Tales Of The Cocktail 2023

Tales of the Cocktail. If you’ve never been, how do you even describe it? We’ve been lucky enough to visit New Orleans for TOTC (Tales of the Cocktail) as a collective 27 times, so you might say we’re pretty experienced!

So what is ‘Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC)’?

Founded in 2003 by just a small band of cocktail experts, including our dear friend Simon Ford. It has grown, evolved and run every year since, except for two virtual years during COVID times. 

NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) was the chosen host city for a number of reasons. It’s a city with an eclectic cocktail heritage, birthing some of the most iconic cocktails, including the Ramos Gin Fizz, Grasshopper, Vieux Carré and Sazerac to name a few. 

Try making a Sazerac

NOLA is hot. Very hot, humid, sweaty, wet and did we mention hot?! This delightful combination of conditions also means that NOLA is typically quieter in the height of summer. This translates to plenty of hotel availability, quieter bars and free tables in restaurants. This is helpful for keeping costs down for those wanting to attend, delivers a helpful financial boost for the hospitality industry during the low season, and means there are plenty of places to put on events.

Everyone is there! Amongst the throngs of attendees there are Brand Owners, CEOs and Marketing Directors. Bartenders and Bar Owners. Brand Ambassadors and Cocktail Educators. Press, PR, Writers, Influencers and Cocktail Historians. Basically every job you can imagine that’s related to the cocktail world, plus a good chunk of enthusiasts. There are as many as 17,000+ ticketed attendees, but in reality there are far more than that, many come along without officially registering. So yea, it’s pretty big!

TOTC runs for 3-4 core days, but there are plenty of people in town preparing for events many days before. While others spend days after getting some rest with a glass or two of wine at Bacchanal – a must visit venue. 

The heart of TOTC is based in the Historic French Quarter, with The Ritz Carlton as HQ. The larger events can be found further out where there are bigger venues that can fit thousands of attendees. Some of our favorites over the years have been at Mardi Gras World, The National WWII Museum, Preservation Hall, Tipitinas, The Sugarmill and Generations Hall, to name a few.

“Sounds great….but, what do I do at TOTC?”

Learn

TOTC is very much choose your own adventure. It honestly depends very much on who you are and what you want to get out of it. Firstly, education will always be a core pillar of TOTC. Many of the best and most experienced members of the global cocktail community are in town which makes for a wonderful opportunity to learn from them. It can happen through formal seminars, tasting rooms, meet the makers, experiential events or just meeting the right people while sat at a bar, you’re likely to learn a lot about the world of cocktails! 

Events

Many, many events. Brands come and they throw down serious cash to create amazing, and they hope memorable, events. From the tiny and intimate to the awe inspiring budget busters that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The big budgets don’t guarantee great events, there’s more to it than just money.

Some events, especially during the day splice experiential with educational moments, while others are designed purely for fun. What sort of event a brand throws depends on many factors.

New brands will often want to have a moment where you get to learn something about them and have a tasting experience.

Other brands, especially larger, more established brands just want to blow your mind with the best party. It’s a way for a brand to say thanks to the cocktail world for their support. 

While others might want to show off their latest brand partnership, showcase a bartender or notable bar using their produc, launch a rebrand or pack update, or even a newer version of their liquid. 

Either way, expect cocktails made by wonderful bartenders from around the world. Live music or DJs and keep your eye out for tasty trays of food that you’ll want to get your hands on to keep you going. 

Networking 

With so many different people crammed into a relatively small space, networking is a huge part of TOTC. Both reconnecting with friends and colleagues from around the world, as well as making new friends and connections.

While much networking is done at the official TOTC events, just as much is done in the many bars of the French Quarter. When events are finished and the night gets late, there are three particular “dive” bars frequented by the cocktails community. Old Absinthe House, Erin Rose and of course the Alibi. With a special mention to the Dungeon too. This is where many of the world’s most influential and experienced members of the cocktail community can be found drinking Miller Highlife, shots of Jameson and singing power ballads with a chorus of hundreds! 

Who should attend TOTC?

Are you in the hospitality trade?

If yes, you probably want to go at least once in your life. You’ll get to listen to some great people talk, expand your network, see what brands are up to and see what’s new in the industry. It’s an experience you won’t forget and NOLA is awesome. Just remember nobody gets a promotion at Tales…but you can easily get fired!!

Are you adjacent to the hospitality industry?

    Maybe you’re a fan of cocktails and your business offers expertise that, although not directly related to the cocktail, this could be a valuable network for you to work within. Printers, designers, photographers, tech. There aren’t many many industries that can’t offer something to those in the hospitality industry, especially if you already have an interest in this world.

    Do you just love cocktails?

    If you can take the time off work and want to dive in deep to the cocktail world, then do it. You’ll have a blast! You’ll get to experience so much that you will make it a yearly pilgrimage. Plus, you get to visit New Orleans, one of the greatest, craziest, most interesting cities on earth. Come have fun and bring good vibes. Just remember it’s a marathon not a sprint, beware of professional drinkers and free drinks! Oh and keep some room in your suitcase for all the brand swag.

    What else?

    Tips and lessons learnt from our years at TOTC!

    • Drink more water than you think you need.
    • Make time to rest, you won’t sleep enough.
    • Accept you’ll be sweating. It’s fine, everyone is, just give into it and come prepared with clothes changes you may need after sweat or rain!
    • Register and rsvp to events in advance.
    • Don’t try to go to everything, it’s impossible and you’ll be stressed. Allow yourself to go with the flow from time to time, and randomly join friends, old and new, on adventures. You could end up at the best event you didn’t even know was on!
    • Don’t forget to eat.
    • If you don’t know many song lyrics, a safe bet to learn for the singalongs is Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, as it’s the official song of TOTC after 3am at the Alibi. Followed by classics by Bon Jovi and Guns ‘n’ Roses. 
    • Miller Highlife, is the official beer. Although earlier in the night you should try some of the great local beers too, like Abita.
    • Dance! Get out of the Quarter and head to Frenchman St. one night. You can start at the famous DBA then bounce from bar to bar listening to some of the greatest musicians you’ll ever hear.
    • Listen! Preservation Hall. Half an hour of pure, joyful live jazz. You’ll sit on the floor or a bench in this amazing historic building, so don’t be confused when you first walk in. You’re in the right place and you won’t regret it. 
    • Don’t walk around at night on your own.

    Where to eat and drink in New Orleans

    So many local tasty things to eat:

    Gumbo, Jambalaya, Muffaletta, Po-Boys, Étouffée, Beignets, Fried Chicken…

    There are so many great restaurants to try. From the mixed plate and fried chicken in the divy vibes of Coops Place, to the elegant beauty of Jewel of the South or La Petite Grocery. There’s even a James Beard award winning sandwich shop called Turkey and the Wolf. NOLA has great eating!

    Here’s a small but very eclectic mix to check out in no particular oder.

    Restaurants:

    • Seaworthy
    • Shaya
    • Compere Lapin
    • Jewel of the South
    • Cochon
    • Peche
    • Coops Place
    • Turkey and the Wolf
    • Napoleon House
    • Herbsaint
    • Saffron
    • Dooky Chase
    • GW Fins
    • Sylvain

    Cocktail Bars:

    • French 75
    • Sazerac Room in the Roosevelt Hotel (order a Ramos Gin Fizz)
    • Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel
    • Cane and Table
    • Beachbum Berry’s Lattitude 29 in Bienville House

    The trifecta of Dive Bars:

    • Erin Rose (have the frozen Irish coffee! Trust!)
    • Old Absinth House
    • Alibi

    A MUST stop is Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. Grab them to go then take a walk through Jackson Square.

    And finally…

    Bacchanal for wine and cheese. Perfect for the day AFTER tales, when you want to decompress. 

    Do a guided visit of the Sazerac House and interact with their fun and engaging cocktail exhibits. You will also get to see how they make Sazerac Rye!

    Swamp tour. Give your liver a rest for an afternoon and go out on an airboat with a guide to see some gators! 

    The Oscars of Booze!

    Finally, the last official night of TOTC sees the Spirited Awards take place. People, brands, bars, writers and more are honored across the world for excellence. While, like every award show in the world, the rest of the industry argues about who should’ve been awarded.

    Between us we’ve been many times nominated, made it to top 10 and even made it into the top 4 multiple times, yet zero times winners. Maybe next year…our book ‘How To Make Better Cocktails’ will bring the plate home?! Keep those fingers crossed for us!

    If you see people in tuxedos and ballgowns in dive bars late on the final night, now you know why. If you see one of them carrying a glass plate, say congrats and buy them a Highlife!

    See the full list of this years Tales of the cocktails, Spirited Award winners here. A big congratulations to all!


    @Candra_Drinks  #MakeBetterDrinks  #CandraDrinks

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