Food & Drink

20 Booze Festivals to Hit Up in 2017

There’s more to attending a booze festival than the unlimited drinks. Depending on which you choose, you’ll stay ahead of the trends, get inspired by innovative bartenders, learn about new brands and bottlings and converse with the mixology world’s top influencers. And you’ll drink. A lot. Graduate from drinking enthusiast to hooch pro by stacking your year with tickets to the country’s best liquor-centric festivals and conferences. From citywide cocktail weeks to celebrations of specific spirits, mark your calendars for the 20 best spirits and cocktail festivals to attend in 2017.

San Antonio Cocktail Conference

San Antonio, TX, January 11-15

This year’s first major cocktail festival is a five-day conference that celebrates the best of Texas’s craft cocktail practitioners, with all proceeds going to children’s charities. Be sure to get tickets to Paired Dinners, where spirits brands team up with local restaurants for intimate cocktail dinners, such as Shuck Shack oysters with Hendrick’s Gin.

Arizona Cocktail Week

Scottsdale, AZ, February 17-24

Escape winter and soak up the Southwest sun with the tastings, seminars, competitions and dinners of Arizona Cocktail Week. Be sure to spend one of your days in the warm outdoors at the Cocktailgating event in the Sands parking lot enjoying demos, carnival-inspired games, and of course, a ton of drinking.

Aprés-Ski Cocktail Classic

Aspen, CO, March 9-12

Enjoy mountain-side drinking, fireside chats and snowy dinner parties at this Aspen festival. After a day on the slopes, warm your soul with endless booze in the Grand Tasting Village.

Bourbon and Bacon Fest

Boston, MA, March 11

Two great vices that taste great together. This event features an afternoon of bourbon and bacon-laden food from Boston’s top restaurants. Once you start having bourbon-glazed bacon and bacon-infused bourbon, you won’t be able to tell where one stops and the other begins.

Whiskey Obsession Festival

Sarasota, FL, March 29-April 1

One of the largest whiskey-focused events in the country, Whiskey Obsession Festival enters its fifth year with a grand tasting of 250 whiskies from around the world, master classes, interactive panels and a cigar-pairing experience.

Whiskies of the World

San Jose, CA, March 30; San Francisco, CA, March 31; Houston, TX, September 14; Austin, TX, September 16; Atlanta, GA, November 4

This traveling event hits five cities in the US this year throughout March, September and November, each showcasing hundreds of top tier whiskies from both small batch distilleries and big name brands.

WhiskyFest Chicago

Chicago, IL, April 21

Hosted by Whisky Advocate, this festival also features hundreds of different whiskies, along with seminars from experts and a commemorative Glencairn crystal nosing glass for each attendee. You might even find some rums, Cognacs and other premium spirits sneaking in.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Miami, FL, April 22-23

Rum gets its day in the sun at this expo, which features bottlings from around the globe. In addition to a blind tasting and awards ceremony from the International Rum Judges, attendees can enjoy Tiki Night at the Mai Kai Restaurant and Molokai Bar, complete with a Polynesian dance show.

Southern Tequila and Taco Festival

Knoxville, TN, April 28

This underrated mini-city in Tennessee fills up the town square not with its state’s namesake whiskey, but with tequila and tacos. Listen to live music, sip on a Margarita and taste all of the tacos competing for best in show.

Thirst Boston

Boston, MA, April 28-30

New England’s cocktail scene doesn’t always get much attention, but this festival is looking to change that. Catering to home bartenders and hospitality professionals alike, the festival includes a Boston bar crawl, a black tie gala and a party dedicated to icy blended drinks.

Manhattan Cocktail Classic

New York, NY, May 12-18

After a three-year hiatus, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic is returning to the big city. Originally formed in 2009, the event has new investors and organizers committed to making the festival bigger and better than ever. While little is known about the details of the event so far, the organizers said there will be a larger emphasis on trade, trendsetting and connecting spirits brands with industry professionals.

New Mexico Cocktails and Culture

Santa Fe, NM, June 2-4

In addition to seminars and tastings, attendees can vote for their favorite food and cocktail pairings at the Chef & Shaker Challenge, or explore the city’s new Margarita Trail on their own. Bars and restaurants throughout Santa Fe will also be featuring signature cocktails throughout the four-day event.

The Hukilau

Fort Lauderdale, FL, June 7-11

Self-dubbed as “the world’s most authentic tiki event,” the Hukilau honors everything tiki, from the food, to the music to the over-the-top cocktails. Sample both classic and modern tiki-tails, hit the pool party, and of course don your most absurd Hawaiian shirt—the fashion competition will be stiff.

Tales of the Cocktail

New Orleans, LA, July 18-23

Perhaps the most well known event of the spirits industry, Tales of the Cocktail brings together all industry professionals, from distillers to bartenders to brand owners to hoteliers to the mixology media. If you’re serious about a career in the spirits world in any capacity, this is the place to rub shoulders with its biggest players while enjoying the best of everything NOLA has to offer.

San Diego Spirits Festival

San Diego, CA, August 26-27

One of the longest running spirits festivals in the US, the San Diego festival enters its ninth year celebrating the whole wide world of whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, tequila and liqueurs—sampled on their own and in countless creative cocktails. We recommend going in with a game plan, or prepare for one heck of a headache come Monday.

Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival

Kansas City, KS, September 7-10

Better known as POPFest KC, this event features one of the biggest bartending competitions of the year. Last year, mixologists were tasked with creating an aperitif cocktail, a dessert cocktail, a Jägermeister cocktail and a cocktail to accompany a grilled shrimp with spicy remoulade sauce.

Midwest/California Rum Fest

Chicago, IL, April 8; San Francisco, CA, September 8

Whether you hit up the Chicago or San Francisco iteration of the event, you’ll be enjoying plenty of rums from some of the best microdistilleries in the world. Hosted by The Rum Lab, these events specialize in under-the-radar rum tastings, both neat and in cocktails.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Bardstown, KY, September 11-17

This town is the beating heart of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so you know the people of Bardstown mean business when it comes to their bourbon. If you’re interested in the history of bourbon and the surrounding culture of the people that distill it, this six-day, southern hospitality-filled festival is for you.

Day of the Dead Tequila Festival

Nashville, TN, October TBD

Celebrate La Dia de los Muertos the only way Nashville knows how: with lots and lots of tequila. Get your face painted like a sugar skull, party with fire dancers and local DJs, indulge in tasty Mexican fare and chat with distillers from a wide range of tequila brands.

The Whisky Extravaganza

New York, NY; Houston, TX; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; Seattle, WA; Los Angeles, CA; Washington D.C.; Fort Lauderdale, FL. Dates TBD.

Taking place in major cities throughout the entire country, these events will feature unlimited whiskey tastings and a complimentary cigar to enjoy with a bottle as the party winds down.