With late hours, double shifts, and juggling three jobs, you'd think that your Bartender's wouldn't have time to relax. You'd be right, mostly. Once a year Hospitality professionals from across the country descend on San Diego for three days of booze fueled fun, sponsored by some of the biggest brands behind the bar. Despite only one day actually being on the weekend, this event is so named because Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are apparently the bartender's weekend. Events are spread out throughout the day, usually starting at 10am and ending around 2am. Each event a unique universe in and of itself. Westland Whiskey hosted Bartender's Weekend attendees at the famous Seven Grand’s San Diego counterpart, Fernet Branca released a small amount of their coveted challenge coins (much like the military versions, but for the bar industry), Espolón Tequila, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, and Redemption Whiskey hosted cocktail competitions with some of the best bartender's from around the state.
Spread out over three days, each day was located in a different part of San Diego with most events within walking distance to each other. This is the fifth year of Bartender’s Weekend and it was themed around “Top Gun”. Most brands didn’t theme their events, though there were a few that did. They gave out dog tags, and aviator shades. Beam Suntory had a Tom Cruise impersonator at a Top Gun themed photo booth, and Cutwater Spirits and Backbar Project had flight deck operators directing you into the bar.
Sunday, the big draw was the annual release of Fernet’s Bartender’s Weekend coin at the Coin-Op in the Gaslamp. The coins are released in small batches, usually 100, and work like their military counterparts. After that Beam Suntory hosted the official welcome party for Bartender’s Weekend at the Air and Space Museum, with cocktails prepared by some of San Diego’s best!
Monday, Westland American Whiskey hosted a coffee, doughnuts, and whiskey pop up at Seven Grand where attendees got a chance to try some Barrel Conditioned Coffee. Then later in the evening Woodford Reserve and Espolòn hosted their cocktail competitions showcasing the best bartenders in San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles at Espolòn and San Diego for Woodford.
Tuesday was the final day, of “the weekend”, with smaller, more relaxed events and less big parties. Ilegal Mezcal took about 30 people on a sunset cruise around the San Diego bay, Avion had the “Highway To The Shaker Zone” pop up at the Firehouse in Pacific Beach, and Lillet partnered with Absolut Elyx to host a brunch at the Waterbar. The highlight of the evening however, was William Grant and Son’s closing party takeover of Polite Provisions with BlackTail and Dead Rabbit that doubled as the launch of their newest expression of Tullamore DEW, XO which is finished in rum casks.
In closing, if you like fun, making new friends, or getting more brand goodies than you will reasonably ever need, than Bartender's Weekend or Weekend as I've taken to calling it, is definitely one of the not to miss cocktail events of the year! I certainly cannot wait to go back next year!
The Whiskey Somm