The annual Nightclub & Bar Show passed through Las Vegas last week, filling the Las Vegas Convention Center with everything you need to get the party started. As always, we sampled the offerings, from Garage Brewing Company’s decadent Marshmallow Milk Stout to Vapshot’s alcohol “mist” inhalable shots (kinda weird and not as fun as you’d think) and everything in between. Here’s some of our faves.
Coffee WIth a Kick
Iced coffee in a can is a godsend to those of us who wake up running behind and tend to spend the rest of the morning trying to catch up. Grab a canned Starbucks or a bottled Dunkin Donuts out of the fridge, pop the top and hop off to work. But this practice has become much more delicious and fun with the arrival of Cafe Agave Spiked Cold Brew, an iced coffee augmented with a nice bolt of hooch to really start that morning—or evening—off right. With 123 mg of caffeine and 12.5 percent alcohol content, it comes in four flavors: mocha, salted caramel, vanilla cinnamon and espresso. They’re as delicious as you’d want your unspiked coffee to be, so the alcohol is just a mitzvah on top of it. You might want to be wary before work, though.
Tequila has moved past the frat boy shot and into the craft cocktail ingredient, and even as a go-to for the smooth, sophisticated sipper. Comisario Tequila has won numerous awards for its blanco, reposado and añejo varieties, and all stand up to solo consumption. Comisario is an unlikely partnership between dentist/brand founder Roy Morita, former NBA player Rick Darnell and liquor maven Luis Cota. “We were at the 2012 NBA All-Star Game,” recalls Cota, “There were all of these people crowded around this booth.” He and Darnell went to check out what turned out to be Comisario. “I don’t drink liquor, but [Darnell] tried it.” With Darnell’s seal of approval, they acquired Comisario. For a sequel, they’re looking into vodka.
Mix It Up
Of course, for any booze, you need mixers. The best we found came from Brooklyn Food & Beverage, whose line of exotic ginger ales and ginger beer can turn a mule into a thoroughbred. Their ginger ales have an authentic ginger taste, augmented by flavors such as pomegranate and jasmine tea, while the ginger beer comes in diet, spicy and lemon-lime varieties. They make fantastic mixers, whether you just want a spicier or slimmer mule or wish to create your own cocktail concoction. Hell, you can even drink them plain!
Home Grown Bourbon
The Silver State has seen many breweries and distilleries open over the past few years. H&C Nevada Distilling Co. was at the NBS to represent with their Silver Dollar Vodka and Smoke Wagon Bourbon Whiskey. The latter comes in three varieties: Uncut Unfiltered, Small Batch and Private Barrel. The Small Batch carries 100 proof, but is surprisingly smooth and has a nice touch of rye flavor to it. “This is all I drink in the summer,” says company co-founder Aaron Chepnik, adding that it goes well with a cigar on the porch.
Jello shots are often scorned as a drink for those who are afraid of drinks, but Jel Shots are made for those who actually enjoy their liquor. For convenience’s sake, they don’t need to be refrigerated and, if you’re into the contradiction of being drunk and healthy at the same time, they’re vegan and gluten-free. The flavors also work. When you have the watermelon, you actually get a watermelon taste and not just some chemical food coloring. You can use them as a cocktail ingredient, freeze them for ice cubes or “make desert out of them,” according to Jel Shots CFO Ashley Zalkin. “I put one of the banana ones in the deep fryer [and] served it with ice cream—it was delicious,” she says.
There was an awful lot of Bloody Mary mixes at the convention, from your big-name bland to your small-batch spicy. As you can imagine, we prefer the latter. It was done best by Smokin’ Mary, a Bloody Mary mix that is full of fresh tomatoes, onions and spices, topped with a smoky, BBQ-style flavor. I’d drink this virgin-style, it’s so good. “It makes a great cocktail sauce,” says company owner Laurie Nadeau. “It’s a dip, people use it for all kinds of things.”
For the Kids
We all love our bartenders and barbacks, servers and sommeliers for keeping us lubricated in this desert city. But sometimes we forget they’re people, too, and many of them have families. Members of CORE, which stands for Children of Restaurant Employees, were at the NBS to reach out to both donors and those who might need their services. The organization supports the kids of those who work in bars or restaurants, helping them with medical and other expenses when mom and/or dad’s tips don’t quite cover it.