Trip Review: the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk & San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2018

On the San Antonio Riverwalk, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference happens every January.

Every January, we make our yearly pilgrimage down the road to San Antonio to check out the fun & frivolity of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. This year was no different, except that we ventured outside our normal Hyatt loyalty to check out a new hotel: the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk.

The Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk is one of two Wyndham properties located in the downtown San Antonio area, and definitely the nicer of the of the Wyndham properties having just been renovated in 2014. The room we got was located on a high floor and was clean and sufficient…just what we needed for a quick weekend getaway.

A standard King room in the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk hotel.

A standard King room in the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk hotel.

Our standard King room at the Wyndham Riverwalk hotel in San Antonio.

The tv and desk furniture in our standard guest room seemed somewhat undersized, given the space.

The bathroom in our standard room at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk was just that — standard.

The bathroom in our standard room was just that — standard.

We decided to book here after considering the available options from a points perspective. We had used up most of our Hyatt & SPG miles last year, and are currently saving SPG/Marriott & IHG points for trips later in the year. That left us with only one real currency to turn to: our Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which we earn whenever we use our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, can be transferred to multiple different travel partners, and/or used in the Chase travel portal. Transferring enough points to stay in the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk or the Grand Hyatt as we have in previous years would have cost us at least 24,000 points, however, due to an excellent reduced cash rate in the Chase portal, we were able to book the Wyndham room for just 20,003 points.

Given that the cash rate for the standard room was $161/night for the dates we stayed, that means using our Chase points saved us $322, for a redemption value of 1.6 cents per night: slightly better than the published “redemption rate” of 1.5 cents per point for Sapphire Reserve cardholders.

Of course, being the planner that I am, I didn’t simply stop exploring the hotel once I had booked it. I made sure to read up on all the latest reviews to see what actual travelers were saying about the hotel…and that is how I learned something very valuable: self-parking at this particular property was a whopping $27/day. Yikes!!! Meanwhile, a public City of San Antonio garage just 2 blocks from the hotel cost only $5 a day. So some additional research and I was able to knock off $44 more off the total cost of our trip.

And all these savings were fantastic, because they essentially paid for our tickets to the 3 events we attended at this year’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference: Friday night’s Prairie on the Waldorf, Saturday’s Tasting Suites, and Saturday night’s Cocktails Under the Sea. I’ve written about the Cocktail Conference before, so I won’t bore anyone with the full details, but suffice it to say it was a weekend spent enjoying all make and model of cocktails, tasting literally hundreds of individual brands of spirits, and sampling food from all of San Antonio’s hottest restaurants.

Chef Jason Dady, owner of 6 San Antonio Restaurants, and me enjoying a joke at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

Chef Jason Dady, owner of 6 San Antonio Restaurants, and me enjoying a joke at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

One of the many Tasting Suites rooms at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

One of the many Tasting Suites rooms at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

A rooftop after-party at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference sponsored by liquor brand Monkey Shoulder

A rooftop after-party at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference sponsored by liquor brand Monkey Shoulder…it was a little chilly for swimming, though!

This year, I walked away noticing three main trends (which I already shared with my Facebook followers…are you following me on Facebook yet?!) The first was the prevalence of “smoked” cocktails. We saw all variety of smoked spirit types in the tasting suites, and many of the cocktails showcased by area bars either used those smoked cocktails or added their own smoke elements.

Secondly, it was hard to miss the increased presence by classic digestif & aperitif brands this year. In place of “house-made bitters” (one of last year’s trends), we saw an endless parade of aperol, pisco, campari, amaro…they were everywhere, and in every drink. Being that I’m not a huge fan of bitters to begin with, I found a lot of these hit or miss, but the many bartenders were clearly jazzed about them.

Finally, we saw a lot of nonsense marketing going on, mostly (though not exclusively) from the larger spirit conglomerates. News flash: alcohol is distilled. So it doesn’t really matter if the water used in the mash has gone through reverse osmosis, or if the corn was GMO-free…because that’ll all filter out through the distillation process.

Overall, though, we had another great year at one of our favorite events of our annual calendar! Tell me in the comments: what’s your favorite cocktail so far for 2018?

Whitney