The Clean Sneak, SACC 2020’s signature drink.
Jason Risner Photography
It’s a good time to be a drinker. It’s also a good time to be someone who makes drinks, sells drinks or otherwise cares about what goes into your glass. Because, in addition to having a bevy of great bars and spirits at your disposal, cocktail festivals and conferences abound, which means it’s never been easier to learn about the trade, network with peers and make some like-minded friends.
Fortunately, many of these events also take place in cities worth visiting regardless of the occasion. So whether you’re a bartender, sales rep, distiller or consumer, you can combine your next vacation with some spirited education—and lots of sponsored happy hours. Now, here are 14 cocktail festivals worth attending this year.
San Antonio Cocktail Conference (Jan 15-19)
Founded in 2012 by local restaurateur Mark Bohanan and late bartending legend Sasha Petraske—he of Milk & Honey fame—the annual SACC has grown from a fledgling startup showcasing the city’s local scene to one of America’s largest cocktail conferences. Join for a few days of seminars, panels, parties and events, and be sure to swing through the tasting room to get a first look at exciting new spirits.
Arizona Cocktail Weekend (Feb 15-17, Phoenix)
Home to an underrated bar scene, Phoenix has also been hosting its annual cocktail fest since 2012. The three-day affair will feature a signature event each night, plus branded happy hours, fun parties and craft cocktail-fueled seminars.
Nightclub & Bar 2019. Photo by Ethan Miller.
Getty Images for Nightclub & Bar Media Group
Nightclub & Bar Show (Mar 30 – Apr 1, Las Vegas)
Each year, thousands of bar and restaurant professionals congregate in Vegas for Nightclub & Bar, an industry trade show and prime networking event that’s now in its 35th year. In addition to educational programs and an always-fun lineup of nightlife activities, the show will host more than 400 suppliers on its expo floor. If you’ve got a product to sell or want to add something new and unique to your establishment, this is the place to be.
Tales on Tour Puerto Rico (April 19-22, San Juan)
After previous stops in Vancouver, Edinburgh and Mexico City, Tales of the Cocktail (the annual New Orleans cocktail conference) is returning to Puerto Rico for another round. With a mission to educate, advance, and support the industry on a global scale, Tales on Tour highlights Puerto Rico’s burgeoning spirits and hospitality industry, while encouraging attendees to give back to the island following Hurricane Maria.
Thirst Boston (April 24-26)
Boston’s annual cocktail conference brings together bar professionals and thirsty consumers for three days of spirited classes and good drinks. Those classes range from beginner-friendly tasting seminars and spirit introductions to more advanced study, like ice carving.
Tokyo International Bar Show (May 9-10)
One of the world’s greatest drinking cities, Tokyo is renowned for its tiny, technique-driven bars and well-executed cocktails. All of that is on display at the Tokyo International Bar Show, which coincides with Japan’s National Cocktail Week. Sip whiskey and other spirits, plus beer and wine, while hobnobbing with top mixologists and an international group of panelists. Go for the education, stay for the bars.
Singapore Cocktail Festival (May 15-22)
Founded in 2007, Singapore Cocktail Festival is the vibrant city’s week-long celebration of all things boozy. Don’t miss the Festival Village, which brings the biggest names in Singapore bartending under one roof to shake up signature cocktails and host masterclasses. And be sure to score a cocktail passport, which is your access to great bars around the city offering limited-time cocktails and special events.
Bar Convent Brooklyn (June 9-10)
This trade-only event brings together bar, restaurant and beverage professionals for an opportunity to network with peers and learn about new trends, techniques and products. Demonstrations and panel discussions are supplemented with hands-on tasting sessions, where you can learn about esoteric spirits and how to use them. Plus, you’ll be in New York, home to dozens of great cocktail bars, so you’ll never run out of things to do.
Tales Of The Cocktail 2017. Photo by Tyler Kaufman/Getty Images for Diageo.
Tales of the Cocktail (July 21-26, New Orleans)
Founded in 2002 as a small walking tour of historic New Orleans cocktail bars, Tales of the Cocktail has grown into one of the world’s largest and most influential cocktail conferences. Each summer, the international bar and spirits community gathers for a week of seminars, tastings, spirited dinners, parties and other events. It’s hot, it’s exhausting, and it’s a ton of fun.
Toronto Cocktail Conference (Aug 10-12)
Canada’s biggest cocktail event is where to go for educational seminars presented by industry leaders, plus cocktail competitions, creative pop-ups, tastings and other fun activations. It’s open to spirits pros and curious consumers alike.
London Cocktail Week (Oct 5-11)
The 11th annual London Cocktail Week will feature industry-focused events alongside consumer-friendly activities. A festival pass grants you £6 signature cocktails served in 300 bars across London, plus access to the Cocktail Village, with 40 pop-up bars, street food and DJs.
Bar Convent Berlin (Oct 12-14)
Founded in 2007, Bar Convent Berlin is the big brother to the Brooklyn-based event. Thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors will gather at the Berlin Expo Center to exchange ideas, showcase new products and highlight international trends. If you’re looking for inspiration or want to workshop a new concept, BCB has you covered. (And if you’d like to hit the Bar Convent trifecta, there’s also a Sao Paolo-based event in June.)
UK RumFest 2019.
UK RumFest (Oct 16-18, London)
UK RumFest brings together more than 400 rums and other cane spirits from across the globe. Trade events include rum focused workshops, seminars and classes, while consumers can enjoy the tasting suites, meet the makers and otherwise absorb the intricacies of this diverse spirit with thousands of other enthusiasts.
Portland Cocktail Week (Nov 8-13)
Portland Cocktail Week is a bartender-focused event where drinks pros can learn, network and advance their careers. The business-oriented programming offers classes in six areas of expertise: anti-waste, applied sciences, bartending/hospitality, bar ownership, bar management and consulting. Best of all, admission is free to bartenders.