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10 Spirits to Help You Break Out of Your Cocktail Comfort Zone

by Caitlin
2019 san antonio cocktail conference

2019 San Antonio Cocktail Conference Recap

So the 2019 San Antonio Cocktail Conference just wrapped and boy was it a whirlwind of a weekend. I spent two full days tasting, sipping, and chatting with dozens of liquor brands from all over the world.

It was hard work, but someone had to do it. :)

This year the conference also fell on my birthday weekend, so we decided to do it big for this year and stay at the gorgeous St. Anthony Hotel where the conference is hosted. It was an incredible experience and Jason and I were both treated like royalty during our stay.

2019 san antonio cocktail conference
In case you’ve never been to the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, here’s a few notes to bring you to to speed:
  • The conference runs for five days every January in downtown San Antonio.
  • The St. Anthony Hotel is the home base for the festival every year, but there are a few other events in nearby venues.
  • Each year, the festival brings together people from every walk of the spirits industry for educational seminars, friendly tastings, and elegant cocktail parties.
  • On top of all the fun and great booze, the SACC is Houston Street Charities event and donates the proceeds to local non-profit agencies “making a difference for children”.
  • SACC sells individual tickets to seminars, tastings, and events, as well as VIP passes. (There’s plenty of options, so go a lot or go a little!)
  • For a full review of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, visit my guide here.

The Cocktail Conference is a blast, and I discovered so many both new and old spirits. That’s why I wanted to roundup my top picks from two days of tasting all this booze! These are classic spirits just making their way to the States, new flavors from your favorite distilleries, and new mixers to stock up the bar cart with.

Hope you enjoy this list and let it help you break out of your comfort zone when it comes to cocktails in 2019!

Seersucker Southern Style Grapefruit

seersucker gin

San Antonio distillery debuted their newest flavor of gin at the 2019 San Antonio Cocktail Conference: Grapefruit! I think this is one of the few flavored gins done right. The grapefruit adds a slight bitterness that naturally plays well with Seersucker’s botanical gin.

Cocktail Idea: Would be great for a fruity punch, or just throw a bit of Topo Chico in it and call it a day!

Angostura Lemon, Lime and Bitters

This was the best thing I tasted at the Cocktail Conference, and it didn’t even have booze in it! Oh, but the potential of Angostura’s new sparkling non-alcoholic beverage is something to get excited about. From the brand that is stocked in every bar and bar cart across the country comes a refreshing new mixer. Keep your eyes open for this one hitting shelves now.

Cocktail Idea: Any and everything. Grab it and have fun. You can even drink it on its own!

Dulce Vida Pineapple Jalapeño

Made with real Pineapple and Jalapeño, Dulce Vida’s new Pineapple Jalapeño Tequila is handcrafted from 100% blue agave, then infused and uniquely blended. I’m not the biggest fan of pineapple, but I do love spicey. Guinelly impressed with this one, it was a near-perfect balance without being anything close to overly sweet.

Cocktail Idea: Use it in your favorite marg recipe for a nice new flavor.

Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum Cream

Kenny Chesney’s brand of rum, Whole Chair, brought their whole line of rums to the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, and their line of rum creams is very different than what’re you’re used to… And by that I mean, this one has about ⅓ of the calories as other rum creams. My favorite flavor was the Coconut Spice, a take on their coconut rum blended with real cream, and island and holiday spices. YUM

Cocktail Idea: Give your Piña Colada a winter holiday makeover.

Giffard Crème de Pamplemousse rose

This French fruit liqueur is certainly not new, but I was just introduced to it this weekend at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. Made from pink grapefruit and grapefruit natural extracts (essential oils), this little powerhouse of citrus flavors is considered a secret weapon of many bartenders.

Cocktail Idea: Fruit liqueur + bubbles = the perfect brunch cocktail.

Licor 43

Bright golden yellow in the glass, Licor 43 is an eye-catching liqueur to say the least. But looks aren’t everything, Licor 43 is on this list for its versatility. It’s got a closely guarded ingredient list that’s 43 deep. The flavor profile is rich with hints of vanilla, brown sugar, and baking spice making it a great match for dark spirits such as rum.

Cocktail Idea: Substitute this in drinks such as a Moscow Mules and Irish Coffees.

Rhum Barbancourt

Barbancourt is a rum produced and bottled in Haiti by Société du Rhum Barbancourt, D. Gardère & Cie.. The company is one of Haiti’s oldest, and its rum is one of the country’s most famous exports, widely regarded as among the finest rums in the world. The possibilities with this spirit is unimaginable.

Cocktail Idea: Pull out this rum and use it in your favorite Tiki cocktail!

Kinsman Apricot Brandy

Yes, unaged brandy is a thing, and yes, you should give it a chance. San Antonio distillers Dorćol had everyone buzzing Saturday afternoon at the Cocktail Conference with their Kinsman Apricot Brandy. (Perhaps it was because of the boozy ice cream they were handing scoops out of.) Overall, the spirit had such a pleasantly bold apricot aroma and almond richness on the palate, finishing with just a touch of floral.

Cocktail Idea: You’ll wanna enjoy this one neat :)

Zephyr Gin

A relative newcomer to the market, Zephyr Gin is distilled in Birmingham, England in the UK’s oldest-working copper pot still. On its own, Zephyr Gin is easy to drink and packs plenty of flavor.

Cocktail Idea: It’s pretty delicious in a lemon and honey Bee Knees.

Leblon Caipirinha Mix

Whether you are familiar with the national cocktail of Brazil or not, you are going to love this non-alcoholic Caipirinha mix! It’s made from fresh juicy limes and pure cane sugar. Just add Leblon Cachaça and serve. Each bottle makes about 8 cocktails, or combine 2 bottles mix and 1 bottle Leblon to make a party punch.

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