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All the Drinking at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2015

Here’s what happened during four days of drinking.

The fourth annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) was held this past weekend, January 15-18, in the Alamo City. The conference brings together bartenders, chefs, and alcohol lovers to partake in four days of educational seminars, liquor tastings, munching, mingling, and a whole lot of partying and drinking. Read on for the boozy recap.

  • Exact numbers on how much money was raised and attendees aren’t available yet. The conference is helmed by Houston Street Charities. This year’s conference donated all proceeds to four children’s charities (up from last year’s two): Children’s Shelter, ChildSafe, HeartGift San Antonio, and Transplants for Children.
  • The SACC’s grand opening night party on Thursday night was held at the Majestic Theater. Both regulars in fancy attire and less-dressed up attendees shared free cocktails. Over 25 cocktail bars and 20-plus chefs were available, including an absinthe station and a bottle ring toss by D’usse cognac where participants won elephant or tiger stuffed animals.
  • The historic St. Anthony Hotel was the home to the Waldorf on the Prairie, where there were over 15 cocktail bars, 20 food stations, and lots of music and dancing. Hendrick’s Gin hosted a sideshow troupe performing tricks, including one where a woman put a live tarantula in her mouth. Outside the hotel, a man walked by the valet station and bellowed: "Who let the dogs out?"
  • Besides drinking, people came to learn. Seminars took place on Friday and Saturday. Classes included finding out what the difference is between rum, rhum, and ron; learning how to appropriately use sugar in drinks; what makes a Tex-Mex drink; and how to create a personal speakeasy.
  • Chef John Russ of San Antonio’s Lüke Restaurant taught an outdoor class on porch cocktails. Russ is from New Orleans, where, he said, "the neighborhood drinks together," and they have block parties for no reason at all. He demonstrated how to make two porch-ready drinks, then let attendees make their own. The first was The Max, made with the "cheapest gin you could find," fresh lime juice, loads of sugar, water, and ice, all shook up in a Maxwell House Coffee container with some leftover coffee grounds. The second was the Punchie, which consisted of pouring rum and vodka into a Hawaiian Punch bottle and shaking it up. After examining the two very portable drinks, Russ added, "Maybe we are all alcoholics in New Orleans."
  • The Tasting Room in the Gunter Sheraton presented a wonderfully large array of liquors, from bigger brands like Bacardi and Jim Beam, to smaller local small batch businesses like Dripping Springs Vodka and Treaty Oak. A group of ladies in the lobby downstairs recouped in the lobby downstairs before one declared, "We’re going back in." Another responded, "Take one for the team."
  • The weather was perfect for the outdoor Stroll on Houston, where attendees wander from participating restaurants and bars to partake in drinks and food.
  • The Original Cocktail Competition, organized by Tipsy Texan David Alan, closed the festivities on Sunday at the Aztec Theater. Eight bartenders came from across Texas and one from Louisiana. Dallas had Bradley Bowden and Carlo Biddle from The Parliament, and Daniel Guillen from La Duni Latin Kitchen. Houston was represented with Treadsack’s Leslie Ross and San Antonio with Angel Cantu and Timothy Bryand. J.R. Mocanu was from Austin, and Scott Stierwalt was from Louisiana.
  • The original drinks concocted by the bartenders had to be inspired by the spirit of San Antonio, and each mixologist had to tell their story to the judges before making the drink in under seven minutes. The judges included Austin’s Chris Bostick from Half Step, John Russ from Lüke, and Houston’s Julep owner Alba Huerta.
  • Guillen won the $2,000 grand prize for his improved take on the Menyul Veracruzana, a julep drink served in an emptied soup can, alongside garnishes and love letters. Second place and $1,000 went to Austin’s Mocanu, who will join upcoming restaurant Vox Table. His Tex-Mex inspired drink, the Come and Drink It, used tequila, smoked pineapple and ginger shrub, and Texas grapefruit.
  • Food and water were everywhere to help attendees soak up the booze and hydrate. Voss was the water sponsor and everyone was sporting their sleek cylindrical bottles.

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