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Highlights from Tales of the Cocktail 2016

Another Tales of the Cocktail is in the books, and with it, another productive week spent in New Orleans attending seminars, tasting spirits, meeting distillers and enjoying enough revelry to make us feel fortunate this only happens once per year. It was a good run, and now that our collective haze has subsided, we’ve recapped some of our favorite moments below.

Charles Joly at the Diageo Games.
Block partying with Olmeca Altos Tequila. Photo: Sonhui Gray
Fancy ice in the Aviary tasting room. Photo: Sonhui Gray
Fancy drinks in the Aviary tasting room. Photo: Sonhui Gray
Japanese highball at the Beam Suntory Hotel. Photo: Gabi Porter
This gnome's filled with an Absolut Elyx cocktail. Photo: Sonhui Gray
Making bitters with Auchentoshan. Photo: Gabi Porter
Tequila and snap pea syrup at the Diageo Games.
The launch of Plantation Overproof Rum. Photo: Gabi Porter
Negroni at the Dante pop-up. Photo: Sonhui Gray
The Connaught Bar in London, winner of World's Best Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards.

THE SEMINARS
Educational seminars covered every aspect of the drinks industry, from distilling spirits and building unique cocktails to category specific seminars that delved into bourbon and brandy. Want to open a bar? Learn how at Tales. Want to become a vermouth savant? Learn how at Tales. Want to know everything there is to know about the Americano? Yep, same advice. And that’s just a tiny sample of what took place. We even concocted our own bitters with Auchentoshan at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, a fitting place for engaging in such alchemy.

THE PARTIES
William Grant, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi threw big, fun, over-the-top portfolio parties that included cocktails, food, performers and all manner of good times. It’s not every day you can eat a char-grilled oyster while sipping the Bacardi Legacy-winning Venceremos and watching a clown ride by on a unicycle.

THE POP-UPS
NYC’s Dante took over the Angela King Gallery and London’s Oriole took over Cafe Henri. At the former, Naren Young and team plied visitors with draft negronis, Americanos and other Italian means of staying cool. At the latter, London’s best new bar held an intimate gathering with live piano and good drinks. It was a unique and welcome way to experience both bars in a New Orleans setting.

THE BARS
One of the most anticipated things about attending Tales is drinking our way around New Orleans. With busy schedules, we can never visit as many bars as we’d like, but we sure try hard. This year saw our first visit to Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, which is a delightful ode to tiki culture by one of the world’s foremost tiki authorities. From the elaborate drinks, to the perfect decor and better-than-expected food, it did not disappoint. Other favorite stops included Cure, Cane and Table, Bar Tonique, French 75 and Sazerac.

THE SPIRITED AWARDS
At the 10th annual Spirited Awards, London cleaned up, having a particularly fine showing and taking home top honors in a variety of categories, including world’s best cocktail bar (The Connaught), world’s best cocktail menu (Dandelyan) and best international bar (Happiness Forgets). Stateside, San Francisco impressed with best American cocktail bar (Smuggler’s Cove), best bar team (ABV) and world’s best spirits selection (Tommy’s).

And then, of course, there’s New Orleans itself. The city’s always buzzing with good times and friendly people. The food’s top notch–we managed to eat more than one reasonably should. And if you need a respite from the heat, just slip into the gorgeous new Ace Hotel for lunch, or if you’re winding along Bourbon St, sneak over to Erin Rose for a Frozen Irish Coffee.

That’ll set you right.

Written by Kevin Gray

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