Just as real estate professionals have their mantra, “location, location, location,” when describing the properties that are valued most, restaurateurs have their own dictum for success: “staff, staff, staff.” Without a committed, hardworking staff, even the best of fine establishments will falter. And it’s no secret that dissatisfied or dishonest employees, prima donnas, and incompetent managers can and do wreak havoc in both the back and front of the house.

Too many wine buyers approach the buying process without a concrete plan in place. Buying decisions are often made on a whim, driven by supplier, score, or perhaps sommelier ego. To make the buying process more objective, I created a concept that I call “list mapping.”

Despite an interest of specialty cocktails in restaurants, there are probably a few lonely bottles of timeless aperitifs on your backbar that haven’t been touched in months. That’s a shame, because Lillet, Pernod, Punt e Mes, Cynar, and fino Sherry are perfect before-dinner drinks, filled with classic flavors that inspire the taste buds for the meal ahead.

Añejo rums are smooth and luxurious. These aged rums have more in common with Cognac and Sherry than they do with their light rum, un-aged counterparts. They are elegant, sophisticated spirits best appreciated in a brandy snifter.