It was years ago when Aaron DeFeo first told me he meant to make Tucson a contender in the national cocktail scene. Back then, he was running the cocktail program at Hotel Congress, and modern cocktailing was just starting to gain a little steam here in the Old Pueblo.
Fast forward four years or so and his dream is beginning to materialize. DeFeo founded a Tucson chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild and then went on to hold professional networking events for anyone who wanted to join. He also walked away from Hotel Congress and into a new gig at Casino del Sol, where he's been working up a mean cocktail program.
And now the Tony Abou-Ganim Southwest Spirit Summit has been announced. It's the largest cocktail/spirits event I've ever seen around these parts, and seeing that its taking place at Casino del Sol, it sounds like DeFeo is moving foward with that plan of his. From the press release:
Tucson, Ariz—-To those who have attended the Tucson Culinary Festival for the past 5 years, the legendary "Modern Mixologist" Tony Abou Ganim is a familiar face. Others will know him from his appearances on Food Network's Iron Chef America, paired with such notable Chefs as Mario Batali and most recently with east coast star Chef Jose Garces - both winning challenges.
In 2010, Abou-Ganim was hired as a consultant at Tucson's Pasqua Yacqui enterprise, Casino del Sol, to design a world class beverage program there similar to the one he created for the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
With his strong ties to the southwest, it's no surprise that he has agreed to host his very first professional event in Tucson this November 16 -18. Sponsored by Casino Del Sol Resort. The Tony Abou-Ganim Southwest Spirit Summit is planned to be a three day celebration of sprits that will bring together leading talents, brand representatives, and well-known chefs in an exciting three day adventure in mixology, cuisine and fun. Members of the food and beverage trade and the public are invited to attend the weekend which will include seminars, action-packed competitions, tasting events, cocktail dinners and more.
Beneficiaries are The Helen David Memorial Fund For Breast Cancer which provides support for families of bartenders whose relative has been affected with the disease, the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans and Speed Rack - the exciting national women's bartending challenge that raises funds to benefit Breast Cancer research.
The schedule is after the jump. If you like to drink, this might be a good time to ask for some time off in November.
Friday, November 16~
§ Happy Hour: Featuring specialty cocktails and spirit tastings ~ 5 — 7pm
§ Opening BBQ Bash: Hosted by Jim Beam. Featuring great whiskey -inspired BBQ barbecue, cocktails and live music ~ 7 -11pm
§ Cocktail Dinner #1: Multi-course dinner paired with cocktails ~ 8-10pm
Saturday, November 17th ~
§ Tasting Floor: 12 to 5 pm
§ Seminar #1: Understanding Agave w/ Steve Olson, Dave Grapshi, and Ron Cooper
11:30 am — 12:45 pm
§ Seminar #2: Ladies of LUPEC Seminar with Lynette Marrero and Ivy Mix ~ 1— 2:15 pm
§ Seminar #3: History of Arizona Saloons Seminar with Jason Asher ~ 2:30 -3:45pm
§ Seminar #4: American Whiskey Seminar with Bobby Gleason and Fred Noe ~ 2:30-3:45pm
§ Happy Hour: Pop-up Tiki happy hour featuring Tiki cocktails ~5 — 7pm
§ Iron Chef Challenge: Tony Abou-Ganim and Jose Garces vs Aaron DeFeo and Casino Executive Chef 4:00 — 5:30pm
§ Cocktail Dinner #2: Tony Abou-Ganim & Jose Garces Iron Chef Dinner highlighting the dishes and paired cocktails from their winning Iron Chef America collaboration~ 8-10pm
§ Tequila Dinner #3: Multi course dinner paired with Tequila Cocktails at the Tequila Factory 8-10pm
§ Nightcap: Cocktails in the Prema Lounge ~ 10-12pm
`Sunday, November 18th
§ Seminar #5: Gin Daisies w/ Charlotte Voisey ~11:30am-12:45pm
§ Tasting Floor: 12 to 5pm
§ Seminar #8: Aperitifs ~ 1-2:15pm
§ Seminar #6: Ladies Only - Bombay Sapphire Presents: Hands-on with Tony Abou-Ganim includes a complete set of TAG bar tools-~1-2:30pm
§ Seminar #7: American Tiki Seminar ~2:00-3:15pm
§ Speedrack National Competition — Southwest leg of the exciting national event featuring some of the nation’s best female bartenders in an exciting challenge~ 3-7pm
§ Cocktail Dinner #3: "On the Town" featuring Dale DeGroff, (a portion of proceeds to benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail)~ 6:30— 8:30pm
§ 2nd Annual Southern AZ Classic featuring Arizona’s best mixologists battling it out. ~ 8-12pm.
§ Farewell Party ~ 8-12pm
All-Access Pass: Includes both tasting floors, competitions, happy hours, Bourbon BBQ, Seminars #2 #4 and farewell party General Public: $125; Trade $75
Bourbon BBQ: $40 per person
Tasting Floor: (good for Saturday & Sunday, Nov. 17th & 18th) General Public $50; Trade $25
Seminar #1, #3, #5, #7 $40 each
Seminar #6: $100
Cocktail Dinner #1: Multi course cocktail paired dinner: $75 (includes gratuity)
Spirited Dinner #2: Tony Abou-Ganim & Jose Garces Iron Chef Dinner Presentation $175 (includes gratuity)
Spirited Dinner #3: "On the Town" with Dale DeGroff $75 (includes gratuity)
Speed Rack National Competition: included in all access pass or $20
Southern AZ Cocktail Classic/Farewell Party: included in all access pass or $40
Special Room Rates available for event attendees TBA.