Tales of the Texans
Tales of the cocktail, the country’s largest and longest running craft cocktail event turned ten years old this year. While people from Houston have been making the trek for years (Bobby Heugel has been the last seven), no prior year has seen as much involvement from Houston based bartenders and beverage industry professionals. Additionally, this was the first year that nationally acclaimed Anvil Bar and Refuge received a nod from the Spirited Awards Committee, making the final four for Best American Cocktail Bar (somehow, they were once again, curiously left off of the best high volume cocktail bar nomination, obviously no one on that board has ever seen that place on a Saturday night.)
However the nods and awards don’t stop there. Leslie Ross, a Mixologist and party host at our beloved Saint Arnold’s Brewery won the Caorunn Gin Storytellers Competition, a contest which asked competitors to incorporate the art of storytelling into their classically inspired original cocktail. Additionally, Anvil took part in this years’ Bar Room Brawl, an event which places the country’s best cocktail bars against one another in a pop up setting where they are judged not only on the drinks but on overall concept.
And yet it keeps going, as the members of Houston LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails); Ornella Ashcraft, Lainey Collum, Sheridan Fay, Lindsay Heffron and Yael Vengroff were all notably busy at various events including the blowout finale known as Juniperlooza held at the Sugar Mill. For those attending seminars, you were likely to find the man known to deplore sleep, Bobby Heugel, speaking on panels such as How to Open Your Own Bar and Not Screw Up ,Fruit of the Still– a look at fruit based brandies, and Agriculturally Anonymous –a look at how spirits and bars can begin to support more sustainable agriculture.
Many Texas bartenders took time to pay it forward at the Pig and Punch volunteer kick off on Tuesday, an event organized by San Francisco’s Bon Vivants where bartenders from around the country spend the day renovating an underfunded high school in East New Orleans. More than a handful of Houston and Austin bartenders were busy painting hallways and classrooms for those less fortunate than themselves.Check out Austin’s Bill Norris of Midnight Cowboy rockin the paint roller (right).
It was such an amazing feeling to see my friends and former colleagues taking such active roles in the premier event for our profession. Here’s to an even bigger turn out next year, and here are a few photos in case you couldn’t make it.