Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC) is a 21+ beverage industry conference and cocktail festival held in July in New Orleans, Louisiana. Anyone can attend and there is something for all demographics - cocktail enthusiasts, bartenders, brand representatives, history buffs and more. By purchasing tickets to seminars you receive a wristband, which allows you into tasting rooms and other special events. There is literally something to do every second and as you attend events, you make connections and get invited to even more events and tastings. Needless to say as a first timer, my planned schedule became virtually nonexistent. Since no one told me, I'm giving you tips for attending Tales of the Cocktail (or any conference for the matter!):
1. Try the local spirits.
I highly recommend tasting local spirits since they may not be available in your home city. My most memorable tasting was of Alma Grown Louisiana Cane Mixers. Their mixers are blends of fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices and sugarcane. Out of the three flavors - Original, Lime, and Lemon and Mint - the Lemon and Mint was tastiest. I see this possibly being used instead of simple syrup or for the aspiring bartender at home. Samples were also offered with a local rum brand.
2. Go to the night parties.
There were parties every day and night but the Neon Tide party on Thursday evening turned out to be my favorite. The design concepts, cocktails, theme, and entertainment were very well-executed. I felt like I was at a beach party surrounded with greenery. There was a taco truck, corn hole, and a community Mural Painting (protective suits were provided as an option for painting). The music and overall vibe were great.
3. Attend the seminars you're interested in.
“How To Be Good At Drinking,” led By Tanqueray’s Angus Winchester in the Queen Annes Ballroom of Hotel Montelone was informative and Angus was very personable. I was really was excited to see that seminars weren't only “behind the bar” based, but also included the business and marketing side of the industry. I wanted to attend: BYOB - Building Your Own Brand, The Value of Values: Embedding Purpose into Business, Intellectual Property Law Issues in Cocktail Land, Movers & Shakers: A Guide to Making it Abroad!, and The ULTIMATE Ginger Seminar. Next year I’ll prepare my schedule a bit better.
4. Pace yourself.
This one is self-explanatory. You want to make it through the whole week, right?
5. Network, network, network!
Throughout my experience I noticed that people of color seemed to be the minority in attendance (which sparked a few safe space conversations). This could be for a variety of reasons; however, it's good that TOTC noticed the need to make an effort to be aware and monitor the dynamics. Enter the Tales of the Cocktail Diversity Council. The first meeting of the TOTC Diversity Council was held on Thursday morning while they also hosted a Happy Hour that evening. The council consists of men and women of all races and ethnicities (more information on their events will be forthcoming). As I mentioned before, it's imperative to network to meet various industry insiders as you make your rounds.
I assumed TOTC was education-focused but it’s so much more than that. The events were all over the city showcasing the Nawlins culture. I enjoyed and will definitely return (this time with Ashlee so we can tag team events and seminars). Hopefully you find these tips helpful. See you next year, Nawlins!
- Chezia Cager