As often happens round about this time of year, I have just returned from the Cheers Beverage Conference in beautiful downtown Miami, Cuba and, as it always does, it has returned me home with a head full of ideas...mostly on how to beat the snot out of this years award winners with my fabulous programs, promotions and signature drinks... I’ll get you, my pretties.
I am so not above unleashing a flying monkey or two...
So, where were you? If you were lucky enough to have convinced the boss of you that this is, by far, the most valuable expense of your time and your company’s treasure, you got to see several dynamic general session speakers, as well as participate in some great break-out sessions, all of which had you walking out of the room smarter.
We were fortunate to hear Bob Brown tell us about the Seven Gates to Beverage Sales Success, and we now know that It’s OK to be the Boss from Bruce Tulgan and that the fern bars of our baby-boomer youth have morphed into the luxury bars of our dreams through adaptation and innovation from Ruth’s Chris’ Craig Miller.
And the aforementioned breakouts were spot-on to the trends and issues that keep us up at night... ignition interlocks and the ever less inconceivable return of Prohibition, the soaring costs of everything we buy, dealing with the brave new world of supplier and distributor consolidations, legal liabilities, and a myriad of other, pertinent topics.
Thankfully, we were talked off the ledge by such luminaries as the Venerable Plotkin and The Beaumont of Beer, who regaled us with the new trends in alcohol-free offerings and blunted the edge of our financial despair with beer and food pairings... I love the smell of beer in the morning...
One of the best things was the opportunity to observe some of the brightest new stars in the Mixology world in action and taste some of their incredible creations. As an old broad, it just makes me all tingly to see young people so dedicated to the Art of the Bar. As a once and future bartender myself, I am delighted to see my lifelong profession finally getting the respect it deserves.
As I have often said, anyone can tend a bar.. but it takes a special, skilled, artistic mien to be a Bartender. This was in abundant evidence with the Rising Star Beverage Bar Professionals from around the country and the beloved quartet of Abou-Ganim, Lafranconi, Reiner and Magarian. Such creativity! Such expertise! Such a joy to observe! Life is always so very much better when I have a beautifully hand-crafted cocktail in my mitts. Reminds me of why I got into this gig to begin with.
This year, the planners of this great event took pity on us all, starting the day with breakouts at 9am and the general sessions in the late morning and early afternoon, making it easier to:
Actually get some sleep, a rare commodity whenever there are beverage folk and beverages in the same area code. It’s like we’ve never seen a cocktail...
Arrive at the sessions rested, bright-eyed and coherent after the requisite late night festivities that wax and wane into the wee hours of each evening. It’s so much better for attention and retention to not be nodding off during the general session. And, man!, it was great to see my reps and colleagues actually flesh-toned! Who knew?
Get some work done before the sessions start. It’s often difficult to stay focused and in touch on your job when the schedule is too tightly packed. Getting a good amount of actual for-my-job work done and phone calls returned over a semi-leisurely breakfast before the first breakouts made the whole conference flow so much better.
Also, planned cocktail events were earlier in the evening, allowing one to hook up with colleagues and vendors for dinner and STILL get in at a reasonable time...in order to drink like proverbial fish in the hotel bar until closing.
So, all in all, it was, once again, a valuable, interesting, exciting, entertaining, worthwhile expenditure of time.
I’ve not missed a one... eleven years, eleven Cheers Beverage Conferences, eleven trips to exciting and wonderful places steeped in food and beverage culture...Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles... where I get to learn what the experts know, see ALL my favorite vendors and meet new ones, sample great new products, do some really cool things on yachts and beaches, eat at great restaurants, pick the brains of my fellow Beverage Operator Trenchmates, listen to fantastic speakers, drink innovative, cutting edge cocktails made by the very hand of my boyfriend Tony Abou-Ganim, hook up with friends I only get to see once a year (I missed ya, Jack...), give Ken Collura a smooch, get the inside scoop, the low-down, the poop, the 411.
Whatever it is you want to know about this business of beverage, you will find it at Cheers.
It crossed my mind during this conference that someday, I, Goddess, may not be in this business anymore...after all, I’m no spring deity...and I thought how sad I will be when I can no longer attend Cheers.
I wonder if there is an Cheers EAB emeritus program, so that no matter where my life takes me, I can keep going to Cheers, as long as they will have me. Of course, I will have to buy the time of day, as a Goddess with no more purchasing dollars is a lonely Goddess, indeed.
Only 355 days left until Cheers 2009.....I can hardly wait....not least because, for that one shimmering, busy, interactive, fun and educational week, my dance card is completely full.