The 10 Most Interesting Things We Drank at the World’s Best Drinks Expo
A gin that drinks like a rye, habañero rum, Croatia's best liqueur and plenty more from Brooklyn's Bar Convent
With 163 exhibitors, nearly 4,000 attendees (from 55 countries) and an estimated 300,000 drinks and spirits samples poured, Bar Convent Brooklyn is an annual must-visit for people in the spirits industry and even curious imbibers who want to try something new or different.
Along with old favorites, there were over 50 new products to try at this year’s BCB (and certainly more if you knew where to look or attended any of the official/unofficial events surrounding the two-day expo), which was held in mid-June in an industrial park called Industry City.
On my annual Bar Convent visits, I try to spend one of the trade show’s two days only trying brands or bottle expressions I’ve never tasted before. Below, 10 of our favorite finds from this year — some brand new, some simply new to me. I also included my very brief (and slightly tipsy) notes at the time of tasting.
An apple vodka from Schoharie County, NY, Upstate is macerated, distilled and bottled under one roof and features 70-80 apples per bottle. Ergo, it’s a crisp, slightly sweet and noticeable (but not artificial) flavor, and will make more the ideal vodka and tonic (or even vodka and soda). What we said at the time:: “This is gonna go in all my summer cocktails.”
An ode to motocross races and racing vehicles from the ‘80s, this Italian-crafted London dry gin utilizes very few botanicals and some eye-popping design to deliver a balanced and flavorful gin that nods to the area’s culture of cordials and digestifs (beyond the juniper, you’ll get sage and lemon). What we said at the time: “This was either going to be hit or miss, and it’s the latter: They crafted a great gin with only five botanicals.”
Hotel Chocolat Velvetised Espresso Martini Liqueur
This UK-based chocolatier got into the booze game a little while back. Here, they’re mixing vodka, espresso, white chocolate and cream — it’s great chilled on its own, but also fantastic with coffee (hot or cold). What we said at the time: “Ridiculously decadent and should replace all chocolate desserts.”
Initially launched in Wales and a big hit on social media — well, outside the U.S. — this flavored vodka in gold bottles (and sometimes other golden packaging) finally arrives Stateside; we dug the Black Grape flavor, as will pretty much anyone you’re drinking with. What we said at the time: “A brand I might have been a bit snarky about but it’ll be an incredibly crowd-pleasing vodka when it launches here.”
While sporting new packaging, this rye whiskey dates back to 1994. Crafted in San Francisco, the six-year matured whiskey is pot distilled from 100% malted rye. What we said at the time: “A malted rye … amazing mouthfeel and flavor.”
Black Infusions Dirty Shirley
A line of lower ABV (30%), all-natural vodkas infused with real fruit, the real standout from Black Infusions was a canned Dirty Shirley that utilizes the brand’s dark cherry vodka and isn’t overly sweet or syrupy. What we said at the time: “When you don’t want to like something but it’s good…”
St George Spirits Green Chile
St. George has been making a wide range of unique brandies, whiskeys and gins (and even a California shochu) since 1982 — they’re the grandfather of craft spirits. For this release, the CA-based distillery crafts its vodka from a variety of California-grown hot and sweet peppers (jalapenos, Serranos, habaneros, red and yellow bell peppers) and adds some lime peel and fresh cilantro. What we said at the time: “Super flavorful and not hot.”
Freeland Spirits Geneva Gin
This Portland-based distillery is one of the few women-owned and operated distilleries in the country. “Geneva” is inspired by genever, the Dutch grandmother of gin, and utilizes Oregon-grown rye and several local botanicals (even Willamette Valley hazelnuts). What we said at the time: “What if a rye whiskey was a gin? Hard to explain this is a cool concept.”
Pa’Lante Sweetly Smoked Habanero Rum
These rums (including one botanical version that’s sort of close to a gin) are blended with all-natural ingredients grown near their distillery in Mexico. This rum, matured for five years, utilizes infusions of chocolate habanero peppers and sweet orange peels. What we said at the time: “A slightly smoky and not too spicy rum that’s fun on its own, probably ideal in almost any cocktail.”
Hailing from Croatia and originally crafted in 1862, this wormwood liqueur is an ideal digestif and should really be served chilled or on ice. Still, it’s full of dark fruit and licorice notes, and it offers a bitterness that’s surprisingly modest and would do well in cocktails (particularly for those of us who prefer the bitter notes subdued). Pair with an orange slice, and it also works just fine on its own. What we said at the time: “I’m surprised I’m drinking this warm and neat and it’s still good.”
The Secret to Great Cocktails? Find Out in The Spill.
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