6 Don't-Miss Events During AZ Cocktail Week: Feb 16-22
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Phoenix is becoming a bona-fide food-town, "becoming" (present progressive) being the operative word. Exhibit A, for your consideration: the second annual Arizona Cocktail Week, a seven-day series of boozy events -- some educational, others not so much -- bringing some of the biggest names in the beverage industry together in one place: Steve Olson, Dale DeGroff, Charlotte Voisey, Tobin Ellis, H. Joseph Ehrmann, Tony Abou-Ganim and dozens more -- right here. In the little food-town that could.
Courtesy of AZ Cocktail Week
It's going to be a grand time, but if you don't have $295 to spend on a ticket that gets you into everything, you're going to have to make some hard decisions. I've read the Arizona Cocktail Week website, talked to people and dithered considerably. Here are the six events I don't want to miss, arranged chronologically.
Cocktail Carnival: Feb. 16, 6-10 p.m., The Lawn, Hotel Valley Ho, GA (general admission), $55
Courtesy of AZ Cocktail Week
If you do nothing else, you should go to the Cocktail Carnival, which will be the relaxed but lively carnival-like kick-off for the week's events, held on the lawn at the Hotel Valley Ho. Even if all the celeb-mixologists conducting seminars aren't on hand this first night (but I'm guessing LOTS of them will be) local/regional/national talent will show up in droves, mixing and mingling as well as mixing and muddling. Some of the top brand ambassadors in the country will be dispensing spirit samples and/or cocktails, while a handful of cool bars from other cities will be represented as pop-ups, showing off their own signature drinks. There'll be music from Colorado-based Bonnie and the Beard (variously described as "psychedelic desert blues" and "carny folk rock"), a food court, games, prizes and booze-infused cotton candy (because it's a carnival, see?). VIP ticket holders can also attend "Beam and BBQ on the Balcony" for Jim Beam bourbon cocktails and 'cue.
Seminar -- The Perfect Pairing: A Mix Made in Heaven, the Bar or the Kitchen?, Feb. 17, 1-2:30 p.m., Sands Building, Hotel Valley Ho, $65
I started my career-in-eating life as a wine-drinker, so I've never been entirely convinced that cocktails and food are a match made in heaven. Mixologist Richie Moe of Citizen Public House has probably more effectively moved me off my wine-centric stance than anyone else I can think of, thanks to a particular cocktail dinner he and his chef-partner Bernie Kantak hosted last fall. Still, I'd like to learn more about cocktail and food pairing and I can through this seminar, conducted by three outstanding locals: Jennifer English, Jason Asher and Beau MacMillan. Not only will there be food involved (yay!), but the trio will take guide us through classic cocktails and the cuisine that goes with them, signature dishes and why some cocktails don't work with them, original pairings that seem improbable but work, and fundamental pairings that always work -- each section of the four-part seminar offering a bite and a cocktail to go with it. Can't wait!