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National Restaurant Association - A taste of beverage trends from the NRA Show

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A taste of beverage trends from the NRA Show

Are you serving guests the artisanal tastes they crave in beer, wine, spirits and other bar ingredients? We toast the latest drink trends at the NRA Show's BAR event.

Fruit beer


Just in time for summer, several breweries showed off lagers, ales and wheat beers flavored with fruit. “Fruit beer is really taking off,” says Kyle Butler, director of quality control, Boulder Brewing Co. “Hops have the exact same essential oil as most of these fruits,” he says. In addition to Boulder Beer’s blood orange Pulp Saison, we found a few fruit beers from Boston Beer Co.:  Sam Adams citrus and grapefruit shandies and Rebel Grapefruit IPA. For guests who like Belgian-style fruit ales, Bofferding offered a light-red lager with a hint of cherries and plums.


Vodka madness


Humboldt County, Calif.’s first micro-distillery branches out from its organic vodka and spiced rum by capitalizing on the region’s most famous agricultural product. Although the Cannabis Vodka is infused with cannabis seeds, there’s no transfer of THC, national sales director James Sweeney assures us. How does it taste? Almost like a gin with a lot of botanicals and no sign of the plant’s famous funk. It appeals to bartenders and chefs who tend to lean more toward gin, bourbon and whiskey rather than traditional vodka, Sweeney says. No surprise, “it really resonates with the under-35 group.”


The gingers have it


Moscow Mules and other drinks made with ginger beer remain ever popular, judging by the plethora of ginger beer producers at BAR and on the NRA Show floor. One standout: Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Originally from Scotland, the beverage is now made in Liverpool. At 4.8 percent ABV, you can drink it over ice with a slice of lemon or lime, says Victoria Semos, midwest national account manager, St. Killian Importing. But it also makes a super-premium cocktail, she says. Barritt’s Ginger Beer, a fifth-generation company from Bermuda, recreates happy vacation memories, says Paul Imbesi, vice president of North American Beverage Co. His favorite: a ginger collins made with a good London gin, fresh lemon juice, topped with ginger beer instead of club soda and finished with bitters. Which brings us to ...


Bitter and twisted


Premium bitters dominated the BAR floor, from artisanal to traditional to the esoteric. Adding bitters elevates a drink’s flavor and depth of character, says Eddie Simeon, co-founder of Brooklyn’s Hella Co., a 5-year-old company that produces orange, aromatic, citrus and other classic bitters. “They’re like salt and pepper for any bar,” he says. Consumers are gravitating toward classic drinks such as the Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Last Word, Manhattan and others that call for bitters. “The marriage between the desire for higher quality and the desire for classic drinks creates the perfect environment for premium bitters,” he says. Among the companies breaking out of the mold: Atlanta-based 18.21 bitters. Owner Kristin Koefood has been crafting the company’s usual flavors, such as Early Grey, barrel-aged leather and cigar, and tart cherry and saffron for about two years.

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