Story and Photos Jason Curtsinger
For Bourbon lovers unfamiliar, Tales of the Cocktail is a huge gathering of all things booze. Every summer, New Orleans hosts bartenders, distillers, and spirit enthusiasts of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels at over 200 events: tastings are nonstop, and days are filled with seminars and pop up events scattered across downtown. It’s the place to be to stay on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest trends in the industry, and learn some great lessons from the most knowledgable people in the bar game.
Monday July 17th
I arrive in the Big Easy for my virginal trip to Tales of the Cocktail. As I get my bearings, I seek out some of the fresh seafood the city is known for. Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House calls to me like a beacon in the deep sea. I decide it is my duty to experience a Sazerac along with my Oysters – good decision. An even better one was trying Booker’s Rye, far and away the best rye whiskey I’ve had the pleasure of trying. After another drink or six, and a small donation to the local casino, I call it a night.
Tuesday July 18th
The first actual day of Tales gets off to a rocky start, but is a great learning experience of how the trip will go. Obtaining the media pass was more time consuming than anticipated, so my plan for the day was readjusted. I immediately pivoted, and decided to loosen the structure of my plans for the week and kind of go where the wind blew me. However, I did make sure to catch the official kickoff Toast to Tales featuring founder Ann Tuennermann, and bar legend Dale Degroff. I end up at the rooftop pool at the Hotel Monteleone for a Opihr Gin tasting. Another highlight of the day was the Pimm’s Cup at the world famous Carousel Bar. Other random tastings abound, and I felt it my duty to try them all. I get my feet back under me, and wander into a very informative seminar hosted by Torres Brandy. I was sure not to miss a tasting hosted by my favorite tequila, Fortaleza, after which I explored the city with some new friends. By explore, I mean an impromptu bar crawl.
Wednesday July 19th
The words of Ann’s speech the previous day begin to haunt me. She said, welcome to Tales of the Cocktail, let the marathon begin. It is indeed a marathon. A glutton, I return to the Hotel Monteleone rooftop pool for a Redemption Wheated bourbon release. I run into some people from KY working the event, and enjoy some of their concoctions. I then take in a couple of cocktail competitions: Exotico Tequila, and Ol’ Smoky Moonshine. A highlight of the day was French Aperitif Hour at Brennan’s. Lu Brow and Tony Abou-Ganim were behind the bar, with Dale Degroff on the other side. Best French 75’s ever! I also was fortunate enough to attend the release of the first Maker’s Private Select ever in Louisiana at Bourbon House (also delicious).
Thursday July 20th
I enter the final stage of my marathon, and I’m gassed. My subconscious drags me towards a seminar with the word resting in it. Beluga Vodka put together a great experience about resting spirits, and I decide to conclude my Tales of the Cocktail experience by attending a Meet the Distillers happy hour. Again, I felt it was my duty to try as many spirits as possible for these aspiring distillers. Peerless Rye was great, and Chateau Du Tariquet Armagnac has a phenomenal line of spirits. I limp to the finish line just in time to prepare for my flight home before the crack of dawn.
Tales of the Cocktail – 1, Jason – 0