A Toast to Cocktails & Culture

Lynn Cline - May 15, 2018

Expect to have your thirst quenched and your spirits elevated

Raise a glass to creative craft cocktails and toast New Mexico's rich and unique culture during the 4th Annual New Mexico Cocktails & Culture Festival, held June 1-3 at the Drury Hotel on the Plaza.

Organized by Natalie Bovis, a Santa Fe native who is listed among “Four Women Leading the Liquor Industry” and “100 Trailblazing Women in Hospitality,” the festival draws hospitality professionals as well as those who simply love cocktails and dining. The spirited weekend is brimming with mixology seminars, tasting parties, food and cocktail challenges, entertainment and storytelling and much more, including a rooftop yoga session with live music and spiked smoothies. Expect to have your thirst quenched and your spirits elevated.

The fun kicks off with New Mexico Cocktail Week, which Bovis founded as a lead-in to the festival. From May 25 through June 2, featured bars and restaurants around the state will offer a signature cocktail and guests who try them can then vote on the festival website for their favorite. The winner of the Cocktail of the Year award will be announced Sunday at the festival's final event, the Bloody Battle & Cocktail Brunch, where a live competition will decide who earns the Bartender of the Year award.

Before that takes place, there's a barrel of fun to be had, starting with the festival's Taco Wars on Friday, from 6 to 9 pm. You'll feast on street tacos that likely surpass any tacos you've ever tried, made with creative ingredients and flavors designed to win the Top Taco award, chosen by the guests. Ten chefs from Santa Fe and Albuquerque's top restaurants will participate this year, including El Farol's Shane Alexander, Eloisa's John Sedlar and La Plazuela at La Fonda's Lane Warner, so you know the competition will be tough. It's all for a good cause, as a portion of the ticket sales, plus money on behalf of the winning chef, will be donated to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.

Sink into Saturday with Mind, Body and Spirits, a yoga session at 10 am on the Drury Hotel's Bar Alto rooftop, where a live cellist and a yoga workout will sooth your spirits, along with those spiked smoothies. You'll enjoy inspirational views as you work out, and take in some wellness talks.

Then it's a day devoted to mixology seminars, such as Master Mixologist Bobby Gleason's hands-on seminar on the ins-and-outs of mixology, from 1:30 to 2:45. A festival fave, Gleason returns for his fourth consecutive year to teach the history, techniques and recipes of some of the world's most legendary cocktails. If you thought you knew how to make a great Manhattan, Margarita, Whiskey Sour or Daiquiri, be prepared to think again. Other seminars include “Nix the Mix” with David Alan of the Patron Spirits Company, who explores the history of the Margarita and demos the proper technique for making one, and “Overstepping the Boundaries of Normality” with globetrotter Mattias Dylan Horseman, who leads you on a journey of unexpected flavors in the world's cocktails.

Happy Hour, from 5 to 6:30 pm, is devoted to “Gamblers, Whiskey & Flying Horses.” This presentation is hosted by James Beard award-winning Mixologist Dale DeGross, who will celebrate the history of Bourbon Whiskey, horse racing and the pioneers of the great American spirit. You'll sample whiskey cocktails created through the ages to help bring his stories to life.

Saturday night brings the popular Chef & Shaker Challenge, in which 16 teams of lauded chefs and bartenders present their innovative food-and-cocktail pairings in pursuit of the People's Choice and Judge's Pick awards. Major contenders include the Coyote Cafe, La Boca, Arable, El Farol, Eloisa and Johnny Vee of Las Cosas Cooking School. A portion of the ticket sales will support Cooking with Kids and a live auction will benefit the Helen David Relief Fund.

The Cocktails & Culture Festival winds down on Sunday with the Helen David Relief Fund Bike Ride, led by The Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, a pioneering bar professional and acclaimed author who created the fundraising bike ride to provide economic relief to bartenders facing breast cancer. The 30-mile bike ride departs from the Drury Hotel at 9 am and finishes at the Bloody Battle & Cocktail Brunch, where participating riders are admitted for free. The brunch, held from noon to 3 pm, includes live music and the live battle for New Mexico's Best Bartender Award.

For the full festival schedule, as well as tickets, visit: http://nmcocktailculture.com