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Food & Drink

A Drinking Pro’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference Survival Guide

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Photo: , License: N/A

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Here’s some useful advice right out of the gate: Take both an aspirin and a potent multi-vitamin at night following each day of shameless cocktail consumption at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference or others. This particular palliative may not provide total relief; dead brain cells do not recover. But at least you can pretend to be compensating for some small amount of the abuse.

My other piece of advice for surviving cocktail conferences such as our own SACC and New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail is to pace yourself: In San Antonio’s case, there are two really concentrated days bracketed by warm-up and wind-down events, each of which sounds better than the last. Schedules are arranged such that, even if you had a death wish, you couldn’t get to every function. The first step, for dedicated amateurs and professional boozehounds alike, is to get ahold of said schedule and check off everything that even remotely appeals to you.

Second step: You’ve just racked up (in my case) 21 potential events, so get serious and eliminate at least a third—if not half. Now note which of those remaining occur at the same or overlapping times. This will be frustrating and annoying. Then further evaluate conflicting seminars and tastings that you might be able to get to only if they’re held in adjacent facilities. If The Evolution of Barrel Aging (12:00 to 1:30) hadn’t been presented at SoHo Wine & Martini Bar, I could have cut it short and still made it, just a tad late, to Fortify Your Spirit—Vermouth (1:00-2:15). But no, the vermouth class is at Sheraton Gunter headquarters three blocks away. Running between venues isn’t recommended, despite the (disputed) potential for burning off alcohol.

Step three is to tally the cost of all must-attend events remaining; at $30 for most seminars such as Tequila—A Reference Point, and up to $100 for blowouts such as The Macallan Scotch Whisky Dinner at Biga ($125 for the Houston Street Stroll and after-party at the Empire sponsored by the Current), budgetary reality becomes a great decision-maker. Tickets finally bought, get a good night’s sleep before your first trial by ordeal. (I’d suggest booze training beforehand, but most of us interested in cocktail conferences are already well along that path.)

Fortunately, the SACC organizers have realized that, what with all the planned and spontaneous evening blowouts such as opening night at the Majestic and the closing party at The Brooklynite, classes will generally not begin before 11 a.m. That gives you time for a reasonable breakfast—yes, more than two cups of coffee. Eating is essential, and you will want also to have a lunch strategy, preferably at a place that’s relatively quick and not too far from action central. A good miso ramen at Kimura would be nutritionally perfect, and it also serves to further mitigate guilt. Classes tend to end by 4:30, allowing locals the opportunity to go home for a nap before leaping back into the fray; visitors, or the truly depraved, will have thought to get a room at the Gunter or another nearby hotel, making quickies (no, not that kind) even easier. Though it’s tempting to do so, do not be seduced into filling the few lulls in the action with repeat visits to the hotel ballrooms filled with eager liquor purveyors brandishing free tastes of their all-too-attractive products, many of which I reluctantly admit, you won’t easily find elsewhere.

If resolve falters, please take a taxi. And then make time Monday morning for San Antonio’s hangover cure of choice: menudo, which can be found as a regular menu item at some spots, although it’s typically a weekend special. Those who already swear by this remedy will have their favorite haunts. On the off-chance that you don’t, give Patty’s Taco House on South Hackberry a try.

You might also consider this healthier cocktail for day-after detoxing, adapted from

5 carrots, scraped, scrubbed and cut into chunks
2 apples, peeled or not, seeded and cut into chunks
1 piece peeled ginger root, about 2-inches long, cut into rounds
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons honey

Put everything into a blender, adding a little water if needed; blend, then strain.

Please resist the temptation to add vodka.

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