Monday, November 10, 2014

:: highlights of thirst boston 2014 ::

Earlier today, the Bartender's Breakfast marked the conclusion of the second annual Thirst Boston, but for me the event ended with the afterparties on Sunday night for I needed to work and open a bar on Monday morning after taking the whole weekend off from Friday evening on. I have only taken a few short moments to reflect on the past few days given the whirlwind adventure between my barshifts on Friday and Monday, and here are some of the highlights:
Best Part of The Thing: The Secret Bar. For the first The Thing, there were three rooms: an entry vestibule, the main hall, and then the #DTO room. This year, there were only two; however, somewhere towards the end of the night, a small window -- something between a coat check or a cafeteria window in style -- opened up and there was Charles Joly serving "A Cocktail." I did see photographic evidence that Jon Santers was making drinks too, but I only caught Charles making an agave Corpse Reviver.
Old Faces: A good number of Boston ex-pats came back to attend and/or volunteer for the weekend. For example, I was impressed that Lea Madda and Chad Arnholt traveled from California to be there and give their time to help out.
Best Recurrent Concept: Pop-ups! The first cool one was on Saturday for the State Lines: A Portland (Maine) and Providence (Rhode Island) Pop-up. Several bars both cities had tables demonstrating their tone, displaying their food and drink menus, and showcasing a trio of drinks to try. Best swag from that event was an Allen's Coffee Brandy knit hat from the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club in Portland. Moreover, on Sunday night was an Amor y Amargo pop-up featuring bartender Souther Teague and the Fernet Branca portfolio (pictured below). The Boston Shaker pop-up store was a great thing for those visiting, but a good deal of us are blessed with having that store so close by and accessible.
Best General Talk: The Re-emergence of Rum. Besides a star-studded cast of characters -- Misty Kalkofen, Charles Joly, David Wondrich, Joaquin Simo, Maggie Campbell, and Wayne Curtis -- it was a great mix of distiller, bartender, and historian that gave a great perspective on the spirit that was a good supplement to last year's Rum: The World's Most Versatile Spirit talk. I will be covering that talk in greater detail soon.
Best Industry Talk: The Three Phases of Hospitality. With Andy Seymour as the spirited moderator, Joaquin Simo, Jon Santer, and Sean Kenyon spelled out great concepts from how your bar is laid out to menu design to help make the guest feel more comfortable. Of course, in addition to how to productively interact with guests to make them feel at home. I won't spoil too much of this talk now, so have patience for when I can do it justice with a long write-up.
Not What I Was Expecting Talk: The Aperitif Hour with Naren Young and Nick Korn. I was expecting more about the history and importance of aperitifs, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it was more about making these drinks special for our guests. From seasonal variations to care in garnish as well as from bottling cocktails to unsung heroes of the aperitif hour like the Jasmine. Naren's point could be summed up in the quote, "Everyone can make great drinks. Remember, we're selling experiences."
Best Snide Comment from Matt Schrage: Yes, this needs to be a category. Matt Schrage, founder of the Mocktail Virgin/Slut blog, at the "From Medicine to Libation: The Art of Preparing Vermouth" seminar commented about my early vermouth blend, "Smells like you're washing your terrier (dog) in Sprite™... Good job, Fred!"
Great Way of Thinking About Cocktails: While Stephen Shellenberger has divided the lot as whether people like the softer taste of Snapple™ or the acid backbone of wine, Diego Loret of Barsol Pisco at "Importing Awesone - The World's Next Great Spirits" made the differentiation of "Do you love green apples or red?"
Blast from the Past Moment: Reaching into the pocket of my smoking jacket that I wore to The Thing and finding the pamphlet guide from the LUPEC's Boston Tea Party speakeasy event from fall 2007. It was LUPEC-Boston's first event and wearing that jacket landed me on the DrinkBoston blog; several of the LUPEC-Boston broads were at The Thing and were quite touched by seeing that keepsake!
Absurd Drink Award: Not sure whether Ran Duan handing me a Piña Colada in a green coconut cup replete with a two foot neon straw in the front room of The Thing or the 50-50 Martini laybacks in the back room of that event.
Surreal Bar Remake: The Absolut/Pernod Ricard afterparty at the Hawthorne where they converted it to a Studio 54 tribute!
Coolest Find: Finding photos of the old carousel Boston that was in Boston (in the hotel Thirst was held in) -- see my Tweet for the image. I knew that there were many carousels in the world and that Boston had one (although the Monteleone one might be the only one left), I didn't realize that I would be in that hotel and in that room this past weekend!
Biggest Confusion: No, it wasn't how to get to Copley with various parts of the Red and Green Lines down for the weekend (thanks MBTA!), but it was in going to work this morning. I tried to catch my wife up on my weekend and was about to head out the door with my trusty backpack that served me quite well all weekend (as well as daily carry to work) when she pointed out that I hadn't picked out or packed a dress shirt, vest, and tie combo. Whoops! I guess that's what too little sleep will do for you...


l33tminion said...

Thirst was a blast this year. I couldn't make up my mind on whether to go until the last minute, but my wife got us last-minute Saturday tickets. Next year I'll have to consider clearing my schedule and getting a whole-weekend pass.

Seems I mostly saw a different set of highlights, but I did see "The Apertif Hour", which wasn't what I was expecting, either. I was expecting it would go more into detail on the variety of spirits used as apertifs. Instead it spent a lot of time on a few classic cocktails and got into a lot of detail about how the apertif fits into the wider context of how that fits into a meal or an evening and the sort of aesthetic experience a bar might be trying to create. The bit about the use of punch (and the actual punch served as the first taste of the morning) was really great stuff.

The "Tales of Tattoo and Tiki Culture" talk was a highlight for me for a few reasons: It was a really great example of branding (rebranding?) on the part of the sponsor, the history was told in an interesting and compelling way, they had a really huge set of nice souvenirs (including tin mugs that they passed out with spiked hot apple cider at the start of the talk), and they served piña colada in fresh pineapples that attendees hollowed out themselves (setting that up was an impressive display of logistics, too).

Only downside was not being able to get into the "Roadhouse" party Saturday night (which ended early due to some permitting issue I don't know the details of). That aside, I thought the conference was really impressively run. My only regret is that I made it to the after-party at Drink with my meager capacity for alcohol well nigh exhausted.

frederic said...

I did make it to Road House, but my uncaffeinated and sleep-deprived body gave out once the band started playing. As I was leaving at 9:30ish, the cops were passing me by... sadly I could not last to the afterparties at Drink and Tavern Road, but I did do the afterparty on Friday and two on Sunday.

I was tempted by the Tattoo & Tiki talk but I opted for the new spirits one at the same time.

I just posted my aperitif hour thoughts and notes.