It is beyond a doubt that all Knowledge begins with Experience.

Immanuel Kant

One of the most challenging aspects in the enjoyment of wine and spirits is that these lovely pursuits of pleasure can be enhanced with more product knowledge. And how does one go about getting that knowledge?

How do you know that if the bottle says Chianti Classico, then the grape is Sangiovese? How do you know when your Scotch says Single Malt what that means? Is your Bourbon a blend? What sorts of characteristics on the nose are you looking for in Champagne? Does glassware make a difference in the bouquet and the taste of wines or spirits? Is ice from the store better than ice from your refrigerator?

If we are to fully appreciate what qualities the distillers and winemakers have worked so hard to put into their products, then where is that base of facts and how do we access it?

Lucky for you the Happy Hour Institute has the answer to your desire for knowledge. We’ve spared no expense and devoted massive amounts of time to bring you information about enhancing your experiences.

It all comes down to Knowledge gained through Experience. 

You can thank us later. Or probably not at all. Ever. But it’s true. Knowledge of a product allows us to delve further into its essence and more fully appreciate the character and history of that beverage. Besides being interesting, it’s also fulfilling.

You don’t just want to belly up to the bar and ask for a whiskey. Or a merlot. You are branding yourself as “Amateur.” Ask for something specific. Take the responsibility for your own tastes into your own hands, uh, mouth.

But, you protest, you are a busy person. Who has time to read books and attend courses of study? Who wants to invest in huge stocks of products in the hope you will find at least one with which to fall in love? Who? Well, obviously, not you.

Fortunately the HHI (in case you forgot, that’s Happy Hour Institute) went further. We came up with the solution to your need-more-knowledge issue. You don’t have to leave New Orleans. You don’t even have to spend a lot of money. There are two events happening in May right here that are just perfect to start you down the path to Knowledge and Joy.

Or if you already have some of that knowledge, why not add-to and fine-tune?

On Friday, May 13, New Orleans will be one of the 12 or so cities around the world participating in World Cocktail Day. This honor is bestowed on us because we are the home of The Museum of the American Cocktail, which operates in tandem with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

These two excellent facilities are teaming up to stage a WCD spirits extravaganza. A number of New Orleans restaurants are also part of the action (but of course), providing important and creative sustenance.  You will have the opportunity to enjoy expertly-made cocktails as done by professionals who know what they are doing, know what should be done and can turn out a delicious, refreshing beverage with the finest spirits from every corner of the globe.

More importantly (okay, so maybe the drinking thing is the most important aspect of this event), you can ask your questions, find out what makes the drink so special and even how to make it at home. Here is where the pursuit of knowledge and the experience of joy come into play.

Often when you go into a bar, the person behind the bar is pretty busy. And you really don’t know who this guy or girl is, or how much they truly know.

At World Cocktail Day, you will be face-to-face with only the best. These are professionals who work at their craft every day, but on this day they will be with you.

World Cocktail Day is Friday, May 13, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., and the museums are located in the Riverwalk, right at the Julia Street entrance. That’s the most upriver entrance of the Riverwalk, right by the Convention Center. Tickets are only $25 in advance, $35 at the door.

You can go here to purchase tickets, and you should do so early because there is a limit on the attendance.

The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is celebrating 19 years this year. I tend to think it’s the 20th, but what do I know? Whatever it is, if you are a wine lover, this is the place to be May 24 – 28.

Here again, what you want to know about wine from any place on the globe, the answers will be here in New Orleans. You can attend dinners, about 30 of them happening simultaneously; you can attend seminars, ranging over a broad scope of wine topics; you can enjoy an event where only fine wine with a retail value of at least $50 is poured; you can stroll more than 7 blocks of Royal Street and stop in at galleries, jewelry stores and shops, each hosting a winemaker pouring their wines; and you can attend grand tastings where more than 800 wines will be waiting for you, accompanied by the finest restaurants, each serving their cuisine, from New Orleans and the region.

It’s a plethora of riches. Turns out that learning about the wines, their origins, their histories and their vineyard and winery situations is all great fun. Ask the questions. Get the answers. Taste the wines. Don’t even worry about the next day. Besides it’s a holiday weekend. 

All the up-to-date information about the many events and the registration are available at Check out what is going on each day.

When you attend these events, taste around. Don’t just head for something familiar and stick with it all night. You have the opportunity at two really fine events to enjoy a lot of beverages with an unending offering of tastes and smells. Then, after you have tasted, ask questions.

I don’t care how much stuff you can buy at the store and bring home to try. You will never be able to taste this much and then learn. It’s Knowledge and Joy. 

(Disclosure: Tim McNally is a member of the Board of Directors of The Museum of the American Cocktail. Tim also served for nine years on the Board of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, and as president for two years.)