out. I record most episodes in my home office, and I do make at least a token effort to keep my audio quality reasonably high, so there might be some logistical bugs to work out on the recording front. When a screaming baby isn’t yours, it tends to be a negative audio presence, and I’m working to avoid that.

Originally, I was thinking I might need to drop back to a bi-weekly publishing schedule (rather than our current weekly routine). But now I’m not so sure. I’ve got some really fun interviews and no-ABV spirits and cocktail content coming for Dry January, as well as a few other interviews in the hopper that I’m super excited about. So for the moment, we appear flush on content, but a change in the publishing schedule may still be necessary. This could look like a bi-weekly show for a period of time, or it could simply mean we publish episodes as they’re available, as opposed to being married to that Thursday drop every week.

So, moral of the story – I’ve got a baby – woohoo! So if you see our publishing schedule change in any way without warning. Don’t worry. I’m not intentionally ghosting you, I’m probably just engaged in a tricky juggling act as we try to get into a more stable routine with our girl Ivy.

Looking Ahead to 2022

Next up, let’s talk about things to get excited about as we enter the year 2022.

As you long-time listeners out there may know, I’ve been a bit skeptical about all-or-nothing booze-free initiatives like Dry January or Sober October, which seem to operate more on the basis of convenient rhymes than anything else. BUT, I realize that I’m in the minority on this, and I’ve had several requests asking for more alcohol-free spirits and cocktail content. So, I’ve been in touch with some of the best no-ABV spirits brands and authors I can find, and we should have plenty of product review and interview content on that front throughout the entire month of January.

We will, of course, also have plenty of full octane spirits and cocktail content for ya as we make our way through Q1 of 2022.

More Video Content

Another thing I’m excited to do in 2022 is try to give you more value. And a very significant portion of me thinks that I can best do this by leveraging video and trying to give our listeners more and better ways to engage with us.

We did try our hands at this about a year ago with a couple live streams of the podcast, but that initiative suffered from a couple few major flaws: 

First, with the emergence of Tik Tok and Instagram Reels, so much video content is making the switch from horizontal to vertical and from long form to short form. For a podcast that usually runs about an hour, both of those are the complete opposite of what we want.

Second, trying to attend a live podcast recording is complicated. It’s hard enough for me to coordinate with a guest across time zones, let alone the fact that we most often record during business hours when our listeners aren’t able to drop everything and tune into a live stream, let alone ask questions and actively engage with us. At the end of the day, listening to the podcast should be easy and fun – not something you need to put into your calendar.

Like I said, I do think video is going to be the best way to give more value, but I want to hear YOUR thoughts and opinions about what that looks like. I don’t want to deal with the headache of starting a Patreon so that only our premium subscribers can access video content because A.) I don’t like charging for content, and B.) that sounds, again, like more of a headache than it’s worth for you, the listener.

Similarly, I want to find a way for our listeners to participate more in the show. For a while, I thought Clubhouse was going to be that solution, but I see that platform kinda fizzling out. There’s also the option of creating a “Slack” or “Discord” channel, but that still seems to create more noise than value, at least initially. So please, if you have a great idea about how we can do more to engage with our listeners and create a space where you can interact with guests and with each other about spirits and cocktails, please send us a DM on Instagram @modernbarcart, or email [email protected].

TOTC 2022 Live and In Person

The last frontier of listener engagement, it seems, is the domain of real life. And being that our cute, little pandemic has now transformed into more of a big, sloppy endemic, we need to approach the topic of being together in-person carefully and with lots of flexibility surrounding change and unexpected contingencies.

But, having put out those disclaimers, I will say that I am fully planning on attending Tales of the Cocktail 2022 in New Orleans, LIVE AND IN PERSON FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 3 YEARS! That event will take place from July 25 – July 29, 2022. I’m working on some educational seminar-related stuff, so stay tuned on that front, but if there’s enough interest from folks, I’d be happy to try and organize some sort of meet-up for our listeners – something to make your trip extra special. Maybe we can all walk into the Sazerac bar and order Ramos Gin Fizzes at the same time, maybe someone will challenge me to an alligator hotdog eating contest at Dat Dog.  I dunno…we’ll figure something out. But please do reach out to let me know if you’re interested in attending this 20th anniversary Tales of the Cocktail conference in July.

Fill Out Our 2022 Listener Survey!

I know  I’m asking for a lot of feedback here, so what I’ll do is put together a short survey that you can fill out in less than 5 minutes. So if anyone out there is interested in really having your voice and your opinions guide the decisions I make as we continue to grow the podcast, please reach out to me however you’d like and I’ll send that your way.


I’m Eric Kozlik, CEO of Modern Bar Cart and host of this here podcast. Thank you for making 2021 a great year in podcasting despite the uncertainty that seems to dominate the rest of our shared world. And I can’t wait to see you very soon, when the year ends in 22, which is my lucky number. Hopefully that means great things for me and for you as we continue to grow and improve in our knowledge of delicious spirits and cocktails.



Pan de Jamón

Episode 216 – Why I Like the Term “Mixologist”