Close Menu
Top 10

Tales of the Cocktail survival guide 2015

Essential reading for anyone venturing to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this month, we detail the talks and tastings that you would be a fool to miss.

Tales of the Cocktail can be an overwhelming experience, so we detail some of the festival's unmissable events
Tales of the Cocktail can be an overwhelming experience, so we detail some of the festival’s unmissable events

Tales of the Cocktail is in some ways extremely similar to competing in a Tough Mudder obstacle course. Both are marathons, not sprints; you simply cannot do it alone; you come out the other side with better friends than when you started; and both seem wildly intimidating at first.

While at Tales you dodge the electric shocks and ice baths, with thousands of bar professionals from across the world descending on New Orleans for a week of imbibing, learning, sampling, networking and more drinking, the whole experience can rapidly become astonishingly overwhelming.

Which is why, back by popular demand, is The Spirits Business’ Tales of the Cocktail Survival Guide 2015. Here we’ve combined our pick of the seminars, tasting rooms, drinking and dining events and parties taking place throughout the week (15-19 July), as well as some top tips from Tales veterans to help you not only survive but thoroughly enjoy the week without getting too carried away.

Remember, no matter where you hail from or whether you’re a distributor, brand owner or bartender, the key to winning at Tales is to take it in your stride – you will only get out of it what you put in.

There is of course a hell of a lot more happening at Tales than we’ve listed here, so for more information and a complete listings guide head over to

Click through the following pages to view the ultimate survival guide for Tales of the Cocktail 2015.

Wednesday 15 July

TOTC1Irish Pubs: How They Took Over The World

La Nouvelle Orleans, Hotel Monteleone


Everybody loves an Irish pub, where good beer is guaranteed and decent craic can be found, but just how exactly has the much-adored concept become established in every inhabited continent? Three Irishmen – Tullamore DEW’s Tim Herlihy, Diageo’s master of whisky Gerard Graham, and Dead Rabbit’s Jack McGarry – explore the fascinating history of the Irish boozer.


In A Snap! Cocktail Photography 101

Iberville Room, Hotel Monteleone


If Ireland’s favourite pastime doesn’t float your boat and you’re more keen on self-improvement, then hop across the hallway at the Hotel Monteleone to photographer Daniel Krieger’s seminar on how to perfectly capture your cocktail creations. After all, quality cocktail imagery is a strong tool in any bars’ marketing armoury.


Genie in A Bottle: How Spirits Age

Queen Anne Ballroom, Hotel Monteleone


Some spirits are more popular on your bar than others, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they won’t develop within the glass over time. This fascinating seminar, hosted by Bacardi’s Ian McLaren, will explore the effects of time on bottled spirits, how to maintain your collection and what is and isn’t worth opening.


For Peat’s Sake! (A Study Of Smoke)

Queen Anne Ballroom, Hotel Monteleone


This intriguing and no doubt geeky presentation from whisky writer Dave Broom and bar legend Ryan Chetiyawardana will tell you everything you ever needed to know about smoke flavour in food and drink, including the right – and wrong – ways to smoke a beverage.


A Spirited Evening with Danny Meyer


A rare opportunity to hear Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, present his advice on how to deliver world-class hospitality. With several successful restaurants across the globe, and four books on the subject – including Setting the Table – under his belt, Meyer knows a thing or two about delivering great service. Tickets for Tales’ first keynote speaker presentation start at US$115.


Dynamic Duo: The Past & Present of Tiki Cocktails with Ryan Chetiyawardana and Brian Kientz



As part of the Dynamic Duo series where global bartenders take on guest shifts at some of New Orleans’ finest bars, Brian Kientz and the team at Tujague’s will partner with London’s Ryan Chetiyawardana to transform some classic rum cocktails into futuristic serves.

Thursday 16 July

totc2Mind, Body & Spirits

Vieux Carre Room, Hotel Monteleone


Here’s hoping you haven’t overdone it the night before, as this health and wellness seminar is sure to not only put you in the right frame of mind for the rest of the week, but equip you with the tools you need to improve your and your team’s work/life balance. If you find yourself in need of an extra hour’s sleep this morning, don’t worry – the Mind, Body & Spirits seminar will be held every day during the week.


Nomadic Barkeep: Travel-learn-repeat

La Nouvelle Orleans West, Hotel Monteleone


Bartenders are becoming more world-travelled than ever before, but how much of those experiences living and working abroad are absorbed into their skillset? 28 HongKong Street’s Zdenek Kastanek and George Nemec lead an all-star panel who discuss their lifetime experiences and tricks for transforming their encounters into valuable assets.


Breaking Into the US Liquor Market

La Nouvelle Orleans West, Hotel Monteleone


No doubt all non-American brand owners have had their eye on the US spirits market, but have been intimidated by the complexity and challenges of breaking into the country for the first time. Here, Audry Fort, portfolio didrector for EuroWineGate, leads a panel that will teach you everything you need to know about launching a product Stateside, including organising a cocktail competition, social media etiquette and licensing.


#SEDTalks: Tales Talks in Just 15 Minutes

Grand Ballroom South, Royal Sonesta Hotel


If you’d rather crack on with learning – it’s what we’re all in New Orleans for after all – then take some time to drop into a TED talk or three. Today’s 15-minute sessions are led by Bacardi’s Jacob Briars, 86 Co founder Simon Ford, Belvedere Vodka’s Claire Smith-Warner, and drinks veteran Derek Elefson.


Made in America Happy Hour

La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom, Hotel Monteleone


A room that grants the opportunity to sample the best of American craft spirits in one spot is a happy place. Discover some big, and not so well-known, names.


Bar Fight Club

Generations Hall


One of the must-attend events at Tales is the annual Bar Fight Club, where six celebrated bar teams brawl in a cocktail competition to become the ultimate victor. With spirits from The 86 Co (Fords Gin, Caña Brava Rum, Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Tequila Cabeza) and Del Maguey, the night is a sure win. Make sure you get a ticket in advance as this event sells out fast!

Friday 17 July

TOTC3The International Barfly’s Bucket List

Queen Anne Ballroom, Hotel Monteleone


The spirits industry’s brand ambassadors can vie for the title of most-travelled person of the year – their roles take them to the most far-flung corners of the earth as they peddle their wares and meet up-and-coming bartenders. Which is why they are among the most knowledgeable people to compile a “world’s best bars” list. Here a handful of renowned legends divulge their favourite, and sometimes unlikely, watering holes.


The GREAT British Tasting Room


Evangeline A&B, Royal Sonesta Hotel

Discover the best of British cocktail culture through the ages with William Grant & Sons, which presents a timeline of traditional libations researched by historian David Wondrich. The WGS brand ambassador team will also be out in force to ensure visitors have a GREAT experience.


Making Vermouth for Home and Bar


La Nouvelle Orleans East, Hotel Monteleone

Vermouth has been catapulted back into the limelight as a favourite among bartenders who are now keen to discover how to create their own bespoke expression for their bars. Join Jared Brown, vermouth expert and master distiller at Sipsmith, for an informative discussion on batching your own vermouth.


Write Yourself Famous

Iberville, Hotel Monteleone


Whether you’re looking to promote yourself or your bar, there is no shortage to the marketing skills you can possess, and having the ability to write is certainly one of the strongest. Join Becky Paskin, editor of The Spirits Business and, as well as whisky writer Dave Broom and bartenders-turned-writers Tristan Stephenson and Dave Kaplan, to discover how writing can reap benefits for both you and your business.


Diageo Backyard House Party

Contemporary Arts Center Warehouse


Diageo is bringing the celebrations home this year with the ultimate backyard house party, where top names such as Charles Joly, Ricky Gomez and Jeff Bell will be tending bar. Invite only.

Saturday 18 July

totc5Grape Escape: Peru’s Pisco Varietals

La Nouvelle Orleans West, Hotel Monteleone


Pisco is still largely underrepresented in cocktail menus, but its diverse fruity and floral flavours can deliver complexity and harmony to mixed drinks. Discover the many nuances of the different grape varieties that can produce Pisco and how they are best served in cocktail creations by TV personality Tony Abou-Ganim.


To Batch or Not to Batch

Queen Anne Ballroom, Hotel Monteleone


Join a panel of leading industry names (Elayne Duff, Ryan Chetiyawardana, Charles Joly) to discover how batching cocktails can revolutionise fast-paced service in your bar. This unmissable session will cover the dos and don’ts of pre-batching, and how avoiding perishables such as citrus and ice can still lead to greatness.


Storytelling: Letters to a Young Bartender

La Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre


Others’ past experiences can turn out to be valuable advice when it comes to forging your own career, so take heed of what bartenders like Sean Kenyon, Erik Lorincz and Lynette Marrero have to say about when they first started out.


The Three Phases of Hospitality

Grand Ballroom North, Royal Sonesta Hotel


Three bartenders, each with their own speciality in a different kind of hospitality, are led by Liquid Productions owner Andy Seymour in a lively debate about the three major rules that combine to create perfect service and a killer atmosphere.


The Spirited Awards Ceremony

Sheraton New Orleans


Anyone who’s anyone will be filling the Sheraton New Orleans on Saturday night as the world’s bartending community eagerly waits to discover the winners of this year’s Spirited Awards. If you’re shortlisted, are a plus-one or have bought a ticket, you’re in. Just remember to slip on some Cuban heels as the Sheraton takes on a Cuban jazz vibe.


Bartender’s Breakfast

New Orleans Center for Creative Arts


The official after party of the Spirited Awards is being held this year at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Last year’s event held at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas was the party to end all parties, and this year’s bash is set to be no exception.

Sunday 19 July

TOTC6The Fifth Annual Pig & Punch

Washington Square Park


Tales won’t officially draw to a close without the annual Pig & Punch, held by the Bon Vivants at Washington Square. A festival of its own, expect games, pork, and punch as the global bartending community becomes one big gathering of friends.

Tips from the experts

Philip-Duff2Philip Duff (pictured), director of education, Tales of the Cocktail 

Sustainable Agave, Best Practises (Weds, 1pm, Royal Sonesta) sounds like an incredible talk. Its core is a group of artisanal mezcal producers, all contributing differing points of view on how the boom in agave spirits can be harnessed to make agave cultivation and harvesting even more sustainable, which is the holy grail of the agave industry.


Ann Tuennerman, co-founder, Tales of the Cocktail

The Dining and Drinking lineup of events will give festival attendees the opportunity to sample the best of New Orleans’ legendary cocktails and cuisine. This wide range of events includes exclusive dinner and cocktail pairings, special fixed menus, bartending events and special luncheons, all hosted at renowned bars and restaurants throughout the city.


Simon Ford, co-founder, The 86 Co

New Orleans has one of the richest bar cultures in the country. It has world class cocktail bars like CURE, Angeline, Kingfish and Latitude 29, to name a few, and historical haunts like French 75, Commanders Palace and the Sazerac Bar. Outside of going to the parties and seminars I like to check out and support the local bar community.


Charlotte Voisey, portfolio ambassador, William Grant & Sons

When visiting New Orleans for Tales my first stop is Whole Foods to stock up on juices and kombucha for the week. There is little time to do so once things get rolling and they keep me healthy and energized for each busy day. Rouses in the French Quarter is also good to stock up on fresh fruit and healthy snacks.


Pamela Wiznitzer, creative director, Seamstress, NYC

Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and stay hydrated. Running around to all of the events at Tales can throw off your internal clock and most people forget to eat substantial meals throughout the day. With all of the alcohol available to sample, it’s imperative (and safer) to keep a full stomach while hitting those tasting rooms. If you’re near the Monteleone, grab a healthy salad from Green Goddess. Or walk a bit further to Coops for some fried food and killer gumbo. No matter what, do not skip meals as it is necessary to fuel you for the long day/night ahead.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No