Thirst for a Cause Returns After a Two-Year Hiatus.
Thirst for a Cause is back for 2022. After an eleventh hour cancellation last year due to COVID, the large-scale wine and food event that raises funds for the hospitality industry returns Aug. 24. Thirst Wine Merchants owner and founder Alex Kroblin started the event in 2009 as a way to help hospitality workers with medical costs. Over the following 10 years, the annual event became a veritable holiday for servers and bartenders (They affectionately refer to it as Thirst Day.), featuring dozens of wineries — including winemakers and owners — and more than 200 wines. That all stopped in 2020.
“This is the first time in three years, and we’re very glad Thirst for a Cause is back,” Kroblin said. “We canceled last year at the last minute because with the new strain of COVID that emerged, it felt like the safe and wise thing to do. This year we’re back with approximately 40 suppliers.”
For the first time ever, Thirst for a Cause will have a spirits section. Kroblin said they’d never offered more than one spirit company a spot in the event previously, but this year producers and blenders like Pinhook and Barrell will have tables, as will an importer of some of the best Japanese spirits available in the state, including Yuzu gin. Guthrie-based Wanderfolk Spirits will have their award-winning products there as well.
Kroblin said a representative of world-renowned importer of French wines Kermit Lynch would be at Thirst Day for the first time, as will Napa winery Pride and Rioja standout winery Cuné. All told, the event center at the former Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame (4040 N. Lincoln) will have approximately 225 wines and spirits available for attendees. In addition to the beverage suppliers, 10 local restaurants and hospitality companies are participating, including Bistro 22, Hal Smith Restaurant Group, Piatto, The Hamilton, and Rachel Cope’s 84 Hospitality.
“We definitely missed it last year,” Cope said. “A high number of people in our industry don’t have health insurance and count on being able to make cash consistently to support their families, pay for housing and transportation, all of the necessities. Being out for any unexpected period of time and having to pay for any kind of medical treatment out of pocket can be extremely hard to come back from. We’re proud of the Thirst team for continuing this great event for over a decade and we’ll keep participating — ‘til they kick us out.”
The money raised is kept in a fund maintained by the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. To access assistance, hospitality employees need only print out the application from the Thirst for a Cause website and submit it for approval. From their own materials, Thirst talks about their program: “Over the years, our little committee has helped a hostess who was facing stage 4 leukemia, we have aided a line cook in paying for a kidney transplant, we have helped a server with terminal cancer to pay her electric bill so that she and her kids didn’t have to live in a dark house, and the list goes on. All of these people are members of our community, and even more than that, they are members of the Oklahoma City hospitality family.”