This month, drink enthusiasts will converge in New Orleans with bar professionals from across the globe for Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC), the world’s largest cocktail festival. In addition to over 200 seminars, tastings and competitions, the 14th annual event will take over the cocktail capital from July 19 to 24 with special dinners, pairings, guest bartender appearances and events at some of the city’s finest bars, restaurants and hotels.
Tickets to seminars and dinners are sold individually via the TOTC website. Purchase more than $150 in tickets to receive a wristband granting access into all tasting rooms and most of the branded seminars led by master distillers and award-winning bartenders.
This year’s keynote conversation will feature bartender Marc Alvarez Safont and chef Albert Adrià of Barcelona’s elBarri group and chefs Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas of Chicago’s Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Alinea. In between those filling events and more formal workshops and presentations, guests can enjoy fun stand-outs like the Grey Goose camionnette (a mobile martini bar disguised as a French bread truck) and Reyka’s vodka vending machine, back by popular demand.
Read on for a few other not-to-be-missed events on tap at Tales of the Cocktail.
During Tales Restaurant Week (July 18 to 25), almost 20 different NOLA restaurants will offer special prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus at acclaimed restaurants like Emeril’s New Orleans, Galatoire’s and Cafe Adelaide, where even the food is cocktail-influenced thanks to offerings like peach gimlet salad and whiskey-glazed Gulf shrimp.
On Thursday July 21, restaurants across town will serve unique cocktail dinner pairings for one night during the Spirited Dinner Series. Coquette chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus will team up with mixtress Gina Chersevani (of Buffalo & Bergen in Washington D.C.) to honor David Bowie and Prince with an epic cocktail-paired dinner presented by William Grant & Sons. James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya will collaborate with Nick Anderer (of Maialino and Marta in New York City) on an Israeli-Italian feast at Shaya’s Pizza Domenica, with bartender Nick Bennett (of Porchlight in NY) mixing Mediterranean cocktails to match.
Renowned visiting bartenders will also pick up shifts at bars around town throughout the week as a part of the Dynamic Duos series.
You’ll want to close out the week with a bang by attending the seventh annual Pig & Punch, a pork- and booze-filled celebration held on Sunday the 24th in Washington Square Park to benefit New Orleans charter schools. That night, those still standing will join the Freret Street Bar Crawl for more food and cocktail collaborations and travel the road that connects uptown and downtown New Orleans.
With endless opportunities for food and drink, it’s possible you might find yourself needing a break from the revelry. Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours offers visits which begin conveniently in the French Quarter and end up at expansive City Park, historic cemeteries, the colorful Marigny, and the stunning Garden District with its dripping Spanish moss and 19th-century Antebellum mansions.
Magazine Street is another top destination, not only for dining and drinks, but also for its gallery hopping and shopping for unique vintage finds and locally crafted wares.
Go the extra mile and visit The Museum of the American Cocktail, located inside the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. The museum boasts over 16,000 cookbooks, a test kitchen, demo lab and galleries displaying everything from bar napkins to bottle openers.
Afterward, head down to Frenchmen Street, where you can hear live music any night of the week in a variety of intimate jazz clubs like The Spotted Cat and restaurants such as The Maison, which hosts lively jazz dinners and Sunday brunch.
There is no better way to get to the center of the action than by booking a room at the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Hotel Monteleone. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, this historic gem features 570 opulent guest rooms, including 55 luxury suites and literary suites paying homage to acclaimed guests like William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway and more. It will also be the site of many TOTC events, including a welcome pool party sponsored by Bayou Rum, a gin and green juice bar each morning, and seminars on spirits. And every alcohol appreciator will want to enjoy a Vieux Carré at the hotel’s iconic Carousel Bar & Lounge, where the cocktail was invented.
If you’d rather avoid the maddening crowd, opt for accommodations at Loews New Orleans Hotel. Located in the nearby Arts District, just a short walk from the French Quarter, Loews offers modern luxury with suite views of the Mississippi River and the city skyline.
Loews’ A Spirited Stay package includes two nights, a welcome cocktail from the Swizzle Stick’s bar chef, an around-the-world wine tasting at the Wine Institute of New Orleans, 10 percent off spa services and a late check-out that will come in handy for partygoers. Guests will also receive a book of cocktail recipes and a recovery concierge kit (anti-hangover ResQ Water, an espresso drink, Emergen-C, lip balm and more) delivered in the morning. When in NOLA, you must party like a professional.