10 Events Not to Miss During 2016 Arizona Cocktail Week: February 13-21

What do you get when you bring together scores of bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts for a week of seminars, parties, dinners, and competitions? Arizona Cocktail Week — and a lot of drunk people. But seriously, though the lineup of events includes parties and cocktail paired dinners, there are a lot of opportunities for cocktail and spirit education during Arizona Cocktail Week. So if you don't want to miss out, make sure to mark your calendar for these 10 top events. 

Cocktailgating Festival
Saturday, February 13 through Monday, February 15 

If you're going to any Arizona Cocktail Week events at the Hotel Valley Ho, check out the Cocktailgating Festival that will take over  the Hotel Valley Ho’s entire south parking lot. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday the outdoor party will include a Jack Daniel’s mobile distillery, Guinness Brewery mobile pub, and food trucks. Entry costs $25 but is included with a ticket to any other event. 

Agave Confidential 
Saturday, February 13

From 12:30 to 2 p.m., this seminar will cover everything you need to know about agave, the plant used to make tequila. Speakers will include Tomas Estas, author of The Tequila Ambassador; Sergio Mendoza of Don Fulano Tequila; Jaime Orendain of Orendain Tequila; and Guillermo Sauza of Tequila Forteleza — all experts on agave and tequila, who will share personal stories and talk about why they love the spirit. The seminar is limited to 100 people and will take place in the Sands Building. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online

Pay to Play...Can Craft Bartending Survive?
Saturday, February 13

This industry-focused round table seminar will go into the sustainability of the "pay to play" relationship between spirit brands and bars to see if it's possible to bring more transparency to the beverage industry. Experts from both sides of the discussion including Dushan Zaric of Employee Only in New York and The 86 Co will join Jason Asher of Young's Market Company and Ross Simon, owner of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour. The seminar starts at 11 a.m. and costs $25. Tickets can be purchased online

The Herbalist; A Sensory Experience
Saturday, February 13

Ever wondered what makes gin different from vodka? In one word: botanicals. And in this seminar attendees will delve into the world of botanicals to find out what it takes to turn raw materials into a well-balanced spirit. The experience will include a blind-folded portion on the seminar, which will be lead by Andie Ferman, Nick Kosevich (founder of Bittercube), and Eric Seed (founder of Haus Alpenz). The event starts at 4 p.m. and costs $25. Tickets can be purchased online and seating is limited to 100 people. 

Cocktail Carnival
Saturday, February 13

This kick-off event for Arizona Cocktail Week is always a great party with live performers, music, and lot and lots of booze. This year's carnival will feature more than 25 booths, so you're guaranteed to find at least one cocktail you like while you sample your way through the party. Tickets cost $40 in advance online or $50 the day of the event — but be warned, the party sold out last year. Gates open at 7 p.m. and the event will be held at the OH Pool at the Hotel Valley Ho. 

The Dead Rabbit presents … The Five Cocktails That Changed Irish Whiskey Forever!
Sunday, February 14

This seminar is capped at just 25 people, but if you can nab a seat you'll get to join Jillian Vose, bar manager of The Dead Rabbit in New York, and Tim Herlihy, Tullamore Dew Brand Ambassador, in a discussion about the rise and fall of Irish whiskey's popularity. Vose and Herlihy will go over the origins of cocktails including the Irish Coffee and the Tipperary, as well as other Irish whiskey drinks created both in Ireland and abroad. The seminar runs from 4 to 5:30 and costs $25. Tickets can be purchased online

Top Bars 
Sunday, February 14

Instead of making you travel across the country, Top Bars brings some of the country's best bars to Phoenix for one night. Featured bars this year include: Bar X (Salt Lake City), The Dead Rabbit (NYC), Death & Co (NYC), Employees Only (NYC), Herbs & Rye (Las Vegas), Baur’s (Denver ), Padrecito (San Francisco), Secreto (Sante Fe), Under Current Bar (Salt Lake City), Whitechapel (San Francisco), Williams & Graham (Denver), The Way Back (Denver), and several bars from around the Valley and state. The cocktail sampling event starts at 9 p.m. and goes until midnight in the ballroom at the Hotel Valley Ho. Tickets cost $40 in advance or $50 at the door and can be purchased online

Artisanal Market
Monday, February 15

Browse through dozens of brands of spirit, bitters, and other craft cocktail-related products at this indoor market. You'll be able to sample different types of spirits and discover products like infused sugars and tonics that will take your cocktail game to a whole new level. The market is open from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Sands building at the Hotel Valley Ho. Entry costs $25 and tickets can be purchased online

Last Slinger Standing 
Monday, February 15

We've already told you the lineup for Last Slinger Standing, the bartending competition that puts bartenders from across the Southwest in a head-to-head competition as they vie for a chance to win the Centennial Cup and a cash prize. Four Arizona bartenders — David Clark (Hotel Congress, Tucson), Tim LaFever (Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, Phoenix), Matt Martinez (OBON Sushi & Ramen, Tucson), and Clint Spotleson (Counter Intuitive, Phoenix) — will take the stage at The Coop at Culinary Dropout at The Yard at Farmers Arts District to compete against teams from Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free but RSVP is required. To reserve a spot, visit the Arizona Cocktail Week website

Jade Bar Takeover
Tuesday, February 16

Jade Bar at the Sanctuary resort is where some of the Valley's best bartenders got their starts and on Tuesday, February 16, they're headed back for a reunion event. Top Jade Bar alumni including Jason Asher (named the nation's most inspired bartender in 2010 by GQ magazine), Micah Olson (co-owner of Crudo and Okra), Kyle Mason (winner of Jade Bar's Bar Brawl series), and Jillian Vose of Dead Rabbit in New York will get behind the bar to serve cocktails to go with small bites from chef Beau MacMillian. The event starts at 8 p.m. and entry is free.