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Top 10 Activities for Tales of the Cocktail Civilians

Even if you’re not attending Tales of the Cocktail, you can still get in on the spirit (see what we did there?) with these 10 events.

carousel bar cocktail
A cocktail from the famed Carousel Bar inside Hotel Monteleone. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

This month, cocktail experts and aficionados will swoop down on New Orleans to partake in the annual Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC, for short), now in its 14th year. There are seminars and tasting rooms, and all sorts of activities that require registering for the entire conference, which, for many, can be a bit more than one needs. 

However, while the conference runs July 19-24, there are several activities that anyone can participate in (and everyone is encouraged to do so). Here are ten events where you can join in on the fun from July 18-25, whether you’re a Tales attendee or simply a cocktail enthusiast.

10 Ways to Toast Tales of the Cocktail

Oxalis. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

1. Take advantage of Tales Restaurant Week.

Eighteen restaurants will serve specially priced menus for lunch and/or dinner between July 18 and July 25. Many of them, like Green Goddess, SoBou, and Emeril’s, are located in the French Quarter and downtown areas, where the bulk of the TOTC activities occur. However, there are participating restaurants elsewhere — Avo Uptown and Primitivo in Central City — as well as options further downriver in the Bywater like Oxalis.

The taps at NOLA Brewing. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

2. Join in on the Distillery (and Brewery) Day tours.

Anyone can sign up to take a tour of New Orleans’ various distilleries and breweries on Tuesday, July 19. Prices vary, ranging from free at NOLA Brewing and Abita (you’ll still need to reserve a spot), to $25 at Donner Peltier. Some tours have transportation included, and for some you’ll need to get there on your own. There’s also a $35 dinner that evening at Calcasieu sponsored by New Orleans’ newest distillery, Porchjam. Seats are limited.

Inside the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (Photo by Paul Broussard)

3. Meet the Makers at the Hotel Monteleone.

All day, every day, there will be purveyors of cocktail-adjacent equipment and products, like the Beer Syrup Company on Tuesday, Shrub District on Wednesday, Cocktail & Sons on Thursday, R. Murphy Knives on Friday, or Monkey Shoulder Konga Shaker on Saturday. There are four different product sessions every day, so check out what’s most interesting to you by clicking “schedule” at the top of this page, and then going to “complimentary events” on the right hand side of the page.

Cure on Freret Street. (Photo via Cure on Facebook)

4. Attend New (Orleans) Nordic at Cure. 

On Wednesday, July 20 from 5-7 p.m., learn about Nordic cocktail and food culture with Cure’s Neal Bodenheimer and Gobo Hansen from Copenhagen, Denmark (Hansen runs three bars there: Ruby, Lidkoeb, and Brønnum). Bodenheimer and Hansen will be on hand to discuss Copenhagen’s booming gastro-tourism market while making Nordic-inspired cocktails. This event is what’s known as a Dynamic Duo, where local and world-famous cocktail bartenders get together around a central theme or product. They run all week long.

Bonus: Another is a rare opportunity to see two cocktail legends working together behind the bar at Broussard’s Empire Bar. Paul Gustings and David Wondrich will be dispensing cocktails and sarcasm on Thursday, July 21, 4-6 p.m. Really, that should be all that’s required to get you there, but if additional reasons are needed, how about the debut of two new liquors? Peychaud’s Aperitivo and Sazerac Rye are on the menu, both inspired by the classic New Orleans cocktail, the Sazerac.

Elegant, forward-thinking yet classic, and strong are all words to describe the cocktails from Abigail Gullo at Compere Lapin. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

5. Partake in the Spirited Dinner series.

Happening all over town on Thursday night, the Spirited Dinner series is one of the best opportunities to get to know a liquor brand or portfolio, while chefs work with bartenders to create perfect food and cocktail pairings. Many are sold out, but there are still spaces available (at the time of publish.) A few intriguing dinners include: “Duck à la Aylesbury: An Ode To the Noblest of Woodland Birds” at Josephine Estelle; “Down the Rabbit Hole” at Compere Lapin; “Western Alpine Meets Old New Orleans” at La Petite Grocery; the all-you-can-eat-and-drink “Pizza and Porchlight: Two Chefs and a Bartender” at Pizza Domenica; “Sugar and Spice, Shaken on Ice,” at Emeril’s; as well as other dinners at Palace Cafe, Doris Metropolitan, Tableau, TREO, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, and Brennan’s Restaurant.

The historic French Market will host a food truck dinner during Tales of the Cocktail. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

6. Chow down at the Food Truck Dinner Party

For a very different Spirited Dinner experience, head to the French Market for a Food Truck Dinner Party on Thursday night, which is served a la carte, with menu items from New Orleans’ best food trucks like The Fat Falafel, St. Clair Pizza, and Wings 2 Geaux. Of course, each dish will be paired with a cocktail. Plus, there will be live music and dancing. For those who enjoy a less formal dining experience, this is the perfect event.

The Chart Room on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

7. Take it easy while you’re On The Geaux.

At On the Geaux, a laid-back event at the legendary Chart Room on Friday, July 23, enjoy the simpler side of the cocktail with Bloody Marys and a variety of Jack Daniels drinks. Running from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., it’s the perfect time for hair of the dog or an afternoon delight beverage.

Ya-ka-mein from Ms. Linda. (Photo: Sara Watson)

8. Praise Ya-Ka-Mein. 

This year, on TOTC’s final day, begin the penance with a blessing and benediction with The Sunday Blessing and Ya-Ka-Mein. At 10:30 a.m., Father Bill Daily will provide the possibility for the penitent’s absolution, and then Ms. Linda Green will be on hand to provide cups of her delicious mercy for the hangover, her famous Ya-Ka-Mein.

9. Put the “fun” in fundraiser at Pig & Punch. 

Pig & Punch is TOTC’s annual fundraiser for the New Orleans KIPP Charter Schools, which has so far raised more than $200,000 over the past 6 years. The 7th annual Pig & Punch starts at noon in Washington Square Park, adjacent to Frenchmen Street in the Marigny. Each ticket ($40) gets you a t-shirt plus your fill of boozy punch and pork in various barbecue and grilled forms. And, of course, it supports a worthy cause.

The distinctive mural outside Gasa Gasa on Freret Street. (Photo: Susan Whelan)

10. (Bar) crawl to the finish line.

Sunday night’s Freret Street Bar Crawl takes the bar crawl concept to a whole other level, pairing amazing cocktail programs on one stretch of street with guest bartenders and amazing signature drinks perhaps never to be seen again. Begin anytime between 5-7 p.m. at High Hat Cafe, then move to Ancora (6-8 p.m.), Bar Frances (7-9 p.m.), Company Burger (6-9 p.m.), Cure (8-10 p.m.), and finish up at Gasa Gasa from 9-11 p.m.

Nora McGunnigle is a freelance beer and food writer in New Orleans, where she focuses on the unique food and beer culture of Louisiana and the Gulf region. Her work can be found in publications like Beer Advocate, Thrillist, and Eater NOLA. You can often find her holding important meetings at the Avenue Pub. Follow her on Twitter at @noradeirdre and keep up with her work at NOLAbeerblog.com

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Local group Big Sam's Funky Nation performing at an ESSENCE Superlounge. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
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