Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention Returns to Las Vegas April 18-21

US Beverage Alcohol Forum - Trends Panel

US Beverage Alcohol Forum – Trends Panel


The 73rd Annual Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention and Exposition returns to Las Vegas April 18 to 21 this year. Held at Caesar’s, the four-day convention features hospitality suites, cocktail competitions, spirits and wine competitions, seminars and hundreds of new products. This is a not-to-be-missed show for wine and spirits wholesalers and industry leaders interested in seeing new products. Often this is the first stop before a spirit hits the market.

There’ll also be a keynote speech from journalist David Gregory (Meet the Press) and a ribbon-cutting with supermodel Christie Brinkley. And product launches from celebrities like Lisa Vanderpump.

2015 Call for Cocktails Winner- Barrel Hidden in the Tropics by Chris Chamberlain

2015 Call for Cocktails Winner- Barrel Hidden in the Tropics by Chris Chamberlain


There are three cocktail competitions including Call for Cocktails, Wholesaler Iron Mixologist and the new Brand Battle this year. I’m looking forward to checking out the Brand Battle emceed by writer Dan Dunn (The Imbiber).

Check out the recipes from last year’s Call for Cocktails competition here. You don’t want to miss learning how to make drinks with Greek yogurt!

Bluecoat barrel-finished gin

Bluecoat barrel-finished gin


I’ve been attending WSWA the last three years and one of the spirits trends I’ve seen emerge is barrel aging and not just whiskey. We’ve seen barrel-aged cocktails but now gin is getting a little woody with brands like Bluecoat. It was part of the first place winning cocktail at Call to Cocktails. I tasted this and other barrel-aged gins and I can see them working in drinks where you want a little more depth but not heavy like whiskey or even aged rums and tequila.


Blue Nectar Tequila


But don’t discount tequila just yet. Tequila and other agave spirits like mezcal have been hitting the US big time. As the agave love spreads, we’ll see more sipping tequilas and mezcals.



Paute Zhumir


The US is also finding other Latin American spirits. Last year, I got behind Paute Zhumir, an aguardiente from Ecuador. It reminds me a lot of cachaca or rhum agricole which isn’t surprising since it’s a sugar cane based spirit.



Koloa rum


Heading over to rum, I discovered plenty of it and in particular, a lot of great coconut ones. My favorite was the Koloa coconut. It’s from Hawaii and as tiki bars are seeing a resurgence in popularity, you’ll find more tiki and neo-tiki drinks there and in mainstream bars and clubs. Maybe I should open a bar called Mai Tai & Mahalo? Pineapples & Aloha? You gotta get that ampersand in there!



Bartenders are always searching for some new things to excite their guests. While calvados and other brandies have been around for ages, we’re starting to see it used more in cocktails rather than an after-dinner drink.

I am really looking forward to checking out Chapters of Ampersand which is launching the stylishly bottled Et No. 1, a cognac that retails around $8500 at WSWA.




Genever is often called the forerunner of gin but in practice, think about using it like a whiskey. The malty flavors do really well in drinks. It was really cool to discover new brands like Hooghoudt.




As the non-aged distillates better known as moonshine hits the market, you’ll see spirits that never used to be sold in stores like potcheen (some call it Irish moonshine). Be on the look out for other non-barrel aged spirits which are also called new make and white dog (white whiskey) by Americans.


Sinfully Thinn whiskey


In the meantime, best selling spirits like vodka and whiskey are still very much in the game. In the past, you might see vodka highlighting its premium qualities (filtered more than five times, etc). Trending big time are healthy and light alternatives. You’ll see vodka is going for other marketable qualities like gluten free. And there’s Sinfully Thinn, a lightly aged whiskey which also comes in flavors like blueberry and cinnamon. It’s the new “diet” whiskey.

I expect to see all these spirits trends and more at WSWA this year. See you in Las Vegas!

Related Posts:

2015 Coverage

2014 Coverage

2013 Coverage


Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America

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