New Orleans has long cast a spell on its visitors. It takes hold of you. Once in, you can’t get out. Once out, you can’t wait to get back in. It can’t be explained, only experienced. It’s a spiritual thing. Last summer was no different. This city was a buzz as it tipped a glass in honor of the Sixth annual Tales of the Cocktail, the biggest and best spirits fest in North America. Everyone who’s any one in the spirits scene; brand ambassadors, superstar mixologists, well known columnists, TV hosts, your average yet no less committed drinking folk and all the brands, from boutique to the majors pour in to New Orleans (NOLA) from every corner of the globe for five days of imbibing, cocktail demos, seminars, tastings, parties, paired dinners and mixing competitions, topped off with an Oscar worthy awards show.
It’s Hollywood on a highball. In place of cinema, there’s spirits. Instead of movie stars, bar stars. There are no major film companies, but major brands and in place of indie films, boutique brands. It’s the Sundance of the spirits scene. It’s where you go to see and be seen and to consume as many cocktails, conversation, cards and culture as is humanly possible. After a sip the previous summer, this Sipster was counting the calendar days until she could get back to New Orleans to take in more Tales.
New Orleans has long been known for their signature culinary culture. Cocktails, believed by many to have originated in NOLA, are finally having their day in the entertainment spotlight alongside their culinary tablemate. We’re used to having our wines paired with a plate. Cocktails too are finding their way to the table as well as the bar. But it’s a true sophisticate that can balance a meal and a cocktail and perfectly pair the two, creating an inspired party for the palette and the table.
There’s no better place to hone these cocktail skills than at Tales. You’ll find the more you learn, the less you know. Whether you’re a novice or a bar star, there’s no better setting or scenario to add a few more tools or tricks to your bar kit.
Ann Tunnerman, the Redford of Tales and New Orleans resident along with husband Paul Tunnerman assemble a star-studded line up by day, where bar stars, (the Kidman, Clooney and Pitt of the spirits scene) conduct a series of seminars starting at 10:30 AM. Several seminars run concurrently taking place, mainly at Tales headquarters, Hotel Monteleone, in the heart of The Quarter. They run ambitiously back-to-back ‘til 6:00 PM.
Alongside seminars are a series of sumptuous tastings, where brands show their spirited sides with ambassadors giving you hands on tricks and twists and glasses to go, a great way to quench midday thirst and hairs of the dog. It’s a juggle, deciding which seminar to hit and miss. I played the field starting in one, finishing another, and topping off in the tasting rooms.
This year with thousands of sippers in attendance, Tales saw two to three times the attendance than the previous year consuming 6 thousand pounds of ice, 70 liters of cranberry juice, 28 liters of tomato, 30 quarts of egg whites, 56 cases oflLemons, 61 cases of Limes, 12 cases of Oranges, 23 pounds of cucumbers, 50 pounds of ginger root, 2340 jalapeno slices, 8085 mint leaves, 6 pounds of fresh basil and 12 quarts of heavy cream, to name but a few of the ingredients used in the five day window behind the bars.