While many people are familiar with wine and beer pairings, some may not consider the different ways that a spirit can accompany their meal. The San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) provides an opportunity to learn more about these pairings in the week leading up to the conference. In fact, there are a total of 14 different paired dinners with spirits ranging from tequila to sherry, bourbon to Scotch.
Beginning Jan. 5, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in many of the smaller paired dinners. These intimate evenings give attendees the opportunity to mix and mingle while hearing the chef and spirit brand ambassador discuss how the food and alcohol play off of each other.
I attended the Macallan dinner at Biga on the Banks last year and was thoroughly impressed. The meal began with a selection of cocktails to set the mood — I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Scotch cocktail but soon learned after having a Blood and Sand. A different Scotch was paired with each course, starting with the youngest aged whiskey until we ended the evening with a Macallan 18-year spirit.
I enjoyed hearing Chef Bruce Auden explain his selections for each of the courses and how they matched up with the profile of the spirit. It was equally interesting listening to Randy Adams, the Macallan representative, explain the process of making Scotch, the characteristics that makes his brand unique and a discussion on the proper way to drink Scotch. Not to mention the fact that Adams brought some rare, unmarked bottles of Macallan for all of us attendees to sample as well.
While there were only a handful of paired dinners last year, the Cocktail Conference upped its game for their fourth installment. You can see the schedule of the paired dinners here. Many are already sold out. If you don’t know where to start, these paired dinners jumped out to me as being worth the cost of admission:
At $65, this four-course dinner may be one of the best buys out there. Roca Patrón is the higher end version of Patrón tequila, made with many of the older, artisan production techniques. In fact, they actually use a two-ton wheel made out of volcanic rock, hence the name roca, to press the agave instead of relying on modern methods. I’d love to see how a steakhouse would pair its courses with tequila.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of what Chef Steve McHugh and the gang does out at Cured, so this five-course dinner paired with Belle Meade Bourbon caught my eye. This bourbon has a history to it — having been produced by Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery in the 1800s, it ceased operations when Prohibition hit. The distillery didn’t reopen until 2012, when two of Charles Nelson’s descendants decided to give it a go again using their great-great-great-grandfather’s recipes.
This event appears to have been sold out, but I noticed that there are still two tickets that are listed as available on the website — beg, borrow or steal to get in. Michter’s is a brand that has been around since the American Revolution. While they’ve changed the location of where the distillation happens, there’s sure to be plenty of folklore and stories told this evening. And with the Bohanan’s crew being the originators of SACC, you’re guaranteed to get a top-notch meal.
The actual week of the Cocktail Conference holds three additional pairings that you may be interested in (note that they are not listed under the “Pairing” section of the Cocktail Conference website). The night of Wednesday, Jan. 14 has both a smaller pairing at Biga on the Banks with Glenfiddich ($125/person) as well as a larger Bourbon and BBQ event at Two Bros. BBQ Market ($60/person). On Friday, Jan. 16 during the conference you can experience Sherry, Oysters and Growers Champagne at The Monterey ($40/person).
Regardless of your particular poison, there is a pairing available for you. Be sure to consult the San Antonio Cocktail Conference schedule in advance, as these events do tend to sell out quickly. And don’t forget that in addition to having an incredible experience, you’ll be doing some good as well—proceeds from SACC benefit four local children's charities.
*Featured/top image: Because this 15-year Scotch was aged in American Oak, Randy told us to load up the glass with ice to release some of the sweet notes. Photo by Garrett Heath.