The 14th running of Tales of the Cocktail has passed into history, and the locally-originated, locally-produced ode to all things of Spirits (but not necessarily spiritual) was, by all accounts, the biggest, craziest, most sophisticated Tales event staged to date.
Everyone who attended, and that includes loads of locals alongside a hefty group of professionals and enthusiasts who flew here from all over America and every corner of the world, had an opinion of how Tales unfolded, good or not-so-good. But there is no denying the raw energy of attendees and overwhelming supply of every conceivable alcohol-based liquid brought to the fore for the specific purpose to be added to a glass of something interesting and creative.
It is an unheralded perk of living here that we only have to go to the Quarter to enjoy something quite phenomenal in the hospitality world. Most of the attendees go to great lengths and fight our less-than-friendly air service to come to the event.
There are a lot of reasons why these young, enthusiastic and mostly tattooed bar professionals want to be at Tales. The event is relevant to their profession. To most of these millennials, crafting cocktails is akin to a calling, and Tales is the grail. These folks are immersed morning to night, and beyond, way beyond, with discussions that border on biochemistry, spirituality and alchemy. I have been in theological discussions that were not built as much on core beliefs.
And these folks are enjoying every minute of it. They may profess a staunch dedication to one product or another, to one method or another, but you can bet that when they get back home, they cannot wait to try the exact thing they were railing against just a few days ago.
The seminars, and there are plenty of them, are packed with knowledge from ultimate authorities. The folks who made the spirit, crafted the bitters, wrote the book, or created the tool are now in New Orleans. All of them. Your questions are answered as if your opinions mattered and your thoughts have weight. Lots of respect for all from ultimate authorities. Not a discouraging word the whole week.
You cannot learn or hone your skills from a distance either. You are tasting, drinking, blending and experimenting on the spot. Want to know if this combination can work? Do it. Work on it. Get it right. All under the watchful eye of professionals who want nothing more than to advance your knowledge. If, along the way, you use their product, wonderful. Everybody wins. But that is not the essence of Tales. Sales will happen on some other level and everyone seems to know that and is happy with the situation.
I have been to every Tales since the first one. I have seen the growth that always trended positively. I have sat in a multitude of seminars where even I soaked up some useful knowledge. And I have partied until the wee hours with literally thousands of my new best friends.
Therein lies a bit of the problem. The folks who stage Tales have got to be honest with their guests. There has to be an effort to find bigger venues or limit entry passes.
The event is just too darn successful. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone wants to be in the room. New Orleans does not offer enough big rooms.
Oh sure, the Convention Center is always there, and I don’t think it has been used by Tales. At least, not recently. The issue is that it is a bit sterile, a bit cold, when the leaders of Tales want to show off New Orleans culture, our history, and our love of party. But venues that can hold many thousands of folks, and get them in and out with relative efficiency, are few and far between.
The party at the top of the Ace Hotel was made challenging by that hotel’s elevator systems. The Orpheum party was marred by a line of people waiting to get in. The line snaked from the Orpheum’s front door, along the street, all the way through the driveway of the adjoining parking garage, and out onto the next block behind the theatre, which is S. Rampart Street. Once the party-goer went inside, the place was jammed to the point where we headed for the upper balconies to escape the crush of the fun-seekers on the main floor. To be fair, there were plenty of bars in the upper reaches of the theatre so we did not suffer a lack of beverages.
When New Orleans takes on mainstream professionals who have seen it all, and we impress, that does my heart good. When our burg can amaze people from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Eastern Europe and Russia, the Far East, and Paris, among other notable world capitals, that is a wonderful emotion for me, and a vote of confidence for all of us.
Those are the Tales these world travelers are going to take with them wherever they go.
Thank you Ann, Paul and the rest of the Tales team. Our heart is full. By the way, so is my tummy.
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.