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Cocktail Week Post Mortem: Bartenders Protest N.O.'s Tales of the Cocktail

Well, the third annual San Francisco Cocktail Week came to an end on Monday with a closing bash at Jardinere. I, unfortunately, was not there, as I was instead actually bartending at Cantina. I pulled three shifts during the week, so my attendance at events was a bit more limited than I would have wished. Nevertheless, I got some sense of what was going on—what worked and what didn't.

I'm happy to say that overall I think the event was a rousing success. Parties were fun. Classes were largely well-attended and enthusiastic. Interesting people came in from out of town to see what was going on. The mood was great. Congratulations to the local bartenders and bar owners who planned the thing.

Perhaps the biggest indication of SFCW’s success is that I heard rumor of schadenfreude coming in the form of tweets by the founders of New Orleans' massive Tales of the Cocktail, who were evidently furious that someone else would have the gall to put on their own festival. Evidently, things got testy as some of SF's more prominent mixologists even cancelled their trips to New Orleans. Some bartenders and spirits experts around the country are souring on Tales’ rapdily growing reputation for profiteering.

But compared to the SFCW of two years ago, when every bar just put a special cocktail on their menu, this thing has really grown and will continue to. I say bring it on, but here  are five modest ideas that may improve things in coming years, as the San Francisco Cocktail Week continues to blossom.

1) Plan a little farther ahead. Alas, SFCW could have been even better if the organizers had gotten the schedule out a little earlier. I heard from both the industry and the consumer side that the final itinerary came out so late that many people couldn't make it work with their schedules. A little more notice next year and the week might even be bigger.

2) Is a week too long? By the look of some of the people who had been attending after-parties each night, it was. Maybe just four or five days of “celebrating” the cocktail instead of seven (which included some serious partying around Bay to Breakers). Or at least include a class about how to deal with hangovers.

3) Education for bartenders too. It would be cool to spend a day or an afternoon dedicated to some useful and hardcore education for bartenders. Maybe a seminar led by an amazing guest speaker or guest bartender.

4) Recognize our allies. Maybe once a year, we bring in a few bartenders from a different city, be it Portland, Chicago, London, Sydney or wherever. They could hold court one or two nights in different places and share a little of their local knowledge and culture with us.

5) Tee-shirts. I didn’t come away with any good SFCW paraphernalia. Was there any? But what about a limited release spirit? Get the Hangar Ones or the 209s or the Anchors or anyone with a still to make a delicious cocktail week spirit that we could buy and drink slowly over the course of the year until the next SFCW.