Tales of the Cocktails: beginnings

26th July, 2012 by Tom Sandham

You don’t talk about hurricanes lightly in New Orleans. It’s a bit like mentioning Princess Diana to the French, comes under the heading of things we like to forget.

Tales of the Cocktail 2012

Tales of the Cocktail 2012 has kicked off in New Orleans

So it’s a bit disconcerting to arrive in the city on the opening day of Tales of the Cocktail to rain drops the size of footballs and a gale force.

To be fair, it is the rainy season here and it’s well worth braving the Louisiana elements for the event. It’s a monumental tribute to all things mixed in drinks, and anyway, if you work in the drinks industry then the beauty of bars and cocktails is that most of it happens inside.

For evidence this year’s event was going to be a quality affair I needed to look no further than the gate for my connecting flight at Dallas. Desmond Payne was amongst my fellow passengers, a reassuring sight when you’re contemplating your first gin and tonic.

That was about all I found reassuring in Dallas airport though. There a lot of seriously large people in Texas, some naturally so, others through the aggressive inducement of high fat content grub. One of the signs for fast ‘food’ offered me a sausage wrapped in some sort of salty bread and deep fried. The strapline under the ad was ‘it’s craaaaazy’. Yes, yes it is, a lot of people are going to die of heart attacks here. I was there for four hours so settled for a tuna bagel and a pint of Stella in an Irish pub. Seriously. I actually did that.

Back to Tales though, which kicked off with a bang and it appears that the cliche ‘anyone who’s anyone is here’, applies. It’s wall to wall familiar faces.

The opening bashes included Absolut and the William Grant shindigs, the former providing real snow as additional anxiety over the aforementioned elements.

The seminars are already up and running, Chivas brand ambassador Max Warner held a seminar yesterday on barrel aging cocktails and said: “There’s been a bit of debate over the practice in recent months, but what’s great about Tales is you have genuine geeks here as well as people who want to dip into things.”

No kidding, just look over your shoulder and you see someone of renowned bartending ilk. I went to order a beer in a hotel bar and was stood next to Henry Besant, next thing I know Charles Vexenat was asking what I’d like to drink, having just flown in from Ibiza. The world’s best are here, and with that in mind I should probably do one and get to some of the excellent seminars taking place today…

Recommended bar for the evening:

Sylvain, 625 Chartres Street, New Orleans.
Opening ceremonies are the name of the game on the first night of Tales but if you’re after a discerning drink and a nice bite then this place ticks the boxes: Beautiful old wood fixtures, a touch of taxidermy and a blend of classic New Orleans feel with discerning dive. There’s also a garden if the weather holds. The cocktail list is short and sweet enough, beers are also useful and the food was a fine and fresh reminder that the Americans can serve up something healthy on a plate.

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