Saturday, March 7, 2009 | 8:34 a.m.
Not all swag is created equal, and not all trade shows have equally appealing swag, either.
If I learned anything this week, it was that the Nightclub and Bar Convention is the Mecca of samples and swag. Even when compared to much larger expos, like the epic Consumer Electronics Show, for example, NCB is a alcohol-loving freebie fiend’s dream come true.
The annual conference is the largest nightlife industry trade show of its kind and attracted club owners, bartenders, alcohol distillers, and industry suppliers from around the globe.
In addition to keynote presentations, back-of-house tours at Vegas’ super clubs, and countless tastings, industry mixers, and after parties, there was also a sizeable network of sample-pushers scattered across the Las Vegas Convention Center’s central hall this week.
It all wrapped up on Wednesday night, however, leaving thousands of dehydrated and overtired convention goers to pack their swag-filled suitcases and head home.
Now that the four-day fog of NCB has begun to lift, here’s a retrospective for those of you who didn’t experience the show for yourself (or, for whatever reason, can’t seem to remember much), from someone who somehow recalls it surprisingly well.
There were dozens of specially-mixed cocktail and spirit samples – so much so that one could easily achieve a nice buzz within minutes of entering the hall simply by sampling the wares being pushed, offered and otherwise poured down convention-goers throats.
Yet there was far more to show swag than shot glass upon shot glass of booze-infused liquids — not that shot glass samples weren’t very much appreciated.
Some of my favorite tangible take-home goodies included:
Evo Energy Shots
Who better than the bar set to know how a shot of vitamin-infused and/or super-caffeinated liquid can save a tired soul from free-falling into post-party oblivion?
Evo was handing out two kinds of sugar-free super shots (grape and lemon lime) that both promise a crash-free up, up and away of enhanced performance and sustained energy.
What’s in it? 40 milligrams of Vitamin B6 (2,000 percent of your daily value), 500 mg of Vitamin B12 (that’s 8,333 percent DV), and 2125 mg of their “energy blend” which includes caffeine and malic acid, among others.
True story: I downed one of them (and several cocktails) on Wednesday night and didn’t go to sleep until 7 a.m. Not sure if Evo can take full credit, but what the heck, it probably helped.
Screaming O Vibrating Ring
When I was handed a Screaming O vibrating ring sample pack I wondered if I was lost. Was I at the Nightclub and Bar Convention, or the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo?
Indeed, this product could have easily transcended from one show to the next.
The vibrating silicone ring was by far the raunchiest item in my swag bag. It was handed out to promote the company’s Ovation Intimacy Kit ($19.95 to $24.99), which made its Vegas hotel debut at MGM Mirage mini bars about two weeks ago. They’re also available at the Palms gift shop.
The kits claim include everything you need “for the perfect date” – a personal “vibe ring,” some lube, a condom, a “sensual wipe,” and two breath mints.
While the kits were on display at NCB, Screaming O representatives were handing out sample packs of the vibrating ring like X-rated candy.
The shiny package is now well-worn (and never opened, I should add) thanks to some serious office-based research.
After several laughs, a few calls to HR, and careful review of the ring’s packaging, I’ve learned a few things:
One, each disposable ring will buzz with pleasure for about 30 minutes.
Second, according to the directions, the first step to vibrating fun is removing the ring from the foil wrapper. Why this needs to be clarified is both puzzling and hilarious. And, as my office neighbor at the next cubicle, Las Vegas Sun/Las Vegas Weekly columnist and Kats Report blogger extraordinaire, John Katsilometes, pointed out, it begs the question: If you’re too dumb to figure that out, how the heck did you get a date in the first place?
Lesson number three: Not everyone in my office enjoys having a personal vibrating ring suddenly dropped into their lap or onto their keyboard as deadline approaches. And no one in HR thinks it’s funny, either.
If you’re unlike my other, red-faced cubicle neighbor (sorry, Kyle) and want to get your hands and/or other extremities on a Screaming O vibrating ring, they will be increasingly available in the coming weeks. Look for them in saucy mini bars across the city, namely at additional MGM properties, among others.
What do you get when you cross a Popsicle with a tube, then add some booze? Apparently, it’s called a FrostShot.
Each aluminum sleeve of frozen goodness contains 1.75 ounces of alcohol (or 10 percent alcohol by volume). They’re totally portable and available in five flavors: Caribbean passion, extreme mojito, tropical explosion, XXX martini and cherry bomb.
FrostShots are the first product of their kind and are available nationwide. After sampling the product (I know, I suffer for my art) I highly suggest picking some up and popping 'em in the freezer while you wait for the mercury to rise. You’ll thank me come July – but until then, be sure to keep them in the 21-plus section of your freezer.
Agwa de Bolivia coca herbal liqueur
While this stuff packs a unique taste, it didn’t give me any buzz to write home (or even blog) about. Still, the stuff gets points just for being what it is.
Agwa de Bolivia contains coca leaf extracts and is sold as bottled green liquid (or in small vials of pale yellow, orally-ingestible powder).
That’s right, I said coca; the same, totally illegal plant that is used to cultivate cocaine.
Upon hearing this I had one two-part question: Is it legal, and, if so, how?
Here’s the scoop: The purveyors take Bolivian coca leaves, then fly them to Amersterdam for processing. There, the cocaine is extracted and alcohol and 36 herbs and botanicals are mixed in before the final product is shipped to the U.S.
Upon arrival in America, it is inspected by both the FDA and Homeland Security to ensure everything is both legal and safe for consumption.
While Agwa de Bolivia contains no cocaine whatsoever, the booze will still give you a buzz, with 30 percent, 60-proof alcohol content.
If you’re like my mother, and like your martini dirtier than a George Carlin joke, Dirty Sue is the mixer for you.
It’s pure, twice-filtered, unadulterated olive brine in a bottle. The cloudy, salty stuff looks like swamp water but it will make your martinis sing without needing drain the remaining juice from that jar of olives that’s been at the back of your fridge since Prince was a symbol. And taste a lot better, too.
Umeshu (pronounced wu-meh-shoo) is made up from the Japanese word “ume” (translation: plum-like fruit) and “shu,” which means liquor or sake.
Distributer Choya (a.k.a Dento) has been making umeshu the same way since 1914.
The super-sweet Japanese fruit wine is just that – super sweet – but it has a clean finish and isn’t syrupy like far too many dessert and ice wines out there.
It’s made using Japanese ume fruits, which, when found at the bottom of a bottle of umeshu, look like oversized green olives but have the taste and texture of dried apricots.
Several umes sit at the bottom of each full-sized (750 milliliter) bottle, and they’re completely edible and delicious.
Lucky for swag-happy convention goers, the 50 mL show samples also had a ume at the bottom.
Also: In addition to the freebies listed above, there was a wide selection of hangover cures and chill-out tonics at NCB. An overview of those product offerings can be found here.
Some other interesting things that were on the NCB show floor but, sadly, were not being given away:
This waistband isn’t exactly what you’d call slimming, but the tummy flask sure could come in handy from time to time.
It’s a “leak-proof bladder” that holds 750 mL of liquid that, according to promotional materials, is “perfect for sneaking booze into sporting events, concerts, festivals or any other events.”
Think of a soft plastic envelope with a discreet hose on a fanny pack and you’ll get the picture. The best part: The more you drink, the smaller your booze belly gets.
While they’re not currently available in stores, Booze Bellies are available online through the company’s Web site.
NJoy Electric Cigarette Kit
These fake cigarettes allow you to “smoke” anywhere regardless of smoking bylaws. They contain no tobacco, are never lit, and give off no smoke.
The fake cancer sticks are also carcinogen-free, meaning they contain no toxic chemicals and won’t cause cancer.
What they do have, however, is nicotine. The ultra lights have 6 milligrams; the lights have 12 mg, and the regulars contain 18 mg of the stimulant.
Since they don’t contain tobacco, they are not regulated by any federal agency.
Still, NJoy cigarettes come with a lengthy warning. The packaging states the product is “intended for use by those of legal smoking age … not by nonsmokers or children, nursing or pregnant women, or persons with or at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or taking medicine for depression or asthma.”
The electric gadgets replace actual smoke with water vapor, thanks to little cartridges that are hidden where a normal cigarette’s filter would be. This provides a fog-like cloud of odorless breath when the so-called “smoker” exhales.
What’s more, the tip of the phony smoke lights up as the user inhales, giving off the familiar cherry-like glow.
NJoy “cigarettes” are rechargeable and taste cartridges are available in a range of flavors: regular (tobacco), menthol, vanilla, apple, and strawberry.
The kits and replacement cartridges are currently available at select truck stops and Costco stores nationwide, and online via Costco.com. Meanwhile, plans to expand distribution to additional big box retailers and pharmacies are in the works.