[Courtesy of Bryan Tarnowski / Tales of the Cocktail]

Tales of the Cocktail 2024 Preview

07:00 July 10, 2024
By: Andrew Marin

Telling Tales

Tales of the Cocktail, the beverage industry's largest and most respected convention, is happening July 21-26. Where Y'at sat down and chatted with Eileen Wayner, the CEO of the Tales nonprofit organization, to get a preview of what to expect.

[Gustavo Escanelle]

Where Y'at: Why "Inspire" as this year's theme?

Eileen Wayner: What feels like momentum, a driving force? What is Tales' role in helping support this post-COVID world? There's still lots of recovery. This industry is one of the nimblest, most agile, most creative. We want to "inspire" to drive growth. What collective ideas are working and giving energy? How do we stay inspired? We landed on what feels like the right word to keep us moving.

WYA: Who comes up with the theme each year?

EW: We work with our marketing firm a little. But our board and education committee discuss all ideas presented.

WYA: How does "Inspire" tie into the convention?

EW: It ties into the work that we do. We have to be able to talk about it. Every theme is a prompt for our education, for our seminars. It's palpable from a marketing perspective—sure. But it has to have meaning. We're holding our industry accountable, and we need to be held accountable as well.

WYA: How many seminars this year?

EW: Around 60—on par with last year. The Beyond the Bar activations will have their own space, and there will be additional networking and wellness sessions within Beyond the Bar.

[Courtesy Cory Fontenot / Tales of the Cocktail]

WYA: What about the CAPS [Cocktail Apprenticeship] program? How many?

EW: We have a full CAP class. Forty Red Coat Apprentices, 20 Grey Coats, four Black Coats, four White Coats, and one Junior White Coat.

WYA: The Spirited Dinners are back. No brunches or lunches this go-round?

EW: Spirited Dinners are the same. No brunches or lunches. We're mindful of the schedule, so enough is going on but not too much. We schedule to drive people toward seminars and education. The Spirited Dinners are at the discretion of the brand partners.

WYA: And the how many brand partners participate?

EW: We have over 130 [including Altamura, Beam Suntory, Campari, Diageo, Disco Liquids, Ghost Tequila, Haus Alpenz, Hendrick's, Herradura, Moët Hennessy, Sazerac, and William Grant & Sons]. The week of Tales, they're hosting about 350 events across New Orleans.

WYA: So many events, so many moving parts.

EW: The choreography's incredible. We do an economic impact report each year. Tales generates a $24 million impact for New Orleans each year. If Essence and Tales didn't happen in July, we've been told there'd be furloughs in local hospitality. Essence and Tales bridge the gap between festival season and football season.

WYA: Is there anything you're personally excited for?

EW: We'll have a "Futures" lab to dedicate time, energy, and space to brainstorm what the industry will look like in 10, 20 years. We have a lineup that's focused. The WHO has a sustainability mandate. How does that affect our industry? What are the macrotrends? How do we as leaders work with those?

WYA: And acknowledging the industry now—the Spirited Awards? We'll include a list of the categories that New Orleans places are finalists for…

Best U.S. Bar Team Finalist: Jewel of the South

Best U.S. Hotel Bar: The Sazerac Bar

EW: The Spirited Awards are great. The venue's still the Fillmore. It's really special to celebrate these people and their achievements.

WYA: I just want to acknowledge and thank you and the Tales Foundation for all you do for the service industry and the local community.

EW: We wouldn't be who we are without our local hospitality colleagues and friends. People from the entire world travel to come and visit. Tales wouldn't be Tales without New Orleans. Period. Giving back means a lot to our team and to me personally. We're still a nonprofit. We do it for our community.

WYA: Speaking of community, diversity is important. Can you speak to the demographics of last year's attendance and expectations for this year?

EW: Like last year, Tales is bringing in over 25,000 bev hospitality professionals from between 48 to 55 countries. Sixty percent of our panels are BIPOC and/or women-led. Forty percent of our seminars are by international presenters. We're continuing to grow globally, and we've been intentional in trying to represent across the globe and across the industry. It's grown beautifully, and Tales will continue to be reflective of our industry.

[Gustavo Escanelle]

WYA: Can you think of a moment from Tales' past that really inspired you? That made you think, "I'm so glad we do this every year."

EW: The inspiring moments? There are so many. The Catalyst Luncheon honoring Tara Fougner and Anistatia Miller for making the table bigger. We're constantly reassessing access and equity in our industry. Both of them have done so much and shared personal stories of what they overcame to contribute so greatly: the CAPS program, the mentorship up and down the ranks. I travel quite a bit for this job and seeing CAPS in their own bars and hearing how it changed their trajectories. "I CAPped and then quit my job. I applied to a craft cocktail bar and got in." Goosebumps. That's inspiring. Seeing people who come to Tales the first time and seeing them feel part of our community—very special, you know. You walk the halls at Tales and everyone wants to stop and talk to you. That happens every year, and it is no less inspiring every year.

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