Category Archives: San Antonio Cocktail Conference

A First-Timer’s Guide to SACC

by Tiffany Tran

Guys, I finally did it – I made it to San Antonio Cocktail Conference, more familiarly known as SACC. Held every January in the heart of San Antonio, bartenders, brand ambassadors, bar owners, and service industry enthusiasts alike gather in the city to attend classes led by influential industry leaders, and you know, PARTY.

However, since the event is five days with pairing dinners up to a week ahead of it, it may prove rather daunting to an unprepared SACC rookie. So, I’m here to help! Armed with my first full SACC experience, I’ve distilled it down to what I hope is a helpful guide  to navigate and fully enjoy the spirited waters of everything ext year’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference has to offer.

STAY CLOSE TO THE ACTION
One of the best things about SACC is that almost all of the events take place in the same five or six blocks next to the famed Riverwalk. So, it’s in your best interest to book a room close to the action. I had the pleasure of staying at the St. Anthony Hotel with Ms. Susie Drinks herself, and we found that we never had to walk very far for classes, bar takeovers, or event-hosted parties, mostly because many of them took place inside our hotel. Yes, Uber and Lyft are easy options for quick rides to events, but if you’re there for the full five days, those rides add up. And whatever you saved by booking that AirBnB 15 minutes outside of the city quickly disappears when you add up the ride receipts. (And who wants to have to take an Uber at 2:30am?) There are plenty of hotel options along the Riverwalk such as the Hotel Valencia, Sheraton Gunter, and Hotel Havana that make excellent locations for home base.

PACE YOURSELF
Repeat after me: “I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink. I don’t have to finish every drink.” It’s your new mantra. Why? Because YOU DON’T HAVE TO FINISH EVERY DRINK. Friends. this is a COCKTAIL conference. As you can surmise, there’s no shortage of alcohol flowing during any of the five days you may be there, so take care of yourself. One glass of water for one alcoholic beverage. Remember to eat. Sure, chances are you’ll slam some snaiquiris with your people, but you don’t have to slam ALL of your drinks, right? Right. Also, get plenty of sleep. It’s a very full five days, so conserve your energy in order to ensure that you make it to the end.

LEARN
There’s no shortage of educational opportunities. Peruse the schedule and find one or four that speak to you. They offer classes for the cocktail enthusiast and the experienced industry members alike.

Speaking of pacing yourself, know that even in the seminars you’ll be served some tasty cocktails. Talk about incentivized education! I wish college was more like SACC classes; I would’ve learned so much more.

Yes, there’s plenty to do in San Antonio Cocktail Conference even if you don’t attend a single class, but you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you don’t take advantage of what the classes have to offer. I had the opportunity to meet Ezra Star from Boston’s Drink in her class, “Building Culture of Hospitality”. It was amazing to hear her philosophy on the culture that drives her bar: “We serve people, not drinks.” And in more depth, how that philosophy drives how she hires people for her team, how they create rituals that drive their culture and inspires her team to take initiative to further their own education. The class ran for an hour, and there was plenty of time dedicated to a Q&A, a rare opportunity for class attendees to pick Ezra’s brain and learn from her expertise.

Classes cost ~$45 each and  run all day on the Friday and Saturday of the conference.

GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Not everything you do during the conference will have anything to do with the conference itself. While there are plenty of hosted dinners and grand parties to attend at night, like Waldorf on the Prairie, there’s still plenty of time to explore the city’s other offerings. Do me a service and check out a couple of spots that I discovered on my trip and totally fell in love with. Like …

I keep telling myself that I’ll go back to San Antonio just to stay at the charming and historical Hotel Havana. But, with so few rooms, availability is rare. I understand since there’s a wonderful restaurant and bar there that keeps people coming by to discover the hotel. During my stay, I met up with some friends at Ocho at the Hotel Havana for lunch, and upon first glance, I was hooked. The space is encased in a glass observatory and offers pan-Latin food and Cuban-inspired cocktails. Personally, I recommend the Cuban sandwich and the coffee. Take some time to recharge for a day of SACC here. It’s a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle, and the decor is both warm and whimsical.

Another San Antonio gem I had the pleasure of enjoying is the new bar Downstairs at the Esquire Tavern. Located beneath the historic Esquire Tavern downtown bar, Downstairs is directly on the Riverwalk, and boasts a well-curated back bar as well as dark wood and intimate lighting details. The drinks are expertly executed by friendly and knowledgeable staff, and the walls are adorned with a bit of Esquire’s trademark taxidermy touch. This is my favorite San Antonio bar for sure.

So there we have it, my First-Timer’s Guide to SACC.
You’ll bump into friends everywhere you go.
You’ll get to know the city’s bartenders really quickly.
You’ll make friends with people from all over the country.
You’ll eat amazing food and drink delicious drinks.
You’ll avoid all hangovers while you’re there. (God willing.)
And you’ll learn so much from people who’ve been in the industry for years.

You’ll have an amazing time! See you next year at SACC 2018!


See also:
SACC 2015 Recap
SACC 2016
San Antonio Travel Guide
Saint Anthony Hotel Review

San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2016

One should ever stop improving his craft … or drinking.  For that reason, a very special group of people come together each January to talk booze, learn about industry trends, raise money for a worthy cause, and celebrate all-things cocktail at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.  Oh … and go to plenty of parties.  (So many parties.)

You can find the basics on my recap of last year’s SACC, but this year was a completely different experience.  First, I was over my fan-girl stage after meeting some of my favorite distillers/authors/bar(wo)men I’ve admired.  Second, I knew a bit more than to attempt to go the whole weekend without Gatorade or heartburn meds and only eating at events.  (You live, you learn.)  I also learned that, if you want to experience this the right way, you jump in head first … and take a running start.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

I got whisk(ey)ed away.  If you read my stuff, you know I’m a fan of Tullamore D.E.W. (a.k.a. Tully*), so I was delighted to be invited to the seminar “Five Cocktails that Changed Irish Whiskey Forever” led by Tully’s U.S. brand ambassador, Tim Herlihy, and badass barman Stephen Halpin.  They waxed poetic about the origins of the drinks, mixed each up so we could try them out, and provided color commentary about whiskey and Irish drinking traditions … and, of course, led us in a few toasts.  The five cocktails here: Irish coffee (invented in an airport in 1942 … really?), the hot toddy, the high ball, the Pickleback, and the Irish Car Bomb.  (Needless to say, I was useless waste of space for the four hours following this seminar.)

I ate all the tacos.  (Not kidding, actually.)  My cohorts and I somehow ended up as stowaways on the annual Tito’s Vodka Taco Bus Tour alongside my spirit animal, David Alan, a.k.a. the Tipsy Texan.  We made a few taco stops, our bus got pulled over (as one does), and we drank vodka … lots of vodka.

I learned some things.  I had the opportunity to see my friend, Kevin of the Cocktail Enthusiast, talk about his time touring Cuba and experiencing their classic cocktails (you know, purely for journalistic reasons).  CZCT7F8UsAAKH-YNew 30th birthday trip plan: create my Cuba travel guide!  Other nuggets of knowledge picked up: how to make an authentic hurricane, bright yellow, super fast Camaros are super fun to drive (see my ride to SA on the right … thanks to Chevy!), and don’t wait to book your hotel.

If you’re at all interested in spirits, the history of cocktails, the bar industry and what makes it tick, etc., check out the SACC and attend a seminar or two.  This year they even had a yoga class and a seminar entitled “The Cocktails of Ian Fleming & James Bond”.  Awesome, no?  Since I got in later than I’d hoped, I wasn’t able to attend as many educational seminars as I’d hoped.  (Missed: “The Physiology of the Shake“, “Discovering Sotol“, and a seminar on politics and booze.)

BONUS: most of the seminars provide “hands-on” experiences.  Read: booze.

I drank tequila.  If you know me, this is unique.  I can appreciate a good agave spirit, but when it’s paired with chocolate … I appreciate it more.  Milagro Tequila’s JP De Loera teamed up with local restaurant Lüke to create incredible pairings of anejos and chocolates and talked participants through each–the flavors of each tequila and chocolate and why they work together.

I partied for a good cause.  The SACC is actually put on by Houston Street Charities.  A portion of the proceeds are divided amongst various children’s charities in the San Antonio region and they even host a service day during the SACC!

I explored Alamo City.  I did my best to walk everywhere.  (I believe that’s the best way to get to know a city.)  The San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau is a great resource for fun things to do, attractions, maps, hotel discounts, etc..

Stay up on all the SACC news on their website or social channels.  I hope to see you there next year!


SAN ANTONIO COCKTAIL CONFERENCE

sanantoniococktailconference.com
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2017 dates: January 11-15

*If you follow me on Snapchat … you also know this is my dog‘s name.  🐶

Honorable mention to the brunch setup for the hangover brunch I wasn’t able to eat at on Sunday!

San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2015 Recap & 2016 Teaser

Each January Texas’ most talented mixologists (and those of us that just really appreciate their craft) gather in Alamo City to learn about new cocktail trends and enjoy some general alcohol-fueled merriment … all while raising money for a great cause!  Think seminars, cocktail demonstrations, liquor tastings, pairing dinners, parties … really, just all the best things.  This year will be the fifth San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) and will take place January 14-17 at the newly renovated St. Anthony Hotel … and you can be part of it.

sacc logo

I mentioned the charity aspect … which the bar industry seems to be all about.  The SACC donates 100% of its profits to Houston Street Charities and actually raised $115,000 in 2015 for The Children’s Shelter, ChildSafe, HeartGift San Antonio and Transplants for Children.  Isn’t drinking for a good cause the best way to drink?

The only thing that comes close to rivaling the amazing cocktails slung at the SACC is the food that keeps attendees (close enough to) sober during the festivities.  From sampling at the opening event at the Majestic by local restaurants to oyster shooters at the Houston Street Stroll (which is not to be missed), the food is as almost as clever as the libations they accompany.

This year’s schedule will offer the usual seminars on everything from  the usual industry-focused panels to complex cocktail concepts.  (Be careful … you could end up with five drinks in front of you before 10am … you know, purely for “research” purposes.)  Some of the sessions that I won’t be missing this year include:

While the edification is important, one must not neglect the parties.  (Because people in the bar industry somehow have some terrifying ability to drink until 4am and be fresh alive at 9am to lead their sessions.)  All evening events include cocktails (obvi), amazing local eats, and live music.

Photo Jan 17-3

While i’ve only attended one year, I will be posting a few tips on how to best experience the SACC.  Stay tuned!

Join the fun this year and purchase your ticket now!  If you can’t make it but want to support Houston Street Charities, go ahead and donate!