Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Boston Cocktail Summit: Overall Impressions
The city of Boston has a rich and vibrant history of alcohol, distilling, cocktails, bars, restaurants, speakeasies, bartenders, mixologists and much more. The rest of Massachusetts and New England has a similar history as well. So it is only appropriate that there be a festival to celebrate all such matters, to reach back into this fascinating history as well as to blaze a path for the future.
Consider the fact that the spirits category now occupies 31.8% of the US alcohol market, a figure that has been slowly increasing over the years. In comparison, wine occupies only 15%, a figure that is increasing, while beer occupies 53.2%, which has actually been decreasing over the years. Spirits are very popular and cocktails are all the rage.
The first annual Boston Cocktail Summit has now come to a close. For three days, Thursday through Saturday, there was a gathering of bartenders and mixologists, spirit and cocktail lovers, distillers and vendors, authors and readers, and others as well. The Summit was not just for industry people but was open to any and all who had an interest or love of spirits and cocktails. There were a myriad of events, from educational seminars to tasting rooms, from author signings to elaborate parties.
I attended all three days of the festival as a media guest, and overall I was very happy with the festival. As it was their first festival, there were definitely some challenges and logistical problems, but the concept and the content showed great potential and I eagerly await next year's event.
Royal Sonesta in Cambridge and the Boston Park Plaza. A few of the other events, especially on Thursday, were held at different locations, such as local bars and restaurants, from Citizen Public House to The Black Rose. You essentially paid only for the events you wished to attend, with the average cost per event being $25-$35 though there were some free events as well. If you wanted to attend all three days, you could also purchase a special 3 day Summit Pass for $325, which garnered you a savings of at least $200.
There was a great diversity of events, from cocktail parties at local bars, like the National Vodka Day Party at Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale, to over 50 seminars & panel discussions on a wide range of spirit and cocktail topics. There were book signings in the Author's Lounge and a pop-up branch of The Boston Shaker cocktail supply store. You could taste a myriad of spirits and cocktails in the various tasting rooms, from local craft distillers to some of the big name brands. There was plenty to do, and much to sample and drink. You certainly had to monitor your alcohol intake or you might end up slurring and staggering the halls. Fortunately, the attendees seemed to be careful and I didn't notice any problems with drunken people wandering the halls.
I ended up attending four seminars, with logistics preventing me from being able to easily attend more, but I very much enjoyed all four. The speakers did very well, the content was interesting, and each seminar was both educational and entertaining. The panels I attended included: How The Spirits Industry Works, The Subtle Nuances of Vodka, Jameson Black Barrel and The Resurrection of an Icon: Rum on the Rise. I will be posting more about these seminars in the next couple weeks.
In the tasting rooms, I spent plenty of time on Saturday sampling a variety of spirits and cocktails, finding some new ones which greatly appealed to me. A jalapeno infused Tequila, rum from Colorado, smoky Mezcal, an elderflower rum from Vermont, compelling Irish Whiskey, Pisco cocktails and much more. New England distilleries and spirit producers were well represented. This was a great opportunity to check out new products as well as others of which I was unaware. In the next couple weeks, I will be sharing my discoveries with my readers.
ArtBar, at least a couple times, to snack upon some crisp, lightly sweet and delicious tater tots. I was far from alone and I watched many an order of tater tots exit the kitchen. They make a great cocktail snack, or a side dish with lunch or dinner.
For example, I attended a seminar at the Park Plaza and once it ended, my next seminar, which started right away, had been rescheduled for the Royal Sonesta. There was no way I could get to that other hotel in 5 minutes so I couldn't attend that seminar. The organizers though did allow people to attend a different seminar if such a situation arose. Having all of the events at one hotel would easily resolve those issues, and the organizers seem cognizant that it was a problem this year. So I expect next year they will work on that matter.