The Southside Cocktail- responsible for over $30,000 of charity in one night.
The Southside Cocktail- responsible for over $30,000 of charity in one night. Credit: Courtesy / Jackie Bowers and James Vadala

As denizens of Houston braced for evacuation and rescue in the face of catastrophic flooding, the people of San Antonio raced to be of service in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Demonstrating the breadth of the human heart in times of need, the United States Bartender’s Guild of San Antonio and 75 bars came together in less than 72 hours, raising more than $30,000 in one evening.

On Aug. 31, bartenders unified around one cause and one drink: the Seersucker Southern Style Gin-inspired “Southside Cocktail.”

Made with loving hands and 2 ounces of Seersucker Gin, ¾ ounces of lime juice, ¾ ounces simple syrup, and 5 mint leaves, this cocktail was shaken and stirred by bartenders all night, with 100% of the drink’s revenue supporting the Hurricane Harvey Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, managed by USBG’s National Charity Foundation.

Eddie Martinez of SOHO with Christopher Ware. Photo courtesy of Jackie Bowers/James Vadala.

Christopher Ware, Secretary for USBG SA and Texas Manager for Seersucker Gin & Cinco Vodka, was the brain-child behind the endeavor to rally the community towards this effort.

“I was sitting in the lobby at Hotel Emma thinking ‘What can we do to get this going?’” Ware said. “The model of $1 per drink going to charity is just really inconsequential, so I paid for the bottle and donated 100% of each Southside cocktail.”

Ware donated $3,000 worth of Seersucker Southern Style Gin and put the cocktails at $7 a pop across the city – but some patrons raised the price tag in the spirit of the occasion, with the top donation going for $700.

“I got all this stuff donated, so whoever paid the most for a cocktail got a grand prize,” Ware said. “A food truck will now go to their house and make a meal for them and some friends, I will bartend, and they’ll receive Campari donated gift bags as well.”

Having established Paramour, Arcade, and several other bars across San Antonio, it wasn’t difficult for Ware to rally the bartending community. Only 48 hours into planning, Ware and his team had over 55 bars on board and Campari as a sponsor.

“They came in and said they wanted to make a sizeable donation to our foundation,” Ware said, adding that they sponsored a Negroni for the occasion, in addition to the $20,000 they contributed to the cause ($10,000 to USBG’s Foundation and $10,000 to a separate charity benefitting the victims of Harvey). “In addition to things I did to get donations, we had $24,000 before we even started.”

Bar sales and beneficence mix well in Ware’s eyes, which was part of his motivation in establishing the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, now a seasonal fixture in San Antonio.

“We did that entire thing to bring education to the populace on how to make cocktails and there were various seminars,” Ware said. “100% of any money raised went to a charity called Heart Gift, which pays for hospitals to offer free surgery for children [with congenital heart defects] in third-world countries that can’t afford it.”

The competition board at Cured. Photo courtesy of Jackie Bowers/James Vadala.

While bars from La Cantera, Stone Oak, and Midtown were mixing the Southside Cocktail all Thursday night, it was primarily bars located in downtown and Southtown who came through, with the Pearl adding a solid chunk of change from restaurants like Cured.

“We were happy to help and thought it was an amazing event,” said Cured Owner Steve McHugh. “Coming from New Orleans and going through Katrina’s destruction, we felt that we needed to do something.”

Management at Cured took it a step further, donning their most dapper evening-wear and flashing their smiles to see who could sell the most Southside Cocktails – they even kept a tally that was live on site all night.

“We decided to dress up in our best suits and make the drinks table side,” McHugh said. “It was a  way to say to people ‘We care, we are all scared for the people affected so let’s do what we can.’”

While McHugh recognizes this is only the beginning, his team and fellow bartenders across the city are happy to stand up for their fellow Texans.

“I know South Texas has a long road to recovery, but we are rooting for a quick and speedy recovery,” McHugh said.  “We just wanted to do our part.”

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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.