The Long Road to Market and WSWA’s Top Sips

xb.jpgI’m still reeling from all the exciting new products and brands I encountered at the recent Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention (WSWA) in Orlando. Over three days, some 2,300 industry members gathered to pour over new products and services from the more than 300 exhibitors and sponsors. WSWA is the place for new brands to launch and to connect with distributors so that they can make their way around the country, into our local liquor stores and eventually into my glass.

Among the best scores were Wine 2 White teeth-whitening pens, which might just save me on my next Napa trip. Top sips from the convention floor, Brockmans Gin, Iris and Calisaya artisanal liqueurs, and Short Mountain Moonshine would, I think, be very well received by Las Vegas bartenders. Let’s hope they are among the brands that secure distribution in Nevada!

I can report that the hostile takeover of the backbar by flavored vodkas—my God, will it ever stop?—continues unabated. Personally, I don’t see the need for chemical-tasting candy flavors or even another lemon one. I do, however, think that there is still room at this party for smart, organic, natural or original flavors. Already on the market, Hangar 1, Charbay, Crop and ZU Zubrówka (bison grass vodka) do a great job with fruits and veggies. And 360 Vodka does respectable work with those flavors not found in nature. Donut vodka, anyone?

Speaking of vodka with flavor, I really enjoyed Tallarico Vodka, made from rye and winter wheat. Founded by an ambitious young Beverly Hills businessman with a background in luxury brands, Tallarico comes in a dreamy black monolith of a bottle that would look mighty suave on VIP tables or behind the bar. More importantly, though, it’s actually delicious—full-bodied, spicy, creamy. A vodka for the whiskey and gin sets. And it makes one hell of a Gibson!

Making its U.S. debut at WSWA, XB is one product you will definitely see soon in clubs. The ready-to-drink, bottled Sex on the Beach stands on its own, but also plays well with others. Try it at Tao Beach and Marquee Dayclub in the Bertaud Belieu Rosé & XB Punch Fishbowl ($150) or as a mixer ($45) with your bottle service. I suggest mixing it with Champagne or tequila.

While there, I judged two mixology competitions, one being Hoptails, won by Las Vegas’ own Anthony Pullen, brand development manager for Lucas Bols USA. His Delightful Deception married Lindeman’s Framboise lambic beer, Bols Genever, fresh pink grapefruit juice, jalapeño and a brand-new product for the U.S. market, Bols Yogurt. Sound crazy? In judges deliberation, I called it “ballsy, weird and delicious.”

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