Friday, March 11, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Cannabis-infused vodka, Bloody Marys and spiked ice cream, oh my.
The annual Nightclub & Bar Show returned to the Las Vegas Convention center this week for its 31st year in the valley, with an estimated 38,000 participants, including more than 720 merchants, and some new twists to traditional spirits.
This week’s merchants, operating across 325,000 square feet, ranged from popular international companies, such as Budweiser and Heineken, to locally owned small businesses and bars. The show, which started Tuesday, concluded on Thursday.
With an estimated 300 exhibitors showing off new products this week, here’s a list of some of the standout products available at the 2016 show:
“Humboldt’s Finest Cannabis Infused Vodka” by Humboldt Distillery
No, you don’t need a medical marijuana card to indulge in this cannabis-infused beverage.
The new drink, born this year in Humboldt County, Calif., is made with hemp, not marijuana, and doesn’t contain THC, said distillery owner Abe Stevens, 40.
“Hemp isn’t going to get you high, and it’s legal in all 50 states,” Stevens explained.
Humboldt’s Finest Cannabis Infused Vodka, available at Costco and other grocers in California, retails for $30. Stevens said that although the product is not yet available in Nevada, he hopes to change that by late this year.
“Spirited Ice Cream” by Momenti
Momenti founder Leif Pearson, 34, a graduate of the Meadows School, was working as a Southern California IT pro when a bus trip to Las Vegas inspired an idea for alcohol-infused ice cream.
“They wouldn’t let us bring alcohol on the bus that weekend,” Pearson said. “So we made a special ice cream to get our fix.”
The idea, a hit among his colleagues on that trip, sparked his current six-flavor, spirited ice cream business, which includes flavors like “Vanilla Vodka Cookies & Cream,” “Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet” and “White Russian,” with alcohol concentrations of up to 5 percent by volume.
Pearson, who had no culinary background before he started Momenti, said he sought out food scientists from Breyers and Häagen-Dazs to come up with more formal recipes.
Momenti, based in California, distributes to Las Vegas casinos and the valley’s two Vintner Grill locations. Pearson said he hopes to soon be a national brand, with his product available commercially in grocery stores at some point.
“For now, we’re going to go through the branding cycle in such a way to keep it more exclusive to build our credibility,” Pearson said.
“Jelly Shots with Pop Rocks,” by Ludlows Cocktail Company
Freya Estreller, 34, founder of Los Angeles-based Ludlows Cocktail Company, is determined to bring back a childhood favorite.
Serving her company’s five flavors of jelly shots on Tuesday’s showroom floor: Planter’s Punch, Fresh Lime Margarita, Meyer Lemon Drop, Old Fashioned and Moscow Mule, Estreller added a new, yet vintage touch for eager samplers: Pop Rocks candy.
“We’re trying to single-handedly bring back Pop Rocks,” Estreller said. “What else would you use it for as an adult?”
Estreller, a self-proclaimed millennial, started her company in October 2014 while eating on Ludlow Street in New York City, she said.
Ludlows' jelly shots are available at local liquor stores, with Pop Rocks, for $10 per five-pack.
“Meat Straws” by Benny’s
If your Bloody Mary wasn’t spicy enough, add a carnivore’s dream method of sipping alcohol: a straw made out of processed pork, to the mix.
Iowa City-based Ben Hirko offers two flavors: Original and Spicy Chipotle, for meat straw-sippers looking for an extra kick. The business started five years ago but didn’t become widely distributed until last year, Hirko said.
Hirko said his process is patented and he has no competitors in the meat straw industry. A five-pack of meat straws retails for $8, and is available both online at places like Amazon, and at select professional sports stadiums across the country.
“Vegetarians and vegans don’t like my straws, but everybody else does,” Hirko said.
“Blast Chiller” by Beverage-Air
For bartenders tired of putting their wine glass in the freezer to get it cold enough, Brookville, Pa.-based Beverage-Air’s “Blast Chiller” freezes glasses in as little as two seconds, said design engineer Matt Himes.
Using liquid carbon-dioxide, the chiller blasts a thick layer of freezing air on a glass, which can produce a full, thick layer of ice when held up for 10 seconds.
“This is the most efficient cooler that exists,” said Himes. “We can go through an entire night with just one carbon-dioxide tank.”