WSWA 75th Annual Convention & Exposition Highlights
Posted May 11 | By James Stevenson
Last week in Las Vegas we attended the WSWA 75th Annual Convention & Exposition hosted at Caesars Palace where we got to explore new and exciting beverages from around the world who are looking to enter the US market. There were a lot of old faces looking for expansion into other marketplaces and some really exciting new products. You may have seen our video where Natalie used some new and exciting products combined with an old favorite to craft a delicious new cocktail we called the The Sagamore Ginja of 1821.
We got a little caught up chatting and tasting at some of the tables, so not all of our favorites are represented here but this list is a great example of our favorite products from this year.
No cocktail roundup is complete without a mention for the crew at 18.21 Bitters and as usual they really bought it with their new products. We actually used their 18.21 Barrel Aged Havana & Hide bitters in our feature cocktail and it really bought everything together.
I hope you saw our awesome ride along interview with the guys from Gray Whale Gin but if you didn’t, these are the guys to look out for. That’s not just our opinion either they actually won this years Brand Battle and after meeting with them and tasting their gin we completely understand why. The product labeling stands out but what was most interesting (and impressive) is the addition of botanicals such as sea kelp, which are foraged from along the California Coast.
If there is a product that deserves a mention it is definitely the ready to drink, bottled cocktails from Spruce Creek. This mom and pop operation is fantastic and the couple running the show are contagiously positive and fun. If you can get your hands on a bottle of their Classic New Orleans concoction I think they have done a great job.
We had to stop by the Wine of Japan Import booth to see our friend Masahiro and sample some delicious sake. I am fascinated by the Japanese culture and Masahiro does an amazing job of sourcing products true to their cultural heritage with a great range of Sake and Shochu from around the country.
We also had a great time chatting with the ladies representing Chapel Gate Whiskey with their first release of The Gael. The company has taken on an old style of mixing whereas they are travelling the country (Ireland) to find rare and wonderful casks and combining them to create an amazing blended Irish Whiskey.
One thing I especially love is taking spirits which everyone has a skewed preconceived notion about and finding products that are outside of that spectrum. The Rum Co. of Fiji fit that bill perfectly, taking rums that are traditionally considered as sweet and creating a great balance with locally sourced ingredients for their Ratu Rum line.
Another product we used in our feature cocktail was Ginja 9, which lends its delicious taste from Sour Cherries from Portugal. It’s has an amazing, fresh flavor which is only made better by the fact that it is traditionally served in fine chocolate cups. I feel like more booze should be served in chocolate vessels!
We got a little obsessed with the new Dano’s Dangerous Pineapple & Jalapeño Tequila because I can see some seriously dangerous Margaritas being made in the near future with little to no hassle. It’s not a sickly infusion you are usually used to but the maceration process really brings great pineapple and jalapeño notes into the tequila without diminishing the quality.
Speaking of tequila; we bumped into our great friends from Tequila Arette again, you should know these guys from our travels to Tequila. "EL LLANO" is one of the oldest distilleries in the region that still produces tequila and is operated by the Orendain Brothers, descendants of one of the most recognized families in the tequila Industry.
Dinners in Las Vegas can vary substantially and we were really lucky to have the opportunity to spend an evening with the family and team behind Riboli Family Wines at Nove Italiano restaurant. We enjoyed an amazing meal in a beautiful setting while tasting some delicious cocktails created with their new product, Rosa 22.
Q Drinks are in no way new to the bar essentials scene, however their new Highball’R program really got our attention. Of course their mixers are delicious but we love a company that understands today’s cocktail culture and can pull off a creative program that influences bartenders to be themselves and do things their way.
It may be the culture, people, taste or all of the above but I can’t help myself when it comes to Mexican spirits. One of the most impressive setups this year was the Adictivo Tequila booth where you could sit down and relax at the bar while tasting great tequila; winning!
Next year it’s back to Orlando for the WSWA 76th Annual Convention & Exposition and I can’t wait!