original Tales of The Cocktail Survival Guide from 7/16/2018, updated 6/14/2022
TALES OF THE COCKTAIL
Tales of the Cocktail is around the corner! For those of you who are going for the first time or who need a little refresher especially after 2 years of pausing for COVID, I compiled a survival guide to help you make it through the week. It’s a marathon, not a sprint after all. The following tips were put together based on my personal experience and those of long time veteran Tales attendees. Although a cocktail conference seems like all fun and games, there are strategies to get the most out of the week and not ending up tanked by 2pm everyday. Don’t be that person.
What IS Tales of the Cocktail?
It would be a disservice to call Tales of the Cocktail just a conference, it is so much more then that. Bartenders, cocktail enthusiasts, writers, spirits brands, and distillers from all over the world converge on NOLA for one magical week. What ensues is a week of seminars, events, and parties with some fresh shenanigans thrown in for good measure. New spirits get launched, tons of spirits get tasted, and with adventures and events and experiences tucked it every corner of NOLA, lots of fun is had. Education and the seminars are a main focus of Tales and a huge reason I attend, but there are parties, pop-up bars and experiences all over the city. You are also likely to rub elbows with you some of the cocktail worlds most notable figures. I put together Tales of The Cocktail Survival Guide that hopefully gives you some guidance on making it to the end of the week coming out more knowledgeable, hydrated and unscathed. The main thing to keep in mind: It’s a marathon NOT a sprint!
Besides how to survive the week, be sure to explore NOLA outside of Tales events! It’s a rich city full of amazing people who you likely wont cross paths with inside the quarter. Be sure to visit and support local owned and black owned restaurants and bring cash to tip well!
Tales of the Cocktail during COVID
Tales of the Cocktail is back in person in 2022 and also their 20 year anniversary! Despite most things being back in full swing, COVID is very much still around and a part of our lives despite how much we would like to see it go for good. People have experienced all kinds of lose, fear, and trauma during the pandemic, so for most move through the conference with consideration and care for the others around you. You don’t know what the people you will interact with have been through the past couple years. Here are some tips to consider in regards to COVID and conferences:
- Bring a mask– although masking is optional at the event, you find times when in close quarters and a mask will make these situations more comfortable to navigate if there is any anxiety or need for masking around people.
- Bring proof of Vaccination OR valid negative COVID-19 PCR test (within 72 hours); or negative Rapid test (within 24 hours)– Per Tales of the Cocktail requirements for Tales 2022, in order to get your wrist band, you will need to have one of these 3 things. If you were not vaccinated for whatever reason, get tested often!
- Testing– I am waxed, vaxed and boosted, but my personally plan is to also get a PCR before coming and when getting back. I will also have 1 rapid test to take through out the week to be on the safe side.
- Elbow bumps & high five are still cool!
- Consent & touching– This should ALWAYS be the case with consent and embracing someone, but ask before giving someone a hug. As friendly as everyone in the industry is and we will all be seeing some familiar faces for the fist time in awhile, we might be excited to see people and go in for a hug. People are all at different stages of interaction and comfortability levels in public and at events since COVID. Always ask before giving a hug. And if they decline a high five, elbow bump or simple wave is still a great way to say hello!
TALES OF THE COCKTAIL SURVIVAL GUIDE
- You don’t have to finish every drink. Trust me, there will be more! There is booze where ever turn and ever where you look. During the day and early afternoon I only had small sips at tastings. If I had a brand dinner or event in the evening, this might be the first time I have a full cocktail. The nights can be long with multiple events overlapping each evening. One of my favorite things is swinging by the Erin Rose at 2 or 3 am and finding lots of friends getting Frozen Irish Coffees and chatting about the day. You will not make it there if you’ve been treating the day like a sprint and downing cocktails left and right.
- Hydrate! Take the water bottles at the seminars, fill up at water stations and always bring a reusable water bottle or two. I have a water pouch that can be rolled up and shoved in a purse or clipped to a wait band or bag. A camel bag is also a smart option. NOLA is hot as Hades in the summer. You WILL be sweating a lot as much as you try to avoid being outside, you will be in the 100 degree heat between hoping from event-to-event and going out for food. Compile that with frequent drinking and you’ll find yourself dehydrated very quickly.
- Write numbers down. Have the numbers of medical, police, cab and close friends in the city written down a piece of paper in your pocket or bag just in case you loose your phone or it gets stolen.
- Networking and meeting brands, distillers and fellow cocktail lovers face-to-face is one of the best parts of Tales. Reach out to people, strike up conversations in the elevator or in-line for seminars or parties, and don’t be shy to say hi to people you may recognize from social media. We are all there for the love of cocktails so we have at least one thing in common and most assuredly more! On this same note, although it is a cocktail conference, it’s best not to get too toasted, you never know who you could be making a fool of yourself in front of.
- Pack an umbrella and light waterproof jacket. It’s the rainy season in the south during this time. Clear skies giveaway to torrential down pours in a matter of minutes. If you plan to leave the conference hotel at all, bring one of these so that you can get to the other fun activities around town.
- Bring a full change of clothes in your backpack or bag everyday. I left my hotel room one morning and didn’t return until 3 am the next morning. That’s a good amount of sweat and possible spilled drinks all over yoy. Having a pair of backup clothes to change into might make or break your night/day…what time is it anyway?! Also, a small spray bottle of rose water helps keep the face fresh and hydrated. I keep this in the fridge at night and take it with me for a cooling face spray.
- Buddy system and keep your wits about you. Plan to go places at night with at least one other person if walking. Although the locals are friendly in NOLA, there are people who will try to take advantage of drunk people from the conference and there has been reports of robbery in the past. Just stay aware and use the buddy system.
- Prep your room. Go to a convenience store and pick up snacks like bars and fruit if possible as well as water for the hotel room each night on the first day before you get caught up in all the action. These will be good for the morning or for a quick snack to refuel throughout the day.
- Be sure to take a break to eat. Not only will it help create a foundation for drinks, NOLA has hands down some of the best food anywhere. There are great places to grab food near the conference (although I suggest wandering out of the French Quarter from time to time for a great meal).
- My favorite places in the French Quarter for a quick bite. Be sure to check hours, a lot of popular places have buy outs during the conference by brands for events:
- Killer Po’ Boys. They have a bigger location now that’s a few blocks from Hotel Monteleone, but the original is still great in the back of the Erin Rose, plus you can get an Frozen Irish Coffee while your there.
- 9 Roses Vietnamese. They have great spring rolls which is a nice contrast to all the fried food of NOLA.
- Brennan’s For a fancier lunch or better yet brunch, this is a classic NOLA spot and a must.
- Cafe Beignet, the best beignets in town, trust me! They also have other lunch options.
- Sylvain (open for dinner only except weekend brunch) Best damn cheesy grits of my life.
- For late night food:
- Cane & Table. They also have fantastic cocktails!
- Verti Mart Grocery has amazing sandwiches
- Compere Lapen (10pm)
- Cleo’s Mediterranean
- Dat Dog
- Bar Redeux
- Bacchanal Wine Bar
- Killer Po’ Boy
- Peche (11pm)
- Rest when you can. Sleep is a luxury at Tales and 100 degree heat is exhausting and will wear on you fast. If you can, take a break before dinner and the parties to snack, regroup and possibly take a nap!
- Wear a zipped cross body bag or ever popular fanny pack that holds all of your essentials for the parties and closed toed shoes (walking on Bourbon Street with sandals is…not fun). They are large parties and some spaces can be packed. Have a zipped bag close to your body will prevent anything falling out or bumping into people with a large bag.
- Pack an empty bag. Brand swag is everywhere and you’ll likely find bottles and tools at the shops you’ll want to bring home so be sure to bring an empty bag or suitcase to lug all of your new fancy gear home in.
- Keep organized. Use the Tales App to keep your schedule organized, there are a lot of events packed into each, often many overlapping. Add seminars (so you don’t miss them) and parties along with other brand events.
I hope this Tales of The Cocktail Survival Guide helps make your week at Tales smooth sailing! Happy drinking! And if you are going, be sure to leave a comment or let me know on In and see me, be sure to say hi!