Blog Entries Tagged as alcohol

Cocktail Culture

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

We talk, and write, a lot about what wines pair well with which foods, and which beers pair better than those wines with those foods. But what about cocktails? Typically, it’s, “let’s grab a drink before dinner,” or “let’s grab a drink after dinner.” The during is usually cocktail-free. 

I attended two events last month that have reopened my eyes to the cocktail culture that continues to thrive in this country and how spirits too can pair equally as well as wine or beer with food. 

Skyy Vodka recently named chef Marcus Samuelsson as its first culinary ambassador. Samuelsson is a James Beard Award winner and also is Food Network’s Chopped All-Stars champion this year. He is the owner and chef of Red Rooster in Harlem where I got to experience first-hand what his partnership with the vodka brand will entail. From September to December, Samuelsson will focus on how to create high-quality cocktails at home that he has developed using his culinary skills through a program called Captivating Cocktails. At the Red Rooster we sampled some cocktails from the program: Basil Gimlet paired with skagen toast, an Apple Spiced Martini paired with a turkey meatball slider on a biscuit with cranberry chutney, and an Earl of Harlem cocktail made with Earl Grey Tea, coriander syrup, lemon juice and orange rind paired with chicken and waffles with spiked Skyy syrup. Other cocktails passed throughout the evening included The Savoy (made with red and white grapes, lemon juice and agave syrup) and a White Sangria.

While I’ve sampled my fair share of culinary crafted cocktails, I was surprised to find the cocktails to be light, refreshing and balanced with the food choices that weren’t your typical dinner items.

Further downtown, it was a Sunday brunch and Patrón Silver cocktails at Maya, a Richard Sandoval restaurant, specializing in modern Mexican cuisine. The newly redesigned restaurant now includes Tequileria Maya, a bar and lounge with more than 100 agave-based spirits and 30 house-infused tequilas. Cocktails that day included a traditional margarita, a pineapple sage margarita, spiked agua frescas, tequila punch and a Maria Verde made with tamatillo, chiles, cilantro, jalapeno and lime all paired with small Mexican plates like chef’s special chicken enchiladas, tacos and tortas like smoked brisket tacos and cazuelas (baked eggs served in cast iron skillets) like eggs albanil—scrambled eggs, chicharron, black beans, salsa verde and crema fresca. 

Tequila for brunch isn’t the normal go-to cocktail, but as the tequila culture continues to grow, consumers are learning that tequila can be enjoyed in many cocktails and even sipped like a fine cognac. In fact, Sandoval has partnered with Herradura to craft his own limited-edition double barrel reposado tequila. Following the traditional barrel aging process, this reposado was then rested in new toasted oak barrels and aged for an additional 30 days. Only 240 bottles are available. The tequila has aroma notes of fruit and vanilla and caramel-like flavors derived from the cooked agave and aging in oak barrels. It has a sweet finish with a light alcohol taste. Salud!  

BevStar Awards 2012: We Finally Have Our Winners!

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

After a lengthy judging process involving a record number of entries this year and a self-imposed media blackout until the official winners' issue started arriving this week, we are very pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Beverage World BevStar Awards. For those just joining us, the BevStars recognize new product innovation across all of the major beverage categories.

We received a particularly robust shower of entries in the Energy & Functional category—so many that we decided to split it into two separate categories this year. It really reflects the level of innovation in those segments. If you recall from our 2012 State of the Industry report, energy drink volume returned to double-digit growth last year, with an increase of more than 17 percent in 2011, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Without further ado, here's the list of this year's winners. For details on all of these brands, read the July 2012 issue of Beverage World. Congratulations to all!

BEST IN SHOW
Ruthless Rye IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

BEER
Gold: Ruthless Rye IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Silver: Deviant Dale's IPA, Oskar Blues Brewing Co.
Bronze: Bronx Pale Ale, The Bronx Brewery

BOTTLED WATER
Gold: MyCause Water, Panacea Beverage Co.
Silver: Elevate Enhanced Fiber Water, 912 Corp.
Bronze: Karma Wellness Water, Karma Kulture LLC

CARBONATED SOFT DRINKS
Gold: Spindrift, Spindrift Soda co.
Silver: Dr Pepper Ten, Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Bronze: HotLips Cranberry Soda, HotLips Soda Co.

ENERGY
Gold: Monster Rehab, Monster Beverage Co.
Silver: Slap Frozen Energy, Brain-Twist
Bronze: Berry Rain, RevHoney

FUNCTIONAL
Gold: Neuro Sun, Neuro Beverage
Silver: Ralph & Charlie's Aloe, Ralph & Charlie's Beverage Co.
Bronze: Modjo Hydrate Elite, Cellutions

READY-TO-DRINK TEA & COFFEE
Gold: Honest (Not Too) Sweet Tea, Honest Tea
Silver: RealBeanz, RealBeanz LLC
Bronze: Tao of Tea, The Tao of Tea

SPIRITS
Gold: Purgatory Vodka, Alaska Distillery
Silver: Apple Pie Moonshine, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery
Bronze: BuzzBallz, BuzzBallz LLC

WINE
Gold: FlasqWines, JT Wines
Silver: Blanc de Bleu, Premium Vintage Cellars
Bronze: Xavier Flouret La Pilar Malbec, Cognac One LLC

For those brands that entered but didn't take a gold, silver or bronze in any of the categories, don't fret. Competition was particularly stiff this year and the decisions were all very difficult for all of us on the judging panel. And there's always next year. We'll be announcing a call for entries some time in December.
 

Laugh Along Even Though They’re Laughing at You

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

So, a couple of interesting events occurred this week and in an odd sort of way, they’re spiritually related. In New York, I got to see one of my favorite bands that had been on hiatus for the better part of a decade and hadn’t played in the city since 1998. The band is the Britpop combo Pulp, of whose most famous song I was reminded when I attended the second event, a wine festival in a Western U.S. city billed as a “Rock & Roll” wine event (complete with a performance from another band that peaked in the ’90s but whose return was far less triumphant than the aforementioned band from Sheffield, England. (Basically a glorified one-hit wonder, maybe a one-and-a-half-hit wonder if I’m feeling generous).

The song the latter event evoked was “Common People,” basically about a wealthy, bourgeois art student who cluelessly and patronizingly says she wants to live like the common folk. It’s completely lost on her why such a thing is not possible for someone whose rich dad is always a phone call away to bail her out.

What does that have to do with wine? Well, it wasn’t so much the drink itself, but the very forced nature of the tasting festival. It tried to hit attendees over the head with the fact that it was a “rock & roll” event, as if to say, “See, wine understands the common people.” (The cheap plastic tasting cups didn’t help matters. They just came off as tacky).

I’m not saying wine isn’t as flexible a beverage as beer, as far as consumption occasions are concerned. Quite the contrary. But I almost got the sense that the organizers were so self conscious about the—often misguided—perception of wine as a drink that encourages snobbery that they overcompensated by desperately trying to connect with everyday folk by producing a transparently artificial, raucous, rockin’ time. It’s like a multimillionaire buying a Chevy Cavalier in an attempt to “keep it real,” but driving it home to a personal car elevator.

Wine’s a great beverage and has every right to go after traditional beer occasions, just as beer has done with what had been historically perceived as wine occasions. But when it tries too hard, it just comes off as disingenuous and a little desperate.

Making History Hip

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

What’s new? New styles, new watering holes, new apps, new electronics, new cars…the list can go on and on. There’s no question that today’s consumer is obsessed with all things new—and when he or she does find that shiny, new thing that no one else has yet discovered they make it known. Do you like this jacket? It’s new. Did you see this app? It’s new. Have you been to (enter bar or restaurant name here)? It’s new. You get the idea.

But lately there’s also been an obsession with what’s old. I’ve never been a history buff myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have an appreciation for the events that have helped shape the modern world.

In the spirits world, there’s been a newfound love for what’s old, where a return to the classic cocktail and iconic brands that date back more than a century are becoming what’s new again.

With speakeasy-type bars in demand and consumers tuning into shows like “Mad Men,” classic cocktails are getting a second look. Mixologists are bringing the sexy back to drinks like Moscow Mule, Negroni, Old Fashioned or Rusty Nail with a spin that brings these cocktails to another level.

What’s helped fuel this trend, in addition to pop culture, is the investment iconic brands are making to teach consumers about their history and the cocktails made with them.

Campari, an aperitif that dates back to 1860, is used to make the Negroni: one part Campari, one part gin and one part sweet vermouth. Last year, a contest in New York City asked bartenders to come up with their own version of the Negroni causing a spike in menu placements for the drink around the city. History lesson: Campari originally got its rich red color extracted from a cochineal beetle native to South America.

Bacardi, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, is widely recognized for the Mojito: 1.5 ounces of Bacardi, 12 fresh spearmint leaves, half a lime, 7 ounces of club soda and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup. This cocktail, which dates back to 1862, was originally called the Draque, invented by Richard Drake, a pirate on board the ship of Spanish explorer Francis Drake.

Today, the Mojito recipe is often altered and made with a variety of fruit flavors and flavored Bacardi rums to get a customized version of the classic. History lesson: Bacardi got its bat symbol because bats were found in the rafters of the original distillery.

Glenfiddich celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. In honor of its anniversary, the brand is promoting cocktails that create a modern take on the historic brand. The Pioneering Spirit: 1.5 parts Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, 2 parts pear juice, one-half part agave nectar, 1 part lemon juice. History lesson: Founder William Grant and his nine children built the first Glenfiddich distillery by hand over the course of a year.

While these cocktails, and the brands that help make them, aren’t necessarily “new,” they are classic—and that’s one thing that never gets old. 

Even the U.S. can be an emerging market it in its own way.

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

There’s been a lot of coverage about emerging markets of late, including my PourWord from last month detailing a recent trip to an emerging South East Asian market, Vietnam. We traditionally think of the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as the four biggest emerging markets on which beverage companies have been lavishing attention, followed by the next wave of burgeoning sites in Asia (like the aforementioned Vietnam), Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

What really defines an emerging market is the level of untapped opportunity to grow various product categories. So, in that regard, couldn’t just about every country be an emerging market for something? And, yes, that includes even the U.S.

I never in a million years would have considered the U.S. to be emerging in any way, shape or form, since it’s possible to get a drink from just about every category in the States. But then a recent invitation to a press event in New York City reminded me that there are many segments that have yet to max out their market potential in the U.S. The invitation was from the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) and it was for a showcase of shochu, Japan’s national spirit (see some pics in this month’s Liquid Lens).

Shochu had been on my radar for a while. One of my favorite izakayas in Manhattan is a place called Umi No Ie, which specializes in the spirit; shochu varieties outnumber the sakes nearly tenfold. Also, on a trip to Japan a couple of years ago, I had stumbled into a Tokyo bar that served shochu exclusively. But beyond those examples I rarely gave it much thought in my daily life. And that’s kind of a small tragedy because given the extremely niche-level penetration shochu has in the U.S. market, it’s likely that most legal-drinking-age consumers don’t pay it much mind either.

The New York event reminded me that it’s a pretty accessible and versatile spirit. For a clear spirit, it pairs pretty well with a variety of foods without any enhancement. But for cocktail-crazy consumers, its various flavor expressions—depending on whether it’s distilled from sweet potatoes, barley, rice, sugar or buckwheat—make it fairly flexible for drinks both sweet and savory. Renowned mixologist Junior Merino led a guided tasting at the expo to demonstrate just how mixable it is. What’s more, there’s no shortage of romance associated with its history and product methods to satisfy even the most discerning Scotch and bourbon aficionados. Its origins can be traced back to feudal Japan of 500 years ago and is, to this day, distilled using wooden pot stills. Its single distillation ensures that as much of the flavor complexity of its base ingredient is retained.

The U.S. may be one of the most mature spirits—and overall beverage—markets around, but when it comes to segments like shochu, it’s barely a toddler. And that toddler, if nurtured correctly, could have some very fruitful growing-up years ahead of it.