CLASSIC COLUMNS - TALES OF THE COCKTAIL
This is a Booze Classic Column dating back to 2013 (the event information has been updated for 2016). With the world’s greatest cocktail symposium taking place in New Orleans in just a couple months, it seemed like a good time to pour ourselves another glass of Tales of the Cocktail!
I remember thinking how appropriate it was that a group of people came together to celebrate the cocktail in the city where the Sazerac – and some will say the cocktail itself – was born. That this was happening in one of New Orleans’s most unique watering holes, the Carousel Bar, only further enhanced the moment. Many of the details of that occasion are a little fuzzy. It was, after all, eleven years ago.
Fast forward to a recent, unusually pleasant Spring afternoon, I caught up with Tales of the Cocktail founder, Ann Tuennerman, to talk about the upcoming 11th Anniversary celebration of what has grown to become the world’s premiere cocktail festival. By the numbers, last year’s event set several records including 17,703 hotel room nights and a local economic impact of $14.3 million. Amazingly, after all these years, 47% of visitors were attending their very first Tales! Ann is joined by her husband – whom she meet at Tales – and Chief Operations Officer, Paul Tuennerman, and their fluffy little puppy, Delta Dawg, who just came from the groomer for the occasion.
Ann is a lifelong New Orleanian with a love for her city, marketing and promotion skills, and an indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit. Originally motivated by a desire to let the world know about the fascinating cocktail history here and that there is more to New Orleans drinking culture than just Bourbon Street, today she is still motivated by the education Tales presents. In addition, she is aware of the importance of the economic impact on the community as well as how Tales of the Cocktail has changed people’s lives, “These bartenders come to New Orleans, they meet people, they talk, they meet friends for life. They meet their future wife, their husband.”
Paul adds, “It is why we get up why morning.”
Ask most event attendees what they remember and you will hear tales of over-the-top sponsorship soirees and the plethora of informative seminars and tasting rooms. Some will even tell you about the bartending heroes they met and the friends they have made that will last forever. However, there is another side to Tales of the Cocktail that is less obvious, but perhaps even more significant.
In 2006, The New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society (NOCCPS) was founded as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization to preserve the rich history of cuisine and cocktails in New Orleans and around the world by supporting those in the hospitality and cocktail industries. The NOCCPS provides educational opportunities and financial support through several programs. Ann explains, “Tales of the Cocktail is the annual fundraiser for (NOCCPS).”
Ann calls the Cocktail Apprentice Program, “the soul of Tales of the Cocktail.” What started out in 2008 as a way to help serve thousands of cocktails has become the springboard for about 200 participants, from all around the globe, to work side by side with some of the biggest names in the industry. Along the way, making friends and building memories that change their lives forever.
The Cocktail Apprentice Scholarship Fund gives past Apprentices the opportunity to pursue their mixological education through both educational opportunities and special research projects. At least $25,000 is awarded annually. Two 2010 winners have local ties. Rhiannon Enlil, a bartender at Cure in New Orleans, was awarded $3,000 for a Cocktail Timeline Website. She is creating a web-based visually-organized encyclopedic timeline of cocktails. Also from New Orleans, Sharon Floyd from Iris was awarded $2,500 to study “The Botanical Bar”. She has created a comprehensive reference work of herbal medicine as it relates to spirits and cocktail creation. The alchemist in all of you should check out her deliciously fascinating site at Bartanica.com.
Paul further explains how this program was designed to “expediate the propagation of good ideas and new initiatives” by having the recipients of these awards come back and share their knowledge at Tales of the Cocktail so the entire spirits community could benefit.
The Cocktail Apprentice Medical Aid Fund just debuted in 2011. It provides financial assistance to former Apprentices in the form of cash grants to help offset large medical expenses.
The Flo Woodward Memorial Scholarship honors one of New Orleans’ most beloved barkeeps. Recipients of this award have the opportunity to attend the nationally accredited Beverage Management program at the New Orleans branch of The Crescent Schools. This 12-week, 300-hour program provides an unusual depth of knowledge through detailed classroom and lab training.
From an intimate party in a in a classic New Orleans hotel where the bar looks and rotates like a carousel to a multi-city international event that is considered the premier cocktail festival in the world, Ann Tuennerman and her dedicated team continue to raise the bar.
WHAT: The 14th Anniversary Tales of the Cocktail
WHEN: July 19 - 24, 2016
WHERE: The Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans is the official headquarters
While enthusiasts are welcome, Tales is programmed with the professional Bar and Hospitality person in mind.