It is once again the time of year when liquor and spirits professionals descend on New Orleans for a convention like no other. For more than 10 years, Tales of the Cocktail has been bringing those passionate about cocktails together for seminars, tastings, networking and celebration.
If you are a local distiller, bartender or very devoted cocktail geek, you definitely have planned for the week of July 15 to 19. If you're new to the industry, here are some events you don't want to miss during this incredibly unique festival.
THE BITTERS MARKET
The Hotel Monteleone is once again home base for the fest, and its lobby will host a market of bitters. More than 30 brands of bitters from around the world will be available, and most if not all will have representatives attending Tales. Purchase ones like Angostura or Peychaud's for your Sazerac, cardamom or molasses bitters from Fee Brothers or fanciful Xocolatl Mole or Burlesque from Bittermens. Not sure what to do with the bitters? For tools of the trade and recipe books galore, don't miss the Cocktail Kingdom and Octavia Books pop-up shops right next door. Access to the market is free.
If you are a United States Bartenders’ Guild member, take advantage of this membership perk. There are no prerequisites for The Spirits Professional Exam, but it must be passed in order to take the Advanced Bartender Written and Advanced Bartender Practical Exams. Each exam costs $150. Register online at the Tales website listed below.
SPIRITED DINNERS & LUNCHEONS / DYNAMIC DUOS
Tales gives spirit brands the opportunity to partner with local restaurants and bars for carefully crafted dinner pairings and special cocktail events. Check the list at the fest’s website, but off the top of my head, here are a few worth considering:
Dinners (July 16)
- Angel’s Envy at Bourbon House
- Grand Marnier at La Petite Grocery
- Hennessy at Restaurant R’evolution
- Leblon Cachaça at Coquette
- Sandeman Port at Emeril’s
- Tito's Handmade Vodka at Fulton Alley
- William Grant & Sons at Meauxbar
July 18: Prohibition Tea is a prohibition-style “tea party” at The Windsor Court with elegant brunch treats and Old New Orleans Rum cocktails.
July 19: Magnificent Morning-After Mastication Masterpiece at Mopho with Asian-inspired dishes designed for recovery and cocktails, some including boba tea.
Dynamic Duos (drinks only)
July 16: Copper & Kings Cognac at Bar Tonique
July 16: Diageo Reserve Brands at Cure
July 16: Flor De Cana at Cane & Table
July 17: Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey at Twelve Mile Limit
July 17: Monkey 47 Gin at Bellocq
July 17: Veev Spirits at Balise
July 17: Rums of Puerto Rico at Cane & Table
If you’re not ready to commit to a specific date or place, Tales Restaurant Week involves 14 restaurants running special menus during the whole week. Details are on the festival’s website.
Spend $100 on ticketed events and you’ll receive a wristband to enter the Tasting Rooms that liquor vendors run throughout the week. There are many, so attend the ones that draw your attention. You can sip Bulleit Bourbon with Hollis Bulleit herself, try the William Grant & Sons lineup (Hendricks, The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, etc.), caffeinate with Patron XO’s tequila-coffee blend and compare the different “colors” of Johnnie Walker scotch.
Irish Pubs: How They Took over the World – Tullamore D.E.W. is sponsoring this seminar devoted to the ubiquitous Irish pub and why you can find one almost anywhere. Pub regular or whiskey fan? This is all you.
In a Snap!: Cocktail Photography 101 – Photographer Daniel Krieger has shot for publications like The New York Times and Food & Wine Magazine. With his help, your smartphone photo can do justice to the details of that beautiful drink. Or with a real camera, you might even get that photo published.
For Peat’s Sake! (A Study of Smoke) – Whiskey expert Dave Broom will go over how different peats and smokes bring different flavors to food and drink, with tastings. Bartending expert Ryan Chetiyawardana will demonstrate the proper use of smoky ingredients, both alcoholic and otherwise.
Stylish Service: Flair for Mixologists – Champion bartenders Anthony Pullen, Dario Doimo and Kate Gerwin will demonstrate flicks, rolls, throws and the other techniques that keep bar tools flying through the air and customers impressed. I've seen Pullen in action before and it's pretty mesmerizing. You cannot wear open-toed shoes to this seminar. Seriously.
Untold Stories of 3 Classic Cocktails – Robert Simonson, cocktail writer for The New York Times and other publications, will host a seminar with authors and historians St. John Frizell and David Wondrich. You probably enjoy drinking a Harvey Wallbanger, a Last Word or a Sazerac. Now learn their origins.
Made in America Happy Hour – Tales brings in liquors from all over the world, but this tasting is dedicated to the 50 states. Sample brands proudly made on our shores, including Four Roses Bourbon, Cathead Vodka and Old New Orleans Rum.
Perfect Frozen Drinks: Science & Practice – Alcoholic slushie experts Dave Arnold and Philip Duff will go over the mechanics of frozen drinks. Should you buy a machine? How do you balance sugar and acid? Whether you love daiquiris, margaritas or frozen Irish coffees, this is pretty much vital info for the New Orleans summer.
Mint: Keeping Cocktails Fresh Since 1492 – Charlotte Voissey of William Grant & Sons and Peter Vestinos, owner of BarMedic, will discuss why mint is the most popular cocktail herb, including its history, many uses and the best way to keep it fresh and crisp at your bar.
The Long Haul: Bars Built to Last – Paul Clarke, executive editor of Imbibe Magazine, will lead a panel with esteemed bar owners (H. Joseph Ehrmann, Daniel Shoemaker and Dushan Zaric) on the realities of opening a bar and, more importantly, sustaining it to succeed for years to come. Future entrepreneurs, this will be invaluable advice.
As of press time, these specific events were not sold out. Tickets and the week's full schedule of events is available at http://talesofthecocktail.com/events/new-orleans/
And, of course, if you find yourself with an invitation to any of the legendary parties hosted by industry giants like Bacardi or Diageo, be sure to attend. The creative set pieces and open bars will put other theme parties to shame.
Andrew Marin writes about cocktails and food for Where Y’at Magazine and is preparing his liver to run the Tales gauntlet again this year. Follow him @ndrewmarin on Twitter and Instagram and andrewmarin on Snapchat for live updates.