This time next week, I'll be packing up and shipping out for my virgin excursion to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the premiere liquor industry gathering for bartenders, brand reps, cocktail historians, writers and enthusiasts from across the country and around the world. Most of the events at Tales take place at the French Quarter's Hotel Monteleone (which features a Carousel Bar), and from what I've heard, everyone ends up congregating by the pool. I'm hoping to avoid paralyzing hangovers so that I can keep up with a slew of seminars, tastings, and parties, and still be coherent enough to report all of the juicy recaps for you here.
Fortunately, veteran bloggers such as Camper English of Alcademics, Tiare Olsen of A Mountain of Crushed Ice, and Kaiser Penguin have posted a number of informative articles on how best to prepare for Tales and what to bring. Read Camper's tips on what to expect and what to pack, Tiare's lessons, and Kaiser Penguin's 10 Rules to Follow at Tales. Is it your first time going to Tales too? In addition to Camper's advice, here are some pointers from bartenders that I've spoken with, as well as my own packing essentials:
- Bringing bar tools to Tales? You may want to ship your tool kit to your hotel in advance of your arrival so that you won't have to deal with the TSA confiscating your citrus knives and ice picks.
- If you are bringing liquor with you to Tales (this really only applies to those with exciting new spirits that others will want to taste), pack large bottles with your checked luggage. You may not carry any bottle or container of liquid on to a commercial flight that holds more than 100 ml, or 3.4 ounces of liquid, except if: the bottle was purchased in the security zone of the airport you are departing from; the liquid is baby formula, milk, or juice for an infant and you are travelling with an infant; or the liquid is a prescription medication and the the name of the patient on the prescription label matches the name of the traveller.
- Leave extra room in your suitcase or bring an extra bag for all of the awesome swag you'll be bringing home. Or, if you end up with a number of bottles of booze and heavy items, FedEx them home from the Monteleone's business center.
- Going to the seminars? Be sure to give yourself an extra 30 minutes to get to any that are on the upper floors of the Monteleone.
- Speaking of timing, try not to over-schedule yourself--just like visiting the Louvre, you can't possibly do it all. Pick what interests you most.
- Every day of Tales, there are four tasting rooms at the Monteleone, and brands are switched every two hours. According to Cheryl Charming, this is the best place for networking and meeting new people during Tales.
- Whether or not you have tickets to events, there are plenty of free things to do. Check out this schedule for complimentary events, including happy hours, bicycle tours, and Tales After Dark.
- Stay hydrated. I plan on carrying a water bottle (I hear they are provided at Tales) and stocking my hotel room with coconut water, Gatorade, and perhaps even Pedialyte.
- Stay sunscreened--sunburns and intense heat are a recipe for illness, add a hangover and you are destined for misery.
- Just because you can drink for free doesn't mean you have to slurp every cocktail. Tasting and spitting might save you from embarrassment, nausea, or worse, a blackout.
- And for all of those unavoidable hangovers, bring plenty of aspirin, milk thistle supplement, and Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief.
- Bring business cards, and lots of them. Or if you're fully ensconced in the digital age, have a business card app on your phone such as Dub or Bump.
- If you have long hair, bring plenty of hair ties. I'm bringing all forms of frizz-fighting ammo.
- As crazy as it sounds, I've been told not to forget to eat or sleep--although I can't imagine forgetting either. A big breakfast is important to buffer daytime drinking, and I've been told to expect to sleep 5 hours or less each night--which means finding time to sneak a nap.
- Be careful when traveling outside the French Quarter and always have a taxi buddy.
- Don't forget your bathing suit and flip flops for the pool!
- Shrimp and grits at The Old Coffee Pot
- Breakfast at Mother's or Antoine's Annex
- I'm allergic, but Acme Oyster House is a New Orleans institution
- Pecan praline ice cream sundae with bacon caramel sauce at The Green Goddess
- Make a reservation for a cajun dinner at Cochon
- Eat French-Italian fare at Lilette
- Be sure to visit the Museum of the American Cocktail and The Old Absinthe House
- Catch live jazz at venues such as Vaughn's Lounge in the Bywater
- The Alibi is the unofficial bartender's bar during Tales
- If you meet Chris McMillian (which I hope to!), you won't find him at his post at Bar UnCommon during Tales, but you can ask him about his mint julep. Dale DeGroff says McMillian's juleps are "made with poem and mallet."
Looking forward to arriving in New Orleans the night of the 21st! If we haven't met yet, look me up and let's toast a Ramos Gin Fizz!