With Tales of the Cocktail 2019 officially in the rearview, we’ve been able to take a step back, clear away the haze, and evaluate the week-long festival that brings brands, bartenders, media, and other spirits industry professionals to New Orleans each July.
The Bevvy team was on the ground, attending seminars and tastings, interviewing distillers, getting the inside scoop on product launches, and staying out much too late—only to do it all over again the next day, fueled by Frozen Irish Coffees, po’boys, and a pathological degree of FOMO.
Throughout the week, we hit dozens of different events. But the below six-pack represents some of our favorite highlights from Tales 2019.
An Evening With William Grant
Wednesday night’s opening party was again hosted by William Grant, a company that knows how to have a good time. Their full slate of brands were on display, each with a unique twist. At the Reyka booth, you could iron a shirt, for some reason. And at the Sailor Jerry Savage Apple Rum booth, you could knock an apple off a baseball tee. But the most fun experience of the night was definitely the Tullamore Dew-adjacent slide, which led party-goers down a ramp and into a foam pit. And that barely even scratches the surface of what went down throughout the evening. Because there was a band, sure, but there was also a beekeeper, an ice luge, a guy hawking tiny potatoes out of a wheelbarrow, someone in a puffin suit, and the chance to make your own graffiti art. It was a real something-for-everyone affair.
The Best Kind of Garden Party
Absolut Elyx’s Garden of Elyx is a must-see event each year, and this was no exception. The elaborate pop-up took place over three days at the 19th Century Audubon Cottages in the French Quarter. The exhibition of decadence (and vodka) sported multiple bars tended by some of the world’s best bartenders, plus a swimming pool, mermaids, blow-up dolls, a beauty salon, DJs, a crafts station, and cocktails served in gorgeous copper vessels. It’s an Instagrammer’s dream. But it’s also a fun way to showcase Absolut Elyx and exactly how it can fit into your summer party plans.
Non-Stop to Osaka
Wheels up for the House of Suntory, as visitors embarked on a non-stop journey to Osaka to celebrate the spirit of Japan. Thirsty passengers sipped Suntory Toki and Haku Vodka highballs while enjoying Japanese hand rolls and steamed buns, while a DJ provided the evening’s soundtrack. In the back bar, Masahiro Urushido of New York’s Katana Kitten, the 2019 Spirited Awards winner for Best New American Cocktail Bar, mixed up refreshments for all. It was first-class fun at this well-attended event.
Blending Rum with Diplomático
Diplomático Rum hosted a spirited lunch at Doris Metropolitan. Master Blender Nelson Hernandez led a fun and educational dialogue about Diplomático’s blending process. First, we learned about the three rums from their Distillery Collection (including a new pot still expression) and their distillation techniques. Next, we tasted the three distillates, noting the different flavors and complexities of each expression. Finally, we rolled up our sleeves and blended our own rum from these distillates. As expected, everyone’s preferred composition was unique, and no blend was the same. We enjoyed our own blend very much, but Nelson’s job is probably safe.
Hendrick’s Gets Peculiar
Hendrick’s Gin held court at their Peculiar Palace during this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, and the experience was fascinating, weird, wonderful and over the top—so, everything we’ve come to expect from the unique gin brand.
Visitors began their tour of the Palace in an old-timey gin tavern, where they warmed up their palates by sipping on gin cocktails against a backdrop that included a penny-farthing bicycle and a crashed hot air balloon. Next, visitors were transported into a Midsummer Night’s Dream—resplendent with all its woodsy charm, including an eight-foot tall dryad. Naturally, Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin made an appearance in a refreshing cocktail.
As we descended from the midsummer terrace and into the depths of the Palace’s dungeon, we were greeted by two mysterious wraiths, seemingly floating down the staircase. As they guided us to the dungeon floor, we met another memorable character who chronicled the story behind Hendrick’s Orbium Gin. Soon after, the tour turned into a formal tasting, and eventually we were ushered back into the real world—a much more boring affair than the one Hendrick’s created.
Fernet Through the Decades
Each year, Tales of the Cocktail plays host to dozens of “Spirited Dinners.” We chose to attend the Fernet-Branca dinner because 1) we like fernet, and 2) a good digestif is just what the body requires at the midpoint of a cocktail festival. The evening’s festivities were led by Count Edoardo Branca, who represents the sixth-generation of the family behind the brand, and included plenty of food and paired cocktails with each course. But the real highlight of the night (in addition to getting a Fernet-Branca coin) was when Edoardo and Co. brought out Fernet-Branca bottles from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The liquid inside was unmistakable, but it was interesting to see how the spirit changed slightly over the decades. It was also a nice reminder that, while we’ve been drinking fernet for the better part of a decade, the brand has some serious staying power that precedes the modern cocktail renaissance.