New Orleans is home to some of the best cocktail bars (and cocktails) in the country, so it should come as no surprise that this Southern city is also home — for 16 years running — to Tales of the Cocktail, touted as one of the world’s premiere cocktail festivals that highlights what’s now, next, and new in the spirits industry.
The annual trade conference, festival, and gathering of cocktail and spirits industry professionals put on by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate, advance, and support the global hospitality industry, kicks off on July 16 and runs through the 22nd. So grab yourself a sazerac — here are 10 sessions that aren’t to be missed.
Done in partnership with Louisiana organization STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response) and open to ALL Tales attendees, this complimentary workshop will tackle the harassment issues that have plagued the bar and restaurant industries for ages. Attendees will learn to better recognize sexual harassment (and other bad behavior) as well as find out ways to safely and responsibly intervene. Whether or not you’re in the industry, everyone stands to learn something valuable from this session.
Moderated by writer and booze entrepreneur Jackie Summers, this all-star panel includes New York City-based somm (and parathlete) Yannick Benjamin, badass beverage curator Ashtin Berry, and Denver Brewer’s League founder Maggie Campbell. Find out what can be done on both the individual and organizational level to make Inclusiveness the norm — instead of the exception. We’re talking practical steps that can be implemented quicker than you can finish a hurricane.
Sure, you’ve had a cocktail made with charcoal but what about locust bean? Or mopane worm? Or lion’s ear?? This panel of African hospitality professionals, including Stephanie Simbo, who founded Beyond Bars Akademia, a work program in South Africa dedicated to training female ex-inmates and giving them the skills needed to work in the hospitality industry, will cover not only the unique ingredients coming out of Africa, but also why Africa will be the next big trend in global cocktail culture. Learn more about the spirits history, African bar scene and traditional drinking culture.
This sessions poses a very tough question: Would you stake your career on one good drink? If your answer is yes, this is the panel for you. Find out what’s on the line when a bar decide to focus on a single spirit. The creativity factor is high — and so is the risk. The panel is moderated by Derek Sandhaus, who wrote the book (literally) on baijiu, and features a lineup of folks who know what it takes to make single-spirit programs sing.
With suicide rates up by more than 30 percent in some U.S. states, it’s never been more important to talk about mental health. Moderated by Tim Etherington-Judge, who launched Healthy Hospo, a program that works to provide information and support about physical and mental health for hospitality professions, this session tackles a topic that until now has largely been omitted from conversations about hospitality. Learn how to reach the balance and happiness bartenders so often strive to bring to their craft, and maybe even learn how to get a proper night’s sleep (yes, it can be done).
That’s right: Bigger isn’t always better. And we’ve got the successful, small-batch entrepreneurs to prove it. Philip Duff of Old Duff Genever, Allison Parc of Brenne whisky, and Gable Erenzo of Gardiner Liquid Mercantile will not only walk you through the benefits of staying small as a brand and how to play the long game, but also how you can spot the real nano-brands from the impostors.
For starters, bottled-in-bond (a.k.a. bonded) is simply the label for a distilled beverage — usually whiskey — that has been aged and bottled according to regulations as outlined by the U.S. government. This “warranty of authenticity” has been around since 1897 and is making a comeback with craft spirits. Get up to speed with panelists, including Audrey Saunders of legendary Pegu Club fame, on the history of bonded spirits and why they’re poised to make a comeback (and not just whiskey, but rum and brandy, too) in the cocktail world.
NYC’s Ms. Franky Marshall curates an expert panel of 12-minute #SEDTalks meant to inspire, educate, and help grow your career. First up is Audrey Fort, who will cover “Building a Brand Before it’s Launched,” outlining the “key steps to create notoriety, visibility, and that all important buzz.” In “Changing the Culture,” Licensed Professional Counselor and Midwest Spirits Specialist for the Winebow Group Laura Green will take on some of the toughest issues facing the industry today: substance abuse, sexism, racism, burnout, and unmanaged mental health. Her goal is to “change the rules,” starting with you. Micah Melton, Beverage Director of the acclaimed Alinea Group, will share simple, proven methods that make drinks more interesting and delicious in his talk on “Kitchen Techniques Behind Bars,” for all things shaken, stirred, and even sous vide. Sharon Seyna’s “Drink Your Herbs!” presentation explores the intersection of herbal medicine and cocktail culture — and clarifies the many misunderstandings so you can get it straight once and for all. In “Rethinking Bartender Education,” Stephanie Simbo, the aforementioned founder & CEO of Beyond Bars Akademia in Cape Town, discusses her cross-disciplinary approach to bartender training by developing emotional intelligence and critical thinking (it’s not just for CEOs). Finally, for those thinking about scaling a business, Edmund Weil, the man behind some of London’s greatest cocktail bars, talks what it takes to operate multiple successful bars without compromising vision — and how to align yourself with a team you can trust — in his presentation, “Spinning Crystal Plates.”
Everybody loves a pop-up, but what does it take to do it right? That’s what attendees stand to learn in this session from the best of the best: Jillian Vose, beverage director at NYC’s Dead Rabbit, Jose Luis Leon, bar manager of the renowned Limantour in Mexico City, who has “guested” on six different continents, cocktail great Yael Vengroff and more. Find out how to spread the word, stay true to your brand, and most importantly: get paid.
The only thing better than an expertly mixed cocktail is an expertly mixed cocktail that gives back to the community — and that’s what this panel is all about. As more and more bars get in on the fundraising action, it’s important to know how to make your efforts count. Find out best practices and pitfalls to avoid from those close to the source, like NYC bartender and philanthropist Lynette Marerro, the brains behind Speed Rack, the “world’s first all-female speed bartending competition.”