Looking Back at Bar Convent Brooklyn 2019
BCB Brooklyn was bigger and better in its second year
It’s official: New York City has its own bar show again! Bar Convent Brooklyn returned for its second year at the Brooklyn Expo Center, expanding its scope and implementing major improvements. According to a press release from the event’s organizer, Reed Exhibitions, this year saw a 30% increase in attendance, with 112 new products and a whopping 350,000 samples (including cocktails) served to attendees. The focus of the show was sustainability, with still and sparkling water from Llanllyr SOURCE in 100% recyclable aluminum cans on hand, and a booth from Tin Roof Drink Community founders Claire Sprouse and Chad Arnholt dedicated to sustainability discussion and education throughout each day.
Seminars, curated by an education committee led by industry veteran Angus Winchester, also stepped things up several notches this year. Presentations included How To Build A Longer Table by Jackie Summers about inclusion in the hospitality industry; To Back To Basics: Re-examining The Role Of The Bartender with ms. franky marshall and Eamon Rockey; Engage: Activism in the Bar Community with Imbibe Editor in Chief Paul Clarke and beverage consultant Ashtin Berry; a talk on sexual assault prevention at the bar from Northern Hospitality’s Briana and Andrew Volk; Navigating Distributor Relations with the team at Park Street University (Sarah Nagel Sisisky, Monique Huston, David Brooks and Jason Griffin); and an exploration of celebrity brands with Steven Soderbergh (Singani63), Jesse Bongiovi (Hampton Water), Rob Dietrich (Metallica’s Blackened American Whiskey), and Erica Duecy (SevenFiftyDaily). Cocktail and spirits history seekers could sit in on Dale DeGroff discussing the history of pisco and the rise of pisco cocktails, Matt Pietrek and David Wondrich on the history of Jamaican rum; a talk on pioneering women in the spirits industry from Julie Reiner, Dina Opici, Nicola Nice (Pomp & Whimsy) and Taylor Langford, and celebrating 100 Years of the Negroni with Naren Young of Dante NYC and Anne Louise Marquis and Linden Pride of Campari, as well as several brand-focused demonstrations. Throughout both days, various category education and tasting seminars were conducted by WSET. Also new this year, one session each morning was offered in Spanish. (For a full list of these sessions, please click here.)
Things to read and sip
At the new Author’s Corner, various titles were available via Brooklyn’s own Lizzyoung Bookseller, with on site signings by Frank Caiafa, Paul Clarke, Heather Greene, Shannon Mustipher, Kara Newman, Aaron Goldfarb, Jim Meehan, Noah Rothbaum and others (and many thanks for including New York Cocktails on the shelf, Lizzy!). The table was located down the hall from our own Alcohol Professor stand, where we saw many familiar faces and poured a few medal winners from the NY International Spirits Competition.
What to drink
Of course, things were buzzy on the main floor, and bar concepts were more elaborate this year from big brands like Campari, Bacardí, Heaven Hill, Hennessy, Brown-Forman, William Grant & Sons and Tequila Patrón, as well as the Haus Alpenz cluster of stands holding court in the back of the main hall. Beam Suntory went for the traditional sit-down-and-pull-up-a-stool experience (great idea at a busy trade show!), where several products in the portfolio (including gins from Roku and Sipsmith and the Jim Beam line of whiskeys) were poured neat or into cocktails while attendees had a chance to rest their dogs and recharge a bit. Bartenders from all over the city, as well as guests from out of town, showcased their skills at the booths.
There were plenty of opportunities to convene with emerging brands throughout the venue, with additional exhibits spilling into a new, additional tent off the courtyard near the High West and Bacardí outdoor bar-shack situations. Back in the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse, there was an Italian spirits section similar to the one found at BCB Berlin, showcasing Nonino and Nardini grappas and liqueurs as well as those from Varnelli and Meletti. Amaro Montenegro also had a stand in this section, although by many accounts, their elaborate closing night after party at House of Yes was the real star of the show.
Mixing it up and making it fizzy
Low ABV sipping is a holdover trend from the previous session, with an increase in the number of fortified wines, liqueurs and vermouth on offer, including an appearance from Rome’s Jerry Thomas Project bar showcasing their del Professore line, now available in the states. Of course one of the biggest trends of the year is the return of the highball and the spritz (love it or hate it, as it turns out, eh, NY Times?), and all the carbonated mixers to go with the spirits found throughout the venue. Fizzy options (including all manner of tonic, ginger ale, ginger beer, cola, grapefruit and other fruits and even vegetables across the spectrum) were on hand from Thomas Henry, the London Essence Co., Three Cents, J. Gasco and of course, Fever Tree (with founder Charles Gibb in the house). Brooklyn’s own Q Mixers repeated last year’s successes with its lawn party setup in the courtyard and the post-show barge celebration on the waterfront.
Wake up (and smell the mezcal?)
Although Brooklyn does not have the same Coffee Convent activations as at BCB Berlin, there were still plenty of ways to perk up, including Bushmills’ Irish Coffee booth served up by the team at Dead Rabbit, Irish coffee slushies made with Knappogue Castle at the Castle Brands booth, cocktails from Mr. Black coffee liqueur and a refreshing mix of unsweetened cold brew and Kilbeggan Single Grain at Beam Suntory.
Not into coffee? How about a light whipping? Apparently El Silencio Mezcal is into that, and judging from the line outside their tent and their “Most Creative Booth” vote, many of you are a little whip-curious, or enjoy a light shock with a shot of mezcal. (Although pro tip, El Silencio: having to remove silver glitter off black clothing feels perhaps even more torturous than bowing before a dominatrix to get a drink.)
It’s a booze trade show, but it’s about the people
Although it was already apparent last year, perhaps the biggest takeaway from attending BCB Brooklyn is the sense of community. Though bigger this year, the event still felt like a small town gathering. It was clear members of the beverage industry are here to support one another, big and small. It may be intended as a promotional trade show, but the best part of BCB is having everyone together in the same place.
Adam and I look forward to seeing you all next year!