Tales of the Cocktail, the largest cocktail festival in the world, descends upon New Orleans next week, July 19-24. Over 15,000 bartenders, brand ambassadors, writers, thinkers and drink enthusiasts from around the world (35 countries were represented last year alone) are expected to attend.
There are over 200 events this year, from tasting rooms to invite-only parties, and newcomers will benefit with a few quick tips on how to do Tales of the Cocktail with class from the industry vets. Also important: How to pack for Tales (bring comfortable shoes).
Here now, a guide for what to be on the lookout for, with many new highlights that reflect the ever-changing trends of the cocktail industry. Check back this week on Eater NOLA for restaurant and bar recommendations for Tales attendees.
An emphasis on sustainability: One of Tales main priorities is ushering in an era of sustainability, in terms of bartending and the conference itself— from recycling all those booze bottles to working with Hollygrove to pick up compost. A new sustainability award will debut this year, with Tales founder Ann Tuennerman telling Eater: "It's important that we take a focus on these things."
Lots of healthy things to do: Daily fitness tours, workouts at Waldenburg Park and a running tour of the Quarter are a highlight of this year's Sweat Local initiative, which aims to keep attendees feeling good. There's yoga and spinning classes aplenty and discounts at local gyms.
Lots of new products: Expect debuts from booze brand heavy-hitters St. George and Plantation Rum, and make sure to check out the Bitters Market, where 10 newcomers will make their debut, including the Portland Bitters Project and The Drunken Crane.
A bigger, better Meet The Distillers event: This happy hour is one of the best events for industry to cut loose with 50+ spirits brands, food and live entertainment from national touring band, The Deltaz.
Debut of Brand Education: New this year, the brand education seminars are focused on teaching industry an array of topics, like The Art of the Beertail and how to Make Your Own Small Batch bourbon.
Hello, Cuba mania: Four Cuban bartenders from Havana bar El Floridita will be at this year's Tales for the first time ever. Julio Cabrera, Global Brand Ambassador for El Floridita, and bartenders Ariel Blanco, Alejandro Bolivar, Nicolai Mesa and Manuel Carbajo will be honored during Toast to Tales.
The Industry-Oriented Stuff
Hot seminars: Tales likes to keep things fresh, so expect topics that are centered around industry trends, ranging from bar management to wellness to career-oriented talks. Spirits Business picks out the best seminars and events for industry, from getting sales traction in the booze market to understanding NAS whiskies.
The hottest tasting rooms: Being at Tales is all about trying new things and some of the hottest samples you'll get your hands on will be found at O Canada presented by Crown Royal, where you can try the 2016 World Whisky of the Year; Redemption Rye Rocks the Pool with rare cask-strength whiskies; and The Boilermaker presented by The High End, with the first-ever Master Cicerone making an appearance at Tales.
State Of The Trade address: On Tuesday, July 19, the CEO of Barcardi Limited Mike Dolan will talk directly to the trade about where he sees the cocktail industry heading. It's an invite-only event.
Keynote speakers: "Last year's keynote [Danny Meyer] was about hospitality," Tuennerman says. "This year is about the creative spirit." Bartender Marc Alvarez Safont, chefs Grant Achatz and Albert Adria, and Alinea and Tock founder Nick Kokonas will talk abouthow they keep things interesting.
What's HOT For LOCALS
Tales Restaurant Week: From July 18- 25, well over a dozen New Orleans restaurants will offer prix fixe menus and drink pairings. It's a great and affordable way to get in on the fun while avoiding the madness of the Hotel Monteleone.
Spirited Dinners: Thursday, July 21, features a night of boozy dinners at 30+ local restaurants from Katie's to the anticipated Warehouse District oyster bar Seaworthy, with visiting bartenders and brand ambassadors creating cocktail pairings. Full list is here, and reservations must be made via the restaurant.
Freret Street bar crawl: A half dozen bars and restaurants participate in this public event on Sunday evening, July 24 at 5 p.m. There will be food and drink for purchase at High Hat, Ancora, Company Burger, Cure and more spots along with bartender duos slinging cocktails.
Looking ahead to Daiquiri Days: During the entire month of September, 35+ restaurants and bars in New Orleans will pair up with a spirits brand to offer specially-priced frozen daiquiris around town. The Ace will roll out a special rate of $99/night for locals, and special events include an Ernest Hemingway impersonator at El Libre, a visiting Cuban bartender planned for a night at Cane & Table and more.