Hoy Joy bartender Danielle Chapman serves a beer. Photo by Scott Ball.

With the majority of paired dinners and parties starting at $100 a person, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference can be pricey. If budgeting happened to be your New Year’s resolution, here is a breakdown for how cost-conscious locals can participate in the Cocktail Conference.

The festival does support four local children’s charities, so if you can afford it, know that your money will be supporting many good causes.

Tasting Room

By far the best bang for your buck is the Tasting Room at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel on Saturday from 12-5 p.m. The room last year was filled to the brim with local and national brands vying to gain attention from industry folks. Not a bartender? Don’t worry about it—these people don’t know whether you’re an industry professional and they’ll still try to woo you with tasty beverages. A $20 donation will get you in the door where the liquor flows like wine. Set aside another $20 for the ride home if you’re planning on partying hard.

Enroll in a Class

You’ll be able to broaden your horizons on a particular spirit or subject matter at the Cocktail Conference in sessions that start at $35/person. Rest assured this isn’t your typical drab business conference class—each session typically has three cocktails related to the subject matter. There are even more benefits on top of that, so don’t throw away your ticket. It also will get you into both the Tasting Room and the Friendly Craft Beer Break (which each cost $20 each at the door).

Jonathan Pogash, The Cocktail Guru, demonstrates proper cocktail shaking technique to students at his seminar, "Mixology 101," during the 2014 San Antonio Cocktail Conference. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Jonathan Pogash, The Cocktail Guru, demonstrates proper cocktail shaking technique to students at his seminar, “Mixology 101,” during the 2014 San Antonio Cocktail Conference. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Feel free to consult the San Antonio Cocktail Conference schedule, but if you are looking for some Cliff’s Notes, here are the classes that caught my eye: exploring honey cocktails ($35/person), a whiskey river boat cruise ($45/person), a discussion on the history and regional differences of Mezcal ($45/person) and learning how to create your own signature cocktail in Mixology 101 ($50/person).

An Economical Paired Dinner

Many of the paired dinners do carry high-ticket prices, but if you’re looking for a bargain, check out the BBQ and Bourbon event at Two Bros. BBQ Market on West Avenue. At $60/person, you’ll have access to an array of BBQ stations with some of Two Bros. finest meats and sides paired with Old Forester, Woodford Double Oak, Woodford Rye and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey.

Volunteer at the Conference

The San Antonio Cocktail Conference is a massive undertaking—after all, it is one of the top cocktail festivals in America, according to Fodor’s Travel Guides. Organizers need a few good volunteers to help make the magic happen. Not only will you be lending a hand to an event that benefits local charities, you’ll also gain access to the epic closing party. They are still in need of volunteers. Interested in helping out? Sign up online.

Stroll About on Houston

This last suggestion is a long shot, but it worked for a couple of folks who happened to bump into me last year. The Stroll on Houston Street caps off a long Saturday of conference sessions and tastings with yet more cocktails at Lüke, Bohanans, Sheraton Gunter Hotel and IBC Plaza on the river.  And after that big party, there is yet another after-party at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater that kicks off at 11 p.m. and goes until 2 a.m. (Anyone else feel like they’re in an R. Kelly song?).

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Needless to say, there are a lot of folks that have purchased tickets for the after-party that just aren’t going to make it. So if you can read people well, your ticket to the Stroll on Houston Street might just net you a bonus after-party ticket from someone—like me—who just can’t hang.

*Featured/top image: Hoy Joy bartender Danielle Chapman serves a beer.  Photo by Scott Ball.  

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Garrett Heath

Garrett Heath blogs for Rackspace and is the Average Joe that started SA Flavor. He loves San Antonio, especially eating at mom and...