Trip Review: Our Weekend at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2017

If the slight pounding in my head is any indication, then I’d say we had a very successful weekend visiting the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. This was our 3rd time attending the festival, and it always makes for a great little getaway with lots of fun festivities.

Of course, since San Antonio is just an hour and half or so from Austin, we didn’t need flights for this weekend trip, but we did need a hotel. Since my Hyatt Diamond elite status won’t expire until February (when Hyatt resets their status levels), I opted to take advantage of all the added perks, and booked a stay using points at the Grand Hyatt on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

Room at the Hyatt Grand for the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

King Club-Level Room at the Grand Hyatt.

The Grand Hyatt is the newest Hyatt property in San Antonio, and, at least in my opinion, was a big upgrade from the Hyatt Regency, where we stayed on our anniversary trip last year. Our 2-night stay cost us 24,000 Hyatt points (of which, 2/3 came from work travel the hubby and I had completed this year, and the final 1/3 we transferred from the points horde we earned through the Chase Sapphire Reserve card). Given that this hotel averages about $300/night, that means we got an effective redemption rate of 2.5 cents per point — a good value — and saved ourselves $600.

Bathroom at the Hyatt Grand for the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

Bathroom in the Grand Hyatt. Pretty standard.

In addition, thanks to my Diamond status, we were upgraded from a standard room to one on the Club level, and got to enjoy the Grand Club throughout the stay. We enjoyed complimentary coffee and breakfast there each morning, as well as grabbing free bottles of water and pastries throughout our stay.

Breakfast offerings from the Grand Club before the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

Breakfast offerings from the Grand Club

The room itself was fairly standard, with a great bed; I often find Hyatt beds a little too soft for my liking, but these were very firm and we slept like babies each night. (Though, all the cocktails we were consuming probably helped too.)

Fun cutouts at the Jim Beam "Kentucky Cantina" happy hour at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

Fun cutouts at the Jim Beam “Kentucky Cantina” happy hour

After checking in, we went to pick up our San Antonio Cocktail Conference wristbands, then headed over to a free event sponsored by Jim Beam at one of our favorite riverwalk restaurants, Rita’s on the River. There we had a few different cocktails made by the bartender of Austin cocktail bar Half Step, which is one of our favorite Austin bars.

Once happy hour was finished, we headed over to Rebelle at the Hotel St. Anthony for dinner. Rebelle pretty much tops all the fine dining lists for San Antonio at the moment, and it was great, though we didn’t think it quite topped the great meal we had at Southerleigh during our last visit.

The goat at Rebelle in San Antonio

The goat at Rebelle

To start, we shared appetizers of an Heirloom Tomato Salad and Grilled Texas Quail, followed by entrees of Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast and a Rosemary and Red Pepper Spiced Goat Shank. While all were tasty, the goat was by far the winner — it was rich, unctuous, and just fell apart in your mouth. Probably the best goat I’ve ever had, and I’m not one to shy away from cabrito!

The duck at Rebelle in San Antonio

The duck at Rebelle

Knowing that the next day was going to be a start-to-finish booze fest, we opted to stay pretty low-key on Friday, and just took a leisurely stroll back to our hotel past the Alamo. (Photo at the top!) Along the way, we picked up a bottle of champagne and some chocolate truffles, and spent the rest of the night enjoying our hotel room. 🙂

Cookhouse in San Antonio

Cookhouse in San Antonio

The next day, we headed over to another San Antonio restaurant I’d heard a lot of good buzz about, for lunch at the Cookhouse. I love me some Cajun food, so I was excited to try their po-boy laden lunch menu. Unfortunately, it was more hype than content. While the boudin balls we started with were promising, both the hubby’s muffaletta and my oyster-and-bacon po-boy left quite a bit to be desired. We wouldn’t really recommend it.

Cajun lunch at the Cookhouse in San Antonio during the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

Cajun lunch at the Cookhouse.

After that, it was time to get our drink on. The Tasting Suites, one of the signature events of every San Antonio Cocktail Conference ran from noon – 4. The event consisted of hundreds of spirit purveyors distributing samples of their products across multiple hotel ballrooms and hotel suites at the Hotel Valencia.

We found a couple new varieties that we really enjoyed (above), and I also got to (strangely) take a picture with some monkeys. By the end of the event, despite only sampling a small sip of each variety, we were both very pleasantly sauced. We headed back to our hotel to re-hydrate and squeeze in a small nap before round two.

The tasting suites at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

One of them bit me.

That night, the featured event was the Stroll on Houston Street, and took place at a variety of venues all up and down the downtown street. Unlike the Tasting Suites earlier, where we were primarily tasting the liquors themselves, neat, this event was all about cocktails. Throughout the venues, there were probably more than a hundred different cocktails on offer, and you could try as many different types as you wanted (or just find your favorite and keep coming back.)

Evening entertainment at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

Entertainment at the various venues, tarting in the top right, going clockwise: a brass-funk band, projections and a swing band, fountains and fairy lights, and traditional Irish music.

Local restaurants also participated, serving everything from lobster bisque to street tacos at sampling stations along the way. And of course, there was plenty of entertainment too.  Great bands, flamenco dancers, traditional Irish music, and even a giant projection of Casablanca helped to define each venue along the way and make each space feel unique.

The best part of this event? The ticket was only $85. Can you believe that?!? The only somewhat comparable event in Austin is the now-defunct Le Dolce Vita, and tickets for that usually ran around $300/person. The San Antonio Cocktail Conferece was even bigger and better, and for less than 1/3 of the price. You can see why we like this conference so much! And even better still, proceeds from the event benefit San Antonio children’s charities. It’s a winner all around.

After many cocktails and some dancing, we stumbled back to our hotel at the end of night two. We attended one final event, a low-key brunch at the former Spanish Governor’s Mansion on Sunday morning before departing to come home. But all in all the San Antonio Cocktail Conference was an absolutely wonderful little getaway, and a great way to kick-off our 2017 travels for the year.

Whitney