Well, where does one start when Tales of the Cocktail (TotC) has become the most important, worldwide, event for bartenders? Well, this year was the 10th anniversary and it was bigger than ever. That's great but it also means that the Tales experience has changed. Change is neither good nor bad, just different. What does that mean? Well, TotC has become so big that it is almost impossible to do everything you want. Plus, over the years many attendee's have discovered various parts of the city that are not Tales related but still part of the fun, like Frenchman Street. If you wanted to do everything possible at Tales 2012, you'd need to squeeze two weeks into five days.
The highlight of Tales was easily a night at Bellocq, having a few drinks with great company and an awesome conversation. The TotC sponsors do create spectacular parties, but I still prefer a quiet bar with great company.
Having said that, the Moët Hennessy Bar Room Brawl was an unforgettable event as well. Having six of the top bars from around the United States, in one very large room, packed with industry people and an engaging New Orleans band (Flow Tribe) you can't argue with the results. I did have a presentation the next day, so I tried to keep things moderate, and I was mostly successful. The next morning my brain was a bit damaged (ask Wayne Curtis) but I recovered by the time Wayne and I had our Tasteless presentation, thankfully.
Visually, the Absolute Vodka party was cool but it reminded me of home, as it was winter themed. It did help take the edge off the New Orleans heat though.
What about presentations? Well, aside from the two presentation I participated in, a tasting event with Chivas, a book signing and a radio interview, I didn't really invest heavily in learning this year. Before I do a presentations I tend to sequester myself in quiet solitude (usually my hotel room) as I like to be reasonably professional and knowledgeable when I'm speaking. I find that works, but it does kill a few hours of my day. Then after a presentation I need food, because drinking on an empty stomach is a really bad idea. After all of this, it's time for the evening events.
Salt & Bubbles presented by Andrew Nicholls and I went over extremely well. Expect to see a variety of "house soda waters" at bars in the near future. I'm actually going to write that session up and post it here since people seemed to find the info genuinely useful. That post should be up, you know, when I get to it. But my plan is to begin writing more frequently here so expect it sooner than later.
Another fun way to spend time at Tales is in the Monteleone lobby, where you meet great and interesting people. It really is the social center of Tales, along with the much expanded Carousel Bar.
For those who have followed my adventures at Tales for the past few years, it was basically the same but on a grander scale. If you are serious about bartending or cocktails you really need to plan for Tales 2013. For me it has become less about learning and more about teaching and networking. But it is still the best party of the year and I will be back for 2013.