Stressing hospitality: While there were plenty of seminars on technique and history, there were many on not only bartender-guest interactions but that of restaurant/bar staff with each other. While I did not hear key note speaker Danny Meyer speak, plenty of others also dealt with this topic. Pamela Wiznitzer during All the Bar is a Stage stressed hospitality by starting with not superstar bartenders but by choosing a "family" that supports each other as well as the guests. During Strong Opinions, Erick Castro retold a story where one of his bartenders asked if and where he should get a second job; he surprised the bartender by not mentioning another craft bar but a "Sports bar. You learn how to get regulars to see you, not your new amaro and gadgets."
Bumping into old friends: I am glad that I had the opportunity to run into my first bar mentor, Sam Gabrielli. I remember some of the early advice that Sam gave me related to the above hospitality point, but Sam said it so eloquently with, "Don't be an asshole!" (before explaining it better, that is). I also got to meet up with my old Cocktails in the Country roommate Christopher James, and I had a chance to hangout over beers and later interview writer-blogger Paul Clarke (not over beers). While most of our interactions have been via blogging, it still truly feels like hanging out with an old friend while with Paul, and it is a pleasure to hear his positive outlook on life (hint: buy his new book).
The Daiquiri Time Out makes even bigger waves as it drives off that bridge: Andrew Deitz has taken the Daiquiri Time Out phenomenon from a personal pastime to larger one with events at Boston Thirst. This year, the DTO stepped up from being a Boston thing to a national or international one as Tales of the Cocktail threw a large DTO-themed event with rum and cachaça producers paying tribute.
Randomness at sponsored parties: The Hendricks Gin area of the William and Grant party was indeed surreal and absurd. Another of my favorites was the 610 Stompers, a bunch of in and out of shape hipsters who do choreographed (but not necessarily well synchronized) dance routines for Mardi Gras and other, and last week they performed at the Bacardi event. And at the Diageo "Backyard House Party" (which was held in a large warehouse), there was a mechanical bull. Matt Schrage pulled me in line; while there is no video of Matt since he split his pants getting onto the bull and left, Ben Sandrof shot this clip. I never appreciated how hard it would be to get on the bull, but enjoy:
More nonalcoholic and low ABV beverages options: Everything from Perfect Puree smoothie bars which came in handy when I did not have time for breakfast were probably much better for me than some of the boozy early morning booths from previous events. Bars and events definitely seemed to have more low alcohol offerings so that you could keep drinking tasty beverages without being wrecked for the following day's activities. Cobblers were big as were other vermouth and fortified wine-based concoctions. And for Pig and Punch this year, the heat index was at 108°F which made it too hot for me to drink sweet punches, so I stuck to the nonalcoholic offerings to prevent myself from sweating myself into dehydration.
Latitude 29: Yes, I already mentioned this place in the Tiki part above, but it was the only other place besides the Avenue Pub that I returned multiple times (save for Cane & Table, but the second and third times were for pop-up events). Whether it was watching Beachbum Berry garnishing drinks or having the staff know my name by the second visit, I was definitely impressed. Beautiful drinks and decor definitely made for this to be a major hangout spot during Tales.