These Are The Tales: My First Tales of The Cocktail Experience
There’s an old adage that states: “A cocktail, like life’s journey, is a delicate balance of bitter and sweet, trials and triumphs, teaching us to embrace the contrasts that make it truly worthwhile.”
While I am not certain of the origin of this quote, this most definitely was the sentiment that flowed throughout the festivities at the 2023 Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
This year’s theme was “Vitalize” to encapsulate the hospitality community’s vibrancy and adaptability, and its unmatched kinetic energy that brings so much life to our shared experience.
After initially learning about Tales last year, this was my first time actually attending. I was not sure what to expect, so I decided to only dip my toe into the water just a little bit by only attending the final three days. However next year, I’ll be ready to take the full plunge and attend for the entire week.
As soon as my plane landed I was ready to get down to business. The Ritz-Carlton in the French Quarter was the host hotel for Tales and I felt there was no need for me to waste time by checking into my room at The Pontchartrain first. So I pointed the Uber at the Ritz in order to hit the media registration desk to pick up my wristband and get the shenanigans underway.
My first taste was a pair of samples from the Grab and Geaux bar.
From there I wandered aimlessly around the Ritz until I found the media lounge area, where I was finally able to put my overnight bag down and get out my camera. After I was set up, I started to seek out the Singapore X Tales residency. The featured bar on Wednesday was No Sleep Club and they were shaking up a wide array of cocktails including Martell & Green Tea and Pornstar Martini.
The battery started to get a bit low on my phone so I made my way back over to the media area to see if I could let it charge long enough to eventually leave and check into my hotel. While I was there, I had a frozen Mai Tai along with a Captain Morgan canned mojito and met a few people I had only briefly seen online before.
I allowed my phone to charge to about 50% and I was almost out of the door but then I decided to make a u-turn and check out some of the tasting rooms at the Ritz. Up first was “Indie Spirits that Rock,” followed by The Ferrand Dry Curaçao Enchanted Orchard.”
I enjoyed being introduced to all of these brands that I’d never heard of before — they ran the gamut from Jamaican rum, to bourbon, to vodka. All delicious. After I left the rooms, there was another pop up bar at the end of the hall — this one featured Engine gin. Eventually I made my way outside, but instead of heading to my hotel, I walked around the corner onto Bourbon Street to a Bulleit Bourbon pop-up at The Drinkery where I had some finger foods and of course another cocktail.
After a second round of finger foods, I decided that I was tired of carrying my heavy ass bag around and hitched an Uber to my hotel. I settled in for a moment but not for very long because as someone in the media lounge helped me realize, one of the events I planned to attend, was actually on the rooftop of where I was staying.
At the Hot Tin Bar I had a couple cocktails and a footlong hotdog before heading downstairs and over to The Black House for a Brown & Balanced event. This event featured many Black-owned brands including Sorel, Blackleaf Vodka and LS Cream Liqueur, along with some food and a nice swimming pool for anyone who wanted to take a dip to cool off from the unrelenting heat. I had a couple cocktails and a piece of chicken that I placed in a cup, because why not. The sun began to set and I had decided not to use my flash there, so I requested an Uber to the next location.
Campari’s Daccapo event at The Chicory had a lot of things going on. There were multiple rooms of DJs, several bars on different floors, karaoke and more — so much more that I didn’t even realize there was another floor and missed out on whatever performance was going on up there.
But, I digress.
As a photographer, it’s hard to leave a party where everyone is belting out Whitney Houston and getting Campari poured in their mouths.
When that party ended, the scene shifted over to Generations Hall for Monkey Shoulder’s late night event. There was some confusion as to if I was in the correct line. I attended Tales as “media,” which my wristband indicated but the ticket I was given for the event said general admission. I got in the VIP/Press line but was rerouted as I got closer to the entrance.
A bit annoying but whatever.
Made it inside the venue and everyone is wearing orange Monkey Shoulder branded robes and of course the cocktails are flowing. The theme for the night is clearly something along the lines of a slumber party. There are aerial artists and dancers on skates and also mini bites being handed out. Towards the end of the night, the confetti started flying — and did not stop for a very long time. I thought I had missed the photo-op because I was on the other side of the venue as it began but I wound up with ample opportunity for get some nice photos.
I considered going to one more event before calling it a night but by that point my battery was at 7% and I wanted to ensure that I was able to call an Uber to head back to the Ponchartrain.
The following morning, I made my way back to the Ritz for a second line parade presented by Uncle Nearest. The parade of sound, jubilation and parasol umbrellas started at the hotel and made its way through the streets of the French Quarter, eventually ending up in the courtyard at Creole Cookery — where everyone was treated to delicious cocktails created and crafted by Erika Flowers and Toure Folkes.
When I left there, I walked over to a pool party hosted by Disaronno. Seemingly out of nowhere the skies got cloudy and a light rain came down for about 15-20 minutes or so.
I had a delicious cocktail crafted by Channing Centeno, along with some small bites and another frozen cocktail. A guy was talking to me and I told him how much I liked the drink and somehow I guess that made him think I was drunk.
Who can say really?
But anyway, Smoove spent a considerable amount of time posing for photos with fans and also ringing a bell to summon drinks from the other side of the wall. I did not hop in the pool but it was a bit more lively than any of the other parties I’d been to up to that point. Soon thereafter, I Ubered back to the hotel to unwind for a bit.
I was hungry so I walked across the street and treated myself to some sushi. I was feeling a little bit down because I had signed up to be on the wait list for a couple events and hadn’t heard anything.
The Spirited Awards were that evening and I knew I wouldn’t be going to that but there was a live stream that I was able to watch from the comfort of my bed as I waited for a late night event to start. As I was watching the show, I found myself extremely motivated by Tiffany Barriere’s acceptance speech for her Visionary Award — and I decided to go to the Diageo Barcade event that I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get into.
Long story short, I went there and made it in without any issues. At the Barcade, the space was filled with video games, tabletop games and even some skill games. Of course the various brands (and there are many) from Diageo’s lineup were featured throughout the venue.
I still wanted to go to the Kraken event aboard the Queen Mary vessel, so I made my way over there while chatting with my Uber driver about driving during the winter. Inside the ship, I caught up with a few people I had talked to the prior day during registration and they made some cocktail suggestions for me. I ended up trying two different ones in addition to throwing back a few shots of Kraken that were handed to me through a wall.
I’m easily impressed and influenced.
On the upper deck, there was dancing, live saxophone and also another frozen cocktail that was greatly appreciated. After shutting the party down, I started walking and accidentally called an Uber to take me back to the hotel — but that’s where I was headed anyway, so it was all good.
I didn’t have much on the agenda for my third and final day of Tales but it began back at The Black House for Jackie Summers’ All Black Errything. When I got there, things were busy but strangely very quiet for a pool party. There was no music playing at all. As it turns out, neighbors in the area tried to get the day party shut down just moments before it was set to begin.
I suppose cutting out the music was the compromise that was made in order for the event to continue.
Sorel, Blackleaf and LS Cream Liqueur were joined by Greenwood Whiskey, Redd Rose Vodka, Island Getaway Rum, Alexander James Whiskey and Uncle Waithley’s Ginger Beer in a true showcase of Black-owned brands. By the end of the event, it had become both a literal and figurative with the requisite end-of-the-day fun family portrait.
My final stop was the ACE Hotel for a Captain Morgan “Cool Down” rooftop party — this was certainly the busiest of the pool parties I attended during my time at Tales. Off in the corner, there was a parrot who screeched at me quite a few times. Maybe it was hot as well. I had a few mojitos and then a Captain & Coke to top things off.
After I got back to my room, I rested for a minute before heading down the street to find something for dinner. I settled upon Mr. Ed’s Seafood & Oyster House for some oysters and shrimp & grits. When I came back, I spent the rest of the evening listening to some live jazz at the Bayou Bar before going up to my room.
While I only spent three days at Tales, I left feeling as if my time was full of activities and spent wisely. I do wish I would’ve spent more time at the Ritz doing some tastings or gotten into a few more events but that’s what next year is for. I believe I was very cautious to not go overboard with the drinks, as it was quite easy to do so. I even packed Liquid IV in my bag just in case.
The whole experience has me even more motivated to be active and present in the cocktail community here in Cleveland. I’m excited to see what I can do over the course of the next year and of course I also can’t wait to make my way back to New Orleans to encounter some more Tales.