Premium Blend's Chocolate Wine, 24 Percent Wine-Based Rum Substitute

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Hialeah-based Premium Blend produces standard wine products, such as Santos Sangria, Choco Noir (its chocolate wine), and V'Nillâ Noir, as well as wine-based products geared toward making restaurateurs' lives easier.

Using wine, PB makes alcohol-flavored products that can be used in place of hard liquor. Your cocktail calls for vodka? They got you covered with Klir Red. Need rum instead? Try the Rhumbero Spice. Premium Blend products are composed of hard liquor and cordial-flavored wines as well as today's most popular cocktail mix flavors. The products are made from a combination of fermented and distilled alcohol at 14 to 24 percent alcohol by volume, depending on each specifc state law.

If you're wondering why someone would want a wine that can be used as a liquor substitute in cocktail recipes, think about how such a product would benefit bar and restaurant owners with only a beer-and-wine license. Suddenly, they have a full-service bar.

We interviewed CEO, Henry Santos, about his company's products and how Miami has influenced them. Although Premium Blend has nationwide distribution, Miami is still home. "We have distributors all over the country. We work with small mom-and-pops as well as the giants of the industries, like Republic National and Southern Wine," Santos says. "We love Miami and especially Hialeah because it's our hometown."

Short Order: How did Premium Blend come about?

Henry Santos: Premium Blend was started by my brother Gino and me. Coming from a show-business background and knowing how difficult it is to obtain a full liquor license, we discovered a product that could make it possible for small to midsize restaurants and bars with only a beer-and-wine (2cop) license to make cocktails like margaritas, piña coladas, and bloody marys with the same taste and alcohol content as if it was made from hard liquor, so we decided to market and distribute Premium Blend.

How do you choose what ingredients PB uses, and from where do you get them?

We choose our ingredients from wherever the best quality is available, like in the case of our 100 percent agave wine, El Guitarrón, which is a wine, but can be used to replace tequila in tequila-based cocktails. It comes from Mexico, where the world's most famous agaves are grown and processed, taking advantage of their expertise in cultivating and processing of this unique plant to produce a product that ranks up there with the taste of the finest tequilas on the market.

Your product Santos Sangria is said to be based on a family recipe. Whose recipe was it originally?

Santos Sangria is our family's pride and joy; that's the reason it bears our family's name. Growing up, our house was always a party house where the entire family would gather on weekends and special occasions -- and there was always a good excuse for a special occasion. Out came what was known as Santos Sangria. This was a secret concoction that my grandmother would mix up. She had been given the recipe by her grandmother that had migrated to Cuba from Spain as a young lady. Once Gino and I got into the cocktail-and-wine business, we wanted to put it in a bottle and share it with the rest of the world. Ten years ago, working with one of our suppliers in Spain, we were able to duplicate our grandmother's formula.

Tell us a little about your mixologists. What do you look for when hiring?

We work with mixologists from all over the country to develop drink recipes that are popular in their particular area of the country. We have a network of contributing bartenders who send us recipes that they are serving in their bar or restaurant, that they are having success with and want to share with other wine-only-license operators.

Do you feel that being based in Miami has an impact on PB and its products?

We feel that the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Miami and its great diversity give us an edge because everything that is happening in Miami will be imitated all over the country.

Which products are most popular?

As a stand-alone product, Santos Sangria is our most popular item, with case sales last year of over 75,000, but the bestsellers for the beer-and-wine market are our El Guitarrón and Tequesta (tequila types) and our Klir Red (vodka type) and Rhumbero and Rhumbero Spice (rum types).

What new products are you most excited about?

We are very excited about our Veterans Salute wines. This is a line of wines dedicated to raising funds for our veterans returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, and all our other commitments around the world only to find that they have very little support getting their lives back to normal. We joined forces with an organization called Veterans Helping Veterans to create these wonderful wines that can be enjoyed on any occasion and at the same time give something back to the men and women who serve our country.

What distinguishes PB from other companies?

We help our customers be successful in their businesses by creating products that help them increase their profits and customer satisfaction, and we are always ahead of the curve with new and innovative products.

Where do you hope to see PB five years from now?

We are looking forward to continuing to grow and expand our base to have greater customer recognition with our main brands like Santos Sangria, Veterans Salute, Duck Tape, and Choco Noir.

Choco Noir and Santos Sangria are available at Publix and Sam's Club. Other products are available through Premium Blend's distributors.

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