The San Antonio Cocktail Conference, an event which has occurred every year for the past 5 years, is continuing its expansion as the most premier conferences of its kind.
The conference started in 2012 as a weekend affair, a way for the Houston Street Charities to raise money for non-profit organizations in the San Antonio area. At first conception it was a decently sized event. Two days’ of seminars and networking for bartenders and industry professionals was capped off with a party on a river barge.
What originally was a small weekend away, has turned into a week’s worth of imbibing and indulgence has expanded immensely. The 2017 convention has grown to include a week’s worth of paired dinners, five nights of parties and days jam packed full of classes. With many unique pop-up parties littering the city of San Antonio and all the official events, there’s always fun to be had.
I’ve had the honor of being involved in the San Antonio Cocktail Conference for the past three years. My first year I was a part of, what has been deemed, “The Taco Team”. A group of talented bartenders and bar backs from all over the country come together up to a week before the event to help prepare and do all the behind the scenes work. These talented industry folks worked an insane number of hours prepping batch cocktails, juicing a variety of different fruits, and even de-yolking eggs. Almost every drink made throughout the conference is thanks to the SACC Taco team. With all the work involved in the behind the scenes prepping, it’s no wonder that after 2015, they implemented an application process for the team rivals that of another conference, Tales of the Cocktail which is hosted in New Orleans.
My next year with the San Antonio Cocktail Conference was spent working as a volunteer. I do have to say, if you want to take part in the Cocktail Conference, but can’t afford the tickets, volunteer! If you chose to volunteer you do have to do your fair share of work, and if you work the large parties, this does involve trash clean up or ticket taking. Through this work you get to experience some of the delicious cocktails and food at the events. My volunteer sessions were spent working the merchandise tables. By this point in time the conference had expanded slightly from what it was the previous year; starting some of the paired dinners as well as adding one of my favorite events, the Women in Shaking. The new event focuses on the ladies of the spirits world and their accomplishments. It’s the newest addition to the late-night parties which now happen Wednesday through Saturday nights, and through volunteering, I got to partake in all of them.
My third, and most recent year at the Cocktail Conference I got to join in the fun by attending most of the events scheduled though out the week. Though I didn’t opt to attend any of the paired dinners, they did seem like excellent collaborations between the chefs of San Antonio and high quality spirits. What I did get to experience was the seminars, the tasting rooms, and some of the late night parties (and after parties) that were a part of the 2017 line up.
The seminars I attended this past year was where I had some of the most fun, learning more about the spirits industry and meeting likeminded professionals who offered stimulating conversation and insight. I was able to attend two seminars, Absinthe Mis En Place and 10 Cocktails to Master. The Absinthe class was a great seminar covering the history of absinthe and the reputation it has held. During the class we sampled many different classic absinthe drinks and were told the proper way to drink the spirit. The 10 Cocktails to Master class was also just as insightful, informing the class that almost all cocktails are just riffs on the classics, and once you master those ten, you can create an endless cocktail repertoire from it.
The classes, though small in nature, are very informative and are great for those with a passion for the spirits world, while the parties and the tasting room are hits for everyone. The parties, which span 4 nights, are littered with restaurants serving delicious samples from their menus and spirits brands who create unique and carefully crafted cocktails for all passing through the doors at the event. Liquor brands from all over the world come to the event and set up some of the most insane attractions at their booths from boozy-ice cream being cranked out by Old Forester, to monkey photo booths and flower crowns courtesy of Martine Honeysuckle Liquor. These parties are endless fountains of excitement, and are well worth the price you pay to get in on the fun.
It’s hard to believe there can be so much packed into one week, and if you plan on attending all events, you should start planning now because the 2018 conference is only 6 months away. If you can’t wait it out, Tales of the Cocktail is happening July 18th to the 23rd and is just as eventful as its San Antonio counterpart. Be sure to follow them both in order to stay up to date on all events they have planned, and remember the San Antonio Cocktail Conference returns in 2018, January 10th to the 14th!