Tag Archives: Mixology

Drinking Pink at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association

A colleague asked me what I thought the “headline” of WSWA 2011 was. “One word,” I said. “Pink.”


Why pink? Pink is the color of at least two new tequilas (Pasion, Mejor), designed to attract women to the liquor (no, they don’t taste different, they’re just pink). It’s also the color of Chambord’s new-ish liqueur and bottle color of new Rouge vodka, and… I could go on. I’m wondering just how the fairer sex found alcohol before it was color-coded for them. Insert emoticon.


Smooth Ambler's White Whiskey, herbaceous Vodka and Gin

Pink bottles were certainly not the only innovation in the vodka category, the most popular spirit in the world (and thus, flame, to the eager moths looking to enter the liquor biz). At the Orlando trade show and convention were DeLos, from Texas, promoting itself as the first American vacuum-distilled vodka; from Israel, came L’Chaim kosher vodka for the observant (not the first kosher vodka, of course… that seems to be a growing category all its own); from Britain, the reserved Mayfair English Vodka; and from Holland, Sonnema VodkaHerb…which does not actually taste nearly as herbaceous as Smooth Ambler vodka from—of all places–West Virginia (save the moonshine jokes).


Packaging is just as often the primary hook. For example, U’luvka Polish vodka’s gorgeous bottles and accompanying bubble-handled shots, SX’s bottles that are so curvaceous, you want some alone time with them… But why beat around the bush when WTF and Jersey Shore-labeled vodkas go for the marketing jugular.


“Stop the Madness,” declares the ads of Polish vodka Sobieski (Number One Premium vodka in Mother Poland, they say). “Distilled 5x, 8x, 39x … How about distilled enough.” Amen. On the other hand, we might need some clarity between “Ultra Premium” vodkas and “Super Premium” vodkas, like Holland-made Trump vodka (can we see the birth certificate?),  the “world’s finest,” according to… itself. One brand with legitimately different flavorings I tasted was French-made DragonBleu, now with Rose Blossom, White Ginger and Penja Pepper. They deserve the medals they’ve won.


On the other hand, you might wonder what a “Dude” tastes like. Apparently Three Olives vodka has the answer—or at least a flavored spirit by that name. Ivanabitch vodka has been successful enough to now offer gin and brandy to their female-empowering fans. With a slogan like “Feel The Burn,” Mad Dragon seems proud of going after the fortified and flavored market with eight varieties—none of which is called “dude,” nor “rose blossom.”

Koi Tequilas

Kai Tequilas

By the number of new entries, tequila would seem the second most popular category. It isn’t—it’s rum, actually (worldwide, anyway), which seems to be slow inbeing exploited, though the range offered here, from the premade Sandy Bottom cocktail–in a bottle labeled like an ‘80s soft-porn—to DonQ’s new flavors, Cockspur (that name sells itself!), best-in-show honey-ginger flavored Cayrum to the extremely elegant and refined Agricole rhum of Martinique’s Clement, suggests things are picking up. Tequilas, by comparison, are everywhere, from the exotic dia-de-los-muertos inspired skull bottles of Kai, which had a pleasantly surprising smoothness and caramel notes, up to to a $600+ retail Gran Patron Burdeos Bordeaux cask racked extra-anejo (sorry, didn’t get to sample that).


Of course there was a great deal of wine on offer as well—some of it even pink, like Moscato sparkling rose, Dinastia Vivanco rosado, and two excellent re-emerging French Rosé wines (Sables d’Azur) I tried. Piper-Heidsieck celebrated the release of a new limited Prestige Cuvee,  Rare 1999. But more intriguing to this palate were some Eastern European offerings: Greece’s Tselepos, Strofilia and Katogi Averoff (bottling indigenous Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko varietals), Romania’s Trei Hectare and Zestrea Murfatlar (the Feteasca Negra grape holds massive potential) and Montenegro’s Plantaze and Stara Soklova brandies. Of course there were  new Italian, Spanish and Argentinian bottlings of note too, as well…particularly those of Opici importers (94 point-rated ’07 Poggio Bestiale) and Luigi Bosca.


Wine of Japan poured me some excellent sakes while showing me on a map which area’s breweries were destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami—and which area’s more popular breweries have had their transportation routes disrupted. Expect shortages.


Although the show was notably smaller than the previous year in Las Vegas, at least some vendors had their share of wacky promotions—Hairy Cow, for example, who brought a mother and calf to sit in a pen outside the opening night reception. There were the expected leagues of models touting free shots at the show, but my heart belonged to the Slavianskaya ladies, who managed to look cute in Spring 1832’s latest fashions. And there were gimmicks for sale (the prophylactic-esque Wine Shield), hangover cures, and mixers—a buzzed-about standout being McClure’s pickle-juice based Bloody Mary Mix. Tart, peppery and juicy…a genuinely worthy twist on the classic.


In the middle of it all, I got to take a break and help judge the inaugural Iron Mixologist contest on behalf of The Tasting Panel magazine. Consisting of three “heats”–aperitif, long drink and dessert, all with surprise ingredients–I would say it was a tight race, but clearly certain competitors were more prepared than others. Fort Worth’s Cat Miltenberger, with the focus that only a military background can bring, won two out of three categories handily, and took home the brass ring (a cocktail shaker, actually).

Click to download full article PDF

Click to download full article PDF

Leafing through my pile of collected print matter on the way to the airport, one ad gave me pause, by Palm Bay importers.“Give the Gift of Authenticity,” it read. I couldn’t agree more. Mix some of their Aperol with water,  if you need to think pink.

Palm Springs’ Hipster Haciendas

After staying away for a few years, it was remarkable to return to the Coachella valley and note the cultural changes in Palm Springs, a once-sleepy, retirement-centered town which has now re-embraced its Hollywood connections and surviving midcentury modern architecture. Several boutique hotels have been restored to create some of the hippest resorts anywhere. Take a look at my feature article for Dallas/FtWorth’s 360 West magazine, or just enjoy some of my candid pics…


Las Vegas Weekly clips

From cover stories, to small breaking news items, I’ve done a wide variety of work for the Las Vegas Weekly–one of the stronger Weekly newspapers in the country, with an award-winning website. Some links are below…



COVER STORY: How A Downtown Hotel Helped Turn Las Vegas Into The Ninth Island

Local Grindz: Best Hawaiian Food In Las Vegas

COVER STORY: At Home With Burlesque Queen Dita Von Teese

I Tappa Keg: The Freakin’ Frog’s New Cask Society

Delmonico Steakhouse’s Secret Whisk(e)y Stash

It’s In the  Shake: How To Analyze Your Bartender

Au Revoir, Restaurant Alex

10 Things You Need To Know About Hakkasan

Inside Vegas’ Most Influential Bar

Forte lands a special delivery for Rainier Cherry Day

The Candy Man Can: Jean-Marie Auboine Opens New Chocolate Institute

Funk Legend Jimmy Castor Dies At Henderson Hospital

Vegas Feels Fuku Envy as favorite food truck sets down LA roots

Pat DiNizio’s Rock Star Confessions

Drinking like Jay-Z with the Ace Of Spades

Drink Locally, Act Globally

Reviving Viva Elvis

Gary LaMorte Leaves Andre’s

Oscar Goodman Takes The Dome

Why Las Vegas is the Real Burger Capital of the Country

Caesars’ Poolside Punch Man

How Safe Is Our Sushi?

COVER STORY: Step Into a Vegas Cab And You Might Be Taken For a Ride

Atomic 7′s Revolutionary Ice Cream

SnoBar Booze-pops Head For The Strip

City Center’s Cell-Phone Techno-Fail

WET Design’s Aquatic Marvels

Inside The First US Bodypainting Championships

Crime (Kinda) Pays: Vegas Mob Lieutenant Frank Cullotta

Pursuing The Perfect Vegas Buffet

Playmate Vs. Food: Laura Croft Meets Vegas’ Biggest Burrito

Inside the Palms’ New Barbie Fantasy Suite

Sam Butera, R.I.P.

A Vegas To-Do List for President Obama

Three Questions with Ernie Isley

Previewing the Hardbat Table Tennis Tournament

All E.C. Gladstone stories on LasVegasWeekly.com