I must say I was very impressed with the inaugural Bar Convent Brooklyn. I went to Bar Convent Berlin last year and was curious to see how that would translate to a U.S. audience, especially in a considerably smaller space (the Brooklyn Expo Center usually hosts events like the Hot Sauce Expo). When all was said and done the Brooklyn iteration of Europe’s largest trade show for the bar business attracted more than 3,100 attendees from across the beverage industry, engaging with 155 exhibitors June 12-13. Here’s another fun bit of trivia: According to the show’s organizers, attendees sampled more than 250,000 spirits and mixed drinks.
Here are a few of my favorite highlights:
Oysters & booze. Who knew?
There were at least three exhibitors pairing their spirits, in various forms, with fresh oysters. Holland’s Rutte Distillery teamed with Empire Oyster for a form of molecular mixology where tiny “pearls” of Rutte Old Simon Genever and Rutte Celery Gin flavorfully exploded in your mouth when you slurped them down with the briny bi-valves. Meanwhile, Jameson created a mignonette with its iconic Irish whiskey. And Fords Gin mixed martinis that you’d pour in the empty shell once you’ve consumed the oyster. All of these examples were quite the revelation.
Heaven Hill Brands showcased the repackaged and reformulated Dubonnet aromatized wine, bringing it a bit closer to its original recipe, which debuted in 1846. For one thing, there’s a bit more cinchona bark, whose quinine content traditionally made it an effective anti-malarial remedy. It’s a good time to be in the aromatized wine business, especially when you consider the mini-renaissance that vermouth has been enjoying.
The American Craft Spirits Association had a considerable presence at BCB, with a corner pavilion of six small distillers sampling a diverse array of spirits. Appalachian Gap Distillery (Middlebury, Vermont) poured samples from its eclectic portfolio, including Mythic Gin, Papilio agave- and maple-syrup-based spirit, Ridgeline Barrel-Aged Whiskey and Snowfall corn, barley and rye white whiskey. Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. (Louisville, Kentucky) mixed cocktails with its Apple Brandy, American Brandy, Butchertown Brandy and Orange Curaçao. Du Nord Craft Spirits (Minneapolis, Minnesota) gave attendees a taste of Mixed Blood Blended Whiskey, Fitzgerald Gin, Apple Liqueur and Frieda Coffee Liqueur. Hamilton Distillers (Tucson, Arizona) offered at taste of Southwestern terroir in its Del Bac Dorado Mesquite-Smoked Single Malt, Del Bac Clear Mesquite Smoked Single Malt, Del Bac Classic Unsmoked Single Malt and Del Bac Distillers Cut Cask Strength Single Malt. Maggie’s Farm Rum (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) demonstrated the versatility of the molasses-based spirit in its Spiced and Queen’s Share Rums, as well as its Coffee and Falernum rum-based liqueurs. Round Turn Distilling‘s (Biddeford, Maine) Hemingway-inspired Bimini Gin is proof that exciting things are happening within the vibrant American gin scene.
Finnish Your Gin
I’m loving how much of a “global” spirit gin has become, with brands of the juniper-based liquor emerging from virtually every corner of the earth. One of Finland’s contributions to the category is Kyrö Distillery’s rye-based Napue Gin, which incorporates locally foraged botanicals like sea buckthorn, cranberries and birch leaves. There’s certainly no shortage of flavorful and aromatic flora when forests cover 75 percent of your country. Kyrö is well known in Finland as a rye whiskey producer, though it doesn’t export any of its whiskey to the U.S. market—yet.
Shochu Goes Green
Mizu Shochu unveiled its 70-proof Green Tea Shochu, distilled from two-row barley, black koji rice and freshly picked and steamed green tea from Ureshino in Saga Prefecture. There’s a definite matcha hit on the nose, combined with a distinct fruitiness and a lot of the usual earthy loveliness imparted by the black koji. It’s a fantastic addition to the barley-based Mizu portfolio, which also includes its original Saga Barley Shochu, as well as Lemongrass Shochu. All are single-distilled and can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks (my personal favorite) or mixed with water.