When I was a child, I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and thought, gee, I wish that fantastic candy dream world was real. Last week, I discovered that while that sugary, chocolate-covered acid trip might not exist, a boozy equivalent does—at least for a few days every year in New Orleans. It’s called Tales of the Cocktail.
Every hot, sweaty, ultra-muggy Louisiana July, bartenders, sommeliers, distributors, distillers, writers and spirit-lovers gather together to taste, learn and drink. There are seminars galore, which range from topics like the vodka martini to the science behind frozen cocktails to DIY vermouth. There are tastings both huge (like one packed with indie spirits) and small (like one focusing entirely on a single mezcal). And then there’s the weird stuff—lots of costumes, professional swing dancers, some livestock. My trip was educational, to say the least.
For those who couldn’t be there and are considering making their inaugural trip next year, here are a few bits of wisdom I picked up from 2015’s Tales of the Cocktail.