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How to Get Ahead at “Tales”

Tales of the Cocktail Planning - New Orleans

There is so much to do, drink and digest at Tales of the Cocktail. What has been affectionately called the Bartender Bacchanalia or the Sundance of Spirits, amongst other names, is now regarded globally as the most “spirited” event of the year. Tales of the Cocktail, without a doubt, meets the goals of its founders: “To be instrumental in advancing the craft of the cocktail through education, networking and promotion.”

With numerous, simultaneous official events (164 total last year) taking place over five sultry summer days, in and around the French Quarter of New Orleans, it is a must to map-out in advance. If this is your first visit, you are not alone–of the 18, 000 attendees in 2010, almost half were first-timers. Upon registration, attendees will receive a folding schedule and map–hang on to it! This and the thousands of bottles of Fiji water offered everywhere will be the most indispensable tools for the blur of booze that is the next few days.

This year, the festival’s ninth, the schedule is again filled to the brim with events, product debuts, and tastings, tours, competitions, seminars, spirited dinners, meet & greets, awards, and certifications, all designed to inform and inspire (and inebriate). Seminars and events run the alphabetical gamut from America’s New Distilleries to Zacapa Rum Southern Garden Party, and spotlight what’s now, next, and notable in the business.

A good plan of attack is to take in a morning and afternoon seminar, squeeze in a lunchtime tasting or two, head to one of the early evening special events or a quick dinner, then change clothes and be off to one or more late night festivities. Ending the night at local myriad, must-see watering holes both old (The Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street) and new (Cure ) is second only to getting an invitation to some secret shindig or attending the annual funeral procession for each year’s cocktail that’s been killed-off by bartender vote.

If you are feeling like a spirits smarty-pants, the Spirits Professional and Advanced Bartender tests are being offered again this year. This highly-regarded certification, which ultimately can lead to the coveted Master Mixologist certification, is part of the Master Accreditation program of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. To sign up or for more information, go to www.USBG.org.

Be sure to leave a couple of hours to experience the cuisine and culture of this amazing city. Especially leave time for the short walk to The Museum of the American Cocktail. If you are lucky, Chris McMillian will be doing the tour.

If you need a breather, or to just cool off, hanging out in the lobby of the Monteleone is an event in itself. Stand in one place for a few moments and you will likely see a libation luminary. Go ahead–introduce yourself! One of the best things about Tales is that even those at the highest level of fame and (good) fortune are very friendly.

There is no end to the things to do, people to meet, and cocktails to try. The only things in short supply are sleep and dry clothes. Yes, it’s hot; oh, and humid…very, very humid. So plan ahead, pace yourself, and be prepared for a staggering experience. See you at Tales!

Tales of the Cocktail