As always, the Nightclub & Bar Convention/Trade Show filled the Las Vegas Convention Center with all manner of beverages and bar paraphernalia. Here are a few of the highlights.
Best morning shot: Most coffee liqueur tastes more like coffee syrup or melted coffee ice cream. Grind Espresso is a mix of actual espresso and rum that tastes like cold brew with a double-hard kick. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Best cocktail ingredient: The convention always offers up a panoply of new liqueurs, many of which you taste, smile and walk away from. But Zamaca, a liqueur made with Peruvian Maca is intriguing: it blends the fragrant, fruity taste of elderflower with a spicy kick that’s enough to boost the flavor but not enough to knock a hole in it.
Best swag: We love anything Western Exterminator Company hands out with its little cartoon exterminator and his thwacking hammer—pens, nail files, flyswatters, whatever. But the honor this year goes to the Captain Morgan Loco Nut, a plastic coconut with a straw that’s just right for toting around your pina colada.
Best poolside libation: Pools and pool parties are lovely, but poolside cocktails make them even better. Don’t want the hassle of lugging your bottles and/or keg outside? Tiki Sangria has created a no-return”keg” that’s actually a bag with a clamp-on tap that features a sweet tiki handle. The stuff inside is pretty good too and, best of all, if you don’t finish up your “keg,” you just seal it up for the next time.
Best cider: There was no shortage of hard ciders, but one of the better ones was Pear Up. As you can tell by the name, it’s pear-based, with a softer, smoother flavor that doesn’t have the sharpness the usual apple-based variants possess. And let’s also give a shout-out to the whole craft beer village, who kept the party going even as the “closing time” announcements echoed through the exhibit floor.
Best office supply: Hard call. The Flutterfetti confetti cannon would be a nice addition to the Vegas Seven lair. However, the man in charge said some company already has one they shoot off every time someone steps out of the elevator. (No, it’s not Zappos.) So, it’s going to be the Sparkular “fireworks simulator machine,” a black box that shoots sparklers six feet into the air. We can set it off every time we close an issue. Or close a page of an issue. Or type a sentence. Actually, I say we just put the thing next to my desk, set it on “perpetual sparkle” and the rest of the Seven staff can finally see what a happy Lissa looks like.
Best cocktail supply: Plastic straws clog landfills and oceans. We’ve all seen that horrible video of the sea turtle with the straw in its nose and it’s enough to put even the most dedicated sipper/slurper off. But paper straws are environmentally friendly, improve taste and, most of all, come in pretty colors and patterns. Aardvark makes them with stripes, polka dots, bunnies, snowflakes, team logos or custom designs.
Best mixer(s): Jarritos sodas are more than a colorful display. The grapefruit soda is especially fine, mixing easily with Tequila, vodka, or gin; tamarind and guava add a bit of variety to your cabinet and your palate. Runner up is Cannabinoid Creations CBD hemp soda in the High Tide Honeydew Lemon flavor—let the alcohol soothe your mind while the CBD soothes your body.
Best overheard: “I’m not supposed to do this. But…”
Best bar tool: The flaming-eyed skull that turns your glassware to ice. No. I am not making that up and you can thank the Germans for it. Ice-Chiller is a machine that blasts a coating of frost onto any glass in just a few seconds. Most of them are simple boxes, but the demonstration model they had at Bar & Nightclub was a larger-than-life silver skull with eyes that lit up red as it iced the glass. Every bar needs this. Hell, every home needs this.
Best bottle(s): Wyoming’s Backwards Distilling has a line of circus-themed liquors that would look stylish on any bar—a row of wood-topped bottles with elaborately designed labels. There’s Sword Swallower Rum, Ringleader Vodka, Contortionist Gin (botanical) and Strongman Gin (high proof). There’s also Milk Can Moonshine, which comes in a tin bottle with a cork top and has a smoother feel and more flavorful finish than your average ’shine.
Best performance: At every Nightclub & Bar Convention, there are plenty of things that you would not actually see in a bar or nightclub. This year, there was a plethora of massage chairs, foot rubbers, neck soothers. One of the purveyors was one Dr. Fuji, who energetically demonstrated his wares…