After a whirlwind week of parties, interviews, and events at the 68th Annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention & exposition in Orlando, FL, we’ve returned to bring you a few brands we think are worth watching in 2011.
Vodka has been a hot commodity in the spirits market, with many new brands trying to get traction with consumers. The bottom line with a spirit that can, many times, act as a blank canvas for all else it’s mixed with really has to do with quality. Bad vodka is just bad vodka-and you’ll generally find out the next morning, very quickly.
DragonBleu USA stole the show this year, picking up buzz for their Penja Pepper and Rose Blossom vodka flavors. DragonBleu sweetens all their infused flavors with a hint of agave nectar, keeping it low in calories (<90 calories/oz), and low on a glycemic index, as well. Unlike other vodkas, DragonBleu does not add blenders in-chemicals and additives that, in addition to creating a cheaper product, also can contribute to that post-party headache
Their flavors are unique, using simple extracts like wild ginger root and white ginger flowers in the process. The Rose Blossom infusion contains over 5 pounds of rose petals in every bottle, giving it a unique floral nose and warm sweetness, without being heady or cloying.
DragonBleu has taken the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals over the past few years with the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London, triple medaled at WSWA 2011, and continues to expand its US market reach. You can find them at www.dragonbleuvodka.com, or their DragonBleu Twitter and Facebook.
Another top pick in our list was Alacrán Tequila. Just barely launched this year, Alacrán’s sexy black bottle, reminiscent of a canteen or a flask, and smooth, silky exterior lures you in. Their tequila is crystal clear, made from 100% blue agave from Jalisco, Mexico.
Enrique Escobar describes their following: hip, trend-setting late twenty-something city dwellers, wanting something different from a tequila experience. We can see the crowd at The Standard in downtown Los Angeles choosing Alacrán for their drink of choice, as well as the chic NYC crowd at the W, or the Delano in South Beach. Rose Bar, anyone?
Alacrán tequila’s flavors rush through soon after you pour a taste. Burnt vanilla, a slight hint of raw agave, and creamy macadamia, or perhaps coconut, with a bitter ‘scorpion-like’ bite at the end. Alacrán came away as a Silver medalist at WSWA this year, and we think that, between great quality tequila, and a very eye-catching bottle, this is one brand every stylish metropolitan bar needs to serve their guests. Find Alacrán tequila on Twitter.
On the garnish and mixer side, McClure’s Pickles came through strong once again. With one of the spiciest, mouth-watering Bloody Mary mixes on the market, and the Pickletini (best with Bols Genever and your favorite premium vodka), they brought unique options that would add freshness and flair to any gastropub’s bar menu. Brown spirits are coming high into market in 2011, and the Pickleback is a sure favorite.
Here’s to a great taste of just a few of the hit brands we think local restaurant and bar owners will be making room for on their back bars in coming months.