Spiked Jel Shots, by Party Star
My least-favorite idea of 2011: "Spike Jel Shots," by Party Star. These taste like a combination of unflavored gelatin, Colt 45 and Ringpops, and they're about 12% alcohol. If that's your thing, go for it—in fact, if you want some, I'd be glad to mail them to you. I took a handful and can't pawn them off on anyone. They come in all the flavors of the rainbow—green apple, blueberry, lemon-lime and orange. Jello shots are so easy and cheap to make, I can't imagine this product making a splash.
Fruitlab Organic Liqueurs
Fruitlab Liqueurs were, hands down, our favorite product of the IWSB. Manufactured by the GreenBar Collective, a member of Slow Food USA and a committed user of organic products, the Jasmine Liqueur was the true standout. Handmade in small batches, it was neither cloying nor overpowering. The fresh herbal flavor of Jasmine came through perfectly. We predict this spirit will be showing up in a lot of cocktails very soon.
Bar Keep Bitters
One of my favorite products was Bar Keep bitters. These have been out since 2009, but still haven't become as widely available as I'd like. There are three flavors, each crafted by a notable mixologist. My favorite, as a patriotic Chicagoan, has to be Adam Seger's Swedish Herb bitters, but the Baked Apple and Lavender Spice deserve spots in your liquor cabinet too. If your local stores don't carry these, complain immediately.
Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost
Voli Lyte Vodka
One of the trends at IWSB this year was so-called "Iight" or low-calorie spirits. The best of the pack was Voli Vodka. Voli comes in five flavors, including espresso and orange vanilla. The infusions are actually fairly good, and the flavor of the espresso in particular comes through loud and clear. Unfortunately, the way the vodka is made "low calorie" is by lowering the proof to about 60.
Smart Energy Shots
Another trend of 2011 was the ever-growing field of energy drinks, all of which seemed designed to back-door customers into an addiction to Four Loko. For example: Smart Energy Shots, which are designed to be mixed with vodka. Called a "unique healthy alternative," Smart Energy Shots are "are made with only the best ingredients to give you the energy you need, without the calories and chemicals you don't!" Yeah. Right. Their ingredient lists includes caffeine, taurine, L-Arginine, and several other ingredients that (surprise) are also found in Red Bull. We'll pass.