It’s barely November but organizers of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference are already rallying fans for the 2018 edition. The annual conference, slated for January 10-14, will have more vendors, brands, and seminars than ever —and a few new venues to keep the party going.
Conference fans got a sneak peek on November 1 during a flight-themed party on the rooftop of the St. Anthony Hotel, now a major event partner. During the preview celebration, “flight attendants” ensured guests received entry wristbands and ordered tickets, while a bar cart filled with mini-bottles of spirits ensured partygoers did not miss a beat in between food and drink stations.
The announcement event, which doubles as a fundraiser for Houston Street Charities, was a change in direction for the annual libation celebration. The brainchild of Mark Bohanan, chef/owner of Bohanan's Prime Steaks and Seafood and Boerne's Peggy's on the Green, the preview party has steadily increased in popularity over the years — but they have never announced the event quite like this.
“We’ve never had a party to kick off ticket sales before, and we’ve never put tickets on sale this early,” said Cathy Siegel, the conference's executive director. Besides being a way to generate buzz, the party and ticket release allowed the organizers to outline what to expect in January.
“It’s more chefs, more brands, more seminars,” said Siegel. The St. Anthony, along with Hotel Valencia and the Gunter Hotel, will host 46 scheduled seminars that cover a range of brands, spirits, and topics relevant to the industry. There’s even an on-site distilling workshop at Dorcol Distilling and Brewing.
Though growing, the conference does plan on keeping some longstanding traditions. Once again, Women Shaking It Up will kick off the cocktail conference, this time on January 10 at Zaza Gardens on South Flores Street. Annual events like the official opening night party at The Doseum; Waldorf on the Prairie at the St. Anthony; and Brunch in Old San Antonio will all be returning to last year’s venues.
But there are also a few exciting changes to the affair. The cocktail conference is swapping out the evening Stroll on Houston Street for Cocktails Under the Sea on January 13 at the Villita Assembly Hall. Patrons will enjoy cocktails, food, and music in an illuminated, aquatic setting. And plenty of after-parties and pop-up bars are also in the works.
According to Siegel, it’s not a mystery as to why the San Antonio Cocktail Conference has become so beloved so quickly. The city's expanding craft cocktail culture has something to do with it.
“The beauty of cocktails at a cocktail conference is there are so many things that play with your palate,” she said. She added that she often hears from attendees who encourage their friends, family members, and associates to take part in the conference.
“The best kind of press is what you get from other people,” Siegel added.