Top Texas cocktail festival shakes it up with world's classiest pub crawl
The holiday season is over, and for many of us, that means a begrudging end to vacation days, festivities, and guilt-free gluttony. Luckily, the fifth annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) is right around the corner, which gives us an excuse to keep imbibing a little while longer.
This behemoth of a conference, January 14-17, has events suited to every attendee’s wishes. However, looking at the conference lineup, you might be daunted by the sheer number of options. To that end, we have put together this guide to help you navigate the best events, seminars, dinners, and parties of the conference.
Know before you go
Here are a few tips and tidbits about the conference that are good to know, especially if this is your first year.
Cocktail Conference Central
For the first time ever, the conference will provide a central spot at the library inside the St. Antony Hotel for attendees to buy and pick-up tickets and purchase merchandise. Additionally, if you have inquiries concerning events, this spot will be where you find your answers. Because this is SACC, there will be cocktail service here from 10:30 am to 1 pm and 2 to 4:30 pm.
Every year, the conference creates a signature cocktail to serve throughout the week. This year it is the Beso de Agave, which includes Milagro reposado, Montelobos mezcal, pineapple and lime juice, agave nectar, ginger beer, Ancho Reyes, and mint. The drink is equal parts refreshing and strong; it celebrates the unique Mesoamerican flavors found in unique San Antonio cocktails.
Beso de Agave Multi-Event Pass
If you are considering attending multiple evening events, the best deal is the $385 multi-event pass. While this pass may seem pricey, when you consider that these events include open bars and exquisite bites to eat, the pass is worth the cost. The pass does not include admission to any of the seminars or dinners, but provides access to all the evening events and Tasting Suites.
The best picks for partying, dancing, socializing, and (of course) drinking.
Opening Night at the Majestic
This party at the Majestic Theatre officially kicks off the conference, and does so in splendid style. The entire lower level of seating inside the Majestic is covered with flooring to create one large, open space. There will be cocktail stations throughout, giving guests an endless supply of different drinks as well as hors d'oeuvres. Individual tickets are $85 each.
Thursday, January 14 at 7 pm
Waldorf on the Prairie
According to conference veterans, if you are willing to splurge to attend one party, there is no better option than this one. When the St. Anthony Hotel was first built, it was known as Waldorf on the Prairie. This event celebrates that history by giving guests a party that can only be described as glamorous. In this swanky setting, guests partake in all-you-can-drink "cocktail masterpieces" in addition to cuisine from unique chefs across the Texas Hill Country. Individual tickets are $120 each.
Friday, January 15 at 7 pm
Stroll on Houston Street
Think of this event as the world's classiest pub crawl. For example, there will be live music in the form of an 18-piece orchestra. The drinks and food accompaniments will be flowing all along Houston Street. Guests have access to parties at various venues like Bohanan's Prime Steaks and Seafood, the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, IBC Plaza, Lüke, Hotel Valencia, Sip Coffee & Expresso Bar, and a pop-up Irish pub. Individual tickets are $85 each.
Saturday, January 16 at 7 pm
Saturday After Hours at SACC
The band The Spazmatics will rock the conference after hours at the Scottish Rite with "new wave tunes and '80s jams." According to an attendee from last year, this band was one of the conference's unexpected delights. There will be bus transportation to and from Stroll on Houston Street, so guests need not worry about being too liquored up to get to the after party. Individual tickets are $65 each.
Saturday, January 16 at 10 pm
In addition to these top seminars, those who consider themselves more serious mixologists or members of the cocktail industry should take a look at the other sessions offered on the conference website.
We all know that microbreweries and craft beer have become more and more popular in recent years. In this seminar, Portland bartender Jacob Grier (author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer) will teach attendees at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel how to blend beer, spirits, and other ingredients into delicious cocktails. Individual tickets are $45 each.
Friday, January 15 at 11 am
Mixology 101: Build-Your-Own Cocktail
This seminar, held at Sheraton Gunter Hotel, is interactive and hands on for any cocktail enthusiast looking to take her or his bartending skills to the next level. Jonathan Pogash will teach attendees about essential bar tools, techniques, and flavors as well as insider tips from "The Cocktail Guru" himself. Individual tickets are $55 each.
Friday, January 15 at 11:30 am
The History, Evolution, and Future of Iconic Cocktails
Claire Bertin-Lang will lead this seminar at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, which can only be described as a collision between pop culture and history. She will teach attendees the stories surrounding some of the most famous cocktails like Mai Tais, Cosmopolitans, and Long Island Iced Teas, and what these trends can tell us about future iconic cocktails. Individual tickets are $45 each.
Saturday, January 16 at 11 am
Tequila and Xocolatl — A Natural Pairing
Milagro Tequila Brand Ambassador JP De Loera will show attendees at The Last Word all the different ways tequila and chocolate make a heavenly blend. If you are judging seminars solely based on what you will sample, this seminar is the clear winner. Attendees will try cacao-inspired cocktails as well as accompaniments of chocolate. Individual tickets are $45 each.
Saturday, January 16 at 11:30 am
Whiskey Bon Voyage Sails Again
If you feel a need to leave all the seminars in hotel conference rooms, this seminar on a Rio San Antonio River Barge will be perfect. Daniel Barnes and Matt Moody will lead this tasting of selections from Treaty Oak Distilling along the River Walk. Attendees will get to sample spirits while cruising in a barge and hearing about the production and bottling of whiskey. Individual tickets are $55 each.
Saturday, January 16 at 1 pm
Jalapen-oh-no You Didn’t
The industry has spoken and jalapeño in cocktails is officially overdone. If you are looking to add heat, flavor, and, most importantly, spice to your cocktails, this seminar is essential learning from Jessica Sanders. This session at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel will teach you how to take base spirits and build complex flavors using exotic spices. Individual tickets are $45 each.
Saturday, January 16 at 3 pm
The Cocktails of Ian Fleming and James Bond
This seminar at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel is for cocktail enthusiasts who also happen to be 007 fans. Simon Ford and Philip Greene will teach attendees about author Ian Fleming’s life and career as well as how the James Bond character has evolved over time. Because it is SACC, this entire lecture will naturally take place while attendees sample cocktails from the Fleming and Bond bar. Individual tickets are $45 each.
Saturday, January 16 at 3 pm
The best of the rest
Just because these events don't fall under a category doesn't mean they are any less amazing.
This all-female bartender competition at the St. Anthony Hotel is always entertaining, high-energy, and fierce — much like the women who compete in it. This event not only raises awareness for female mixologists, but it also raises money for breast cancer. Fun fact: The last three Texas Speed Rack winners have all hailed from the Alamo City. In the end, only one woman will win the title of Miss Speed Rack Texas. Individual tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
Tuesday, January 12 at 5 pm
Women Shaking It Up
This first-time event will celebrate women in power, particularly in the food and cocktail industry. Indeed, the food and drinks at the event will be courtesy of local female chefs and mixologists (many of these women will also be in attendance). This event at Arneson River Theatre will also premiere a mini-documentary on women in the cocktail industry entitled Women of Tin. Individual tickets range from $65 to $80 each.
Wednesday, January 13 at 7 pm
This event is one of the most popular of the conference and is perfect for any cocktail enthusiast. Attendees will walk through a series of small, intimate suites and meet with brand ambassadors to sample different spirits from all over the world. It is a wonderful opportunity to discover new brands as well as learn the details about how these spirits are crafted to perfection. This showcase will be held at Hotel Valencia and the historic Frost Bros. building. Individual tickets are $45 each.
Saturday, January 16 at noon
Hair of the Dog That Bit Ya (Or Brunch — The Morning After)
For its closing event, the conference shuts down part of Houston Street so its attendees can brunch outside together. Add the live music, a mimosa and michelada bar, and brunch baskets, and this event becomes one you cannot miss — especially if you are looking for an excuse to day drink. Individual tickets are $50 each.
Sunday, January 17 at 11:30 am