Looking ahead to spring, the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, which will take place April 25-27 in Austin’s Butler Park, is gearing up for a full slate of cooking demonstrations, interactive fire pits, live music, and wine-and-cocktail tastings featuring internationally known chefs, sommeliers, and culinary personalities.
I’m bellied up to the oval mesquite bar at El Monumento restaurant in Georgetown, waiting for my perfect negroni—an astringently bittersweet concoction whose murky history places its first appearance in Italy around 1919—as bartender and resident hooch historian Jeremy Corn conducts an abridged version of his monthly “Mixology 101” class. Golden, late-afternoon sunlight streams through floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a patio scattered with tile-topped tables and broad orange umbrellas, and the adobe-like, rammed-earth walls enhance the warm ambiance. “I call this the tale of two negronis,” Jeremy says, pouring equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in a vintage rocks glass, then adding a half-moon of orange peel and some ice.
Every July, New Orleans throws an event called Tales of the Cocktail, a five-day celebration of fine drinks and the people who love them. Likewise, New York City stages the Manhattan Cocktail Classic each May; and in March, Aspen holds its annual Après Ski Cocktail Classic. It seems that from San Diego to Kansas City to Atlanta, people gather to acknowledge these heady days of craft cocktails. Texas’ big event is called the San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC), and this year it takes place January 16-19.