For the Love of Cocktails

For the Love of Cocktails

By Raul Faria

For the Love of Cocktails was one of the biggest, most fun events in Las Vegas I’ve ever taken part in and this year it is going to be even bigger with seminars featuring world renowned mixologists like host Tony Abou Ganim, Dale Degroff, Francesco Lafranconi and Bridget Albert, Meet the MGM Masters Sommelier selected wine pairing dinner, The Life of a Bartender party at Herbs & Rye and of course the Grand Gala. Last year’s gala brought the Las Vegas bartenders and mixologists together to raise money for the Helen David Relief Fund and this year Backbar USA and CEO Tim Haughinberry plan on raising the bar with a three-day event celebrating the Las Vegas craft cocktail scene while supporting a great cause. I got a chance to speak with Tim about For the Love of Cocktails plus what he has in store for attendees this year and beyond.

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How did For the Love of Cocktails come about?

Tim: I’ve always felt there weren’t enough events that involve the whole community. It was always relating to a supplier distributor or a brand. So can we put something together that involves the entire community? Multiple brands, multiple distributors, multiple suppliers, multiple restaurants and do something that recognizes the Las Vegas mixology scene as opposed to one persons interest?

How did Tony Abou Ganim get involved?

Tim: Tony and I have known each other since the first day the Bellagio opened and Tony and I have worked on projects over the years, tastings and we have done some consulting together. When Tony in a meeting told us about how passionate he was about his charity we asked him how that charity raises money, and it really wasn’t raising that much money. So we put two and two together and said “If we start for the love of cocktails how great would it be to tie it in with a  charity that benefits bartenders and mixologists.

How many bartenders and mixologists were involved in the first event?

Tim: We had twelve stations with over thirty different bartenders and mixologists. So it started off with the brands and the properties that wanted to participate and then they reached out to those who wanted to get involved. It wasn’t so much a USBG event as it was about craft cocktail bars and properties with a craft cocktail program. Once we saw how excited the USBG got about it last year we wanted to tie them in this year. The USBG wasn’t really involved officially last year as they are this year as an official partner, It was more about reaching out to my friends who I have professional relationships with to get this off the ground. The catalyst for this year was really Las Vegas Invades Tales of the Cocktail. We brought ninety people down, brands, mixologists…everything. After that event I said “Ok we just held a mega event in another city, how did that benefit the Las Vegas cocktail scene? It brought all the local mixologists to showcase their talents in another city but man we should be doing something bigger, grander here in Las Vegas”. I would love to take this bigger, grander version on the road, we’d love to do For the Love of Cocktails Miami or For the Love of Cocktails New York, bring our Las Vegas team down there, get brands and involved and raise more money for the Helen David Relief Fund

How has it grown this year? Whats in store for the attendees?

Tim: This year its grown by having corporate sponsorship. With the MGM backing it and getting involved, Mandalay Bay and the Delano Las Vegas. We were able to tap into a lager budget and a larger data base. We are marketing via the MGM Resorts International, we are getting more involved with their social media and we are also able to tap into some bigger brands. With more money comes more exposure and with more exposure hopefully comes a bigger grander event. Last year was a one night event for three hours the is a three day event. We felt a missing element was it was a little trade driven we wanted to create an event that is trade run but would also attract consumers as well. We want to make sure consumers are involved through the education pieces and thought the grand gala itself. We now have five seminars which trade and consumers can attend. We have a dinner before the event that features our wine community and ties in craft cocktails as well as a separate event that will focus on the local mixologists and their craft. We also have an event at a local establishment, Herbs & Rye, which ties in off the strip and shows that Vegas is more than just massive casinos. This year we’ve involved, resorts, brands, world renowned mixologists, and we’ve reached out to more consumers and trade thorough a larger advertising budget over a three-day event.

What are you most excited about for For the Love of Cocktails this year?

I think I’m most excited about how all these events are tying in the entire beverage community. I’m excited to see both distributors at the event, the different brands, different hotels that normally don’t talk to each other or that compete, all in one room at the same time for a good cause. So I’m excited to see it this year, just like I was last year when I saw all those people on stage I thought “this is incredible”. Plain and simple, its never happened before here. You’ve never had all these people on stage at one time working towards one goal, one charity. It wasn’t about anyone’s individual agenda, it was about the Las Vegas bartending community coming together for the Helen David Relief Fund.

What do you see for the future of For the Love of Cocktails?

The future of this event is more along the lines of a Las Vegas Cocktail Week. We are trying to do something that brings the Las Vegas cocktail scene, Las Vegas wine community, Las Vegas experts, whether they are an expert on the hotel level, an expert with a brand, an ambassador, all to create something that attracts a global audience that brings these people to the state. That’s why the Las Vegas Convention Visitors Authority wants to be involved with this. We are trying to build something bigger and grander that’s never been done in the U.S. before.

To purchase tickets to For the Love of Cocktails click here. 

Besure to sign up for the Backbar USA newsletter here. Each newsletter showcases local events in Las Vegas plus highlights a Bartender of the week.

Check out our cocktail from last year’s For the Love of cocktails, the L Word, here.

 

 

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