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Arizona Cocktail Week to Showcase State’s Spirited Side

Published: Friday, February 17, 2012

Updated: Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:02

Arizona is about to embark in a week long spirited celebration of the cocktail.

The first ever Arizona Cocktail Week will run from February 19 to February 25. The event, hosted by Hotel Valley Ho and a number of other local Valley bars and restaurants, will feature a series of seminars, guest speakers and competitions that will amuse and enlighten cocktail enthusiast of every kind, and serve to celebrate the cocktail culture in Arizona.

The idea for AZCW was shaped among a group of local cocktail enthusiasts and industry people. It is modeled after similar events that are taking place across the country that are becoming very popular, says Damon Scott, AZCW's producer. Similar festivals have sprouted across the country in recent years in cities like New Orleans, San Francisco, New York City, Portland and San Antonio.

"We just felt like Arizona – the Phoenix and Tucson market in particular – was ready for a weeklong celebration of cocktail culture," Scott said.

The beverage industry in Arizona has grown in recent years. Since 2007, Downtown Phoenix alone has seen a net gain of over 30 new restaurants, with more slated to pop up in coming years. All sectors of the hospitality industry were affected when the recession hit, but the spirits industry in particular, Scott said, has seen a huge growth since then.

 "We are starting to see a great rise in popularity in things like tequila and whiskey," he adds. "And brands that have been around for years are experiencing a resurgence of popularity."

Although a large part of AZCW is going to appeal highly to the industry professional; the bartender, the bar manager and the beverage buyer, the event will also be quite appropriate and appealing to cocktail enthusiast of all levels, Scott said.

Target demos include the home mixologist, the guy who just likes a good scotch and water and the young enthusiast who doesn't necessarily know what he or she likes, but is willing to experiment new things within the cocktail world.

"We've really tried to gear this event to be appealing to not only the industry, but to a mass market," Scott said.

The local Phoenix market has very much embraced the cocktail. Local bar and restaurant patrons can see evidence of that at places like Canteen, Citizens Public House, Culinary Dropout and Windsors; all venues that have really incorporated the craft cocktail into their beverage menu.

You've heard of craft beer, but what about craft cocktails? According to Scott, the concept is quite the same. Craft cocktail is a term used to describe a finely handmade cocktail created with fresh ingredients such as fruit and herbs. A single drink can take several minutes to complete.

"They're very meticulous," Scott said.

For a first year event, AZCW has lined up a diverse list of sponsors, including Absolut Vodka, Avion Tequila, Makers Mark and Sailor Jerry. Many of these sponsors will speak on behalf of their brand and be able to talk to a targeted crowd of cocktail savvy enthusiasts and trades people in a way they couldn't in any other environment.

Day one through three of AZCW will take place at the Hotel Valley Ho, which will include two "Grand Tasting" days that will allow guests to sample a variety of cocktails. There are also four different seminars on both Monday and Tuesday. "Garden to Glass", "Cocktail Culture & Trends: The US and Beyond" and "I Love Blenders / I Hate Blenders" are just a few of the topics to be discussed.

Additional events throughout the week are listed ranging from guest speakers to a bartending competition and a six course dinner with a cocktail pairing.

AZCW wants to make it clear that this not event designed to see how much you can drink.

"That's really not the point," he said. "It is about getting together to learn something new about the cocktail and its culture. We encourage people to enjoy alcohol and all spirits very responsibly."


Arizona Cocktail Week, complete details at

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