community & culture | mar. 26, 2021

Thirst Scholars

A formal table with wine glasses. A book lays open with a black pen that has the "Thirst Boston" logo on it

The Thirst Scholars program is put on by Thirst Boston, New England’s premier cocktail festival. This week-long work-study program focuses on a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run a large-scale cocktail festival, but also focuses on each Scholar’s education, with a priority on having them attend classes, and a hands-on distilling lesson once the festival is complete! It’s a close knit group, with well over 100 applicants whittled down to ten final Scholars, led by a two-person team of returning Scholars. 

During an in-person event, the week kicks off with an arrival dinner meant to showcase some of the Boston area’s best restaurant and drink programs. Highlights include a visit to Blossom Bar, and its sister, Sichuan Garden II. With plates piled high, and tasty drinks topped with lavish garnishes, it’s always a night that truly welcomes the Scholars class to Boston.

The next day the team gets to work, helping bright and early to load in the festival to its home for the week. As the rooms fill up with boxes and racks of glassware, the whole festival starts to take shape, including its core team. Each section comes together as everyone meets, from the Batching Room, to the Product Room and the Pop-Up Bar. By the end of the day, the whole place comes alive with signs, rows of chairs and friendly faces.


During the festival itself, the Scholars play an integral role in making things go smoothly. Each Scholar is assigned a shift, and typically gets to see one to two different positions throughout the weekend with roles including managing the glassware inventory, leading room transitions, and overseeing the setup of the larger-scale evening events. Each Scholar’s schedule is chosen based on their interests, and prioritizing their attendance in one to two classes of their choosing. The days are long, but the rewards are high, with tons of happy guests and sponsors alike roaming the halls.

After the classes are done, and the trucks are packed, it’s time for a little R&R with a visit to the hallowed Fenway Park for a Red Sox game! This tradition brings the whole team together to sing Sweet Caroline’ and eat peanuts in one of America’s most historic ballparks, directly in the heart of Boston. Even though there’s fun to be had, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep as Distilling Academy starts bright and early for two full days for hands-on distilling education held at Grand Ten Distilling, right in South Boston. Scholars get to walk through each step of the distilling process, from a chemistry lesson, straight to making cuts and filing barrels! An educational experience unlike any other, this learning opportunity is only available during the Thirst Scholars program.

As the week comes to a close, it’s important to reflect and thank those who made the week possible, the Thirst Boston staff and the Patrón EDU team. The experience often comes to a close with a more intimate dinner with all those included and is a great way to cap off an incredible experience for all. Fortunately, the Scholars program doesn’t just end there, each Scholar is added to a facebook group for their small class, as well as one for all Thirst Scholars from years past, creating a small but mighty group of alumni. To see their distilling knowledge in action, and continue their education, the Scholars are also sent to Hacienda Patrón as part of the Cocktail Development Program. This immersive experience puts the week into perspective with a look at how a single spirit — Tequila — can make an impact on a community from ground to glass, to guest.

The 2020 Thirst Scholars had a bit of a different experience, with a full week of online programming tailored towards their individual interests and career goals. Classes included a social media and branding session with Katie Kirkpatrick, global senior director of Bacardi owned platforms, and work-study programs with Thirst Boston’s leaders on topics including social advertising, online events, and cocktail consulting, copyediting and more. Each topic involved an online class, paired with a real-world experience, such as a lesson in writing and copyediting, and then implementing that writing into marketing materials or recaps about the event for Thirst Boston.

The Thirst Scholars program has been sponsored by Patrón since it’s inception, and as a valued partner of Thirst Boston, we couldn’t imagine a better partner-in-education! While the future of the Scholars program isn’t 100% certain this year, Thirst Boston does intend to have some form of education for bartenders in the future, so stay tuned for applications and updates on this opportunity!

Author: OFFSITE

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