New Orleans has a festival nearly every weekend. Most of our festivals place an emphasis on music or food (or both!). Tales of the Cocktail is a New Orleans festival like none other. Now in its eleventh year, Tales of the Cocktail is a world-renowned craft cocktail festival drawing thousands of spirits industry professionals, media, and cocktail enthusiasts to New Orleans for five booze-filled days each July. Whether you live in New Orleans or happen to be visiting the third week in July, you’ll want to get in on the cocktail action. Even if you’re not a fan of fancy cocktails, you’ll find that Tales offers something for everyone.
My first experience with Tales was the Spirited Dinner Series. I haven’t always been a cocktail enthusiast but I’ve always enjoyed great dinners, so this was an easy way to get acquainted with Tales. Chefs and bar chefs (some local, some from around the world) pull out all the stops to create an elaborate menu of four or five courses with cocktail pairings. One Spirited Dinner menu that catches my eye is at Borgne, featuring El Dorado Rum. The menu created by Brian Landry is incredible from the Pontchartrain Crab Callaloo paired with Not so Dark, Not so Stormy to the Warm Dark Chocolate Banana Cake with butterscotch ice cream paired with Can’t Beat a Chiquita, a Bananas Foster Rum Milk Punch. There are several other dinners that are not to be missed, including Maurepas Foods, Sainte Marie, and Tivoli and Lee. There are tons of great choices, so check out all of the menus and make your reservations before they sell out!
Spirited Dinners: Thursday, July 18 7 – 10 p.m.
Meet the Craft Distillers
Want to know what’s up and coming in the spirits world? Do you prefer small batch distillers to massive liquor conglomerates? If so, Meet the Craft Distillers is for you. You’ll get to sample the wares of some of the hottest craft distillers – Anchor Distilling Company, Breckenridge Distillery, Corsair, High West, New Holland Artisan Spirits, Old New Orleans Rum, and many more! There may be a few cocktails served but this is your chance to taste artisan whiskeys, brandies, vodkas, gins, and liqueurs served straight, so you can really appreciate them. This event has a relaxed atmosphere, so you’ll have the opportunity to meet the spirit masters and ask questions. You may even score some swag for your favorite products!
Meet the Craft Distillers: Friday, July 19 from 5:30 – 7 p.m.
The Finer Side of Mexico
Calling all tequila aficionados! You won’t want to miss The Finer Side of Mexico. In a similar format to Craft Distillers, this tasting event will feature a curated collection of the world’s rarest blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas and mezcals served straight so you can experience these spirits in their purest form. This is your chance to taste flights of some of the best tequilas around. No matter how well you think you know tequila and mezcal, you’re sure to learn something new!
The Finer Side of Mexico: Thursday, July 18 5:30 – 7 p.m.
A Shot and a Beer
Tales of the Cocktail attendees will have plenty of opportunities to drink elaborate cocktails but sometimes you just want a shot and a beer. If so, Tales of the Cocktail has a new nighttime event just for you! A Shot and a Beer explores the simpler side of bartending with potent pairings of premium spirit shots and craft beers, set to the jazz-funk fusion music of New Orleans’ own Khris Royal and Dark Matter. You’ll experience unique pairings such as: Bols Barrel Aged Genever with Stillwater Kopstootje, Jagermeister with Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale, Barenjager with Boucanee by Bayou Teche Brewing Company, and Fireball Cinnamon Whisky with LA 31 Biere Pale. This event looks to be a lot of fun, and should draw a lively crowd.
A Shot and a Beer: Friday, July 19 7:30 – 10 p.m.
Pig and Punch
Pig and Punch, now in its fourth year, is the sleeper event of Tales. This event is more like a big party in Washington Square Park, featuring the best barbecue and sides, trash cans of delicious punch, brass band music, games, and much more. Who doesn’t like pork and punch? Last year, this event incorporated lots of local flavor, including gelato made by La Divina. The event organizers, The Bon Vivants, have partnered with New Orleans KIPP Charter Schools to donate a day of service and proceeds from the event. While the event is FREE, you’ll want to leave a donation or buy a t-shirt to support KIPP Schools. This event was one of my favorites last year, so you won’t want to miss it.
4th Annual Pig and Punch – Sunday, July 21, 12 – 5 p.m.