New Beverage Innovations from WSWAApril 15, 2014 By: Rachel Karlin
Every year the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA convention) brings, both old and new, wine and spirit companies from across the world. Some years there are noticeable trends, some years it appears to be the same products you’ve seen many times before. This year there seemed to be less wacky flavored vodkas, and more tequila. “Wine infused” also seems to be a category we will be hearing more of.
I was happy to see more mezcal than ever before. For those less familiar, mezcal is a tequila made from a maguey plant (a form of agave) and is known for its unique smoky flavor. Central Mezcalera had a nice variety from its Cha Cha Cha Mezcal to its high end offering the Boticario. Cha Cha Cha (no, not the dance!) means very very very good in zapotec – the native language of the agave farmer who lends his maguey for this great mezcal. The Cha Cha Cha comes in four varieties: two white/silvers, one reposado and one anejo. This product line tastes great alone, but is also great for cocktails. The Boticario, distilled in clay pot stills, would be a sin to mix. It is superb on its own with bursts of herbs and flavors.
Another great mezcal was BRUXO, the “Elixir de los Mortales.” In seven varieties, each BRUXO gives a specific number and color to their unique production styles and is labeled with the distillation author’s name. There was no need for this spirit to be mixed as it was smooth while infused with so much flavor, though it does appear to work well into craft cocktails. Refer to their Facebook page to see some great drink recipes that have been made with BRUXO. Look for “the spicy Cucumber” made with fresh Serrano chile, pineapple, a touch of ginger and, of course, Bruxo No. 1.
Jicara Mezcalera offers a specialty glass, or “wide-mouthed vessel,” for drinking the aforementioned mezcals. The glass is a unique combination of Mexican tradition and more current urban or modern day drinking habits. The glass encompasses a gourd-like fruit of the Crecentia alata that has been used for hundreds of years to make drinking cups. Typically, the hand sized fruit was cut in half, emptied of pulp and dried in the sun before being used as a drinking cup. The Jicara Mezcalera now allows modern day drinkers to enjoy the growing popularity of mezcal with centuries worth of tradition.
Now onto some interesting wine infused, and inspired, products. Monteru North America said to offer the only brandy made out of a single grape. I did a double take when I noticed four bottles of brandy labeled in such flavors or blends as cabernet, chardonnay, merlot and riesling. Needless to say, I was intrigued. After asking to do a blind taste test to see if I could guess the chardonnay brandy from the riesling, I passed with flying colors. The product tasted primarily of brandy origin, but you could sense the characteristics of the well-known grapes in each taste. The grapes are double distilled and aged in oak barrels. Most spirits are single distilled, but double distillation is the perfect amount of distillation to balance the fruit, aroma, and taste for a premium brandy made with grapes, more specifically grapes of desired French varietal. Monteru stands as one of the most unique products I’ve ever tried.
Next up is Croctails, made up of a sneaky 9.9% alcohol. One would guess that their Golden Margarita is made up of tequila, and the Strawberry Daiquiri you’d probably guess is made from rum… wrong! Croctails are a wine based cocktail and are made up of citrus and natural sugars. They are not only tasty but they are low in sugar and calories, and they will surely be a hit with bars holding beer and wine-specific liquor licenses. Already kicking off with a wide range of distribution, I have a good feeling Croctails will be a nation-wide hit this summer.
Restoration Spirits, Inc. was serving up pancakes with a bourbon maple syrup. The company is introducing the world’s first line of liquors made solely for cooking. The ingredients are all natural and heat stable, and the varietals currently being produced are rum, bourbon, brandy and “hops” (beer). I will likely be experimenting with my own bourbon inspired brunch soon…YUM!
Onto dessert, the longstanding Marie Brizard is coming out with a new Chocolat Royal liqueur. Unlike some other similar versions on the market, this product is smooth and chocolate-y with no after-bite. I think it would make a fine after dinner beverage on its own, or served up with the likes of Frangelico, Chambord, Baileys…I could go on. I think this product is good enough to refuel the desert drink craze.
Lastly there were a few products that stood out based on their creative bottling alone. LiDestri Limoncello PINK liqueur stood out for its adorable bottling that I am already envisioning at bridal and baby showers across America. XUL Vodka from Rex Spirits Inc. is interestingly gluten free and kosher but stood out most for its striking Carnival-inspired bottling. Then there was Bodega Barcelona with their extremely artsy RTD sangrias and “lovermuths.”
Interested in finding out more about the products showcased at the WSWA event? Then take a moment to check out the winners of the official 2014 WSWA spirit competition HERE and the winners of the 2014 WSWA wine competition here HERE.
The 72nd annual event will return to Orlando April 12-14, 2015… see you there!