Started by Bryan Townsend of The 86 Co., the Ultimate Cocktail Experience is an annual showcase featuring the best bartenders from across Texas and, increasingly, the country. On September 30, they’re gathering in Downtown Dallas’s Klyde Warren Park, where they’ll be shaking up drinks for a crowd—and a cause.
The charitable pop-up event brings together bartenders, brands, distributors, and throngs of consumers to benefit Trigger’s Toys. The organization is dedicated to reducing the financial and emotional stress placed on chronically ill children and their families by providing financial assistance and supplemental therapy to those in need. So it’s an easy organization to root for.
Last year’s event raised more than $200,000, and this time around, they’re hoping to exceed that goal.
This year’s event will include six unique bar concepts, each representing a different part of the world, and each tasked with producing a menu of innovative drinks—including one classic cocktail and one non-alcoholic option. Bar captains and featured drinks go like this:
Mexico City: Brad Hensarling & Megan McClinton (Margarita)
London: Omar Yeefoon (Gin and Tonic)
New Orleans: Keisha Cooper (Sazerac)
Hong Kong: Robbie Call (Rob Roy)
Casablanca: Andrew Stofko (Mule)
Havana: Ravinder Singh (Daiquiri)
Joining the local barkeeps will be other talented bartenders from around the country, and the world, including: Ash Hauserman of NYC’s Blacktail, which recently won Best New American Cocktail Bar at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, and Iain Griffiths from London’s Dandelyan, which was named Best International Hotel Bar and Best Cocktail Bar in the World. Joining these two will be Ezra Star from award-winning Drink (Boston), Mitch Bushell, the LA bartender formerly of Melbourne’s Black Pearl, and more.
It should be no surprise that the hospitality industry is a charitable one. After Hurricane Harvey, bars all over Texas rallied support and raised funds for the relief efforts. And on a daily basis, bars, bartenders, restaurants, chefs, and like-minded organizations dedicate themselves to giving back.
Houston’s OKRA Charity Saloon opened in 2013 with a unique concept. For each drink purchased, guests receive one vote to cast for one of four local charities selected by OKRA members. At the end of each month, the charity with the most votes receives the proceeds. Charities rotate each month, and to date, the initiative has raised nearly one million dollars.
New York’s Coup, established this year, is an East Village cocktail bar that donates 100% of its profits to at-risk charities, organizations, and campaigns.
At San Francisco’s Trick Dog, the meticulously-crafted menus are prized treasures. They change twice per year, with the last iteration featuring murals from local artists, and the current version modeled after a children’s book, complete with rhyming poems. In each case, proceeds from menu sales benefit local non-profits.
Speed Rack is a bartending competition created by and for female bartenders that shines a light on talented women in the industry while raising money for breast cancer research, education, and prevention.
The point is, this industry gives a damn. And the Ultimate Cocktail Experience is a prime example of bartenders banding together to support a worthwhile organization and—in typical fashion—ensuring that everyone has a good time while doing so.
“Through the Ultimate Cocktail Experience, we’re proud to offer our community a unique way to experience the talents of our service industry while giving back to an organization that is near and dear to our hearts,” said Townsend. “We’re so thankful to the bar and restaurant industry, as well as the brands, donors and friends who will gather together to enjoy great drinks, but most importantly, to support a cause that gives back to hospitalized children and their families.”
Get your tickets here for the September 30 event, and enjoy a few cocktails for a good cause. Until then, here’s a taste of what you can expect.