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Rochester Cocktail Revival turns ten


For the past ten years, Rochester Cocktail Revival has been dedicated to bringing back the lost art of craft cocktails. It all started in 2013 when founder Chuck Cerankosky, along with a few others in the local bar scene, noticed an opportunity for a cocktail resurgence and that Rochester was a prime location for it.

“There was a small group of us, about six different bar owners at the time, and we realized back in 2013 that we had this thing on our hands in Rochester where we had enough of these [craft cocktail] bars that there was a culture around it,” says Cerankosky.

In the years leading up to RCR’s founding, the cocktail scene was dominated by what Cerankosky referred to as “goofy drinks.” Think an Irish trash can or a Long Island iced tea, trendy “cocktails” where the art of mixology was lost. But he saw the culture changing, and he credited the epiphany to an interaction with a young couple at one of his bars.

Jonswan Barroombattle 2019

“I was at Cure and this young couple came in, and in our conversation, they mentioned how they were going cocktail bar hopping…but the cool thing that I realized was ‘wait you couldn’t do that a year ago.” Even five years ago there were very few cocktail bars. “Fast forward to now, you have almost thirty cocktail bars in Rochester. A city that has a fraction of the population of Manhattan and has almost a higher density of cocktail bars per capita.”

The past decade has been an adventure for Cerankosky and the entire team behind Rochester Cocktail Revival. The very first RCR was a three-day event focused on promoting local bars and the culture behind craft cocktails. Today the goal and inspiration for the festival remain the same. But over the years it has grown and evolved into a weeklong event spanning thirty-five locations, a team of professionals, and a whole lot of planning.

Swandiveparty 2019

“After about the fourth year, we realized this is major, this is like a thing that people find very important. We found it to be important enough that you needed somebody to handle the marketing, we needed an audio-visual team, and then we have a design team and an event production team. We realized that this can’t just be something that’s really done by me in a couple of meetings with bar owners, we needed a team that was Cocktail Revival,” Cerankosky says.

Each year RCR kept growing, featuring more events, bars, and speakers. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cerankosky and his team found a way to keep the party going.

Gazregan 2017

“As long as there are bars, there will be RCR,” he said. “As long as bars are open and they’re serving good drinks and guests appreciate them, Cocktail Revival survives. There was a need for that more than ever during COVID because there were forces outside of what any of us as operators could control. It gave us a reason to keep going, it was like the flickering of light that gave us something to look forward to.”

The aptly named “distilled version” of the pandemic-era RCR operated around lockdown rules and guidelines, so RCR focused on uplifting the local bar and restaurant community. In 2022 the festival was brought back to full swing, and now, in its tenth year, RCR is bigger than ever.

This year Rochester Cocktail Revival will feature twenty-seven bars, more than any previous year, a whole new lineup of guest speakers, and a packed schedule full of events such as pairing dinners, live music, bar parties, and educational seminars. There is a new event on the Genesee River promenade where the festival will work with the City of Rochester to host a sunset cocktail experience.

Cubroomtiki 2022

Additionally, the planned highlight of the festival will be a double-faceted event held at Radio Social. The first part of the night will focus on the Heroes Ball, which raises money for the Cancer Support Community at Gilda’s Club. The second part of the night will be the afterparty held by RCR to celebrate its anniversary.“The beginning of the event will help provide support for the Gilda’s Club, and then afterward RCR will be hosting an afterparty with multiple DJs and drinks, and it will just be a party all night for industry and consumers alike. It will be a production unlike anything we’ve done before,” says Cerankosky.Rochester Cocktail Revival 2023 will run from June 5 through June 11, with a detailed schedule of events coming soon. Participating bars include Good Luck, Ox & Stone, Owl House, the Daily Refresher, Radio Social, and many more. Learn more at

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