SF Bay Area
Food and drink that has us seeing gold
The WSWA Convention each year brings hopeful emerging brands alongside some great favorites from around the world to one space where they showcase their products hoping to catch the eye of the right distributor and Beautiful Booze were lucky to be there to see what products will hopefully be on the market soon and let you know which to keep an eye out for.
There is always a great mix here from weird to wonderful products that belong in niche markets alongside products that don’t belong anywhere at all, but luckily there is a vast majority that we hope will saturate the bars and liquor stores around the country. Sometimes it’s a product or flavor that is entirely new, or a modern twist on something that has fallen out of flavor and someone is trying to bring it back though sometimes it’s just someone making a popular product in the same method it has always been done but just doing it really, really well.
So we wandered the private showrooms and the giant show halls to find the best products to share with you. Sometimes it was the product itself that was great and sometimes it was the salesmanship of the team behind it but whatever the reason we believe that the following products will certainly be available soon in the US.
It’s not like I’m playing favorites or anything, but when Italicus is released this week you better get your hands on it because it is going to sell fast, and this Bergamot based aperitivo with beautiful accentuating Italian botanicals not only looks amazing with great bottle design but what is inside is liquid gold! After a quick tasting with Giuseppe Gallo, the globally renowned bartender and brand ambassador who is behind the creation of this beautiful new product and Marc De Kuyper, president of Royal Dutch Distillers they invited us back to their creative studio in Miami for an in depth sneak peek into the versatility of Italicus. Who better than Giuseppe himself to tell you about it? Keep an eye out for our behind the scenes video coming soon.
The award for most creative and appealing booth display goes to these guys, our friends at Thirsty told us to go check them out and with a display dedicated to modern culture through street art and good beats we were sold before even tasting the product. Thankfully they actually make a good Rye too, so once we were drawn in by the creative environment we spent some time chatting with their sales director Sam who told us all about the history of the company who made their name in the cigar industry who has done some great things with the Nicaraguan communities where they are based. The company is even stepping out of their comfort zone further and putting out a unique product that blends rum with Kentucky bourbon for a very unique product.
All right, rosé isn’t exactly a new product but in recent years it has certainly seen a huge surge in popularity and now more than ever brands are finding innovative ways to get their product in your hands. Enter Electric Rosé, with packaging reminiscent of a Capri Sun, this product takes you back to your playful youth and actually tastes pretty damn good. We loved them so much we actually snuck a few extra samples to get us through the night.
I am a massive fan of Japanese whisky and I attempted to check out the Japanese Imports booth at the convention but every time I came by there was a line of people attempting to get a taste of their prodigious whiskies, sakes and miscellaneous goods. Luckily we met up with the team behind the product for dinner at Morimoto Asia on our last evening in Orlando and they gave us a taste of this beautiful 10 year Yame. Such a soft and elegant whisky as we have come to expect from Japanese producers, it paired deliciously with the food and the company couldn’t have been any better.
Over the years we have made some great friends in the industry but with everyone living in different cities, events such as WSWA are where we can all get together and talk shop. The crew from 18.21 Bitters are a part of this group and it has been amazing watching their success and it is well deserved with their assertive hands on approach to marketing and distribution. So we caught up with Missy and talked a little about their new ginger beer product that they are currently self distributing but are hoping to get a distributor shortly so it can reach stores near you. Keep an eye out for their bitters in our upcoming segment on TPSY TV.
Although Fernet Branca is not by any means new to the bar scene, this is a company who do a great job with promoting their product far and wide. We have all consumed a fair amount of this delicious stuff at one time or another but I have to say, meeting Eduardo Branca in person and seeing that although his family owns one of the greatest and most respected global brands he is still humble and happy to take the time to talk to the little guys like us.
I first came across a bottle of 99,000 horas by Corralejo when my friend Carolina in Mexico gave me a bottle as a present. It is such a great tequila but what is most interesting is the name 99,000 horas, which translates to 99,000 hours in English, representing the amount of time from agave cultivation to bottling.
Yes, that’s right, I know what everyone is thinking, but this year Jägermeister bought it with a creative re-branding and one hell of a party at WSWA. The recipe remains the same so if you had one too many Jäger Bombs in your heyday then you may not be swayed. However, they are doing a great job of educating modern bartenders about utilizing their herbal mixture in cocktails to make it a lot more approachable.
Another company where the owner has such an amazing story behind his product about growing up near a spirit distillery and dreaming of working there one day only to wind up buying it and producing an array of great spirits and liqueurs. Their grappa was soft and really palatable even for someone who isn’t accustomed to the pungent flavors of grappa. Also in their line, Enrico Nardini is opening their US distribution with an Amaretto that will surely be on many back bars as it does not have the sickly sugar aftertaste like many others.
10. Carrick Gin
One of the big trends at this years show were Irish products, and although there were many great Irish whiskeys like West Cork, we were blown away by the smooth delicate profile of Carrick Gin. I have certainly enjoyed my fair share of Irish delights but to my recollection gin has previously not been amongst them so it’s great to see someone bringing such a great product to the US.
Novo Fogo is certainly not a new product but as they are headquartered in Seattle they will always have a place in my heart. They have some great expressions but what they do best are the party packs and tasting kits you may have seen in many local liquor stores. However, this year they are releasing their all-new RTD Sparkling Caipirinha, which is a great drink to take to your next BBQ or have sitting in the fridge for when you don’t want to mix up a fresh one.
12. Bedlam Vodka
This years winners of the WSWA Brand Battle are slowly rolling out their new vodka, starting in their home state of North Carolina as of May and this is a great example of taking an old product and making it better through innovation. Using a distillation method practiced and perfected in Ireland over seven centuries using a rice distillation base this vodka has a unique flavor profile and goes down really smooth. In their own words “The Bedlam brand name is taken from a rugged coastal town in northern Ireland, yet derives its attitude and purpose from the commonly understood definition of bedlam as chaos and conflict.”
Right off the bat I love the branding of this product, the name says it all; the dictionary definition is literally “a person who believes that the pursuit of pleasure is the most important thing in life; a pleasure-seeker”. That aside, the product inside is delicious; something that reminded me of Tuaca but with a better balance of ginger and smooth Cognac. We enjoyed some Hedonist on the rocks and at first you taste the rich cognac, which is then followed by a little spicy ginger kick and as it settles on your taste buds there is a delicious note of vanilla that lingers just a little. This will be a great product for some fancy cocktails.
14. Tequila Arette
We first came across Tequila Arette when visiting Tequila, Jalisco down in Mexico and the team have always been great supporters of Beautiful Booze. That alone isn’t why they have made our list though, the team at Arette also happen to make a bad ass tequila. Of course our favorite is their limited production Gran Clase extra Añejo that is rested in American White Oak barrels for 36 months but we think that it is a Tequila that deserves a lot more recognition. Their distillation facility is also just down the road from Tequila Fortaleza where I believe they are the last producers who still follow the old school Tahona production method. If you haven’t tried either product you’ve been missing out.
Flavored vodka is always a touchy subject as there are so many bad companies using chemical flavouring that tastes horrible, BUT there are the occasional gems that actually taste great. If you like pickles like Natalie does then this is a product you should look into and not only is the flavor natural but when they explain that they use a patented molecular infusion process with ultrasonic waves to combine the pickle juice with the vodka on a molecular level (WTF); you at least have to try it out of curiosity.
Founder and creator of the cocktail website and blog Beautiful Booze. Natalie is a mixologist, cocktail stylist, photographer, recipe developer, and social media guru. Beautiful Booze the website features over 400 original recipes and photography that celebrate cocktails. From "DIY" bourbon tastings to simple 2-ingredient cocktails Beautiful Booze has something special shaking for everyone. Beautiful Booze has been named one of the top 5 cocktail Instagram accounts to follow and Natalie has a passion for Instagram and social media. Natalie is a regular contributor to Foodable WebTV, Drinkwire, Vinepair, and Delish. Her recipes have been featured on Liquor.com, Huffington Post, Fox News Magazine, Today Show, Latin Kitchen, Cosmopolitan, Pop Sugar, Country Living and many more.