If attending Barra México is not in the cards this June (remember: next year it will be the first carbon-neutral bar show ever—start your planning now!), you can still get your fill of spirits education, Southwestern food culture, hospitality industry hobnobbing and ardent philanthropy a little closer to home at New Mexico Cocktails & Culture [NMCC], June 1–3, 2018, in Santa Fe.
The three-day event, produced by Natalie Bovis (A.K.A.“The Liquid Muse”), attracts cocktail-lovers and beverage professionals with world-class mixology seminars, tasting parties and a live bartender competition. This year, the festival moves into Drury Plaza Hotel, and discounted room rates are available throughout the weekend.
NMCC is not just for drinkers, however. It is also very much devoted to cuisine as is evidenced by the two biggest parties, Taco Wars and the Chef & Shaker Challenge, which pair the complementary disciplines and which highlight some of the best chefs and restaurants in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. “This is an important element to me because I really want to drive home the concept that mixology is the liquid aspect of the culinary world,” says Bovis. “In fact, I even adjusted my logo this year to read, ‘NM Cocktails & Culture Culinary Festival.’ I want people to come even if they don’t drink alcohol! There is so much great food!”
The festival is also not aimed solely at industry members; consumers are encouraged to get in on the action, too. “While I want bartenders to be involved, attend seminars and expand their communities by attending the festival, the nature of Santa Fe is very consumer-friendly. So it’s a great way to bring the general public into the mix and get them excited about drinking and making cocktails,” Bovis says. “This is just the fourth year of the festival—it is small, intimate; it is not flashy. It does not have all the bells and whistles that the big bar shows or cocktail conferences have. And I think that is exactly what makes it special.
“I love seeing famous mixology educators and luminaries interacting with an everyday person who is thrilled to muddle for the first time,” Bovis continues. “People come up to me months after the festival to tell me how much fun they had, and bar industry people come back year after year. So being able to share liquid love with both groups is my dream come true!”
Here’s what else the Muse and her team have in store:
Who will be Named Bartender of the Year?
“A live bartender competition takes place on Sunday, June 2, at the Bloody Battle & Cocktail Brunch. Three competitors will be selected from their online submissions and then compete live at the brunch for the title of NMCC Bartender of the Year. Beam Suntory’s Bobby “G” Gleason will be the lead judge.”
Taco Wars II: Now With Even More Tacos
“Taco Wars launched last year as the opening party and it was super successful, so it’s back this year. There are a dozen restaurants making their version of a creative street taco in a competition for ‘Top Taco.’ Last year’s winner was Rosewood Inn at the Anasazi. There will also be Tequila Talks by Bobby ‘G’ Gleason from Beam Suntory and Manny Hinojosa from Tequila Cazadores, live mariachis and about eight additional tequila brands doing tastings and cocktails.”
A Few More Industry Luminaries You May Have Heard Of…
“Dale DeGroff is doing a show called Gamblers, Whiskey & Flying Horses, which is part live storytelling and part bourbon seminar. Tony Abou-Ganim is bringing back the Helen David Relief Fund [HDRF] bike ride for the second year. The Santa Fe ride kicks off Negroni Week around the country!”
Rooftop Yoga (the Booze is Optional)
“Mind Body Spirits is a bartender wellness program I founded with Dushan Zaricand Patricia Richards in 2014. We have taken it to Tales of the Cocktail and Arizona Cocktail Week, and it happens yearly at the New Mexico Cocktails & Culture Festival. This fourth edition will include yoga with a live cellist atop the Drury Hotel, which has a stunning view of Santa Fe. This is offered free to any service-industry worker—bartender, dishwasher, host, busser … They are all welcome to enjoy yoga. We offer fresh fruit smoothies at the end with ‘spiked’ options from Amaras Mezcal, Effen Cherry Vodka, Jägermeister and OM Liqueurs.”
Industry Discount Alert!
“I offer 50 percent discount on all festival events to service industry professionals. The prices are already very reasonable at $30 for a seminar, but I wanted to make learning accessible to everyone and not have price be an issue. I also offer USBG members free entrance to Dale DeGroff’s Gambling, Whiskey & Flying Horses show and bourbon seminar. I want them to be inspired and for the room to be filled with people who may not have yet met Dale, but who want to!” (To claim, use the code “bartender” when you purchase tickets, and use the code “USBG” exclusively for DeGroff’s seminar; plan to show proof of membership.)
Those Metal Straws Tho…
“OM Liqueurs is providing metal straws to all attendees. We have been giving them to consumers and bars since early 2017, and it’s something we are proud to do. There is also a Native American college student who started Strawless Santa Fe and she will have a table at the festival asking for people to sign her petition to reduce plastic usage in Santa Fe.”
Three Philanthropic Efforts
“This is very important to me. The festival itself is not a ‘nonprofit’ event, but I donate a portion of proceeds to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, Cooking With Kids, and the Helen David Relief Fund for bartenders affected by cancer. These three organizations mean a lot to me, personally, as I am a devoted animal advocate; Cooking With Kids teaches children in underserved neighborhoods about nutrition and cooking; and Tony’s HDRF supports bartenders facing breast cancer. Not only has cancer touched everyone’s life in one sad way or another, but Tony has touched everyone’s life in the most positive of ways. So supporting the wonderful cause he created is doubly satisfying.”
Tickets available here.