Right now, tens of thousands of Life Is Beautiful festivalgoers (about 25,000 estimated to arrive per day) are eagerly mapping out their Herculean effort to see all 73 bands, feast on very atypical festival fare and drink their fill of high-end beer, wine and spirits from better-than-your-average concessionaires. I’ll leave the music to them, and will be focusing my efforts on the thoughtfully curated beverage program. Even if it’s an afterthought, if you plan to imbibe at all, you’re in for a treat! Here’s where to get your drink on.
Friday, October 22
Hopefully you’ve received or picked up your tickets, and are planning which band tee to rock so that you don’t look like a douche. (Hint: No Killers!) Kicking off the weekend is the Grills & Guitars “glamping” block party and barbeque, a separately ticketed event featuring 16 guest chefs (Aarón Sánchez, Cat Cora, Scott Conant and lifetime achievement awardee Jonathan Waxman) manning the grills on Seventh Street, between Fremont and Carson. Dawes and Todd Rundgren will perform, and all will eat and drink well under the stars, thanks to a bevy of bev-y guest-tenders, curated by Andrew Pollard of Wirtz Beverage Nevada. Be treated to Aztec hot chocolate, a butter-washed Sailor Jerry beertail, maple-infused Jim Beam hot apple cider and cinnamon-fig-infused Woodford Reserve with butternut squash puree, house-made pecan liqueur and toasted marshmallows. $175 general admission, $225 VIP, 8 p.m., LifeIsBeautifulFestival.com/Food/Parties.
Saturday, October 23 & Sunday, October 24
All right: The gates are open, and you are hoofing it back and forth from the Downtown Stage to the Ambassador Stage. You need a drink. You could pick up a brew at one of the more than 40 concession bars within the festival footprint. Or you can head to the Alchemy Garden, where 54 stations will present more than 35 spirits, 18 featured specialty cocktails and more than 40 beers, sakes and ciders. The spot is free to enter, like a food court, but you’ll be buying a la carte beers, cocktails or wines from such brands as Ballast Point and Green Flash brewing companies, the 86 Co. spirits or Zacapa rum, or mini-flights from Silver Oak and Kendall Jackson wines (cash, debit and credit accepted; $7-$15 drinks/flights, open during festival hours).
If you want to take a break from the music, and want a more elevated, intimate beverage experience, purchase a ticket to the Alchemy Garden’s Flight Tastings area, where for $40 you have access to three hours of education and tasting directly from the brand reps themselves: a winemaker doing a vertical tasting of his wines; a craft brewer showing off some seasonal one-offs; and guided portfolio spirits tastings. There are two sessions each day (12-3 p.m., 3-6 p.m.) with five different brands represented each session.
But those aren’t your only options. There are plenty of brick-and-mortar bars within the festival footprint, too, and a number of them will be hosting fun brand parties including Downtown Cocktail Room, which will serve as a sort of gathering place for all Fernet Branca devotees. There you can throw down your challenge coin for your first shot free, get free swag, and try the official Life Is Beautiful cocktail, the Damn White Boy, created by DCR barman Bobby Franks with Herradura tequila, tamarind syrup, Amaro Montenegro, fresh lemon juice and grapefruit bitters (recipe below).
Also getting in on the bar action during festival hours is La Comida, where you can wash street tacos down with tequila cocktails and try a variety of Mexican beers; The Griffin, where a Sailor Jerry party will be in full swing; and the Herbsaint Sazerac Bar in Donald Link’s Cajun Hog Roast across from the Culinary Village, with bartenders from Vesper, Comme Ça and Herbs & Rye serving sazzys and absinthe drips assembly-line-style for $10. After festival hours, you have two choices: leave the festival area or head to Afterlife at El Cortez for even more live music, DJs and drinks by Drambui, Ketel One and Heineken (midnight-late).
And if DCR runs out of Fernet Branca, you’ll know I was there.
Damn White Boy!
As served at Downtown Cocktail Room during Life Is Beautiful, $9
In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 ounce Herradura Blanco tequila, ¾ ounce royal Rose tamarind syrup, ½ ounce Amaro Montenegro, ¼ ounce fresh lemon juice and 2 dashes Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit bitters. Add ice, cover, shake and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a Mexican oregano-dusted slice of jicama.