Madison Cocktail Week: Drinks, Dancing and Wiffle Ball


Devin Ludwig takes in the aroma of his drink, carefully dissecting its ingredients before indulging in a measured sip. It’s a bizarre cocktail, with layers of mocha and coffee flavor featuring orange bitters to give it a bit more zest. This is only the first drink in his evening-long experiment and he is only too happy to be getting started.

Ludwig is taking advantage of Madison Cocktail Week, a celebration of custom craft cocktails and the community that surrounds them. The festival lasted from October 9th to October 15th, and featured a litany of opportunities for cocktail lovers and members of the industry to rub shoulders, have fun and get loose. There are events for the public as well as featured cocktails not normally offered by participating businesses.

Many of Madison’s reputable bars participate in this event from year to year, including Gibs, Julep, Merchant, Natt Spil and many more. How these establishments choose to contribute to Cocktail Week is what is most unique however, as individual events vary wildly.

For example, if any one patron was looking to learn something new as they sample Madison’s concoctions, they may attend the seminar, “Scotch & Cigars,” at Maduro. Those who prefer more activity to accompany their drinks might prefer the Midwest Wiffle Invitational, a Cocktail Week sponsored wiffle ball tournament. Natt Spil’s “Disco Brunch” was one of the more popular events as well, second only to “Dancing with the Startenders,” a dance competition held at King Street’s Majestic Theater.

“We always wanted to cast a wide net. Literally anyone can have fun at these events,” says Anna Davis, who marketed Madison Cocktail Week in 2015.

Davis stressed to me that it’s about so much more than the drinks, that it is an opportunity to bring the community together.

This is a logical extension of the craft beer explosion, which is exemplified by a 13% increase in volume sold in 2015 alone, according to the Brewers Association. Madison business owners seem to be capitalizing on the craft movement, offering custom cocktails and celebrating their creativity with these assorted events.

As Devin Ludwig emptied his glass of the prototype “Natt Spil 12.0,” he motioned for me to finish my drink so we could be on to the next stop. While he didn’t join any dance competitions or square up on a wiffle ball, it is clear to me that he is one of many satisfied customers.


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