I spent a few days last week at the 30th annual Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas. You always expect this conference to be a little crazy, and it is, in a good way. Sort of.
Here are a few highlights from the Nightclub & Bar exhibit hall.
The celebrity star power this year was singer Sammy Hagar, founder of Sammy’s Beach Bar rum. Hagar (shown above with rum rival Captain Morgan and the Morganettes) walked the show’s red carpet with Jon Taffer, Nightclub & Bar Media Group president and host/co-executive producer of the Spike television show Bar Rescue, and cut the ribbon to open the exhibit hall.
Hagar had a booth for Sammy’s Beach Bar rum, which he launched four years ago. (Hagar, you might recall, had also started Cabo Wabo Tequila in 1996; he sold the brand to Campari about eight years ago.) The booth seemed pretty crowded with people hoping for a Sammy sighting. I mean to stop by later and try the product but I forgot. Next time, Sammy.
Another celebrity of sorts: Ethan Wayne, the youngest son of actor John Wayne, who’s a partner in craft distillery Duke Spirits. Wayne gamely walked the red carpet; I met him later in the Duke Spirits booth. I was so intrigued by the brand’s story (inspired by bottles from John Wayne’s personal whiskey collection that were just discovered after more than 50 years) that I forgot to try the bourbon!
I walked the exhibit hall flour with my colleagues Bruce and Mark, and we sampled quite a few products and cocktails, from Moonshine Bloody Marys (not half bad) to Frozen Beer (no thanks). I heard good things about the Kill Devil Spirit Co. of San Diego—especially their gin—but I didn’t make it over there.
A favorite drink was a Margarita made with Dirty Tequila; I didn’t expect it to be much different from any other Margarita, but the spirit’s pineapple and cinnamon flavors work well with lime—who knew?
We also discovered Benny’s Original Meat Straws. These are like hollowed out Slim-Jims/beef jerky snacks so you can sip Bloody Marys through them and then eat the straw. The meat straws, which come in regular and Smokin’ Chipotle flavor, are “Bloody Genius,” as the company says.
A favorite beer was a Belgian-style wheat beer from Iceland. The brand, Einstok Olgerd, makes a few other craft ales as well.
We hit the big beer booths, too—my colleague Bruce really wanted a Bud (and a photo with the Anheuser-Busch InBev lovely ladies).
At MillerCoors, we stopped for some more beers, and some Redd’s Apple Ale, which the company launched in 2012.
It was a treat to run into master mixologist Juan Coronado in the Bacardi booth. A cocktail innovator for Jose Andres’ Think Food Group, Coronado is usually up to some molecular mad science, but he was pouring fresh Bacardi Daiquiris that hit the spot.
And it’s always a thrill to see Captain Morgan and the Morganettes—that guy loves his job and he’s great at it. (I had to tell him how much I like the new grapefruit flavor—it’s been a spring favorite.)
My only complaint with the show floor was that there wasn’t enough food, and the few booths that did have food were overwhelmed. I felt particularly bad for the chicken vendor—attendees were on him like vultures.
Most people were walking the show floor during lunch hour AND sampling alcoholic beverages throughout, so they really needed more to eat. You know people are hungry when they’re poking at the plastic food props of some of the tableware vendors. (Where’s that guy with the meat straws?)
And while what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, all bets are off if a coworker gets on a stripper pole—even if it is under the guise of testing out a stripper-pole vendor’s wares on the show floor. Sorry Bruce…