Every year, San Francisco plays host the the Winter Fancy Food Show, an enormous show where "specialty food" brands show off their wares in the hopes of being picked up by retailers. It's a lot of international cheese and olive oil, fancy crackers, and gourmet pasta. But of course, I just go for the drinks.
A few brief notes:
American tonic water is finally branching out. Dry Sodas launched one that was pretty great, very dry as you'd imagine.
Fentiman's has expanded to include a Botanical Tonic (really good) with a Connoisseur Tonic (meh) coming shortly as well.
I also enjoyed a whole-bark tonic from 1821 Bitters - it comes out brown from the can.
Bitters and Bitterness:
Tonic wasn't the only thing bitter on offer. Hella bitters, a brand that has been around a while, has rebranded and the line is looking great. They have a lot of mixers now that I didn't try, a Founders Collection of bitters (the eucalyptus is really quite green and sappy!), and forthcoming canned bitters & soda.
There were other bitters companies represented like 1821 and Raft but generally speaking, the Fancy Food Show is a place for basic cocktail mixers like Moscow Mule Mix and the like.
I saw bitterness creeping into other beverage products - I think it's the power of the Negroni. For example, Herb & Lou's Infused Cubes, which are a clever repackaging of mixers into ice cube for shaking format, now has a Negroni flavor.
I was *not* expecting to see a bunch of bottled shrubs (drinking fruit vinegars), so I was happy with the change since my last FFS visit. I saw at least 4 brands. There was also tons of kombucha, as expected, including one brand available by the keg.
More Vinegar Madness (Mostly in Pickle Form):
Along with shrubs, vinegar showed up in the form of pickles and pickle juice all over the place. Not just cucumbers, but pickled/brined vegetables and kimchi of all kinds.
Whiskey Barrel Foods:
In the cocktail world we know the barrel-aging-everything obsession, and now it seems to be crossing over in a larger way into the general consumer market. At the show were Pappy & Co, which partners with makers to age products in ex-Pappy Van Winkle barrels, along with Jack Daniel's whiskey cake mix (WHAT).
- Whey-sweetened mixers and drinks from Render
- Tree Water - leftovers from the maple syrup concentration process
- I'm looking forward to seeing what else enters the cocktail space in coming years!
- Four years ago there were tons of brands of alkaline water; this year I only saw a couple. At least one is "volcanic water" filtered through volcanic rock.
- Tree Water as mentioned above. I've also tried "maple water" previously which still contains some of the maple so it's a slightly sweet water.
- Wine water - red wine antioxidant infused flavored water
A Few Food Trends
It's not my specialty, but I saw a lot of:
- Plant substitutes and alternatives - mushroom and other vegan jerky, cauliflower crust/tortillas/crackers/everything
- Castoff Snacks and Upcycled Foods - coconut sugar, seaweed snacks
- Turmeric, Matcha, Aloe.
A Favorite Find:
Lemoncocco, where have you been all my life? Apparently a thing in Rome, this is water flavored with lemon and coconut. Super creamy, yogurty almost. It reminded me of Calpico, which I tried to purchase recently but found was all sweetened with HFCS. Lemoncocco is not. I need to find this stuff in local stores.