In the words of Oprah, "Chicago, you get a Cocktail Summit!" Or something like that. Heading to Logan Theatre on May 22 and 23, the inaugural Chicago Cocktail Summit will bring together beverage enthusiasts and experts for seminars, demos, tastings and panel discussions dedicated to the art of imbibing.
The Summit will be divided between two days: the first focuses on consumers and the second aimed at industry professionals. The former will include programming aimed at armature to experienced cocktail-makers with DIY bitters demos, cocktail history lessons, and drink-making instruction. The latter will highlight the ins-and-outs of owning or operating a bar, including how to create crystal-clear ice, modern bartending techniques, and how to utilize social media to build brands. These will be hosted by the likes of Imbibe editor Paul Clark; Dogma Group's Alex Renshaw, Clint Rogers and Brian Sturgulewski; Scofflaw's Danny Shapiro; and Dark Matter Coffee's Jesse Diaz.
Anyone familiar with the liquor industry knows that Chicago is a little late to the game in terms of multi-day cocktail festivals (see Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, The Manhattan Cocktail Classic in New York City, and Portland Cocktail Week). The idea of one centered on Chicago's booming cocktail scene has been thrown around for years, but it wasn't until The Whistler's Billy Helmkamp took the lead that it became a reality. He enlisted the help of Erik Westra, owner of Westra & Co. event production company in Minneapolis and former head of promotion and publicity at Empty Bottle, to produce the Summit.
"We're not trying to replicate Tales, The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, or any of these large destination-type events. We're really just looking to do something on a much smaller scale featuring Chicago talent, Chicago bars, and restaurants," Helmkamp says. "Our audience for this is Chicago. It's for people sitting on both sides of the bar — the person in the bar stool ordering a cocktail and the person across the bar making that cocktail."
Tickets go on sale April 1. One-day passes cost $125, which include first pick of seminars as well as access to tastings held in the theater's lobby and lounge. In addition to the formal event, bars and restaurants around the city will be hosting cocktail parties, spirited dinners, and other boozy events. The full schedule will be listed at cocktailsummit.com.