A Return to OZ: Tales of the Cocktail Revamped and Reimagined
"Flowers grow back, even when they're stepped on. So will I."
Welcome back thirsty readers! I know it's been awhile since you've heard from me. Things have been a real whirlwind here in the world of the shaker. I've relocated to a new city, started a new job, and taken on so many new projects that I've been unbelievably busy! With all of the renewal in my world, I felt it was a perfect time to talk about, once again, heading back down to the land of jazz, and rediscovering my roots!
In the past year, Tales of the Cocktail has been under fire for several reasons, both social and financial. Back in December, the official announcement came out that Tales was sold, but many were still sceptical about the future of Tales. Taking the helm of the new Tales organization is long time bartender and all around smiling face of the New Orleans cocktail scene, Neal Bodenheimer. Neal is also the owner of Cure and Cane & Table and board member of Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. "We are working hard to repair relationships. We want to show the community through our actions that we are committed to fixing the issues that have been plaguing Tales. We haven’t had a ton of time to do all of the work since we acquired Tales in mid-February and a cocktail festival of this size takes a year to plan, but we feel like we have made some organizational changes that will help to point us in the right direction for years to come."
No matter what your personal stance, it's hard to argue the impact Tales of the Cocktail has had on the beverage industry as a whole. Since its founding in 2002, Tales of the Cocktail has grown from a small gathering of cocktail-obsessed individuals into a full scale events bringing tens of thousands of people to the Crescent City every year. This will be my 8th Tales, and I couldn't imagine where my career would be without the education and contacts I've made through the event. This event not only impacts the careers of bar professionals the world over, but it's impact on the New Orleans hospitality scene is hard to comprehend from those on the outside. Tales bring in brand support, business, and publicity to a much deserving city. According to Bodenheimer, "New Orleans is a small city; it’s an incredible honor, responsibility and benefit to have the caliber of people come through our spots year after year. Without Tales the best and brightest of our industry wouldn’t come to New Orleans as much and we wouldn’t experience the positive this impact. I’ve met so many friends and found so much inspiration from Tales. I am so grateful for the opportunity to keep it going for the cocktail community and for the city of New Orleans."
"Our goal is to unite the community under our three pillars: education, support and advancement."
Of course there as several changes to expect. Bodenheimer felt it was essential to preserve certain aspects of the organization. "We didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but there are some changes in ‘18, but more to come in ‘19. We have spent a big part of our time restructuring the organization into a foundation and creating a grants committee who is working tirelessly to vet the 150 grants that we received; we are looking forward to the $250k in grants that will be announced at Tales. The addition of Beyond the Bar, which serves as our sober space is something that we are incredibly excited about as well. Change is incremental; we can’t wave a magic wand and fix everything immediately, but our goal is to evaluate in ‘18 and adjust in ‘19. That being said, there is a ton that is right with Tales of the Cocktail, so you can rest assured that we won’t be changing the best parts of Tales." When asked about the future, Bodenheimer said "Our goal is to unite the community under our three pillars: education, support and advancement. Tales is arguably the greatest platform in our business and we are excited to use it for charitable giving and community support."
I hope to see everyone down in New Orleans in a couple weeks. For those of you who can't make it, I've included some refreshing summer cocktails from some of my favorite New Orleans bartenders below.
Fools on Parade Matt Lofink, Cure
1.5 Shackleton Whisky
.5 Jacoulot Creme de Mure
.5 Simple Syrup
14 Drops Bitter Queens Orange bitters
Shake and strain into a chilled coupe.
“This refreshing take on a WHISKY SOUR is layered with notes of blackberry, anise, and chamomile”
Daiquiri Menta Chris Hannah, Manolito
1.5oz Bacardi Superior
2 tsp Sugar
.25oz Creme de Menthe
10oz Pebble Ice
A grip of mint leaves.
Combine in a blender and blend until smooth.
The perfect way to beat the Louisiana heat with a nod to Cuba.
Negroni Snowball Lydia Ballard, Catahoula Hotel
.75oz Barsol Mosto Verde Pisco
.75oz Dry Rosé
4 Drops Bitterman's Orange Citrate
Build in cup Julep-style.
Mound up pebble ice into a round dome.
Drizzle with strawberry syrup
Garnish with grapefruit peel.
"New Orleans summers are terrible and gross. What is the best thing about New Orleans in the summer? Snowballs!"
If you are making the journey to Tales of the Cocktail this year, please be safe, stay hydrated, and of course enjoy everything New Orleans has to offer. There's arguably no other city in the United States with as much unique culture and laissez-faire. Who knows, maybe we'll run into each other. Until next time, keep shaking.