Tales of the Cocktail 2014 is in the books, and as usual we had a blast. It’s been 6 days since we returned from New Orleans and our bodies are almost back to normal. Each year for one week the industries best brands, bartenders, and industry professionals get together and put cocktail culture on display. Educational seminars, amazing cocktails, and epic parties are just some of what goes on. Oh and let’s not forget this is a non-profit, so proceeds go to charity. Sounds like a good deal right?
I wish we could recap everything that went down, but the fact is we couldn’t make it to everything, and we literally started drinking at 8 am each morning lasting until the late hours of each night. Remembering under normal conditions is an ask, but under THOSE conditions is a miracle. What we can do though is highlight some of our favorite things we did do and could remember at this years Tales of the Cocktail. In honor of it being the 12th annual year Tales has existed, here are 12 things we loved.
[In No Particular order]
1. Veev Liqueurs new formula AND risky ad campaign: We were already a big fan of the Acai based liqueur, but their new strategy and ad campaign just pushed me further on the bandwagon. Veev re-formulated their recipe giving it a higher proof (70), and essentially moving it up the chain to become a competitor with flavored vodkas. We like that it still offers a great acai flavor, but now with a bigger bite. Oh and their campaign that asks you to “cheat on vodka” is hilarious, and sexy.
2. Tales on Tour: Mexico City: In what seems like a no brainer, Tales started going on tour in 2011 with trips to Vancouver. They returned their for 2012, hit Buenos Aires in 2014, and at this years Toast to Tales they announced that in 2015 they’re headed to Mexico City. Cocktails + Mexico = Winning. Oh and did I mention Lori and I’s anniversary is in April? Two birds, one stone.
3. The Cocktail Ninja: You go to an event as big as Tales and you tend to run into a lot of people. Like a lot-a lot. You network with hundreds of people, you have some epic drunken nights, and if you’re lucky you remember 60% of what happened the next morning. One person both Lori and I had the pleasure of meeting was Trevor Schneider, an awesome guy who is literally the definition of a great bartender. It seemed like we ran into him everywhere, always making a mean drink with a huge smile on his face and full of energy. Was a pleasure, keep it up man! P.S – Sorry for the unflattering photo, but we felt it was appropriate for the situation.
4.The Diageo World Class House Party: When I originally saw this invite, I guess I was being naive. Even though it said world class my mind just kept thinking house party. I thought they would rent out a huge house and we’d just be mixing up some drinks. WRONG. Instead we had this amazing setup inside the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center with some of the best bartenders in the game putting their spin on classic house party drinks. The live music choice was awesome, and the movie set like atmosphere was cool to be a part of. Each bar was patterned after a room in your “house” and of course the bartenders dressed the part. My favorite had to be the Coquitos being made in the “kitchen”.
5. The Underground Whisky Dialogues Spirited Dinner: We’ve attended Tales for the last 3 years, and we’re almost embarrassed to say this year was our first time going to a Spirited Dinner. Spirited dinners are dinners hosted by a particular brand or company that encompasses spirits in each course of the meal, all while sampling the brand neat and/or in cocktails. We really did pick the perfect one. For 2 hours we drank 3 amazing Canadian whiskies [ J.P. Wiser’s, Pike Creek and Lot 40], ate a fabulous 3 course meal created by Chef David Anthony Temple and listened to two impressive figures in the Canadian whiskey community: Master Blender, Don Livermore and Canadian Whisky expert and author of Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert Davin De Kergommeaux. Good food, great whiskey, and an amazing night. We’ll recap the event in the upcoming weeks.
6. Bartenders Breakfast: Every year Saturday night is reserved for an epic party where Gin becomes the guest of honor. If you didn’t know by now, Gin is my favorite spirit and it’s in MY opinion far too under-appreciated, so each year I look forward to this event with all smiles. It was hosted by Beefeater 24 & Plymouth Gin at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and was by far one of my favorite events in Tales history. The band was great, the setup within the Aquarium was awesome, and the bartenders did an amazing job with the drink selection. Our favorite drink of the night was the “Third Wind” by Tyler Stevens. Plymouth Gin, strawberry cordial, cold brewed coffee concentrate, Amaro, and Chocolate. It kept us on our toes all night. It was the perfect homage to the bartender lifestyle.
7. A London Tale of Gin & Sin: Seminars at Tales are a great opportunity to learn something about a particular topic you may not have the time to research on your own. Every year I attend 4-5 seminars and there’s always one that surprises me. This one was it. I’m a gin guy, so I picked it to play it “safe” because I figured I can’t “not” like it, but it was not only good, it was amazing. By the end of the seminar I was convinced I should open up a Gin Palace right here in Orlando. It was a great experience learning not only of the history of the spirit, but really how it influenced modern bar culture as we know it. We’ll be recapping in the upcoming week some of the cool things we learned.
8. Grey Goose XV Tasting: Tasting new brands is always fun, but I feel extra special when we get the opportunity to try things before they’re released. We had a sit down and private tasting with Francois Thibault, creator of Grey Goose VX, and Guillaume Jubien, their Brand Ambassador, and it truly was an experience. With so many brands looking for new ways to grow and innovate, I fear some of the “gimmick” ideas they come up with, but Francois and Grey Goose did not miss a step with this. Its a vodka that truly sips like a cognac. We loved it and we’ll be releasing a full Grey Goose VX review shortly.
9. A Better Understanding of Bitters: Bitters are an interesting ingredient for the bartender. You’re either infatuated with them or confused by them. I was the latter, and most of my friends (that don’t bartend) are pretty clueless too. I sum them up as the “Salt & Pepper” of cocktails, and leave it at that, but for 2 hours Camper English and Joaquin pretty much schooled me and a full room of others on over a dozen different types of bitters, and the brands they are typically found in. We got to taste and smell different types of bitter up close. It was an amazing experience. We’ll be recapping the seminar next week.
10. Drambuie Mornings: Here’s something you may or may not know about me. I hate bloody Mary’s. Everyone swears by them, but it’s not for me. But when you’re drinking all day and night you need a pick me up in the morning that helps ease you into another day of drinking. So while everyone was piling up at the Absolut Blood Mary Bar, I started each morning with a Drambuie spiked coffee, and god bless it. If you put a little irish whiskey or baileys in your coffees, try something different and dram it up.
11. The Return of Harvey Wallbanger: Harvey Wallbanger himself made a grand return on Wednesday at Tales, resurrecting himself from the 60’s and 70’s era and came complete with a police escort, security, and a flash mob. He and his followers forgot to go shopping though, so it was like a scene out of Saturday Night Fever. Pretty hilarious, and a perfect way to kick off Tales. We even decided to order one at the famous carousel bar in the Hotel Monteleone. If you’re looking to make one at home here’s the recipe:
12. The Fernet Branca Tasting Room: Fernet is one of those love it or hate it liqueurs. I love it, Lori hates it. I always look forward to their tasting rooms for two reasons: One, they usually make some amazing cocktails and two, they give you one of those sought after Fernet Branca Challenge coins. If you haven’t heard the story of the Fernet Branca Challenge coins don’t worry, you will soon. This years room they didn’t disappoint, making you taste each of their cocktails and then answer questions about the spirits in order to gain a passport stamp and access to a coin. Good times. We recently received a bottle of Brancamenta and tried it. You can read that review here.
So that about sums up our week in New Orleans. We wanted to thank all of the brands and their reps for allowing us to attend so many amazing tastings and parties. A special thanks to Courtney, Joe, Jenna, Gina, and as always, a big thank you to Anne aka Mrs. Cocktail for putting on yet another great Tales, and we look forward to returning back to New Orleans [our home away from home] next July.