Thatâ€™s right, Stir and Strain is packing its bags and heading to Vegas to visit the WSWA (Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention) from April 18 through the 21st for their 73rd annual convention and exposition.
GUYS. Thereâ€™s going to be over FOUR HUNDRED exhibitors covering 210,000 square feet of space in the Caesars Palace Conference Center. (Who can send me a backup liver??) But seriously, I will be on the ground getting as much inside information as I can on what you can expect in the coming months and years. ARGH! Iâ€™m so excited!
This event is only for those in the trade– typically, the general public doesnâ€™t get let in. Except for you guys, who can check out whatâ€™s happening LIVE (thank you Periscope and Snapchat) and can ask questions in real time. Like when will Channing Tatumâ€™s new Born & Bred Vodka be available, or what flavors Lisa Vanderpumpâ€™s new sangria line will come in. (And whenâ€™s she going to admit she was wrong and apologize to Lisa Rinna?)
If youâ€™re picking up a theme here, yeah, itâ€™s true, thereâ€™s going to be some celebrities (George Clooney launched his Casamigos Tequila here, as did Dan Aykroyd and his Crystal Head Vodka), but no, I will not ask ANYONE to sign my bottles. This year, letâ€™s seeâ€¦ Aron Ralston, fearless adventurer and subject of the hit film â€œ127 Hoursâ€ (where James Franco had to amputate his own arm). Tito Beveridge, founder of Titoâ€™s Handmade Vodka will receive the Sidney Frank Award (given annually to a person who has made exceptional industry contributions in addition to noteworthy philanthropy and community service). And Christie Brinkley will be cutting the ribbon to start the whole thing off.
A few of the key players in the industry weâ€™ll be tasting with in their suites include Temperance Distilling Company, MHW, Ltd, Heaven Hill Brands, Anchor Distilling Company, Imperial Brands, Kindred Spirits, William Grant & Sons and many more. Some of these names might sound unfamiliar, but itâ€™s more than likely that theyâ€™re the makers behind your favorite brands.
You’ll also find me ringside for a few cocktail competitions with the best in the U.S.:
- Tuesday April 19: 10:30 a.m. â€“ 5 p.m. Wine & Spirits Tasting Competition
Sponsored by The Tasting Panel magazine, this competition features a panel of highly esteemed wine and spirits experts judging nearly 1,000 wines and spirits exhibiting at the convention and awarding medals in dozens of categories.
- Wednesday April 20
- 10:00 a.m. â€“ 12:00 p.m. Call for Cocktails Mixology Competition
- 1:30 â€“ 4:00 p.m. Wholesaler Iron Mixologist Competition
- Thursday April 21: 12:45 â€“ 2:15 p.m. Brand Battle
The Brand Battle provides a unique opportunity for brands to pitch themselves, Shark Tank-style, in front of a panel of industry influencers and wholesalerÂ decision makers.
Weâ€™ll also be attending a number of professional seminars featuring inside tips from bar and nightclub owners regarding connecting with customers or reading global trends, and even just practical advice like how to get lipstick off your vintage Nick & Nora glasses (well, that might not be covered but Iâ€™m betting there will be someone there who can answer that question).
Anyway, I hope you guys are as excited as I am to get the inside track on the industryâ€™s view of the trends… Rum has been huge this year and is still predicted to keep rising… And the 2015 show premiered a number of new Latin American spirits (new to the US market, anyway) that later showed up in bars and stores across the US.
One of the big trends from last yearâ€™s convention was barrel-aged gins, so, to celebrate and get ready for this yearâ€™s fun, Iâ€™m sharing the winning cocktail from last yearâ€™s WSWA Call for Cocktails competition that featured BlueCoat Barrel Finish gin:
Barrel Hidden in the Tropics
(2015 WSWA winner by Chris Chamberlain, Portfolio Manager and Mixologist for Philadelphia Distilling)
1.5 oz Bluecoat Barrel Finish gin
0.25 oz Montenegro Amaro
0.75 oz Honey Syrup
0.25 oz Lemon juice
1.25 oz Smoked Pineapple juice
Bar spoon of Greek Yogurt
Okay, guys, thanks for reading through! Again, the WSWA convention is THE launch pad for the cocktail products youâ€™ll see everywhere in the coming year. Join us LIVE from Vegas April 18-21 and make sure to ping me with questions and what you want to see!
**All photos courtesy of the WSWA convention.