The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2014

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Page 7 of 136

november 2014  /  the tasting panel  /  7 When you wish upon a star your dreams come true, but what happens when you wish upon a vodka? Here to prove that there's as much magic in the juice as there is in the cosmos is 50 Bleu Vodka—a newcomer to the spirits world that's setting itself up for a happily-ever-after. While they just launched this past Labor Day—in an impressive five major markets at that—the inception of 50 Bleu began many years ago in the passion and dreams of two industry veterans, whose friendship and resulting partnership came just as organi- cally as the vodka. The Bleu Duo Justin D'Angelo and Michael Monrreal, the mixologists and co-founders of 50 Bleu Ultra Premium Vodka, have paid their dues in the world of bartending, and now their hard work has paid off, as they witness their very own spirit finding its home at the very bars where they've shed much blood and sweat. "Shedding vodka is a lot more rewarding, and it sounds a lot better too," smiles Monrreal, who cultivated his skills under legendary chef Michael Mina in San Jose, CA—studying the multitude of ways in which the food and beverage worlds collide to create distinctive epicurean experiences. Monrreal then moved to Las Vegas, where his passion for creating cocktails with farm-to-table ingredients gave him a name in Sin City. Enter Justin D'Angelo. Raised in Las Vegas, at the age of 22 he became one of the youngest head bartenders to work at a Las Vegas Strip property. D'Angelo's work would lead him to meet Monrreal at Red Square in Mandalay Bay, appropriately, the spot where we met up with the two to hear the tale. "It was instant love. I loved his enthusiasm and his spirit. He became my mentor and one of my best friends," exclaims D'Angelo. Together the two developed their vision for a vodka that could sweep the industry. "Our vodka is amazing, and I'm proud to say it. It's made by two people who've been in the industry for a long time and who really care about the product. We're not just putting anything out there in a presentable glass bottle hoping it sells; the juice is good," explains D'Angelo. Continuing his sentiments, Monrreal adds, "That was the biggest challenge and the most important factor. Finding the right juice was always our absolute number-one prior- ity, and it brought us to Poland." UpFront with 50 Bleu Vodka by Brian Kustera / photos by Mona Shield Payne

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