By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Nov 09, 2022 at 11:02 AM

These days, anyone opening up a full-service restaurant is expected to offer a full bar featuring local craft beers, a mindful collection of wines and a list of signature cocktails (and mocktails). In fact, the drinks coming out of the bar have become increasingly as important as the food coming out of the kitchen. Add the fact that the margins on beverages are the life saver for most eateries and it’s tough to get by without a solid bar program.

But not everyone has the time, energy or experience to dedicate to creating a unique beverage program that meets the needs of their customers with well-priced drinks and staff that deliver on high quality service. Even more, in today’s market, as bars and restaurants face the ongoing minefield of staffing struggles, supply shortages and rising costs, the practicality of spending thousands on the development of a beverage program is often not in the cards.

But a new partnership between bar owners Daniel Beres and Tripper Duval of Lost Whale and local distributor Capitol-Husting Company is making strides in helping to bridge the gap for bars and restaurants that want to up their cocktail game.

Dan Beres and Tripper DuvalX

Filling a need

Beres and Duval are no strangers to the challenges that come with bar ownership, from training and retaining staff to designing top-notch cocktail menus and balancing costs. But thanks to years of training, on the job experience and a passion for their craft, they’ve perfected the art of creating a cocktail bar experience that keeps customers coming back time and time again.

“For years we’ve had people reaching out to us and asking us if they could hire us to do consulting work for them,” notes Beres. “And for years, we’ve struggled to be able to offer services that compensate us for our time, while still meeting the needs of potential clients. In the end, most bars and restaurants just can’t afford it.”

Beres says it really got them thinking. Was there a way for them to find a way to help other businesses? Could they do it in a way that would pay them fairly for their time and energy? 

More importantly, how could they do it without putting the burden of the cost on the shoulders of the bar or restaurant? 

For months, Beres and Duval contemplated their next steps. They’d dipped their toes into the world of consulting before. In 2019, they’d launched R&D Consulting to take on a consultancy with the forthcoming Saint Kate Arts Hotel

But this was 2022. The world had changed and no bar or restaurant had the extra funds needed to hire someone at that level to handle menu design (or redesign) and staff training. And yet, they knew that there was a need for the services that their newly rebranded NiteCap Beverage Consulting could offer.

Cocktail from Lost WhaleX

A win-win for everyone

Ultimately, they gathered their thoughts and approached the folks at Capitol-Husting, a local family-owned distributor which not only had a portfolio that included a wealth of brands, but which also understood the value of their expertise.

“We brought them our quandary and we laid out some ideas that we’d come up with,” says Beres, noting that it took a few meetings, but they arrived at an agreement that seemed to work for everyone.

In exchange for a fee, NiteCap would handle the legwork of designing menus and training bar staff at bars and restaurants across the state. Their menus would incorporate spirits from the Capitol-Husting’s portfolio, which includes both larger brands like Bacardi and Grey Goose, along with smaller local products from Great Lakes Distillery, Twisted Path Distillery, LaCrosse Distilling Co. and Hatch Distilling. 

This would free up time on the part of Capitol-Husting’s sales staff, ensure that Beres and Duval were paid fairly for their time commitment and provide bars and restaurants with consultancy services at no cost.

“In the past few years, our business has changed,” says Jerry Zavorka, President of Capitol-Husting Co. “Things are more expensive, from products to staff. So we’re looking at new ways of operating. In the end, we’re only as good as the restaurants and taverns that are out there. So we felt that it was a great time to partner so that we could provide something new and different to our customers.”

He says the decision to partner with Beres and Duval was based largely on the quality of their work. 

“We love both their creativity and their flexibility,” he says. “They’re able to design really fun menus using niche local brands or larger national brands to meet the needs of the individual bar or restaurant. They also speak the language of the restaurateur. They understand both the science of the cocktail, but also a beverage menu that fits the personality of the venue… they’re not just trying to sell you something. They’re trying to understand what you are trying to accomplish and give you exactly what you need to be successful.”

Blend Coffee & Cocktails

Among NiteCap’s inaugural clients is Blend Coffee & Cocktails, a combination coffee shop and cocktail bar located adjacent to the Luxe Golf Bays at Ballpark Commons in Franklin.

Rocky Morgan, Bar Manager for both Blend and Luxe Golf Bays says they looked to NiteCap Consulting to assist them in developing a cocktail menu that would help to set Blend Coffee & Cocktails apart.

“We wanted to create a place where people could go, sit down and truly enjoy a hand-crafted cocktail,” he says. “So we wanted to have more than the usual classics on the menu.”

To get there, they entertained a series of conversations about the goals for the bar, the amount of work they wanted to put into each cocktail and the experience they wanted to offer their customers. From there, Beres designed a full menu of drinks – from a classic bourbon sour and crowd-pleasing cosmo to a unique Earl Grey tea-infused collins – that would appeal to a broad range of guests. 

Morgan calls attention to the Pumpkin Spice Lemondrop, a seasonal cocktail which incorporates the Chai Liqueur from Twisted Path Distillery.

Pumpkin Spice Lemondrop
Pumpkin Spice Lemondrop (Photo: Rocky Morgan)

“Even people who don’t love pumpkin really love this drink,” he says, noting that guests’ sensory experience of the cocktail is enhanced by the process of toasting the pumpkin spice blend as it’s sprinkled on top of the cocktail.

“Dan [Beres] just did such a nice job creating cocktails that appeal to everyone. His design language and schema is similar to Frank Lloyd Wright. All the flavors are so well balanced and every ingredient has a purpose. When the new menu debuted at our grand reopening at the end of October, the response was beyond our expectations,” he says. “People love the drinks and we couldn’t be happier.”

The response has been so positive, Morgan says, that they went back to Beres to work with him to create a number of new holiday cocktails for an upcoming pop-up they’re planning to host at the bar.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says Beres. “Restaurants and bars get what they need. We get to work with a great company that has a great portfolio of local distilleries and national brands. And Capitol-Husting gets movement on their products, as well as – in some cases – new accounts they didn’t have before.”

Restaurants or bars interested in learning more about beverage consulting for their businesses can reach out directly to Capital-Husting Company or inquire with NiteCap Consulting by email at

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.