Thirst Boston is not your average conference — the three-day cocktail powerhouse adds a twist to standard offerings with a full-pour of booze-related education and events. On Friday, April 26th, Thirst returns, giving Boston’s best bartenders and most enthusiastic bar flies a chance to mix and mingle at the Boston Center for Adult Education. The schedule of hands-on seminars and evening imbibery quenches all, pardon the pun, thirsts whether you usually find yourself behind the bar or belly up to it, or both.
Bostonians have Maureen Hautaniemi and Nick Korn of the catering and events company OFFSITE to thank for the liquor-licious conference, and their dedicated team. “I couldn’t ask for a better team, quite honestly,” says Hautaniemi. “I’m very proud that many of them are also some really bad-ass ladies. We’re chock-full of lady power over here at Thirst which is always awesome.”
This year will be Thirst’s sixth and, like any good tipple, the ingredients may rotate but the proportions are just right. “Last year we were really able to find our stride and continue improving upon a model that’s proven successful,” says Hautaniemi. Changes for this turn lie in the content: a roster of educational classes that read like a barometer of the beverage industry. One of the up and coming trends comes from way up — a class on favorite whiskeys from the north, cleverly named “The Eh, B, C’s of Canadian Whiskeys.” There’s also how-tos on cocktail batching (which Hautaniemi has put to use recently: “I got married last year and used a lot of my batching skills to prepare for that”) and “The Mad Science of Chocolate and Booze” which teaches attendees the art of spirit-filled chocolate truffles. “I always love any of the hands-on classes that are held in the BCAE’s kitchen,” says Hautaniemi, because participants get to “learn a new skill, take it home, and practice it immediately.”
For first-timers to the festival, Hautaniemi recommends Saturday night’s State Lines shindig, which features bar folk and bevs from all across New England with spirit tastes and carnival games. “It’s a really lovely way to walk around an event and get exposed to places that you can visit that are all within just a few hours’ drive of Boston,” she says. “And a way to kick off your summer vacation research.”
One of the more memorable happenings in the past years has been a themed iteration of Sunday night’s slushie-sloshie Blender Bender. The tongue-twisting Gender Bender Blender Bender was part of the Thirst offerings two years ago: “I was nervous about but it was so amazing to see the community support that initiative and that scene. And it’s really enabled us to kick off the costume element of the Blender Bender.” This year, Thirst is encouraging both guests and drink-making participants to come decked out for an Intergalactic Blender Bender; best-dressed audience member gets a prize and every audience member gets to sample frozen drinks from some of the most-skilled mixologists in the city.
If that doesn’t have you convinced, what about the Bitters Boutique, an activation (on-the-house for ticketholders) taking place every day in the lobby? Guests are encouraged to try various bitters, test them in an Old Fashioned, and expand both their palates and their home bar repertoire. Or, add some bivalves to the mix with “New England’s Best: Oysters and Gin,” matching martinis and more with the seabed snacks. (For even more shellfish/swizzle happenings, mark your calendar for OFFSITE’s September 8th “Boston Oyster Bash,” where raw bar and liquor bar combine.)
Thirst classes can be purchased individually, or as a package, and the list of liquor-y offerings lives here. Seminars are selling out —and don’t forget the nighttime activities — so get your tickets before last call to make sure you get a glass.