Although it started a few years ago as a charity event, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference has become so much more since then — most notably, by helping to put Texas on the map as a serious innovator of spirits and cocktails.
From Jan. 14 to 17, the conference is, as always, four days of seminars, parties and tastings that will unite bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts from all over the state and beyond. All proceeds from the event continue to go toward local children-focused nonprofits, so you’re imbibing for a very good cause.
But which of all those seminars, parties and tastings should you attend? That’s a crucial question to ask yourself ahead of time, especially because tickets aren’t all-inclusive. (Which is just as well, as most of the individual events offer alcohol in some form for you to drink. That can add up to a lot of booze.)
Here are some highlights of this year’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference.
Women Shaking It Up. New to the five-year-old conference, this film screening serves as the premiere of the mini-documentary “Women of Tin,” which you’ll watch before enjoying bites and sips from some of San Antonio’s powerhouse female chefs and bartenders, who will also be in attendance. With such an empowering message for women, this pre-conference showing on Jan. 13 is a must-see. Tickets are $65, and proceeds benefit Girls Inc. of San Antonio.
A Round Table Discussion: The Influence of Sasha Petraske. Bartending maven Sasha Petraske’s unexpected death last year made waves country-wide among bartenders, many of whom had mentored under him, were inspired by him or were positively affected in some way by his revival of cocktail culture, most notably at New York’s Milk & Honey. His influence stretched all the way to San Antonio, where on Jan. 14 at Bohanan’s Restaurant & Bar — one of the places he helped to develop — some of his friends and colleagues, including Chris Bostick, Simon Ford and Jordan Corney, will discuss his legacy.
Petraske was also one of the planners of the very first San Antonio Cocktail Conference, and his fingerprints are still part of what it’s become: a fun, sophisticated way of celebrating the current cocktail renaissance. For this event, no tickets are required.
Waldorf on the Prairie. After attending drink-related seminars on Jan. 15 and 16, you’ll want to attend one of the two big evening events, and I’d recommend this one for a swanky time of it. Soak in old Texas charm at the St. Anthony Hotel, which was renovated recently to restore some of its original early-1900s glory that gave it the name Waldorf on the Prairie. Its glamorous setting is prime for a night of cocktails, which you’ll get for $120.
Whiskey Bon Voyage Sails Again. Scheduling the seminars you want to attend can be tricky because many of them overlap on time — but choosing this one with Treaty Oak Distilling’s Joe Castillo and Matt Moody is a no-brainer. A departure from the usual seminar setting of a hotel conference room, the one-and-a-half hour discussion will have you traveling down the San Antonio River Walk by barge. For $55, learn about what makes whiskey so special by tasting through out-of-production bottles, bottles on the market today and some from Treaty Oak itself.
To book your tickets (and a hotel stay if you need it) and get more information, visit www.sanantoniococktailconference.com. You can also get a sense of what you’re in for by reading my recap of last year’s conference here.