Another year of learning, another year of connecting, another year that felt like it was all over too early.
Two days of seminars. Three nights of parties. Multiple pop-up bars. An after-party here and there.
As I sit writing this on a Tuesday afternoon, following a jam-packed weekend at Thirst Boston, you’d think I’d still be feeling the effects of a spectacular hangover.
Instead, I’m mostly feeling elated.
With its sixth year now officially in the books, Boston’s premier cocktail conference just keeps growing. Every one of Saturday’s seminars sold out, as did much of the Sunday program. The annual spirit showcase State Lines on Saturday night was packed, and so was Sunday night’s trippy Intergalactic Blender Bender.
But measuring Thirst’s growth solely in terms of numbers risks missing the best part of the story. It’s not just an event that keeps getting bigger – it’s a community that continues to evolve.
Mixed Drinks, Mixed Crowds
I’ve said in the past that there’s something for almost everyone at this event, and Thirst organizers Maureen Hautaniemi and Nick Korn continue to ensure that that’s the case. There are intensive seminars on bar management, workshops geared toward helping amateur bartenders sharpen their skills, and introductory classes for those who just want to learn a little more about a spirit.
Importantly, there’s space for all of those people to mingle – and that’s what keeps this community growing and thriving. People come here with increasingly diverse interests, even if they’re all within the realm of booze.
At one of the on-site pop-up bars, I overheard someone asking a vendor about unit costs, ingredient sourcing, and whether they could ship their product to certain states. On the other end of the spectrum, I heard someone asking a bartender about the difference between rum and aged rum (you might laugh at that question, but is there a better environment in which to ask it?).
And it’s inspiring to see this community making efforts to take care of itself. This year’s Thirst saw an increased emphasis on sustainability, with the organization eliminating plastic water bottles at the main venue and cutting back on plastic sampling cups and straws.
That sense of social consciousness was apparent in the seminars as well. One class focused on social responsibility in tiki culture. Privateer’s Maggie Campbell talked about transparency in sugar sourcing for rum, while Flor de Caña brand associate Kayla Quigley expounded upon her employer’s dedication to renewable energy, fair trade, and community empowerment. And as seminars began, attendees were informed about resources available to those struggling with substance abuse.
For me, this year’s Thirst was punctuated by a handful of truly memorable conversations. I met people whom I’ve known for years only through social media, commiserated with a fellow partygoer about the challenges of caring for an aging parent, and talked about culture with a welder from Rhode Island. While sipping top-notch drinks, I managed to refresh some old relationships and develop a few new ones. I left each night feeling energized.
Sorry if I’m rambling a bit here. Usually I do a post-Thirst rundown of the classes I attended and share a few foggy recollections from the evening events. But something about this year has me feeling more reflective than analytical. Seven years after unwittingly joining this community, I’ve had the pleasure of watching it grow and feeling my own relationship with it deepen. It feels special to be a part of this, and I can’t wait for next year.
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