Cocktails have enough of an aura of romance and debauchery that you'd assume a cocktail conference would also be romantic and debaucherous. And there are certainly components of the Golden State of Cocktails, the cocktail conference currently taking place in Los Angeles, that fit that bill. The opening party, put on by Pernod Ricard, was held at the opulent Paramour Mansion in Silver Lake. There was a lot of booze, a band, and quite a bit of impressive taxidermy involved.
But much of the conference, which is mainly being held in the L.A. Times building, is very much like a congregation of any group of professionals. Apart from all the creative facial hair and tattoos, it might as well be a gathering of accountants. Except that accountant conferences probably don't have multiple liquor stations peppered throughout the proceedings.
But where other cocktail conferences (most notably, New Orleans' Tales of the Cocktail) aim to please both the bartender crowd and the drinking public with programming that veers towards booze education, the seminars at the Golden State of Cocktails are very industry-focused. The aim is to provide practical advice to people in the bar industry and thus sessions focus on topics such as how to find investors, how to open bars, and maximizing efficiency in your bar design.
In a session yesterday about the experiential side of the bar business (We Don't Just Sell Cocktails! We Sell an Experience!), the owners of The Spare Room and the brothers behind La Descarga, No Vacancy, and Harvard and Stone discussed how they give their venues added value in terms of design and entertainment.
“We're giving people new ways to interact,” one of the Houston brothers said. “Alcohol is the great social lubricant, but sometimes it's not enough.”
During the Q&A part of the session, a woman asked: “How do I get to where you guys are? I have my idea, I have all the passion. How do I make it a reality?”
“The short answer to that,” the moderator said, “is that there are whole other sessions dedicated to that exact topic.”
The Golden State of Cocktails wraps up this evening, Jan. 30, with a grand finale party at Union Station, which is open to the public, though how to buy tickets is not clear from the event website. You can try to figure it out here.