While NBA insiders had tabbed former NBA guard Andre Miller as the next coach of the Grand Rapids Gold, the organization made it official Thursday.
With Miller on the bench, it will be the second straight year with a former NBA star from the past 20 years leading the team — Jason Terry, last year’s coach, recently joined the Utah Jazz’s coaching staff.
Anyway, off of that news, I caught up with the Gold’s president, Steve Jbara, to see what’s new with the franchise, which is moving down to Van Andel Arena, after spending its first seven seasons at the DeltaPlex. That’s a big time move and will likely help boost attendance.
Beyond the Gold, Jbara also has a variety of projects that involve drinks, which is what made him a solid Drinks with Pat interview subject.
Before I jump into that Q&A though, a fun callback to a Drinks with Pat subject a few months ago, my friend Collin! His band, Neal Francis, is playing at 20 Monroe Live tonight (Friday night). If you’re looking for something do, check ‘em out!
Pat: Was the switch in affiliation (from Detroit Pistons to Denver Nuggets) tough?
Steve: It’s been tough for us. You’re with Detroit for all these years and it makes a ton of sense, but then you kind of have this awkward year and we end the season with five games left, our second to last with the Pistons because of COVID and then the next one is gobbled up. So, you have these fluid years to see what happens and Pistons are reporting they want to do something and I don’t have much to say, but I know i want to keep the team here.
It got confusing and then we come out with the Nuggets and now we’re the Gold not the Drive, so it’s like who are these guys. We tried our best to get the message out, but unless you’re a fan, it blows past you. If you hadn’t heard about the rebrand, now you’re wondering who is this coming to Van Andel.
The nice thing about the Nuggets is, although confusing, when I set out to keep the team here, they were ecstatic to be here. We have a rolling agreement and they haven’t expressed interest in having their own team and they like the direct flights; two a day, three on Thursday. It works.
When people dig in and see what we’re doing, We’re in a good spot with a club that wants to partner and part of the move [to Van Andel] was to showcase that we’ll invest this and be here a long time and make every move to make it special.
Pat: I’ve seen a lot about the Air Company, especially its vodka, so give readers the two-
Steve: Air Company is set up on a catalyst developed by Stafford Sheehan. A business partner, Greg Constantine introduced me to it. It’s a catalyst that when exposed to carbon at a high intensity creates ethanol and methanol to be produced. Add some water, throw it in still and that makes a vodka that brings in more CO2 per bottle than three to five trees for a year. So it has a cool ‘Drink more, save the Earth’ vibe.
There’s no impurities, unlike the traditional corn, wheat, potato or rice vodkas. It’s a cool
product, available in New York, Miami and LA now, but we’re looking at the Midwest, including Michigan.
Pat: And you own Green Door Distilling in Kalamazoo, how’d that come to be?
Steve: I invested in the Green Door Distilling in 2016 and distilleries are a really tough cash
business. You have to buy all the ingredients, machines, bottles, and sometimes that product has to sit for four or more years and you can’t just have one year, you need to back it up. So it’s a tough cash business and over the course of a couple of years, we ended up with majority ownership and then we utilized some of the resources from other businesses to grow this thing.
We’re distributed across the state. We make really good bourbon. We have a gin, an amaro. We have a vodka, two liquors – hazelnut and blueberry.
I grew up in Kalamazoo, so it’s fun to have a business based there. We’re looking at having
enough distribution in Michigan to move on beyond the state borders, so we’re looking at where we might take it.
What’s Pat Drinking?
I’ve been trying to take a bit of a break recently, drinking can be a tough job on a body. However, my wife and I did go to a great informational beer pairing dinner Wednesday at Brewery Vivant.
Owner Kris Spaulding hosted professors from Michigan State and their beef suppliers from
Wernette Beef to talk about sustainability. It was really great – both the talk and the three-course dinner!
The other day, a box showed up at my house. It was from Monkey Shoulder, a really nice,
affordable blended Scotch brand. Now, it wasn’t bottle of whisky. No, it was a bottle of Monkey Musk . Actor Joel McHale is apparently the face of this cologne brand.
It’s actually a pretty nice scent, with all the notes one might expect in a whisky: vanilla, honey and spice oak, and perhaps some orange zest. Too bad my wife doesn’t seem to like it very much.
Monkey Shoulder did include a cocktail to make (but not with the cologne).
Monkey Shoulder’s recipe:
1 1/2 parts Monkey Shoulder
1/2 parts fresh lemon juice
3/4 parts fresh orange juice
1/2 parts honey syrup
3 dash angostura bitters
Top with Prosecco or dry champagne
Orange twist for garnish
Chocolate brand Niagara Chocolates sent over some cocktail ideas with Halloween
approaching. To make their drinks, the company teamed up with Crystal Head Vodka and
Of course the goal is to sell their candies, substitutes are easiest enough to be made – for both the chocolate and spirit.
“Niagara Night Owl” Recipe
Glassware: Martini glass
2 oz. Crystal Head Vodka
1 oz. Chilled Espresso
1⁄2 oz. Coffee Liqueur
1⁄4 oz. Simple Syrup
Garnish: Niagara Dark Chocolate Bar or Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups
Directions: Add Crystal Head Vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously over ice for 10-15 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with grated Niagara Chocolates dark chocolate and three espresso beans, OR with a Niagara Dark Chocolate Bar square or Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cup perched on glass and serve.
Smoked Spectre Recipe
Glassware: Old Fashioned Glass
2 oz. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon
2 oz. Crème de Cacao
2 dashes of Aromatic Bitters
3 drops of Woodford Reserve Chocolate Bitters
Garnish: Niagara Chocolates Dark Maple Cup of Roasted Caramel Peanut Clusters
Directions: Add ice, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon, crème de cacao, bitters and
stir. Smoke the glass with a smoking gun for two minutes for a smoky flavor and spooky
presentation. Garnish with Niagara Dark Chocolate Cups or Clusters perched on glass and