We’re all adults here, aren’t we? I mean, I allow for the possibility that some of you are under the age of 21, but if you’re reading this column I hereby grant you “adult” status. *Because all of you, dear readers, are adults in my eyes. *
So let’s not dwell on the humorous possibilities of the title of this piece; let’s instead concern ourselves with the event that, in 13 short years, has grown from a round-table discussion with a dozen or so participants to an international event drawing upwards of 20,000 visitors to New Orleans this time every year.
I’m talking, of course, about Tales of the Cocktail, which started yesterday and runs through the weekend.
The latest research suggests that New Orleans is not, in fact, where the cocktail was born, but there’s no doubt the Crescent City was an early and effective incubator of the form. We may also have been a little late to the “craft cocktail” movement, but in the last decade or so we’ve caught up with a vengeance.
At this point, it’s rare to find a restaurant of note that doesn’t have a serious bar program, and for our population, we’ve also got a lot of fantastic bars where the sort of attention is paid to drinks that our best restaurants pay to food.
I’m fond of Tales of the Cocktail for a number of reasons, not least because I’m fond of Ann and Paul Tuennerman, who started and now run the whole show. Nice kids, those two, and in addition they deserve some credit for keeping Tales in New Orleans, where it belongs, because they could no doubt have moved it to New York, L.A., Chicago or some other huge metropolitan area years ago.
Would it be the same? No, but from time to time people face questions such as “Do I take the money and run, or do I stick to my principles?” Some of us would take the money, run, and perhaps raise a finger to the rear-view mirror. Some of us stick it out, because this is where we live, where we’re from and where we want to be.
Tales of the Cocktail brings a lot of people to New Orleans, and a lot of those people might never have visited were it not for the event. Restaurants all over town are hosting “spirited” dinners, in which chefs and mixologists work together on menus pairing food with cocktails. There’s even an event on Freret St. this year, which makes sense, given that Cure was one of the first, and remains the best, craft cocktail bars in town.
All of the above is nice, but what makes Tales important is not the influx of people, or the economic benefit; what makes Tales important is that it’s a venue for people who are serious about the industry to get together and talk. Take a look at the schedule of seminars and you’ll get an idea of what I mean. This is not some Bacchanalian festival, or at least it’s not only that; this is an academic conference the subject of which just happens to be booze and where at least ¾ of the participants have tattoos.
So if you’ve not already signed up for Tales, you might want to check out the website and see if anything interests you. It’s a fair bet that most of the seminars are already sold out, but you never know.
If you do make it to any part of Tales of the Cocktail, I’d love to hear what you thought.
*”Adult status” is a term of endearment, and holds no legal status. This is similar to when someone says, “you’re only as old as you feel,” but you feel 20 and you’re actually 46 and you aren’t fooling anyone with your misbehavior and shenanigans, you rake.
**I require very, very thick corrective lenses to see; also, see above.