tales of the cocktail william grant party

Another Tales of the Cocktail is in the books, and with it: another bout of day drinking, spirited dinners, all-out fetes and just the right amount of regret. This year witnessed a slew of larger-than-life bashes put on by notable brands who 1) know how to throw a good party, and 2) have some deep pockets.

Things kicked off Wednesday night with Absolut, who threw an impressive opening party at Mardi Gras World, a fun, whimsical and generally strange space sporting Mardi Gras floats and a carnival theme. We’re talking corn dogs, merry go rounds and the like outside, plus a truly odd indoor space that embraced an Andy Warhol-inspired supermarket, full of faux groceries and creatively packaged cocktails. Upstairs, things turned decidedly Studio 54 with glowing lights, go-go dancers and the occasional vodka shot from a pill bottle.

Meanwhile, the William Grant & Sons party had a camel. That’s right, a camel. It was part of their multi-faceted Around the World with Charles H Baker party at the little Lakefront Airport. It paid homage to the writer and traveler who penned The Gentleman’s Companion cocktail book in 1939 by channeling historically famous bars and bar themes from around the world. The front lawn resembled Morocco, complete with sand, a bazaar and that camel, while the William Grant portfolio was on full display. Sailor Jerry rum drinks came in coconuts, while Reyka Vodka and Tullamore DEW handed out easy-drinking cocktails of their own. Meanwhile, indoor bars celebrated Singapore, Mexico and more, with setups ranging from an old timey soda fountain to a refined library pouring Balvenie.

And all that… was just Wednesday.

Thursday night saw Bacardi host an affair at the musically-inclined Generations Hall. What it lacked in camels, it made up for in a spirit animal theme that meant lots of party goers wearing black animal masks. DJ Soul Sister and ASTR kept the crowds dancing, while various bars doled out tastes of Bacardi, Dewars, Bombay Sapphire and more from the Bacardi portfolio. And if you played your cards right, you might have even slipped through a hidden door leading upstairs to a private tasting of Grey Goose VX. That’s a just-launched hybrid spirit that’s basically Grey Goose Vodka married with a few drops of cognac. It’s a surprisingly tasty expression with hints of cognac-induced fruit.

And no one could forget Friday, when the spirited folks behind The 86 Co., along with Del Maguey, hosted Bar Fight Club for the second year running. This annual competition pits some of the nation’s best bars against each other in a no holds barred, trash-talking spectacle of epic proportions. This year featured Barback (Boston), Harvard & Stone (LA), Herbs & Rye (Las Vegas), The NoMad (NYC), Trick Dog (San Francisco) and Williams & Graham (Denver). Each bar put out a menu of drinks featuring The 86 Co. spirits — Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Cana Brava Rum, Fords Gin and Tequila Cabeza — plus Del Maguey’s fine lineup of mezcals. Judging was handled by an expert panel, while the thirsty public was free to roam between bars and taste the concoctions. All of the competitors put on a good show, but Trick Dog was crowned the champion. They were also the only bar serving sherry from suspended watermelon kegs, which… couldn’t have hurt.

And that’s just a small sample of what went down at Tales of the Cocktail, a festival flush with tastings, educational seminars and more. We’ll have additional coverage just as soon as we catch our breath.

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