The Most Exciting Things Drunk at Tales of the Cocktail 2015

Tales is the ultimate drinker’s marathon.

Bombarded with educational seminars, Spirited Dinners and brand parties at every hour of the day, you’d need an army of clones to actually attend every event. That notion is attractive, but until science makes it possible, Tales remains a challenging game of pick-and-choose.

Inevitably, a handful of events stand out. Relived through social media and survivor stories from both sides of the bar, those are the memories that hold you over until next year. No two Tales experiences look alike, but these are some of the most electrifying and enjoyable trends from this year’s now departed festival.

Image: Instagram

FROZEN SPLENDOR

Temperatures nearing a swampy 100 degrees necessitate frozen pick-me-ups in NOLA, and this year a record number of Tales events swelled with icy offerings. Spencer Warren’s Desert Lily Frozen Daiquiri was crowned the festival’s official cocktail, and Tales acquired the New Orleans Daiquiri Festival, adding to the frozen fixation for future years.

Even educational seminars dedicated time to the art of icy beverages. Dave Arnold and Philip Duff’s Perfect Frozen Drinks seminar delved into the science behind frozen cocktails and explained how to balance the sugar and acid in machine-blended Daiquiris and Margaritas. From there, the floodgates opened with brain freeze–inducing glasses, like vodka-laden pistachio slushies at Absolut Elyx House, Zacapa Rum snow cones at Diageo’s House Party and slushies modeled after classics like the Negroni and Green Beast at the Pernod Ricard Portfolio Party. Not to be left out, Pig & Punch kept Giffard liqueur slushies flowing all throughout Sunday afternoon.

Be honest: You know you ended at least one of your nights with a Frozen Irish Coffee at Erin Rose. Already a stalwart Tales tradition, it looks like heat-battling beverages will continue to grow in number (and sophistication) every year.

Image: Instagram

LOW-ABV FOR ALL

It’s official: Everyone’s on the low-ABV train. This year, entire Tales events were dedicated to the art of the aperitif. Leading the pack was the wildly popular Cafe Torino pop-up that featured refreshing Martini & Rossi and Noilly Prat cocktails from brand ambassador Giuseppe Gallo and housed the launch of the new Riserva Speciale Rubino.

Ever curious about the history of the Negroni? From Milano to Torino and Beyond was a seminar focused on uncovering the origins of the beloved aperitif and how it’s evolved. Three of the world’s foremost Negroni experts walked an audience through its history and its continuing influence on drinking culture today. Plus, Sipsmith master distiller Jared Brown led a DIY seminar on making vermouth for home and bar including never-before-seen vintage recipes.

Did you miss the La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Renaissance Ball? That’s a shame, because it was an opportunity to appreciate the vermouth’s royal origins in NOLA in elegant fashion. Fine French aperitifs were served by top industry talents, and the lavish evening celebrated the ongoing renaissance of artisanal vermouth. Disaronno joined in by giving Tales guests a chance to pair small plates with Italian aperitifs at its Aperitivo in the Piazza event. There, the brand showcased its refreshing versatility with a Disaronno Americano, Spanish Cobbler and bubbly Pompelmo Spritz.

LOW BROW LEVELS UP

Forget the frat party associations of yesteryear. Long stereotyped liquids like Jägermeister gained a fresh perspective this year thanks to enlightening events like The Deer in Headlights at the Museum of the American Cocktail. The “sensory luncheon” broke down Jäger’s 56 herbs and spices into smaller tasting components, allowing attendees to fully appreciate the digestif’s range of flavor. That flavor was then harnessed in game-changing Jägermeister cocktails from top bartenders Ivy Mix, Andy Seymour and Sean Kenyon.

Oft abused classics like the Grasshopper also found favor. Charlotte Voisey’s full seminar dedicated to mint demonstrated the herb’s ability to breathe new life into a cocktail, a feat proven with a round of garden-fresh Grasshoppers at Tujague’s.

And for the “kids?” Spiked push pops made the rounds with Pallini’s layered limoncello pops and Rhum Barbancourt’s frozen popsicles at the Hotel Monteleone’s Corner Bar. Even flavored vodka got an upgrade with the popular Stoli Red Velvet Mule by Stoli brand ambassador Matthew Dakers, who paired Stoli Razberi and Vanilla with classic ginger beer and lime juice. What does all this prove? It’s time to revisit your old college favorites: They’re begging for a re-do.

WILDCARDS ENCOURAGED

Brand-sponsored houses and pop-ups were all the rage this year—and point to a trend of multi-sensory experiences taking over the more traditional events and seminars. There’s plenty of reason to get on-board, namely all of the boundary-pushing ideas whirring past your head as soon as you step inside.

It’s impossible to deny the appeal of the Absolut Elyx House’s copper drinking vessels. Instagram overflowed with images of copper pineapples, owls and turkeys lined with artful Elyx cocktails. At the Night Jar pop-up, patrons drank from giant seashells and at the Diageo House Party, nearly every guest strolled by with a coconut freshly tapped with a straw and mini bottle of Zacapa Rum. And if you needed a midnight treat, Reyka Vodka’s pop-up vending machine provided all manner of Icelandic specialties, including cocktail shakers, bitters, chocolates and Blue Lagoon bath salts.

For those who preferred to get their hands dirty, Bacardi hosted a Summer Soiree Sensory Brunch. Attendees were encouraged to create their own cocktails with Grey Goose flavored vodkas, citrus and giant herb planters, from which they snipped mint, basil and thyme for muddling. Then, St-Germain gave a nod to the past with its French Embassy event. With hand-rolled cigars dipped in D’ussé Cognac and the chance to have a vintage tintype taken by famed photographer Victoria Will, the event gave the impression of hopping in a time machine back to the 19th century.

The really wild stuff? William Grant and Son’s Yonderyear party took the drinking experience back to nature with Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur cocktails plucked directly from tree limbs. Plus, if you were distracted by the futuristic bubble-blowing fishmen serving cocktails, you might’ve missed the bartenders dispensing kegged gin punch from Segways. Speaking of bubbles, if you attended The 86 Co.’s  Bar Fight event, you likely put your lips to The Aviary’s green apple balloons. Guests stampeded for a taste of the head-sized bubbles all night long, and with one lick, they burst into sweet oblivion.

Still recovering from all this sensory overload? There’s plenty of time to mull over 2015’s trailblazing round of drinking trends until next year.

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