Guests were provided champagne before the Beso de Agave cocktail was unveiled. Photo by Joan Vinson.

In its fifth year, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) will span for four days in the bustle of downtown San Antonio. More than 100 bartenders will concoct 168 varieties of cocktails to warm the blood of attendees during the chilly January days and nights of the conference.

During a Thursday preview, Cocktail Conference officials unveiled its 2016 signature cocktail, the Beso de Agave, which combines Milagro Reposado tequila, Montelobos Mezcal, pineapple juice, lime juice, and agave nectar. Once these ingredients are shaken to a foamy perfection and poured into a Collins glass with a splash of ginger beer, the cocktail is garnished with a mint sprig. Voilà, the sweet and smokey beverage is ready to impress any fine palette.

Diego Galicia prepares appetizers. Photo by Joan Vinson.
Diego Galicia prepares appetizers. Photo by Joan Vinson.

Guests were treated to champagne and appetizers at SAY Sí in anticipation of the unveiling of the Beso de Agave cocktail. A DJ spun a mix of songs as guests gathered together in groups to experience the flavors of the food and drinks.

Beginning with a grand opening at the Majestic Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 14, the cocktail festival will last through the weekend and end Sunday, Jan. 17. The weekend will include a night at the St. Anthony Hotel where guests will sip innovative cocktails paired with chef-prepared dinners and a “Stroll on Houston Street” during which attendees can move from one party to the next, digesting food, drinks, and live music along the way.

But, there’s more to SACC than just eating and drinking, as the weekend will include a wide array of conferences (hence the name) that cater to anyone from a cocktail enthusiast, a casual imbiber, to a small business owner with a stake in understanding the cocktail culture. Some of the speakers include Michael Madrusan of The Everleigh in Melbourne, Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas of Employees Only in New York City, Brian McCullough of The Standard Pour in Dallas, cocktail historian Philip Greene, among others.

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The San Antonio Cocktail Conference was founded by Executive Chef Mark Bohanan of Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood in 2012. Since its founding year, the festival has grown to become one of the country’s top mixology events and was named one of the top three cocktail festivals in the country by Fodor’s.

Notably and tragically missing from this year’s celebration is Sasha Petraske, one of the event’s founding organizers. Petraske, who owned the famous but now closed Milk & Honey speakeasy in New York, died in August at the age of 42. The cause of his death is still unknown.

Hired as a consultant by Bohanan’s, he trained several local bartenders that went on to start up their own craft cocktail projects and is widely credited – along with Bohanan’s – as being one of the key player that brought modern cocktail culture to San Antonio.

Find out more about Petraske’s philosophy and experience in an interview published on the Rivard Report in 2014 here.

SACC is managed by Houston Street Charities, a nonprofit founded by Bohanan, and 100% of its proceeds are donated to children’s charities. The conference has raised $355,000 over the past four years. The 2015 recipients included The Children’s Shelter, ChildSafe, HeartGift San Antonio and Transplants for Children.

Karen Adams and Executive Director of Houston Street Charities Cathy Siegel take a photo together. Photo by Joan Vinson.
Karen Adams and Executive Director of Houston Street Charities Cathy Siegel pose for a Cocktail Conference photo booth. Photo by Joan Vinson.

“We know that cocktails are cocktails but craft cocktails are about the experience, and it includes the venue, the music, the food, everything that makes it truly an experience,” said Executive Director of Houston Street Charities Cathy Siegel.

The event sold out early last year, so be prepared to buy a ticket when they go on sale Nov. 15.

*Featured/top image: Guests were provided champagne before the Beso de Agave cocktail was unveiled. Photo by Joan Vinson. 

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San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2015: New Twist on a Four-Year Classic

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Joan Vinson

Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....