Thanks for wondering about the Tales of the Cocktail Apprentice Program!
The Apprentice Program was established in 2008 as the method of supporting the Tales educational seminars cocktail making needs. Now grown to over 50 members each year, the CAP team makes batched cocktails for over 75 events in four days each with 100 to 1000 attendees. The team has become an integral part in supporting not only the seminars but many of the other events held throughout the week.
Apprentices are chosen from around the globe based on applications submitted via the Tales website usually about 6 months prior to the event. Applications are reviewed by the 6 members of the CAP leadership team in two rounds, the first blind to names & identity revealing information. While we do suggest you be a working bartender with some level of experience, there are no specific qualifications or keys to entry. A team of approximately 50 with varied backgrounds is chosen in order to build a well rounded team dynamic. This teamwork is a key focus and critical component of the CAP culture.
Apprentices must arrive on Monday & after a relaxing welcome to NOLA spend the day Tuesday with the team setting up the venue’s cocktail production kitchen, liquor storage, etc. as well as working thru a training event on how the Tales batching & seminar system will function for the week, thereby giving you all the information you will need not only for this event, but to take with you to work on other future large events. Tuesday night is another evening to enjoy NOLA. The gals who run the event go to great lengths to give us some incredible & uniquely NOLA experiences!
The hard work begins Wednesday & does not end until Sunday. When accepted, apprentices fill out a survey requesting which seminars they would like to see or to work, and we will have created a schedule based on this. Obviously not every request is possible but we do our best & indeed they do get to see quite a few as non-working attendees & if we cannot do that, are often at least placed on the team working those seminars they’d like to see. It is important however to remember that we are all there to work first & foremost. If you look at this years seminar lineup & feel that it is most important to you to attend a large number of the seminars, we certainly support that, but would thus not recommend applying to the program. We do attempt to make some audio & video content from many seminars available just to CAPS for post event viewing.
Daily work varies based on schedule, & is usually not more than 2 events per day, sometimes 3. Times vary, the first call time starts at 8am, the last ends around 6 pm. Usually a call time is 2 hrs prior to a seminar & runs 30 min after. The work is definitely physically demanding, fast paced, intense & in large quantities… While the cocktails are indeed excellent & made with care, this is not one at a time craft cocktail creation, this is large scale batching in buckets for 200+ people at a time in a very limited amount of time. It is indeed a fast & furious kitchen. But it is always fun & the team walks away with an enormous sense of accomplishment & camaraderie when the week draws to a close. Few other events both rely on and continue to develop such a strong sense of group dynamics as the CAP program at Tales. And no other event brings the satisfaction of having supported hundreds of your colleagues in serving and providing hospitality for the over 20,000 yearly attendees of the world’s largest cocktail conference.
If you are not on a seminar, we always appreciate checking to see if an extra hand is needed but if not, you are certainly free to roam! One of the benefits to the CAP program is access to any seminar when not working & with the rare exception of a few offsite after hours private brand parties & the spirited lunch/dinners; every other event as well. Other benefits include local NOLA airport transfer, a shared (2 ppl total) hotel room in the Monteleone with a fellow apprentice from Monday night thru Monday morning, breakfast & lunch every day Wednesday thru Sunday, several other dinners & events just for the apprentice team & more goodies than you can carry home without the frequently called upon help of UPS. We do require that you stay in the Monteleone & if you absolutely must be with a significant other, you may get your own room there, and Tales will pay for your share. Some events also are for the team only as they are sponsored on specific budgets from the brands. That said, it’s a great time for all! There are events every night that you are free & encouraged to participate in as well. While we recommend a good nights sleep, reality is most nights are quite late & morning comes quite early, but we do insist you be ready to work. Hearty constitutions & work ethic is a requirement.
It is also a fantastic way to see one of the world’s greatest cities… As you may know, NOLA abounds with a culture of people, food & music like none other. It has become a city near & dear to our hearts & while we want you to enjoy the seminars & evening events, etc., we strongly encourage you exiting the Monteleone to enjoy and support the Crescent City. Every year we tell apprentices to book, in advance, a few extra days post Tales & no one listens… But by Friday or Saturday after a few days in the Big Easy, they are already postponing their flights! There’s nothing like it.
Being part of the CAP family introduces you to an ever expanding circle of alumni, always willing and able to assist it’s kin with everything from work opportunities to reunion trips. Another benefit is the ability to apply for the CAP Scholarship Program, available to any CAP alumni. Each year we are awarding at least $25000 total to a variety of projects to benefit the industry.
If you are in most cities in the US, you can probably find an apprentice ‘alumni,’ feel free to chat with them or indeed ask us anything else you might be wondering. We really can’t talk enough about what a fantastic experience both personally & professionally it is to be part of the team that literally makes the world’s biggest & best beverage event possible!
We look forward to seeing you in NOLA!
Don, John, Mike & Leo
Tales of the Cocktail Apprentice Team Leaders