When attending an event such as the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, you’re there to learn about the wide variety of represented spirits — and soak up that booze with intriguing bites from an array of local eateries.
This year’s cocktail conference, held January 11-15, featured returning favorite events. While some festivities were held in new spots, there was one constant: no shortage of unique takes on established cocktails or daring bites to accompany those drinks. We've rounded up the best things we drank — and ate — at the annual affair.
Women Shaking It Up
This was a kickoff to the official conference kickoff. A few drinks and eats got thumbs up from attendees at this event, held at La Villita.
Chicken mole enchiladas from Viva Villa Taqueria could easily be paired with concoctions such as the Troop Counselor Nasty, a blend of Corralejo Silver Tequila, Borghetti Sambuca, lime juice and pineapple syrup.
The Centennial was a nice, decadent drink involving Chila Orchata, rice milk, Buffalo Trace, and honey syrup. It was a nearly perfect accompaniment to the banana pudding provided by Two Bros. BBQ Market.
This year the cocktail conference got off to a rousing start at The Doseum. Bright colors and fun, interactive exhibits provided the backdrop to two floors of fun. It was quite the contrast to the intimate lighting and familiar features inside the historic Majestic Theatre, which previously hosted the official kickoff.
The opening had its fair share of standout drinks, such as the Mango Tango, with Avion Reposado Tequila, and mango and black peppercorn juice. The Honey Badger was a knockout, with Clyde Mays 85 Proof Whiskey, lime juice, agave syrup, and jalapeño honey syrup.
Restaurants such as Hotel Contessa and Hot Joy were particularly impressive. The hotel’s chefs whipped up arugula salad with poached pears, blue cheese, and candied pecans, and Hot Joy offered up a hearty plate of Sichuan tofu with green onions and crispy garlic.
The party, later that night, carried on to Studio 109, where Chicago-based bar Presidio had a pop-up bar. With a Ferris Bueller theme, the craft cocktail menu featured The Mr. Rooney, Dean of Students, complete with rye whiskey, tamarind, and mole bitters. Grayze on Grayson served up bites at the pop-up bar, including Thai shrimp with cucumber.
Waldorf on the Prairie
This event returned to its elegant home at the St. Anthony Hotel. There, the Single Malt Cobbler, with Brenne Single Malt Whiskey, Berentzen Apple, and peach and chocolate bitters from Bitter Truth, was not to be missed. The Fruteria served up a tasty braised beef cheek plate, with escabeche tamarindo, avocado crema, and cilantro.
The after-party action was all over the place in downtown. A DJ set the tone in a room at the St. Anthony, where Mesh and Bone and San Antonio’s Dorcol Distilling Co. fueled the crowd with cocktails.
Studio 109 was the scene of another pop-up bar, this time New York’s Dear Irving, which offered concoctions such as the TaunTaun. That included amontillado, cold brew, espresso liqueur, and tonic. Bexar Pub provided the bites, such as roasted pork belly and grilled cheese sandwiches, which were needed at the end of a boozy evening.
Tasting Suites, Stroll on Houston Street, and more
Saturday during the cocktail conference was for the heartiest, bravest, and most well-prepared attendees. It was one big event after another, day to night.
Lucid Absinthe was especially impressive at the Tasting Suites at Hotel Valencia. So was Zodiac, with its vodka-powered cherry limeade. Texas craft breweries made the most of their appearance at the Beer Break. Dorcol’s brewing arm, HighWheel BeerWorks, offered samples as did Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery, with its Slang seasonal and Texas Uncommon Ale.
The night’s festivities shifted to Houston Street, where Firestone and Robertson Distilling offered the luscious Nutty Texan, with TX Whiskey, almond milk, cream liqueur, simple syrup, and chocolate bitters, with a dash of cinnamon. Francis Bogside, the Southtown gastropub that’s out of commission due to a fire, showed it’s still alive thanks to a serving of what could be best described as kimchi Brussels sprouts. (Francis Bogside will reopen this spring.)
The official after-party took place at Alamo Beer Co. It was a lively place where highlights included Jameson Black Barrel Tipperary, with sweet vermouth, green chartreuse, and Angostura bitters.
The Spanish Governor’s Mansion was a new setting for the final major event of the conference. Attendees munched on tacos; cheese quesadillas; churros; Mexican cookies; and chips with salsa, pico de gallo, or guacamole.
The Mexican 55, with Tequila Ocho, lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparking wine, seemed a perfect way to subtly wind up the conference. The same could be said of the Buenos Dias Ancho, with Ancho Reyes, almond milk, cold brew coffee, cinnamon syrup, topped with a cinnamon stick.