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Sep 21, 2012 08:06 AM

Boston Cocktail Summit October 4-6

Anyone going? Anyone have any inside info?

I know yarm said in another thread that he would be signing his new book on Boston cocktails, Drink & Tell.

I was thinking of buying some tickets or possibly a pass, but don't see much buzz about it and would like some reassurance I won't be the only person there who is just an enthusiast and not in the industry somehow.

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  1. I was initially interested, but he cost of everything put me off, so the wife and I just decided we'd continue to just spend our money on actual cocktails!

    1. It should be a good event even with first time planning issues. As for the prices, they are half what I have paid at Tales of the Cocktail. Costs involved in the event are renting the hotel for 3 days (of a holiday weekend) and getting all the speakers flown in and put up in hotels.

      There will be a mix of bartenders, liquor brand people, cocktail enthusiasts, home bartenders, etc. like any event. I do agree that the buzz has been underwhelming, but some of the talks I'm rather excited about.

      4 Replies
      1. re: yarm

        I went ahead and bought a pass. Considering it's unlikely I will make it to Tales or even the Manhattan Cocktail Classic anytime soon, figured I should at least go to the local event. Some of the talks do sound pretty interesting. Plus I will get to rub elbows with yarm and other luminaries.

        I hope they get decent attendance and are able to pull off the logistics. With all the overlapping events and diverse locations it was almost a logic puzzle to decide which events to get tickets for.

        1. re: nickls

          I think you'll have a good time. As Mr. Yarm said, it will be a good mix of all types of people. I know that I'll most likely be there.

          1. re: JMF

            JMF, cool! I hope to raise a glass with you again at some point soon.

      2. I'm planning to attend a few sessions. Like you I'm a bit perplexed by the way sessions are spread all over town. My expectations are very low, but I'm hopeful for some good content.

        As for price, I personally feel that $25 is rather inexpensive for a 90-minute seminar. I'd have charged at least twice that much were I in charge of the event :-)

        2 Replies
        1. re: davis_sq_pro

          I think one of the reasons that they are spread out across town is that they have space (often from one of the speakers of the talk) to do it at a bar's back room or other to keep down the price.

          I am more upset that the talks are staggered so that they overlap other talks. I'd rather have solid blocks (like 3-4 fixed start times) than talks that start at 10:30, 11, 11:30, 12, etc. so that picking one talk doesn't eliminate your ability to go hear another one. And one of my talks bleeds a 1/2 hour into the Gaz Regan roast (one of the big events of that evening) not to mention transport time.

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            The first listing I saw for the event only listed the price you'd pay for all access pass which was pretty steep. The individual prices are far more reasonable.

          2. Due to an unfortunate family situation followed by an unfortunate work situation I wound up not being able to attend... How was it?

            10 Replies
            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              It was rather good but there was a lot of chaos with them switching venues on the morning of the seminar -- which was annoying since the two hotels were 1.6 miles apart and the shuttle bus wasn't around much). The talks had quality crowds of unfortunately low numbers (average was 8-16 for a room that held 40-50). The tasting room, book signing, and pop-up stores were in Cambridge and most of the talks were moved over to Boston so it was hard to do much in the time between talks unless you had to book back and forth. One day, I think I did over 10 miles of walking alone (one of my talks was at the Citizen).

              With that said, the talk quality was good. The tasting rooms were decent. But the people who did show up were amazing and you had a lot more access to them. Besides the luminaries like Gary Regan, Wondrich, Wayne Curtis, Degroff, etc., there were the distillers from Privateer, Whistle Pig, Turkey Shore, St. George's, etc. who were at several of my events and talks.

              It was a little frustrating that only a couple of people made their way over to the book signing and Boston Shaker store. So instead, I got to hangout and chat with Jim Meehan from PDT, the woman from Royal Rose Syrups, the Boston Shaker staff, and another author or two.

              The evening events and some of the Saturday day ones were better attended. During the day, people worked, and the bartenders in town often had to leave by 2pm or so to open their respective bars by 5pm.

              I think they had some issues with getting enough space in one hotel only, but hopefully they'll fix that next year (Alexei already had a plan on what to do next).

              1. re: yarm

                This all sounds expected for a first time "big conference," but also unfortunate.

                I don't live in Boston anymore, but I have to admit that I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that the participating bartenders couldn't get their shifts covered for one evening for this event.

                Bars in the Boston area are depleted of the top staff for Tales, and in DC one of the higher profile establishments (equivalent to Drink) closed for a couple of days so most of the staff could go down to New Orleans to lend support for their one chance at an award.

                Bad on Boston-area bar managers not to support this conference by working the schedule to get the right people off at the right times. Short term angst would be negated by long term good publicity.

                1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                  One night? More like 4. There was Speed Rack event with tons of bartenders competing, being in the pit crew, serving, and bussing. And this was on the night before the official events started. And the Summit was Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

                  Most bartenders have 2 days off per week and most of the money is earned on Thursday-Saturday.

                  There were plenty of bartenders working the Summit, giving talks, etc. However, as attendees, not as much. I think there were more bartenders up from NYC who were attending than Boston ones attending (as guests, not working the event).

                  1. re: yarm

                    Yeah, many NYC bartenders were attending. The NY chapter of the US bartenders guild sponsored over a dozen to attend, and many also were there because they worked for one or more events or seminars. All told probably 25+ top NYC bartenders were there.

                    1. re: yarm

                      So what was the hot wash/after action impact report?

                      Did local establishments (including staff) gain from the event or did they actually lose money while gaining little new esteem?

                      1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                        I know that Jackson Cannon's bars especially Hawthorne prospered by inviting guest bartenders (such as ones from Manhattan) to run themed nights. It brought people in. Not to mention that they were hosting events there.

                        Other bars that just expected people to show up, were apparently disappointed. To most of the Boston crowd, they could hold off until after the event weekend to visit. To the out of town crowd, there was less buzz about specific events and dates/times to go and they were drawn elsewhere.

                        I'm not sure if that fully answers your question, but this is from information and gossip garnered from bar managers, bartenders, and imbibers.


                2. re: davis_sq_pro

                  Overall I really enjoyed it, but there was definitely some first-time logistical issues as yarm mentioned. When I checked in I was given my tickets, but none of the other items I was supposed to receive, like an updated schedule, event guide, etc. I missed a couple of sessions that I really wanted to see due to unannounced last-minute location changes, which was frustrating.

                  Some highlights: a Cognac seminar and tasting with the BAR founders which featured some wonderful cocktails like a Brandy Crusta made with Martell XO, an amari seminar and tasting, tasting some amazing mezcals, and learning about the history of drinking in Boston with David Wondrich.

                  Final gripe was calling the final Beam party a "BBQ" when the only food available was passed hors d'oeuvres. I think most of the party-type events could have used more food and less booze, especially the way they billed them on the website.

                  1. re: nickls

                    True on the BBQ. We had to depart early to actually eat some food. I'm okay with more booze and less food _except_ when you describe the event with food terms.

                    Nice on the Cognac seminar. The amaro one was opposite another talk but I wished I could have attended it.

                    1. re: nickls

                      I'm with you on the Beam "BBQ", that was no BBQ! The passed around food was pitiful, and no BBQ at all. The Bacardi party had the same problem.

                    2. re: davis_sq_pro

                      As the others mentioned, first time logistical stuff. The shuttle bus driver was incompetent and took the longer way around GPS route because he didn't know the area.

                      But the actual seminars were great. Most were by big name folks who really have it down by now.

                      The tasting events, store, book signings, were not well publiscized and difficult to find.

                      Also events weren't in solid blocks of time but interspersed, making it difficult to get to events, since some ended halfway through others.

                      I think that it will run much better next year, IF USBG Boston can get their act together. Many members seemed to be acting at cross purposes to the event.