Right after the holidays comes one of my favorite festivals in the city, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. Not only is this event educational and a ton of fun, it does a lot of good. Last year alone it raised $115,000 for local children’s charities. And whether you are inside the industry or not, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference has something for you. Here are seven things that you should really consider doing.
1. Paired Dinners
These intimate dinners kick off a full week before the conference opens. They an amazing opportunity to see how a chef riffs on a spirit throughout a multi-course meal. Additionally, you get an in depth education—and tasting—of the alcohol of your chosen dinner. Most of the experiences are limited to 12 or fewer guests. While I found dining at a small table of strangers somewhat intimidating, once the drinks begin flowing it turns into an exceptional evening. Having attended events the Macallan dinner at Biga on the Banks and the Patron dinner at Ruth’s Chris in the past, I can tell you that these events are worth every penny.
Multiple locations, days and times–see the official schedule. Many are already sold out.
Not the overly slushy, sugary abomination that you order while in the Caribbean. This is the classic rum cocktail that was the favorite of the late Sasha Petraske, co-founder of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. Petraske, who was instrumental in putting San Antonio on the cocktail map, passed away this past year in New York. Gather at Bohanan’s prior to the opening party for a round table discussion with some of Petraske’s friends and apprentices that is moderated by New York Times journalist Robert Simonson.
Bohanan’s, 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 14th.
3. Opening Night At The Majestic
People in the beverage industry sure know how to through a party. The Majestic Theatre serves as a grand backdrop to an exciting evening of cocktails, food and music. Local chefs serve small bites that are paired with ample drinks, so come hungry and stay late. Pro tip: last year there was a cigar roller on the second floor balcony, so make your way there before the line gets long. Read more about 2015’s Opening Party on SA Flavor.
Majestic Theatre, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 14th.
4. Mixology 101–Build Your Own Cocktail
This is the class for folks outside of the industry who are interested in learning the ins and outs of creating a classic cocktail. Jonathan Pogesh, “The Cocktail Guru,” provides insights into the building blocks of cocktails and gives you the opportunity to craft your own. Read the SA Flavor review from last year’s session to see what you’re in store for.
Sheraton Gunter Hotel, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Friday, January 15th.
5. Whiskey Bon Voyage Sails Again
Amateurs and connoisseurs alike will love this unique session put on by the folks from Treaty Oak Distilling. Not only do you get to ride on a boat all around the River Walk, you get to do so while drinking a wide variety of spirits. I’m talking about commonplace and long-discontinued, rare bottles alike. And there’s a lot of them that you’ll go through. As one of the SA Flavor correspondents can attest, this is the one boat ride that you’ll never forget, though the details may be a little cloudy.
River Barge at IBC Plaza, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturday, January 16th.
6. Why Rye, Why Now?
An Old Fashioned is one of my favorite cocktails, so I am extremely thrilled to be attending this class. And who better to learn from than Dave Pickerell, the master distiller of WhistlePig, one of the finest Rye whiskeys around. The class will cover the history of Rye whiskey and why it’s coming back.
Sheraton Gunter Hotel, 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m., Saturday, January 16th.
7. Tasting Suites
Let me describe for you the beautiful thing that is the San Antonio Cocktail Conference tasting room. Think back to any kind of conference that you’ve ever attended and you’ll recall the grand “swag room.” You know, that place where you can pickup stress balls, shirts and cheesy light up pens. The tasting room is basically that same setup, but instead of cheesy swag they are giving away alcohol. And good alcohol at that. In the past, access to the room was included with a ticket to any session—this year, you are required to pay for a ticket to enter. But be warned in advance that your state can become quickly altered after leaving the tasting room so be sure to line up a designated driver or take a cab/Uber/bus.
Suites at the Valencia Hotel & the Historic Frost Bros. Building, 217 E. Houston Street, 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, January 16th.
Check out all of the SA Flavor Cocktail Conference coverage from this year and year’s past.