Honolulu…what a great way to kick-off the 2016 Regional Conferences!
To get things started, we headed to James Beard Award winning, Pig & The Lady for cocktails and dinner sponsored by Bacardi. We had a chance after dinner to visit a few notable bars during the Beam-Suntory Pub Crawl. Stops included Bevy, Murphy’s (an Irish Pub in Hawaii!), and, of course, Pint & Jigger.
Monday morning, we headed to Honolulu Coffee Co. for a much appreciated tour and tasting. We learned about cupping, roasting and had the chance to taste through their portfolio. Now, fully caffeinated, we headed to the Ko Hana Rum Distillery, where we were greeted with a glass of fresh cane juice. In addition to some amazing agricole rum, Kohana is working to address some of the problems that Hawaii typically faces with importing produce by farming lettuce. They are also grow 30+ varieties of heritage sugarcane. With all other factors being the same, it was incredible to smell and taste the differences between the cane varieties. We even learned about how sugarcane was used in Hawaiian culture in various ceremonies. Each variety of sugarcane was believed to have a specific property attributed to it, like binding lovers together, bringing a loved one back from a journey or separation, and even a variety to elicit lust! We hiked through the cane field and enjoyed some fresh cut cane that Kyle macheted for us. The afternoon offered an opportunity to learn about the Art of Japanese Bartending featuring 2011 IBA World Cocktail Champion, Takafumi Yamada. Monday’s seminars concluded with a panel discussion on Bar Ownership in a Small Market, led by some of Hawaii’s leading craft bar owners – Dave Newman (Pint & Jigger), Justin Park (Bar Leather Apron), Dusty Grable (Breaking Bread Hospitality Group), Dave Power, and Christian Self (Bevy). Summer-Jane Bell, the newly appointed West Coast Brand Ambassador for Angostura offered us a tasting through Angostura’s rums and introduced several of us to the Angostura Amaro. After a quick break, Pernod-Ricard sponsored an amazing dinner at Chart House where we enjoyed cocktails, food and conversation, while we overlooked the marina and Pacific Ocean on another beautiful Hawaiian evening. After dinner, we jumped on a Party Bus and headed downtown to the oh-so-sexy, Bar 35 for Cocktails, Sips and Cigars.
On Tuesday, Willie Shine led us through a seminar on the herbal/bitter category and helped clarify the definition of bitters, amaro, Amari, half-bitters and digestifs. One of the cocktails that were served during Willie’s seminar was his Jager Thai Iced Tea, which might have been my favorite drink of the conference! After a lovely lunch at Morimoto and deconstructed Hendrick’s gin tasting with Mark Stoddard, Chris Sinclair got everyone up and moving with a working flair seminar. We ended the afternoon with an On The Fly Competition sponsored by Real Syrups. DJ Silva (San Francisco) took 1st Place and the $300 prize. 2nd Place and $200 went to Jenn Marr (Hawaii). Ali Tahsini (San Francisco) took 3rd Place and the $100 prize. Other competitors included Sander Raav (Washington State), Karsten Zane (Hawaii), and Summer-Jane Bell (San Francisco). After a quick break, we headed to one of Dusty Grable's restaurants, Tchin Tchin, for an incredible dinner and cocktails sponsored by Belvedere Intense. Our next step was poolside at the Modern Hotel for the World Class Announcement and After Party. After a rigorous day of competition by all of the talented Western Region World Class Finalists, Andrew Meltzer (San Francisco), Jorge Vargas-Baquedano (San Francisco), and Brian Means (San Francisco) will be advancing to the National Finals in June!
For those that extended their stay in Honolulu, Wednesday was filled with some unique experiences like a Champagne Hike, Beach BBQ and a modern take on the luau.
Thank you to the Hawaii Chapter, all of our sponsors and the Western Region Conference attendees for making this such a memorable experience!
Next stop….Salt Lake City/Park City, Utah for the SW Regional Conference!