Tag Archive | "San Antonio Cocktail Conference"

Raise a Toast to San Antonio with a Rio Blanco

Dale DeGroff writes out the recipe for a Rio Blanco while JoAnn Boone enjoys a sip of her cocktail.

In the cocktail world, few shine quite as brightly as Dale DeGroff, who is also known in the industry and to his fans as “King Cocktail.”

So, the chance to have the king create a special drink in your honor is an opportunity few cocktail lovers could pass up.

JoAnn Boone, president and CEO of Rio San Antonio Cruises, won the coveted honor in the auction that helped launch last week’s second annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference and served as a benefit for HeartGift, the charity that helps children from around the world get the heart surgeries they need.

On Saturday, Boone and DeGroff arranged some time in the upstairs bar at Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, 219 E. Houston St., to create the cocktail, which will flow out of San Antonio and onto bar menus across the world for the month of February.

First, DeGroff had to discover some flavors or a cocktail style that Boone prefers before starting to mix. One of Boone’s requirements was that the end result wasn’t too sweet.

Then, with the goal of balance before him, DeGroff began mixing liquids like a chemist in a lab before landing on a concoction that featured tequila and Sauternes with a dash of his own pimento bitters and a sliver of jalapeño for an added kick.

But what would this potion be called?

A few of those watching suggested the drink have JoAnn’s name in it, but none of the suggestions struck either DeGroff or her as having the right sound. Both liked the idea of using the word “Rio,” however, which conjures tropical images while making a direct connotation to Boone’s barge service and to the city of San Antonio itself. Blanco was finally settled on as the rest of the name because a blanco tequila was used.

As part of the auction package, the Rio Blanco will be served in February at at bars around the world. Beyond Bohanan’s, local places featuring the drink include the Esquire Tavern and SoHo. Meanwhile, world-celebrated bars Middlebranch, Milk & Honey, Employees Only and Clover Club in New York City as well as Everleigh in Melbourne, Australia, will showcase it.

“We welcome tourists from around the world every day,” Boone said. “With Rio Blanco, we’re now sharing a piece of the Rio with cocktails fans from here to Australia and hope to have them join us for a cruise in San Antonio soon.”

The Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco

2 pieces jalapeño skin (one 1 inch long, the other 2 inches long)
1 1/2 ounces Dulce Vida Blanco Tequila
1/2 ounce Sauternes
Dash of Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters (see note)
1/4 ounce lemon juice

Use a vegetable peeler and peel a 1-inch and a 2-inch strip of skin off a jalapeño, making sure not to get any seeds or membrane on the pepper slices. Set aside.

In an ice-filled shaker (preferably using Kold-Draft ice), add tequila, Sauternes, dash of bitters, lemon juice and the 1-inch jalapeno slice. Shake until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the 2-inch slice of jalapeño.

Note: To order Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters, click here.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Dale DeGroff


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Use All Your Senses When Creating Cocktails

How much do you now about making cocktails? Sure, you could follow a recipe, but the end result might not be exactly what you want. So, how do you correct it? Or how do you go about creating something suited for your tastes?

Can you identify flavors when blindfolded?

These were a few of the questions that Sly Cosmopoulos, corporate mixologist for Republic National Distributing Co., offered Saturday during the second annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference. She showed a full room how analyze flavors as a building block toward making a perfect cocktail.

The participants were occasionally blindfolded, as they tastes the likes of orange juice alongside blood orange juice, so they could discover for themselves if they could taste differences and even if they could identify what they were tasting.

Scent is more important than taste, when it comes to spirits, whether you’re talking a distilled beverage or wine. So, Cosmopoulos had them taste alcohol without seeing it or smelling it. So, as a few held their noses, they got to experience something that many found hard to identify.

“Tequila?” guessed one man.

“Bourbon or whiskey?” said a woman.

When they took off the blindfolds, they discovered that it was a whiskey, though most in the room talked more about the pure sensation of alcohol that they had experienced.

Texture is also important in a cocktail, and psychological perceptions come into play when you talk about texture. In the video above, watch Cosmopoulos describe how creamy cocktails conjure a different image from frothy ones.

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Ocho, Floore Country Store Named Among Best Bars in the South

Ocho has been named one of the best bars in the South.

Just in time for the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, Southern Living magazine has named its best bars in the South. Not surprisingly, two area favorites made the list.

Ocho in the Havana Hotel, 1015 Navarro St., was listed in a group of swanky hotel bars that are favored by locals as well as out-of-towners. “Hotelier Liz Lambert’s sexy pan-Latin lounge in the Hotel Havana,” as the article phrases it, is a great place to have a drink, whether you’re sitting on the patio that overlooks the river or in the dark basement.

The drink to have while visiting? A mojito, of course, given the Cuban flavor of the hotel.

John T. Floore Country Store, 14492 Old Bandera Road, Helotes, was included in a group of live music joints offering “toe-tapping (music) worth the cover charge,” the magazine said: “Weekends-only dance hall that launched Willie Nelson’s career. Look for up-and-comers such as Jason Boland & The Stragglers.”

And what should a visitor have make the trek out to Helotes even more memorable? Beer and tamales. Any other questions?

For the full list of places, stretching from Houston and Austin to Lexington, Ky., and Decatur, Ga., click here. For more on the Cocktail Conference, which runs through Sunday, click here.

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Cocktail Lovers Are Getting All Shook Up

Bartenders from across San Antonio and the state pour at the opening of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

Mike Rogers of Bar 1919 shakes a Black Demure.

One sip of a Ward Eight Thursday night was all it took to prove that Robert Browning wasn’t far off base when he waxed eloquent that “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.”

A dry cocktail with a splash of grenadine, orange juice and lemon mixed with Knob Creek Rye, it was one of several dozen elixirs that filled the various lobbies and open spaces of the Majestic Theater as the second annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference got underway. About 600 people crowded into the theater to sample all sorts of cocktails, made with everything from Texas vodkas, such as Cinco and Tito’s, to Bols Genever, a Dutch liquor that is a malty-scented cross between whiskey and gin.

Tables on each level were staffed by a variety of bartenders from around town and around the state, each of whom had a separate libation to pour.

Cognac Ferrand offered its Sazerac variation made with Cognac, a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters, a rinse of absinthe, sugar and a lemon twist. The aromatic Marie Brizard Parfait Amour was used in a Lavender Margarita with tequila, lime and rosemary. And the sweetly scented elderflower liqueur, St-Germain, was mixed with a margarita and a splash of Créme Yvette, a fruity-floral liqueur that has recently been resurrected after almost a half century.

The stories behind some of the cocktails were often as interesting as the drink itself. That was certainly the case with the Ward Eight, a cocktail introduced in 1898. According to Nick Kenna, a bartender at 1919 in the Blue Star complex, 1420 S. Alamo St., the first Ward Eight was the creation of Tim Hussion, a Boston bartender who wanted to please Martin B. Lomasney, a political boss also known as “The Mahatma.” Corrupt politicians may be old news, as they probably were in the late 1800s, but a well crafted Ward Eight still refreshes. (For a recipe, see below.)

Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band provides an added dimension to savor.

A few tables away, Jake Corney, head bartender at Bohanan’s, 221 E. Houston St., was offering an Arancio Americano, a recipe from Dale Degroff, known in the business as “King Cocktail.” It was a winning combination of Campari, sweet vermouth, sparkling wine and orange juice. In other words, imagine a playful mix of a negroni and a mimosa. (To make your own at home, see the recipe below.)

Classics were crafted alongside some tempting newcomers with names such as the Blood Orange Buck, the Dehumidifier, Fly Me to the Moon Punch and Postcards from San Francisco. A few were even easy to make: The Rémy VIP was a simple mix of Rémy Martin White V and pineapple juice. Others, of course, were far more complex. Mike Rogers, another bartender from 1919, was shaking up a Black Demure, featuring Wild Turkey, an orange liqueur such as Cointreau, blackberries and simple syrup.

A pair of Arancio Americano cocktails.

It was a fun drink, but it did have one drawback, at least for Rogers. “I shouldn’t have worn a white shirt,” he said with a laugh. “I’m shaking blackerries.”

Several restaurateurs in town offered treats to counterbalance all the alcohol. Stefan Bowers from Feast served up an octopus and chick pea salad, Jesse Perez from the upcoming Arcade Midtown Kitchen kicked up the heat on his generous meatballs, and Steven McHugh laid out dozens of fried oysters with pearl tapioca. Jason Dady’s DUK Truck dished up duck tacos with a sweet-spicy combination of pineapple and jalapeño, and Chad Carey of the Monterey offered a pungent pair of sandwiches: sardine-kimchee and beets with ripe cheeses.

The party, not to mention the entire San Antonio Cocktail Conference, was a fundraiser for HeartGift, which provides life-saving surgery for children around the world. In addition to the money raised from tickets, $19,000 was raised during the auction, which featured such items as an autographed guitar from country legend George Strait.

The conference continues through Sunday with seminars, river cruises, after-hours parties and more. For a full schedule, click here.

Jake Corney of Bohanan’s crafts his drinks to order.

Ward Eight

2 ounces rye, such as Knob Creek
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce orange juice
Splash of grenadine, or more to taste
Lemon peel, for garnish

Shake rye, lemon and orange juices, and grenadine with ice. Pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Makes 1 cocktail.

Adapted from Nick Kenna/Bar 1919

Dale Degroff’s Arancio Americano

3/4 ounces sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Campari
1 ounce orange juice
Sparkling wine

In an ice-filled shaker, add vermouth, Campari and orange juice. Shake until thoroughly cold and strain into two chilled cocktail glasses. Top with sparkling wine.

From Jake Corney/Bohanan’s

Cocktail lovers fill the Majestic.


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Shaken, Stirred and Ready for More

The countdown to the second annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference is just hours away. With that in mind, we offer a few cocktail recipes to wet your whistle and get you in the mood.

For a complete schedule of the non-profit festival, which benefits HeartGift, click here. And see you Thursday at the opening, shaker in hand and taxi cab number on your speed dial.

Basil Hayden’s Bacon Sour

Basil Hayden’s Bacon Sour

1 ¼ parts bourbon, such as Basil Hayden’s
1 part St-Germain liqueur infused with applewood-smoked cacon (recipe below)
1 part freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
1/2 part diluted maple syrup (1:1 ratio of Vermont grade A medium amber syrup to water)
1 dash of Peychaud’s Bitters
1/4 part pasteurized egg white

Bacon-Infused St-Germain:
4 or 5 thick slices of applewood-smoked bacon
1 (750-milliliter) bottle St-Germain

Cook bacon in the oven until it is crispy on the outsides but still chewy in the center. Place bacon on paper towel to remove some of the rendering.

Place cooked bacon in a glass jar with one 750-milliliter bottles of St-Germain and allow it to infuse for 24 hours at room temperature.

Remove bacon. Place liqueur in the freezer so renderings congeal and you can remove them.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer and cheese cloth to remove as much rendering as possible. Repeat freezer step, if needed, and strain again.

Refrigerate until ready for use.

To make the cocktail, combine bourbon, bacon-infused St-Germain, lemon juice, diluted maple syrup, bitters and egg white into a mixing glass and shake vigorously with ice. Strain over fresh ice into a double-old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange slice and a piece of the St-Germain-infused applewood-smoked bacon.

Makes 1 cocktail.

Adapted from Patricia Richards/Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

Basil Hayden’s Fire & Ice

Basil Hayden’s Fire & Ice

¾ parts fresh lime juice
1 slice jalapeño
1 part pomegranate juice
½ part simple syrup
1 ½ parts bourbon, such as Basil Hayden’s
Splash of soda water
Lime wheel, for garmish
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Muddle lime juice, jalapeño, pomegranate juice and simple syrup in a mixing tin.

Add bourbon and shake lightly for 5 seconds.

Strain into a Collins glass, add ice and top with soda water.

Garnish with a lime wheel and pomegranate seeds.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Joel Black of Black LAB Ventures/Basil Hayden’s

Knob Creek Spice of Life

Knob Creek’s Spice of Life

4-5 fresh mint leaves
2½ parts rye, such as Knob Creek Rye
½ part white peach nectar
1 part ginger beer

Muddle mint, rye and peach nectar in the bottom of a shaker.

Add ice and shake vigorously.

Strain over ice and top with ginger beer.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Michael Symon/Knob Creek

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2012 Was a Year of Eating Well

The Pearl has become a food lover’s center for festivals as well as restaurants.

Bliss is aptly named.

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s time to look back on the many great flavors that we sampled. The list is lengthy, thanks to a decided upturn in culinary offerings across the city, both on the dining scene and for the food lover in general.

One of the biggest food stories of the year was the continued growth of the Pearl Brewery, which saw the opening of three praise-worthy eateries and a trendy bar. It also was the location of an increasing number of food festivals, meaning thousands from all over the city were showing up on a regular basis for cooking demonstrations at the Saturday farmers market, for paella, burgers and barbecue or tamales, and for the restaurants, all in the quest of good food.

A glimpse into the kitchen at the Granary.

The list of new restaurants includes the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, which restored beer making to the premises. Artisan barbecue, fine brews and an irresistible condiment known as ‘cue butter all made this a welcome addition. The Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden delivers on the belief that quality grilled meat is prerequisite in the Lone Star State, and the massive setting, covering two stories, is epic enough to complement chef James Moore’s ranch-style fare.

The most intriguing addition, though, is NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s full-service restaurant, which has provided San Antonio with its broadest and most authentic taste of South and Central American cuisines to date. These exciting flavors, from seafood stews and roasted meats to an inviting cocktail program, have somehow not been able to secure a foothold before in a city that values its Tex-Mex above all; yet in just a few months, NAO has developed a local following, and its client base should grow as word continues to get out to the rest of the country that the school has a campus and a destination restaurant here. When the visiting chef series returns, with culinary stars from countries as diverse as Brazil, Peru and Argentina, you’d be wise to make your reservations as soon as possible.

The CIA’s flagship restaurant in San Antonio.

NAO is also built on the concept of small plates, which has also not been widely popular in San Antonio. Yet Bite in the Southtown area and a revitalized Nosh on Austin Highway are joining in the effort to break that mold.

Southtown continued to attract diners from across the city, as Mark Bliss returned with a new restaurant, the aptly named Bliss. The warmth of the place, the impressive setting and the comfort of the food, especially when enjoyed at the chef’s table in the kitchen, all help place it among the city’s best.

Johnny Hernandez opened two distinct venues in the Southtown area, if not Southtown proper. They include the Frutería at the Steel House Lofts, where you can get everything from market-fresh fruit for breakfast to an impressive array of, you got it, small plates for dinner, and Casa Hernán, an airy catering facility and brunch spot in his own home.

Another welcome addition to the Southtown scene was the Alamo Street Eat Bar, a food truck park that featured crazy good burgers from Cullum’s Attaboy, the Peacemaker combination of pork belly and fried oysters from Where Y’At and the DUK Truck’s duck confit tacos. Add Zum Sushi, The Institute of Chili, Wheelie Gourmet and a few other visitors, as well as a great beer lineup, and you’ve got some wonderful fresh treats. And what do food trucks provide but small plates, albeit from different plates, giving you the feel of being on a tapas trail?

An “Eat Street” crew films at the Point Park & Eats.

Another food truck park that opened up north in Leon Springs was the Point Park & Eat, which also offers a great beer selection and a wide array of foods from a lineup that has changed in the months that it’s been open. The culinary confections come from trucks such as Skinny Cat, Gourmet on the Fly, Blazin’ Burgers and Say-She-Ate.

Television continued to discover may of these culinary gems. Say-She-Ate was one of four food trucks filmed for the TV series, “Eat Street.” The others include Rickshaw Stop, Tapa Tapa and Society Bakery. Meanwhile, PBS celebrity chef Ming Tsai came to town to film segments of “Simply Ming” with Diana Barrios Treviño from Los Barrios, Elizabeth Johnson of the CIA, John Besh of Lüke (visiting from New Orleans) and Johnny Hernandez at La Gloria.

Sustenio, with Stephan Pyles’ blessing and David Gilbert’s gifts, made people realize the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa off I-10 was not just a pretty façade. Its menu, with much of the dishes derived from local meats and produce, features an exciting array of ceviches that captured the freshness of the sea and a number of dishes using South Texas Heritage Pork products.

The $13 Burger at Knife & Fork.

The gastropub movement continued with the opening of Knife & Fork in the Stone Oak area. An outgrowth of the Bistro Six food truck, it offered a $13 Burger worth every cent, an extensive cocktail program and a laid-back atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the bistronomy craze — a hybrid of “bistro” and “gastronomy” — could be found in Laurent’s Modern Cuisine on McCullough Avenue. Next door to the still-vibrant and dependable Bistro Vatel, it proved that a segment of San Antonio does love its French food.

For those who enjoy a meal every now and then at home, the number of gourmet groceries grew, thanks to the addition of Trader Joe’s in the Quarry Extension and a second Whole Foods on Blanco Road, north of Loop 1604. The food warehouse Gaucho Gourmet expanded its hours to the public to six days a week, while Groomer’s Seafood reeled in even more seafood lovers, especially when lobsters hit a mouthwatering low of $5.95 apiece.

Classic cocktails have made a comeback.

San Antonio lifted it spirits high during the year. Distilled spirits, that is. Mixed drinks, both shaken and stirred, got a huge boost from the first annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference. But it didn’t stop there. The Blue Box in the Pearl and the downtown Brooklynite joined the likes of Bar 1919 in the Blue Star Complex and the bar at NAO as havens for hand-crafted classic cocktails. A rye sour shaken with traditional egg white, a real martini made with gin and a pisco sour bright with freshly squeezed citrus were all incentives that made exploring these nightspots fun.

Expect beer’s popularity to soar in the new year. Beyond the excellent brews at the Granary, we await Alamo Beer’s ambitious plans for a downtown complex that will feature a restaurant as well as a brewing facility as well as the launch of Branchline Brewery.

What else can we expect? The Pearl will continue to expand with the openings of Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen and an as-yet-unnamed venture from Steven McHugh as well as the move of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, all of which will add to the draw of the campus. Culinaria has announced plans for a community garden center offering food and agricultural education for the city. Andrew Weissman is taking over the former Liberty Bar site on Josephine Street.

With these strides forward on so many fronts, the city’s culinary scene should continue to offer some enticing new flavors for anyone with a healthy appetite.

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Last-Minute Food Gift Ideas for All Budgets

Bacon Candy Canes. Now that’s festive.

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for a foodie on your list, here are a few suggestions of items from local businesses:

  • Finishing oils, pressed from a variety of sources, such as celery, nutmeg, carrot and even radish, can be found at Ali Baba International Food Market, 9307 Wurzbach Road. You’ll find then on an end-cap in the expanding market.
  • Spices from the East from either Himalayan Bazaar, 8466 Fredericksburg Road, or Mustapha Asian and Middle Eastern Grocery, 4081 Medical Drive, are also great for experimenting with a world of flavors.
  • Vinegar may seem an odd gift, until you check out the sweet, tangy vinegars at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages and styles. Go for an aged balsamic from Italy or a spicy pecan vinegar from California. You’ll find plenty of other food favorites in both stocking stuffer sizes and jumbo jars.
  • Bacon Candy Canes — but, of course — are available at Leighelena at the Pearl, 202 Pearl Parkway. A six-pack is priced at $7. The neighboring Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocino has begun selling wine and cigars.
  • For the cocktail lover on your list, tickets to any or all of the events during the upcoming San Antonio Cocktail Conference would be just the ticket. The second annual event is set for Jan. 17-20 and features everything from an opening party at the Majestic Theater with drinks and live music from Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval to seminars on tequila, Texas spirits and making cocktails at home. Click here for more information.
  • Shake up some fun at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

    Don’t forget your favorite three-letter grocery store. H-E-B has introduced its new Primo Picks products line, with treats such as Café Ole Holiday Blend coffee, Central Market Olive Oil Popcorn and Central Market Salted Truffle Brownie Mix. The items are specially marked Primo Picks on the shelves. Or ask for help.

  • The farmers markets this weekend are great places to find everything from specialized produce to South Texas Heritage Pork products. Two of the bigger markets are the Pearl Farmers Market, Saturday morning at the Pearl Brewery, and the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, 255 E. Basse Road, on  Sunday.
  • Many of your favorite restaurants are offering gift cards. A few are even offering discounts. Luce Ristorante e Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Road, for example, is offering two $50 cards for a total of $79.99.
  • Camp Brisket is a two-day intensive for barbecue lovers that’s being sponsored by Foodways Texas. It’s set for Jan. 11-12. As the website for the event says, “Camp Brisket will specifically focus on that quintessential Texas smoked meat, the humble brisket, covering topics such as the debate over which grades/types of beef to use, types of smokers, wrapping or not wrapping the brisket, and much more.” For more information, including prices, click here.
  • The Culinary Institute of America’s Boot Camps run anywhere from two to five days and cover such topics as Comfort Foods, American Regional Cuisine, Hors d’Oeuvres and Hearth Breads. They are intensive programs for serious home cooks, or “enthusiasts,” as the CIA likes to call them. For more information, click here. The local classes are marked (TX).


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Salud! SA Cocktail Conference Back for Another Round in January

The San Antonio Cocktail Conference, which premiered in San Antonio this past January, is coming back after the new year with promises of a little more of everything.

Cocktail novices and enthusiasts, industry experts, sponsors, and regional and national media will all be headed to San Antonio for this year’s conference, which runs Jan. 17-20. Of course, the event is also open to the cocktail-loving public.

Combining education with fun are seminars, tastings, evening soirees, after parties and more — all of which will benefit HeartGift San Antonio, a non-profit organization that provides life-saving heart surgery to children in areas where necessary care is unavailable.

“San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2013 will have more to offer than ever before, and will continue to bring the cocktail community together. Last year was a huge success, raising $57,000 for HeartGift, and my goal is to exceed that donation this year,” says Mark Bohanan, owner and executive chef of Bohanan’s Restaurant & Bar

The conference opens Jan. 17 at the Majestic Theater, where ambassadors of select spirit brands will host a number of bars throughout the three levels of this historic building. Accompanying this crafting and serving of specialty cocktails will be jazz from six-time Grammy Award-winner Arturo Sandoval.

The following day brings a full day of classes and parties for cocktail beginners and aficionados as well as the Original Cocktail Competition. In the evening enjoy a Tiki party at El Tropicano/Lani Kai and events at Luke, SoHo and The Esquire Tavern.

Saturday, Jan. 19, will present even more daytime cocktail craft seminars. Enjoy a beautiful view of downtown from atop double-decker buses, provided by City Sightseeing Double Decker, as you make your way to the street-level evening events at Bar 1919, Bohanan’s Restaurant & Bar, and The Brooklynite.

One after-party ticket gives you access to two late-night bashes. Head over to Hyatt Regency San Antonio’s Lone Star Palace, which overlooks the historic Alamo or swing by The Menger Bar where hosts Jason Kosmas and The 86 Company keep the fun flowing.

Round out the Cocktail Conference with a delicious Sunday morning brunch hosted by Tito’s Vodka and a tequila cocktail event at La Margarita Restaurant & Oyster Bar.

Stay tuned for ticket information, a full and detailed class schedule and more information here.

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Cocktail Conference Raises $57,000 for HeartGift

Mark Bohanan (right) presents proceeds from the first San Antonio Cocktail Conference to members of HeartGift. (Shane Kyle/CE Group)

Mark Bohanan, owner of Bohanan’s Restaurant and Bar and creator of the first San Antonio Cocktail Conference, recently presented a check for $57,000 to HeartGift San Antonio to support two lifesaving surgeries for children from disadvantaged countries seeking heart surgeries at Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital.

Other businesses who helped sponsor the conference included SoHo Wine & Martini Bar, Ocho Lounge at Hotel Havana, The Esquire Tavern and Rio San Antonio Cruises.

HeartGift is a San Antonio-based charity that provides life-saving heart surgery to children from countries with unavailable or inaccessible health care. Every child chosen receives state of the art pediatric surgery from doctors Dr. John Calhoon and Dr. Adil Husain and their medical staff free of charge.

During the celebration, attendees celebrated HeartGift surgery recipient’s Wang Nan’s fourth birthday, a birthday she may not have seen had it not been for the funds raised through the first-annual cocktail conference, a four-day educational event about spirits that was held in downtown San Antonio in January.

Wang Nan lives in a remote Chinese village in the Gansu Province. Her family lives in a five-room mud house on two acres of land. Although they farm their land, Wang Nan’s father must go to the Xinjiang Province to do construction work for eight months each year to send home money for the family. Wang Nan suffers from Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect. She was operated on Feb. 3 and she returned home with her mother and their San Antonio host family on Feb. 7.

“The inaugural San Antonio Cocktail Conference was a bigger success than any of us could have imagined,” said Bohanan, whose restaurant is at 219 E Houston St. “This donation simply would not have been possible without the countless number of supporters, partners, presenters and attendees that made this a reality. We are thrilled to provide such a significant contribution to HeartGift on behalf of the conference, knowing that it will save the lives of two children in need.”

Boschetto pizza coming to Gallo

Starting Thursday, Gallo Pizzeria, 164 Castroville Road, will be making pizzas with boschetto, white truffles and portobello mushrooms blended with cheese. According to the pizzeria’s Facebook page, “It’s great for Lent.”

The cost is $19.99 for a large and $15.99 for a medium. Supplies are limited. Pre-orders are accepted.

Call (210) 264-0077 or click here.

Sip a sample of the Veneto at Luce

Luce Ristorante e Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Road, is showcasing the wines of the Veneto at a special dinner set for 5 p.m. March 10.

Executive chef Joe Buonincontri and Italian wine expert Jeremy Parzen are teaming up for the multi-course meal.

The cost is $50 a person. For reservations, call  (210) 561-9700.

Hoist a beer on Texas Independence Day

High Velocity, one of the dining areas at the JW Marriott resort, 23808 Resort Parkway, is having a  Saint Arnold beer dinner on Texas Independence Day, March 2.

The four-course meal will feature matching beers.

For price, time and reservations, call (210) 276-2500, ext. 5835.

Maggiano’s is giving away dinner for 20

Want to win dinner for 20 of your nearest and dearest?

Registration is now open for the Maggiano’s Little Italy “Who’s In Your 20?” sweepstakes. This is a chance for someone to land a private, Italian-style dinner party with 19 of his or her closest family, friends and co-workers. A dinner will be given out at each of the chain’s 44 restaurants.

Anyone who registers will also receive a coupon for a free flatbread at the restaurant. Registration is open through April 1.

To enter, click here. The San Antonio Maggiano’s is at the Rim, 17603 I-10 W. Call 210-451-6000.



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The Next Cocktail Conference Is in the Works

The Cocktail Conference returns next January.

The first San Antonio Cocktail Conference so successful that plans are already under way for the next one. Dates have been set for Jan. 24-27, so mark your calendars and get those taxi company numbers ready on your speed-dial.

We already reported that the conference raised enough money to help two children in need of heart surgery under the auspices of the local charity, HeartGift.

But the conference also generated some goodwill for the city.

Colleen Graham from had great things to say about the city, Texas spirits and more in a preliminary review. She promises more in future postings, but it’s great to see some national press finally pick up on what those of us in town already knew: That our food scene is great. She writes: “Though I was in San Antonio for cocktails, I have to say that this city has impressed me beyond many others in my travels when it came to food. Whether it was the quick breakfast or lunch at one of the small delis or dinner on the River Walk or the phenomenal steaks at Bohanan’s, this is a city that knows it’s food. Seriously, go there with an appetite and a thirst and you will not be disappointed.”

For more on the Cocktail Conference, click here.

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