On a cold winter’s day in February, with the day’s high topping out in the low 50s, the last thing I was thinking about was summer. That is, until I entered the Las Vegas offices of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, where previews of a myriad of products sure to be popular for enjoying poolside were on display. Adding to the summery mood were a bevy of bikini-clad servers who were easy on the eyes, but also knowledgeable about the beverages they were promoting. Best of all, to this reporter, were several owners and representatives of new products, who were more than willing to discuss the ins and outs of what makes their product an exciting and enticing entry into the market.

Southern Glazer’s Senior Key Accounts Director Livio Lauro explained the purpose of the event and how it has evolved over the years, saying, “The idea is to invite in customers opening a pool or those having a vested interest in selling products that could be enjoyed poolside. The first year we started in one room, and last year and this year, year five, we’ve expanded to the whole building.”

Ron Newman, Regional Manager of Davos Brands, added, “Splash is a great opportunity to showcase new fantastic cocktails for the 2017 pool season.” Ron was showcasing the new TY KU Cucumber-infused sake, and serving a cocktail with the junmai sake, Aviation Gin and fresh lime juice. The portfolio also includes a coconut infusion and three grades of premium filtered sakes.

Another summer quencher was the brand new hug l’originale, a 100% natural sparkling ready-to-pour wine cocktail with a tag line of “Summer in a Bottle.” Hugely popular in Europe and known as Hugo in Italy, Hug International LLC GM/Co-owner Josie Razook, exclusive importer to the USA, China and Australia, explained, “Everybody needs a hug and especially a sparkling hug. It’s unique and there’s nothing like it in the market.” It was perfected by Thomas Divina and Stefan Zanotti, owners of ZADI Drinks, who refined the right taste combination of elderflower, mint and lemon extract and it weighs in at a summery light 140 calories per 8 oz serving and 5.9% ABV. Las Vegas has the honor of being the first city in the US to experience it.

A product that has the potential to be a landmark breakthrough in the beverage industry and usher in a new way to drink spirits is beyond zero, an invention that quickly freezes liquor into spirit cubes, eliminating watered down drinks. Inventor Jason Sherman, a dedicated scotch/whiskey drinker, 20 years ago initially designed a machine to make ice cream using liquid nitrogen. Jason said, “After living in Miami I was repeatedly disappointed after ordering spirits on the rocks and it always arrived in a cup full of ice. One night I experimented in pouring tequila into my machine and it was a mind blowing experience, as it tasted so smooth, with no dilution and without the alcohol burn you get when drinking a spirit straight. It’s a new category of drinking, and when ordering a drink, you can now ask for it ‘in the rocks’ instead of on the rocks.” This machine is the first in the world to be patented to make these spirit cubes, and is produced by Winston Industries, the same company that invented the pressure fryer used by KFC. Beyond zero Partner Tim Couch reported, “The Louisville Business First recently named Inventor Jason Sherman one of the ‘Top 20 People to Know in the Bourbon Industry.’ Millennials love ice in their drinks, and our machine eliminates the watered down factor, the alcohol burn and leaves the pure flavor of the spirit or wine. And, it uses less energy than a 100 watt light bulb left on for one month.” The new product is expected to launch through Southern Glazer’s in late March or early April.

Vice President of Sales Kelly Smith was promoting VO,CO, a vodka and coconut water-infused drink with natural flavors, which at only 5.5% ABV will be a perfect fit for imbibing at the pool. Kelly cleverly commented, “Vegas is a nightlife town and the next day after drinking, VO,CO is light and refreshing and the perfect cocktail to hydrate while dehydrating.” VO,CO is packaged in 12 oz cans, is gluten free, made from triple distilled corn vodka and Indonesian coconut water and is good by itself or mixed in cocktails, such as the refreshing and easy-drinking Mango Cocojito—made with VO,CO, Cruzan Mango Rum, lime juice, simple syrup, club soda and mint—that was being served during the Splash event.

We’ve all heard of beer being aged in whiskey barrels, but what about whiskey being aged in a barrel that previously contained beer? That’s exactly what Jameson Caskmates has done. Well, sort of…As Jameson Local Rep Lawrence Isara explained, “The tagline of Caskmates—‘triple distilled once stouted’—refers to the fact that Jameson provides the Cork Franciscan Well Brewery with barrels that has contained its whiskey, which are then used to age the brewery’s stout, and after the beer has been packaged the barrel is then used to finish Jameson whiskey, resulting in notes of cocoa, coffee and butterscotch.” Lawrence says future versions of Caskmates will use other beer styles for even more interesting flavor results.

Rum is ubiquitous with the Caribbean, but what about rum from Africa? Enter Starr Rum, an ultra-superior light rum from Mauritius, a tiny island paradise off the southeast coast of Africa made from a cherry and cardamom base with hints of citrus, nutmeg and vanilla. Creative Director Mark Zarnow said, “Vanilla grows wild on the island and adds notes to the sugar cane. Starr Rum is a clean, easy drinking rum that is impossible not to enjoy and makes the ultimate mojito.” The attractive bottle is inspired by the distinct shape of the volcano, and symbolic of the nutrient-rich volcanic soil on the island of Mauritius. Launched in Las Vegas a year ago, it is currently at Wynn/Encore and Treasure Island and will soon be available at MGM Properties resorts.

Southern Glazer’s Territory Manager/Resorts Wine Division Erin Cooper was keeping the oenophiles happy, pouring wines for both on-premise and retail chains. Erin remarked, “Some favorites were the small formats from Sutter Home; they are the top selling 187 mL brand and offer 15 delicious varietals. Canned wine was another huge hit and FlipFlop, Seven Daughters and The Infinite Monkey canned wines showcased this new popular trend in wine.”

After drinking the aforementioned delights our bodies may have become a bit dehydrated, so it’s great to have something to remedy that and rehydrate us. To the rescue was Alka Nix, which is locally-produced and is not only a perfect hydration 0 calorie water, but delivers electrolytes and alkaline water ionized to two years of sustainable 9.5 pH. President Baze Melamed informed, “Our water is best for your body if you drink anything acidic such as coffee or alcohol. We are happy to be with Southern, and they are a great partner.”

As if the liquid enjoyment was not sufficient enough, exquisite sustenance was proved by Southern Glazer’s Executive Chef Benoit Cornet and Sous Chef Dia Young, who provided an array of bites including smoked salmon deviled eggs, mini cucumber sandwiches, crudités cones, mini wedge salad, warm mini lobster rolls, barbeque pork biscuit, charcuterie and cheese boards, Caribbean mango slaw, jerk chicken bites, shrimp and pineapple skewers and Trinidad pholourie. With a spread like this, if anyone left hungry, it was no one’s fault but their own.

Although not as severe as some communities, winter in Las Vegas can get a bit frigid, but it’s nice to know Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits provides us with a day when we can forget the temperature outside and pretend for a bit that it is a glorious summer day, with intriguing products to match.

For more info on any of the products previewed at the Splash into the Season 2017, contact your Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits sales representative or call SGWS at 702-876-4500 and ask for Senior Key Accounts Director Livio Lauro.