They often don’t get the same national attention as bars in New York and San Francisco, but Texas cities are producing some of the finest bars in America. With a talented cadre of barmen representing Austin, Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston, San Antonio and even Abilene, it’s becoming increasingly easier to procure a finely crafted cocktail wherever your Texas travels take you. And that fact was on full display this past weekend at the 2015 San Antonio Cocktail Conference.
The conference itself entailed four days of parties, tastings, seminars and general camaraderie, as bartenders, brands and even consumers descended upon San Antonio in thirsty droves. And when the events were over, attendees piled into local bars like the Brooklynite, Esquire Tavern and the newly-opened Last Word to drink good cocktails among their peers. But Texas’s rise among the cocktail ranks was especially evident at Saturday’s spirited party sponsored by the 86 Co.
Held at the historic Empire Theater, drinks were served by five bars representing five cities. From Austin, there was Half Step, the Rainy Street bar from the always lively, always in sunglasses Chris Bostick. Dallas was represented by Parliament, the ambitious cocktail den from Eddie “Lucky Campbell.” From Houston, it was Moving Sidewalk, the fine drinks spot from Alex Gregg and staff and a recent addition to Houston’s already impressive bar scene. From San Antonio, you had The Last Word, a dimly-lit basement bar in downtown that comes from Jaret Peña, who also owns the Brooklynite. And then there’s Public Haus, which hails all the way from Abilene. It’s the just-opened bar from Drew Garrison and team, the same guys behind nearby Abi-Haus.
And that’s just one event. That doesn’t even count the dozens of other barkeeps who worked parties, manned tasting tables and presented educational seminars.
And on Sunday, Texas bartenders put on a good show at the SACC Original Cocktail Competition, too. Dallas’s Daniel Guillen came out victorious, as he impressed the judges with his Improved Menyul Veracruzano, a rum-spiked take on the mint julep.
The 2015 San Antonio Cocktail Conference was a fine showing for the state and a good reminder that some of the bar industry’s best drinks, innovative concepts and exciting personalities can be found in Texas.