People tend to remember the Alamo. And the rodeo. Even the Spurs. But where cocktails are concerned, San Antonio gets the short shrift. Those of us who aren’t familiar with the city associate it with beer-and-a-shot cowboy stereotypes (which dominate our cultural perception of Texas, despite the best efforts of “Top Chef”). And Texans themselves tend to consider nearby Austin the dominant cocktail scene. Not so, says Christopher Ware, lead barman at Bohanan’s Steak & Seafood Grill. “I truly believe the talent in San Antonio is more concentrated among five bars than the multitude that is offered in Austin.” To awkwardly borrow some Southern parlance, them’s fightin’ words, Ware.
Fortunately for him, he’s up to the challenge. On our recent trip to the area, Ware lured us away from Austin’s quantity with San Antonio’s quality, specifically the quality in the chilled coupe glass containing his Greenwood cocktail. A riff on an entry in a Maker’s Mark competition, Ware’s Greenwood eventually abandoned the smoother bourbon for a spicy rye, the better to play up the drink’s ample doses of green Chartreuse (which Ware dialed up to two-thirds of an ounce) and Combier. The resulting drink has gentle sweetness to balance its spicy complexity: anise notes in the Chartreuse lean into the oak and toasted rye of the Sazerac 6-year, and a subtle hint of citrus emanates from the lemon peel and Combier.
Now, the Greenwood was enough to convince us, but lest the message not get out, Ware and his fellow San Antonian bartenders have a forum to showcase their city’s mixo-swagger with the upcoming San Antonio Cocktail Conference. A Tales of the Cocktail and Manhattan Cocktail Conference hybrid from the brain of Sasha Petraske, the SACC will span four days (January 26 to 29) of cocktail classes, events, and sponsored competitions. All proceeds will go to the nearly 12-year-old HeartGift charity, which provides heart surgery to children in developing countries. Meaning Ware, the San Antonio cocktail scene, and just about everybody else wins.