It is unfolding amongst us once again, right now, for the 14th year. Tales of the Cocktail, founded in New Orleans in 2003, brings to our community the almost-endless possibilities of having fun and making a living with spirits. No, it has nothing to do with Haunted Tours of the French Quarter and everything to do with the outcome of distillation.
In 2002, Ann Tuennerman, Tales’ founder and still guiding force, began a walking tour of French Quarter watering holes. The following year another project, Tales of the Cocktail, was born. Registration that first year took place at Napoleon House and attendees’ names were noted on a yellow legal pad. It’s come a long way, baby, to what is now being billed as the largest cocktail event in the world, more than 18,000 professionals and amateurs, the thirsty and the curious, or some combination of both.
Tales, in the spirits industry, is a must-do event, and those who are not here wish with all their heart they were. When you travel anywhere and stop in a bar to relax, simply mention to the bartender you are from New Orleans and the discussion will immediately gravitate to Tales. Your server will have been at the event and wants to share the stories of the good memories, or they have always wanted to come and it is a “someday” hope that they will travel to our town in mid-July for the festivities.
The grass, as it were, has not grown under Ann’s feet as she has expanded Tales’ presence to a rotating selection of other annual international venues, such as Vancouver, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. Apprentice programs are ongoing with scholarships awarded to promising future talents. The New Orleans Cultural and Culinary Society is dedicated to speaking on behalf of the industry about important issues. Medical assistance in the form of insurance and grants is provided to those with needs in an industry where such benefits are not common.
Worldwide awards and recognitions of individuals and spirits outlets are handed out to deserving recipients. And most importantly, Ann dedicated herself to convincing the Louisiana Legislature in 2009 to name the Sazerac cocktail as the official cocktail of the City of New Orleans, the first city in the nation to have an officially legislated cocktail, assuring the preservation of a proper drink invented here in the 1830’s.
And so while Tales attracts people from every corner of the earth, its mission is much broader than just staging a festival where everyone has an amazing good time. But that too is a laudable occurrence and one worthy of our patronage and attention.
Many of the roughly 200 seminars are directed to “the trade.” Numbers of seminars staged are in the hundreds. Then there are the smaller tasting experiences, happening in various rooms at the Monteleone Hotel and around the area. In the evenings, major spirit companies offer large, spectacular events at major venues around town, each trying to out-impress the others.
Some are open to the general public for a fee, while others are devoted to people who work in the industry. The way to figure it all out is to head over to TalesoftheCocktail.com and plan to spend some time perusing the schedule.
Pay particular attention to the line-up of Spirited Dinners, which take place Thursday night in restaurants all over New Orleans, but mostly centered in the Quarter and surrounding districts. Of course, you know that our resident chefs can blow the roof off of any event. But this time they are paired with mixologists from all over the world who create special cocktails for these dinners, considering the cuisine and the ingredients. It’s a joy to experience the hits, and the occasional misses. But what the heck, even when a drink does not really “sing” with the dish, you still have a great dish and a terrific cocktail. No loss there.
So, here we are and now it proceeds. You may not feel that getting up out of your chair is worth the effort. Keep in mind that many folks are already in New Orleans, really enjoying themselves, and they have come from around the world. More than 35 countries are represented. It’s your call whether to move a few blocks or not.
Congratulations to Ann Rogers and Paul Tuennerman who have created something of note where nothing existed before. And for proudly flying the flag of their hometown for all the world to see.
Read Happy Hour here on MyNewOrleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com. Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.