The cocktail community descended on Greenpoint, Brooklyn en masse on Tuesday (6.12) and Wednesday (6.13) for BCB BK. Now, in its second year, the trade show is a satellite of the popular Bar Convent Berlin. Amidst hundreds of brands and thousands of attendees, a few patterns emerged. Keeping with the industry’s trajectory, gin and low/no continued their ascent. Plus, some new barware from an old name caused a stir; coffee liqueurs percolated; and the show, itself, prompted lots of excitement.
Not since Dick Bradsell created the Espresso Martini in 1983 has the pairing of coffee and alcohol been so popular. The breakfast beverage was seemingly ubiquitous on the trade floor.
- Australia’s Mr. Black (cold was there with a cold brew coffee liqueur (28.5% ABV).
- DeKuyper’s pushed Cuba’s (but actually produced in Holland) cold brew-hot brew hybrid Bébo (24% ABV).
- Napa Valley’s Molinari Caffe was touting their wine infused coffee beans.
- Grand Brulot’s offering was a VSOP cognac infused Robusta coffee (40% ABV).
The show featured plenty of new product unveils; perhaps the most high-profile was Riedel’s new barware series. The Austrian glass titan is credited with revolutionizing the wine glass industry through innovations like the stemless glasses and varietal/style specific glasses. About three years ago, they teamed up with Zane Harris of Southern Glazer’s to create a line for commercial bar use.
The Riedel Bar Drink Specific Glassware (or DSG) series features all sorts of cool bells & whistles. The six glasses (Highball, Rocks, Fizz, Nick & Nora, Neat, Sour) in the range are designed to fit the needs of an entire program. The vessels include subtle marks denoting a two ounce pour. The Highball and Rocks glasses are not tapered; rather, they are specifically designed to accommodate a two by two ice cube. The flared sour glass pushes citrus flavors to the tip of the tongue.
In short, the line offers the meticulous design and thought (not too mention premium price) that one expects from Riedel.
(Good) Gin Is In
For years, it seemed like every industry event featured a new gin — and most of them were terrible. Whiskey takes years to age; so, newbie producers hoping to ride the boom found themselves making gin to keep their still and ledgers churning while they waited for their whiskey to age. The result was lots of not-so-good Mother’s Ruin on the market.
In 2019, BCB, once again, featured lots (47 brands) of gin. However, there was a noticeable uptick in quality of the product. Most of the gin producers present were focused on gin as a primary product, not as a stopgap financial measure.
Of note, Japan’s Kyoto Distillery just bought their KI NO BI expression to the States. The rising brand’s expressions boasted a solid dry-enough, not overwhelmingly floral, flavor.
Gonzalez Byass is a beast in the Sherry world; over the last five years, they’ve been dipping their toes into gin (and England) with London No.1. Despite the name, the spirit is brighter and more perfumed than your typical gin.Still, the flavors are balanced avoid crossing the line into gin-that-doesn’t-taste-like-gin. We liked in a 50 /50 martini, but don’t understand why the distiller decided to add blue coloring.
Four Pillars was an unavoidable presence at the show and may soon attain said status on American backbars. The Australian distillery (which recently sold a 50% stake to Lion) enjoys a hefty presence abroad. Now, they are selling four of their eleven expressions in the States. Although the company produces several different cask finished products, the show standouts were their traditional Dry and Navy Strength gins, both offered well executed takes on the classic—which is to say Juniper driven with just enough fruit and botanicals to add a unique signature. The distillery also bought along their Bloody Shiraz GIn which is exactly what you’d expect, but surprisingly tasted great (balanced with sweet and spice) and offered lots of cocktail potential.
By this point, you’ve no doubt read dozens of articles about the rise of low and no proof spirits. Well, that’s still a thing. The trend was on full display at BCB.
Non-alcoholic “spirits” OG, Seedlip had a steady stream of visitors at their booth. The self-described “nature company”offered non-alcoholic expressions highlighting complex, botanical flavors that are versatile enough to serve as the backbone of a cocktail.
However, Seedlip has some company. Hamburg’s Undone also pulled crowds for their range of alcohol free offerings; Not Rum, Not Gin, Not Orange Bitters, and Not Vermouth. This range eschews the elaborate floral blends for the essence of pot still spirits which are then rectified and mixed with sugar and citrus to create a virtually (0.2%) alcohol free beverage.
Angostura was a key player in low-proof drinks long before bars bestowed entire menu sections upon the category. The Trinidad and Tobago based output is now, deservedly riding the wave of low proof’s popularity. Their Chief Mixologist Raymond Edwards’s seminar on the sector attracted a full room.
… and, BCBK Is Here To Stay
In a previous interview with Neat Pour, BCB VP Paula November declared, “BCB is here to stay. When we start a show, it’s not a one-off. We’ll continue to listen, to learn, and build on [each event.]”
That philosophy will be welcome news to the bar community. The event played the unique role of a trade show—not a festival—offering a concentrated, professionally oriented experience. Attendees that we spoke with were overwhelmingly happy with the experience.