Here’s Your Guide to Thirst Boston 2016

Including a New England bar crawl on Saturday night, accessible on the T.

Thirst Boston

Thirst Boston. / Photo by Natasha Moustache

The third annual Thirst Boston cocktail festival hits town this weekend with four nights of craft cocktails, education, and general debauchery—and we’d say you deserve a few drinks. Things kick off in Beacon Hill Friday night with the black tie gala the Thing, and moves onto the Boston Center for Adult Education for a weekend of hands-on mixology seminars, panel discussions, and networking.

If you’re a cocktail fan rather than an industry insider, you’ll want to keep Saturday night free for the non-ticketed State Lines events. Some of New England’s best talent is popping up at bars around Boston, including the Hawthorne and Wink & Nod. Imagine going on a bar crawl from the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, to Highland Brass Co. in Waterbury, Conn., to Moxy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, without leaving the Red Line.

This year’s festivities are produced by industry vets Maureen Hautaniemi and Nick Korn (Offsite), so bring a courageous and curious liver. Below are the details:


“The Thing” Opening Night Gala

Start strong with tipples from the big players on Boston’s cocktail scene. There will be artfully prepared drinks from 30 leading bartenders, including Sam Treadway (Backbar, Ames Street Deli), Will Thompson (Yvonne’s, Ruka), and Naomi Levy (formerly of Eastern Standard). Also behind the bar is James Wallace of Brookline, winner of Thirst’s first-ever Best Home Bartender Competition. Connoisseurs shouldn’t miss the VIP hour with live piano music, oysters and caviar, and exclusive access to five featured bars.

Friday, May 20, 8 p.m.-midnight (VIP hour begins at 7 p.m.), the Hampshire House, 84 Beacon St., Boston, $95-$125.

New England Craft Showcase

Spend the afternoon sampling and sipping drinks from 18 regional craft producers, including Damnation Alley, AstraLuna, and Dovetail Sake.

Saturday, May 21, 3 p.m.-6 p.m., Boston Center for Adult Education.

State Lines: New England in your Backyard

A few of the greatest bars in the region are partnering up with local spots to bring their style and skills to the drinkers of Boston. Can’t get up to Portland as much as you’d like? The Hunt & Alpine Club is shaking things up at Silvertone. The Baldwin Bar will be at the Hawthorne, in case you’ve never convinced a designated driver to take you up to Woburn to try Ran Duan’s famed concoctions; Armsby Abbey’s bartenders are mixing drinks at Audubon, and more. Find the full list of pop-ups on Facebook, and create your own citywide New England cocktail crawl.

Saturday, May 21, 8 p.m-11 p.m., various locations.

Blender Bender

This Sunday bash is back for the third time, with 12 teams led by top New England talent throwing down their best cocktails. Guests will get to vote on their favorite concoction, so really, no one loses. Team captains include mixologists like Fred Yarm (Loyal Nine) and Tainah Soares (Trina’s Starlite Lounge), and visitors Jesse Hedberg (The Eddy in Providence) and Roger Gross (Highland Brass Co. in Waterbury, Conn.).

Sunday, May 22, 8:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m., Whiskey Saigon, 116 Boylston St., Boston, $50.


Craft Cider: From Orchard to Glass
Saturday, May 21, 10:30 a.m.-noon
Eleanor Léger, founder of Eden Specialty Ciders, leads this seminar on different styles of craft cider, how they are produced, and how to pair the drink with food. Guests can also taste a selection of local brands.

Better Together: Pairing Food with Cocktails
Saturday, May 21, 12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
With wine pairings nearly ubiquitous and beer dinners making serious inroads, it’s time cocktails got in on the food game. Ashish Mitra (Russell House Tavern) and Dan Lynch (Blue Dragon) will lead attendees through a tasting of three Junípero Gin cocktails, each paired with a dish that highlights the botanical flavors.

Entertaining Like A Pro
Saturday, May 21, 3:45 p.m.-5:15 p.m.
Learn how to make a variety of cocktail formats at home, from made-to-order classics like an Old Fashioned to larger pitchers for a group. Tucker Reeks, Boston’s Brown-Forman brand manager, and Ándrea Pentabona, bar manager at Red Bird, will lead the hands-on class—and provide the Old Forester Whiskey.

Nix the Mix: Margaritas from Scratch
Sunday, May 22, 12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m. or 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
In this class, “the Tipsy Texan” David Alan of Patrón Spirits Company will discuss the history of the margarita, taste variations, and lead guests in a shake-your-own demonstration of proper technique.

Creating and Catching the Rising Tide of Cocktails
Monday, May 23, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
With the help of an expert panel, Ian McLaren, advocacy director for Bacardi USA, will discuss how and why some cities, bars, and bartenders have risen to the top. With examples from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, this seminar will map out what it takes to succeed in modern bartending, regardless of your home base.

Keeping Boston Talent(ed)
Monday, May 23, 12:45 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
Join an open conversation about how Boston can holistically grow its cocktail scene. Drew Cesario of Absolut Elyx will lead the panel discussion, along with former No. 9 Park bar manager Ryan Lotz, who’s opening Bar Mezzana with fellow Barbara Lynch Gruppo alumni later this year; Treadway, Thompson, and more.

Thirst Boston, Friday, May 20-Monday, May 23, various locations, $105-$295,