A Big Convention, Bar None

I think I see the fun! Notice the notice for IS Vodka’s cocktail competition. This humble scribe was one of the judges.

A drinks convention seems like an awkward combination of work and play, as serious-minded bar and restaurant owners ply the aisles of vendors that feature copious wine and spirits along with food, drink, digital basketball and a host of other activities that people do…in bars. Come June 26 and 27, there’s the 13th Annual Bar and Restaurant Show at the Javits Center in New York City, billed as a showcase of 300 exhibits of all kinds relating to the industry, and I’m here to exhort you to check it out. http://www.newyorkbarshow.com

I’ve been to this show three times, twice as an exhibitor and once, unwittingly, as a judge, reported briefly way down below. Rather than rehash, I will, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, sum up: it was FUN. Now I am back as a publicist, so I am going to get to see the show from the inside out. I’ve already made as much of a fool of myself as is possible to document in previous visits, so I am coming to the show with a combination of humility and sobriety this time around I might not have had on somebody else’s dime.

Organizer Steven Wesler clued me into some recent changes in the show that could have applied to people just like me. He moved the show to midweek—at the risk of cutting his audience, as he explained—to raise the caliber of the crowd; in a nutshell, taking a day off from work to come to a drinks convention prevents just anyone from turning up, so they are seeing a lot more bar and restaurant owners, executives, buyers and basically, professionals than ever before. A mocktail competition hosted by Ocean Spray and dating site One2One.com has replaced the cocktail contest I helped judge. Of course, the show still involves drinking at midday so there’s hope for some bonhomie among the delegates and possibly, even some unscheduled shenanigans.

Wesler had this to say about the mocktail competition. “One of the hardest things to do when you go out with friends and family is to be a teetotaler. Our mocktail competition is unique and the first of its kind. It allows customers to feel like they are drinking but with no alcoholic side effect. Is it trend? According to The Hero Campaign, designed drivers are looking for more than soda and fruit juice. The mocktail competition will feature many new recipes that quite tasty.” The judges rate the cocktails on taste, appearance, originality, aroma, and overall impression. Participants have only six minutes to make four drinks. I couldn’t drink four drinks in six minutes. The winner walks away with a $1000 prize.

On the other end of the spectrum, the show features a pretty stupendous wine and spirits competition. More than 400 entries are vying for titles, as well as Best in Show. In addition to bragging rights, 28 categories of spirits, and white, red, rose, sparkling, fortified and “miscellaneous” wines will gain increased exposure, greater recognition over their competitors and have an opportunity to use their prize in their marketing.

It’s run by Anthony Dias Blue of Tasting Panel, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on Koloa Rum, IS Vodka, Spectrum Wine Auctions and a bunch of other events. “It’s a peer review competition,” he says. “We’ve assembled a panel of judges that span all categories of the industry—buyers, producers, restaurateurs, salespeople and pundits—and between the members of this expansive, capable group we can ensure a balanced, reputable result.”

Anthony isn’t drinking alone, as it happens. He’s got eighteen other judges alongside him, including these people from some of the most prestigious establishments in the East:

Wine:
• Michael Feil, GM/Wine Buyer, Westchester Country Club
• Orr Reches, Head Sommelier, Corton
• Zita Keeley, All I Do is Wine
• Tim Campbell, Founding & Managing Partner, New Vision Wine
• Olivier Defeu, Beverage Director, Junoon Restaurant
• Charles Mara, President, The Mara Wine Group
• Michael Schaefer, CWE, Director, Society of Wine Educators
• Jules Bianciardi, Wine & Beverage Manager, Landmarc Tribeca
• Philip Kampe, Wine Journalist, The Wine Hub
Spirits:
• Anthony Dias Blue, Wine & Spirits Editor, Blue Lifestyle & Tasting Panel Magazine
• Scott Rosenbaum, VP of Procurement, Vitis
• Jeffrey Pogash, The Cocktail Guru
• Brian Van Flandern, Owner, Creative Cocktail Consultants
• Frank Cisneros, Beverage Director & Co-Owner, Bourgeois Pig & Gin Palace
• Bill Marsano, Poured With Pleasure
• Max Messier, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
• Pamela Wiznitzer, Blogger/ Bartender, Liquid Encouragement Blog / L’oubli Gourmet Bar
• Stephanie Schneider, Co-Owner & Beverage Director, Huckleberry Bar
• Ivy Mix, Clover Club/ Speed Rack, Bartender/ Founder

Plus, there’s twenty seminars. Experts from across the city and across the world will share their knowledge on all things on-premise from fire safety to craft beers. Finally, the Brazilian Trade Bureau is showcasing all things Brazilian. with ten brands in the show and co-ownership of InBev, the world’s largest beer concern, Brazil has taken a prominent place in the spirits and beverage industry, and they’ve come to showcase their ascendancy.

So, there you go. Admission is $45 for show floor exhibits only before June 20 and $55 after June 20 and at the door. Admission for the seminars PLUS plus show floor exhibits is $150 before June 20 and $175 after June 20 and at the door. Visit http://www.thebarandrestaurantshow.com or call (800)243-9774. You can also find a list of exhibitors, seminars and the whole kitchen sink on the web site.

See you there!

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