Tales of the Cocktail 2019
Last year’s figurative storm surrounding Tales of the Cocktail and its ownership has made way for a literal storm this month, with Hurricane Barry threatening the event late last week. Thankfully, in spite of heavy rainfalls, the worse hasn’t come to pass and the event kicks off today as planned. As ever, the program is very intense, with numerous seminars. This year, there is a marked focus on inclusion, diversity and wellness — something this industry really needs. Unsurprisingly, a few of our friends are involved. So if you’re in New Orleans this week, who’s doing what?
For one, Carina Soto Velasquez, the first Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur of the Year, will be keeping very busy. Not only will she watch over Marilou, her recently opened bar in the Crescent City, she’ll also take part in a seminar on Day Drinking with yours truly and will be inducted into the Dame Hall of Fame. If that weren’t enough, Le Mary Celeste has also been nominated for the Best International Restaurant Bar prize… Meanwhile, One to Watch winner at the Bar Entrepreneur Awards, Kelsey Ramage and her Trash Collective operation will join force with local restaurant Turkey and the Wolf for Trash Turkey, a sustainable feast — and cheap, with food and drinks at 5 dollars.
Sustainability, by the way, is the theme of various seminars throughout the week, including one called 101 Practical Sustainability. Among the rest of the seminars, our picks are, in no specific order, a History of the Cocktail Menu with David Wondrich and Jeff Berry, Fake Booze News with Derek Brown, Ivy Mix’s The Terroir of Cane Spirits and Ian Burrell’s ironically titled (we assume) ‘I Love Rum as it Has No Rules’. Philip Greene’s American Authors Who Taught Us How to Drink should probably have plenty of Cuban references too.
Away from the seminars, the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation is launching this year a new program called the Headliner Series, matching an international bartender with an American bartender and a New Orleans bartender. The Old Man’s Agung Prabowo will kick things off this afternoon, and will be followed by quite a few shakers and stirrers dear to our heart such as Diego Cabrera, Masa Urushido, Ryan Chetiyawardana, Roberto Berdecia or Chris Hannah.
Talking about Chris, folks in town would be well inspired to visit his new bar, Jewel of the South. It takes its name from Joseph Santini’s — the inventor of the Crusta — late 19th century cocktail palace and pays tribute to the city’s rich culinary (both liquid and solid) tradition. Friday would be as good a time as any to head there, since the bar will also host a pop up with strong Cuban undertones: our good friends at Madrina’s and at Café La Trova will introduce their greatest Caribbean hits — expect quite a few Daiquiri, both shaken and blended.
As always, the week will end with the Spirited Awards and this year again we are crossing our fingers, hoping to bring luck to some of our favorite people — although, sometimes, they are nominated in the same categories. We have already mentioned Le Mary Céleste, for example, and Havana Club Grand Prix 2014’s winner Andy Loudon’s Tippling Club will compete for the same award… In the American Bartender of the Year category, our hearts are divided between Masa Urushido and the cantinero’s mentor Julio Cabrera. Both are also going head to head in the Best New American Cocktail Bar, with both Katana Kitten and La Trova nominated. Sam Ross’ Attaboy is a strong contender for Best American Cocktail Bar and Chad Solomon’s Midnight Rambler is once more nominated for Best American Hotel Bar. Internationally, we hope Baba au Rum will get the Best High Volume Bar award. The answer will come on Saturday evening. Watch out also for the Timeless Award, a new one rewarding bars that have managed to remain relevant over decades.
For the full list of Spirited Awards nominees, check https://talesofthecocktail.com/industrynews/top-four-finalists-13th-annual-spirited-awards