In the past couple of years Boston has been experimenting with a couple of different formats for bringing a beverage industry conference to the city that's equal to the level of world-class bars and bartenders we have on hand. In its first iteration last year, Thirst Boston seems to have come pretty close to figuring it out. This year the weekend-long event returns with the same focus on cocktails and spirits, the people that make them both, and, more importantly, the people, like you, who drink them.
The event, which kicks off with an opening night black tie gala on Friday night, has grown, necessitating a move to the Fairmont Copley hotel. For the next two days they'll host a series of lectures, seminars, demos, and showcases all tied to the production, history of, and best uses for the stuff that goes into our glasses. Those range from the historical-minded, like a look at the production of rye from pre-Prohibition to the present, to more hands-on, like a workshop on infusing spirits. Throughout the weekend bars from cities throughout New England like Portland and Providence will host pop-ups onsite, while tastings from distillers from New England in particular, as well as around the world, will show off their goods.
Brandy Rand, one of the organizers, says it's an event designed for everyone with an interest in the bar world. “We're not trying to be Tales of the Cocktail or Portland Cocktail Week, where it's 100% trade and industry,” she says. “With Boston being a small enough community, I feel like people have relationships with their bartenders, there's a closer divide, not like in New York or San Francisco where you might not interact as much with the bartenders.”
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Last year, they drew around 50/50 industry and consumers she said. “It's absolutely an event that encourages people who enjoy going to Citizen and The Hawthorne, and Drink and Tavern Road, and know the bartenders there and get what they're trying to do and want to learn more and have fun.”
Among some of the opportunities for both she highlights include a look into the overlap of tattoos and tiki culture, sponsored by, of course, Sailor Jerry, a history of the martini led by Tavern Road's Ryan McGrale, Kevin Mabry from jm Curley teaching a class on carbonation, and Brother Cleve focusing on the intersection of music and cocktails. On top of the local talent, she says, big national cocktail world names like Dave Wondrich and Wayne Curtis will also be on hand.
“We're trying to make it an experiential weekend,” she says. “Everything is so different, you can kind of really enjoy the weekend and get a different perspective and different experience each day,” from the opening gala, to a dive bar party the next night, or the second annual Bender Blender on Sunday. “Every night you could go out, and for short money, get to have these parties with food, dress up... People love a good theme party, and the best bartenders from all over are going to be at these events.”
One of her favorites, she says, is From Connery to Cruise: Cocktails in the Movies, led by Citizen's Sean Frederick, among others. “It's going to go through everything from James Bond to Cocktail, to The Big Lebowski, and take you through all the different types of movies, watching clips from them as they make the drinks.”
If you go
Fairmont Copley Plaza
138 St. James St.
A weekend long pass goes for $295, while one day passes go for $105. Tickets to any of the individual seminars are also available, any one of which will also get you access to the tasting rooms, and a series of after parties at nearby bars.