Hosted by nonprofit Culinaria, the inaugural Third Coast Cocktail Summit features regionally inspired cocktail-centric seminars, dinners, neighborhood pop-ups and parties at the Drury Plaza Hotel downtown and at an array of San Antonio bars and restaurants from Jan. 10-14.  

“Our goal is to highlight the spirits and mixes that define the cultures of so many distinct and diverse regions around the country,” said Suzanne Taranto Etheredge, president and CEO of Culinaria. “We also want to bring leading trade professionals together for discussions on philosophies of the industry’s past, present, future, challenges and opportunities.” 

To that end, Etheredge and her team have organized programs highlighting the breadth of talent and expertise within the beverage industry throughout Texas and the surrounding region. Participating bars and restaurants include DASHI Sichuan Kitchen + Bar, Ocho, The Good Kind, The Jerk Shack and The Moon’s Daughters.

“After the past few years, what the industry needs is a collaborative celebration of what we all do really, really well, which is champion the culture of San Antonio and the region,” said Michael Neff of Bar Loretta in Southtown, who was one of the initial instigators of the summit. 

Neff said a group of business owners began working on the idea in October, and the event came together rather quickly. “The trappings of a conference-style event are great and valuable but trying too hard to be perfect can be the enemy of a good time. Community is what really matters. All it really takes is for people to buy in and participate.”

The summit’s first year will “provide a roadmap” for 2024’s event, said Neff.

The cocktail summit offers different levels of access for those interested in learning aspects of the hospitality industry — or those who simply enjoy watching the party unfold — starting at $20 for individual workshops and going up to $250 for an all-access pass. 

Nightly offsite events showcase local and regional talent through a variety of programs, like happy hours at The Esquire, Best Quality Daughter and Besame, and “spirited dinners” at Botika and Bar Loretta. The Bar Loretta menu features whiskey-braised lamb risotto by Chef Paul Petersen paired with a smoked old fashioned by Neff. Tickets to attend are $125.

Guest bartender events include the staffs of DTO in Galveston at Bar Ludivine and Johnny’s Gold Brick in Houston at The Modernist. Pop-ups at neighborhood haunts like the Lonesome Rose on the St. Mary’s Strip and Sanchos Cantina y Cocina in Five Points offer attendees more casual options.

Workshops take place at the Drury Plaza Hotel on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and include sessions on working with gin, whiskey and agave. For the more ambitious, the summit offers a Certificate Series, an intensive three-day program with an official certificate in such subjects as bartending and hospitality, cocktail creation, and spirits and distilling. 

“Seminars and workshops will serve to preserve the knowledge of the past and pass it forward to a new generation of bartenders that will lead change within the industry for years to come,” said Etheredge. “We will feature not only spirits and cocktails, but professional seminars centered on wine, beer, coffee and anything else that gravitates around the cocktail space.”

The summit closes with a cocktail party at the Witte Museum, with offerings from multiple bars, chefs and entertainment. The theme, said Culinaria Vice President Ginger Robinson, is key. “We chose ‘The Prohibition Era’ as a theme to leave interpretations and expectations as open as possible. The bars, restaurants and musical guests all add to the mystery.”

The schedule of events is still being updated. Check the Culinaria website for the most up-to-date event and program listings. 

Anjali Gupta

Anjali Gupta is a curator, editor and writer based in Southtown.