New on the Drinks Scene

Quick disclaimer: I don’t usually write pieces along the lines of “you gotta check out this new product.” But I do love seeing what’s coming to market and meeting the passionate folks behind the brands, so I wanted to take a few moments and share a few things discovered at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention. Even in an economic downturn, the rush of new products for the backbar continues, and certainly was in evidence at the event held last week at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Here’s my take on some of the newbies I encountered.

Among the brands looking to hook up with wholesalers on the exhibit floor and in the hospitality suites was the requisite army of new vodkas. Johnny Love Vodka banks on the old adage that sex sells, but the grain-based spirit picked up three bronze awards in the tasting competition. Ivanabitch Vodka’s catchy name caught many an eye. After launching on-premise a few years ago, it went off the market and is back with a competitive price point ($9.99 retail) and an off-premise strategy, although it can be had by on-premise operators.

Some interesting ready-to-drink products made the scene. A notable one is Sandy Bottom, a fizzy pink pineapple-rum concoction in blue bottles with pink accents and an edgy graphic of a near-naked female with sand, yes, on her bottom. The brainchild of dental-hygienist-by-day Sandy Mazza – the double meaning of the name adds to the fun – the RTD debuted in her home state of Maryland and should be attractive to the beachfront/pool party/patio bar set once in broader distribution.

Look out Red Bull! Jakk’d has you in its sights, according to its marketers. The line of caffeinated grain neutral spirits recently received TTB approval and comes in four flavors: Lunatic Lemon, Punched Out Pomegranate Berry and Raging Orange are carbonated, while Black Tea Lemon Honey is not. On its agenda: nightclubs, sports bars and other energy-oriented venues where the black bottles will undoubtedly fit well in the hands of partiers, but it will have to compete with established energy drinks as well as beer and the flavored malt beverage set.

Tequila Tamer piqued my interest. The alcohol-free entry is modeled as a traditional Mexican chaser, according to its marketers, who are positioning the Sangrita as a means of moving more of the premium tequilas now on the market.

And tequilas were well-represented, as were rums. Peanut cream rum Castries was on hand, and brand founder and front-man David Jones was winning converts for the liqueur. Cachaca marketer Leblon was on an educational push. As one rep for the brand noted, they’re tasked with establishing a category and then a brand. While cachacas have been on the market for a while now, and I’d venture to say Leblon has a very strong foothold, the learning curve about the Brazilian sugarcane spirit is a bit slower than marketers would like.

Many more worthy contenders vied for wholesaler attention, proving once again that the drinks industry is limited only by our imaginations and our customers’ willingness to spend their hard-earned dollars to quench their thirst.


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