Asia Invasion in Vegas
Elizabeth Fuhrman
Managing Editor

Whether the ingredients include green tea or ginger, the beverage is sake or the bottle is just labeled with Asian-style graphics, Eastern-inspired products are definitely emerging. So whichever came first, the sushi, Thai or Indian food crazes, these dishes need the right sake, beer, spirit, wine or tea paired with the meal.
Beverage companies are stepping up to the plate, and putting their own spin on taste creations. At the Bar & Night Club Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, a slew of new Asian-inspired spirits hit the trade show floor. For a Japanese-style spirit to be served straight or in mixed drinks, Zen Green Tea Liqueur by Skyy Spirits LLC, San Francisco, combines green tea, herbs and natural flavors. Takara Sake USA Inc., Berkeley, Calif., showcased Kissui Vodka, a vodka made from distilled rice and bottled in Japan. Progressive Brands Inc., Los Angeles, released Han, another Asian-inspired rice-infused vodka with a dragon etched into its bottle.
A more global approach, Bacmar International LLC, Greenwich, Conn., debuted Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur using ingredients such as Virgin Island rum, Dutch cream, Indian black tea, Holland spirits and a blend of spices from Asia.
Several new entries were made in the sake category too. Progressive Brands again showed an Asian-inspired brand Kigen Sake in Reserve, Select and Unfiltered styles. Pacific International Liquor Inc., Vernon, Calif., displayed Okunomatsu Sake along with several sake-containing drink creations. Choya Umeshu USA Inc., San Carlos, Calif., exhibited Choya Umeshu-Dento, a traditional Japanese liqueur, and Choya Ume Blanc, a white wine.
Asia continues to influence American culture as much as Western culture is influencing Asian taste palates. Traditional Asian drinks are sure to play a greater role in ethnic dining as well.
Cooking with tequila
Celebrity chef Guy Fiere teamed up with rock ‘n roll frontman Sammy Hagar to whip up new recipes featuring Hagar’s Cabo Wabo tequilas. The Food Network’s Fiere created the Cabo Caliente cocktail and Wabo World Sashimi Wonton with Cabo Wabo’s Blanco Tequila. Hagar joined Fiere in Santa Rosa, Calif., to help out in the kitchen and kick back with some cocktails.
Beer bread
Irish consumers soon can have their Guinness in bread form. Diageo Ireland licensed the production of Guinness Bread Mix to Celtic Passions, a New Jersey company that distributes traditional Irish baking mixes in Ireland and the United States. Guinness bread mix will launch this month in 14-ounce tins and flour bag packages. Each package will create one loaf of bread. Celtic Passions will offer bulk bags for in-store baking and food service operations.
Coffee addicts
Fifty-six percent of Americans would rather give up sleep, showering, lunch, daily news and teeth brushing than start the day without coffee, a study reports. The study was sponsored by OnTech Operations Inc., San Diego, which manufactures self-heating coffee products. It found that two-thirds of American adults are coffee drinkers, with nearly half drinking one cup of coffee every day. Also revealed were five “coffee personalities:” Social Drinker, who shares coffee breaks with other people; Comfort Lover, who enjoys a warm drink in their hands; Coffee Addict, who must have coffee to get through the day; Task Master, who uses coffee to stay focused; and Coffee Gourmet, who matches the brew to the perfect meal.
“Bilking” it
Making the best of a surplus, a Japanese liquor shop owner introduced a beer made from milk, according to a Reuters report. Declines in milk consumption in the past few years in Japan have created surpluses of milk in the dairy producing region on the island of Hokkaido. To make use of the extra milk, liquor store owner Chitoski Nakahar partnered with a local brewer to create “Bilk,” a beer made with 30 percent milk. The hybrid beverage is said to look and taste like ordinary beer, only with a slight milky scent. Nakahara’s shop also offers a beer brewed from potatoes, another popular Hokkaido product.
Ultimate sporting event
The winner of Miller’s Icehouse ultimate sporting event challenge did not opt for tickets to football’s Pro Bowl or NCAA’s Final Four. Instead, David Alan Hays, Johnson City, Tenn., chose the Iditarod in Alaska. Hays was the highest scorer in the Icehouse 6-Pack Challenge, in which contestants predicted six winners in 12 weekly match-ups from at least four different sports from October to December. The winner and three friends traveled to Anchorage this month to follow what’s known as the “Last Great Race on Earth” in which teams of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher race more than 1,150 miles over 10 to 17 days.
Charity brew
Three friends who once were at the helm of Pete’s Wicked Ale reunited years later to create a new brew with a cause. Pete Slosberg and Alan Shapiro reconvened to help their old friend Virginia MacLean who has Multiple Myeloma, a form of bone cancer. Eighteen years after beginning in the craft brewing business together, the group created Reunion – A Beer for Hope with the help of Bison Brewing Co., Berkeley, Calif., to raise awareness of the disease and funds for the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research. The ale is available in 22-ounce screen printed bottles in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado and Illinois for $4.99, from which all profits will be donated to charity.