2016 San Antonio Cocktail Conference

Long looked at as a desert when it came to cocktails or adult beverages, San Antonio is quickly changing that perception around the country. This past January, the Alamo City was host to the 5th annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference, a gathering of professionals in the bar and restaurant industry that focuses on education and guided tastings. The conference attracts speakers and attendees from all over the United States eager to expand their knowledge, ask questions to further their craft/business and mingle with other professionals. 

Each year the variety and number of seminars has grown and this year included over thirty seminars, with many more pairings and social events, such as ‘Waldorf of the Prairie”, a social event featuring dozens of cocktails and culinary combinations held at the historic St. Anthony Hotel, once referred to as the Waldorf of the Prairie because of it’s East Coast style opulence. 

Although there were multiple dinners and pairings early in the week, for many the conference began on Thursday morning with several seminars, which continued into Saturday. Here are some seminar highlights: 

Beer Cocktails. Not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, beer cocktails have been virtually non existent in the last hundred years or so, until recently when the idea of a ‘craft cocktail’ began to gain momentum. With craft beer already a buzz word, it was likely a matter of time before the two came together. Speaker Jacob Grier, a mixologist from Portland, Oregon, led attendees through the history of beer cocktails dating back a couple hundred years up to today’s modern experimentations. Grier advised attended that beer cocktails of the past often came in the form beer gone wrong mixed with spirits to save the beer or hide its defects. 

White Whiskey Infusions. Led by Mark McDavid, TJ Miller and Allan Hall of San Antonio’s Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling, the seminar focused on the neutral flavored ‘white whiskey’, what ingredients are best suited for infusions and the length of infusion times. Attendees were treat to many infusion examples of various lengths with ingredients such as strawberry, mint, Red Ruby grapefruit and other more eclectic ones like mesquite wood and chipotle. 

Flavors of Mexico. Sponsored by Altos Tequila, this seminar was just as much about the indigenous flavors and foods of Mexico as it was about cocktails. Attendees were guided through every region of Mexico, from the Yucatan to Baja and more. Attendees were giveaway n multiple samples of raw ingredients; such as raw Agave, Pilioncillo sugar and Quince Paste to sample while listening to their history and place in each region. Through the seminar, carefully craft cocktails with many of these ingredients were served to attendees allowing all to see a practical application. 

Cigar pairing. Set on rooftop of the St. Anthony Hotel,  seminar focus just as much on the anatomy and proper smoking techniques as it did the cocktail pairings them selves. Attendees were guided through what type of cigars go best with certain Cocktails, how to create your own pairings and other alcoholic based beverages that pair well with cigars, including many styles of beer.

As with many other industry conferences, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference allowed those in the bar and restaurant industry to make knew contacts and mingle every bit as much as it did to educate. Here's to next year's conference. Cheers!