Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a show guy; crowded aisles irk me and over-enthusiastic sales folk wear me down until I pretend I want to buy something. So I hadn’t been to the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show for at least five years, and I was curious about how things had changed since then, what with the new owners, a fragile economy and an amped up mixology community.
While the show was smaller than I remember, there was a far greater presence of familiar bartender faces — not only Vegas’ best, but also many of the leading stars from all over the country. Nacional 27’s Adam Seger was making drinks with his own exemplary Hum Liqueur; Bobby “G” Gleason and Philip Raimondo (below) were hard at work at the Beam Global booth; Vegas’ Ray Srp was working the BarSol Pisco Sours; Colin Asare-Appiah was suggesting the right way to sample U’Luvka Vodka; a few dozen bar stars were competing in the Southern Wine and Spirits’ “Shake It Up” competition; and many others were cheering them on from the floor. Clearly, the mixology community was ready to back the show — or at least the spirit and ingredient portion, as not many of these bartenders buy lights or security systems.
Over at the Pernod-Ricard booth, Dale DeGroff and Paul Pacult spent an afternoon representing the BarSmarts program, and nearby Dan Aykroyd worked the floor with his hulking bodyguard and Crystal Head Vodka en tow, which turned out to be not bad at all (though I never use show floor tastings as the final word – there’s too much schmooze to really know what you’re sipping.) There was great energy, plenty of familiar faces and fewer booths that made me go “Hmm…” — to me that’s a good thing and a cause to return.