11 Experiences You Can Only Have at Tales

A man being handed a drink in front of a crowd of people.
Each year, Tales of the Cocktail offers exclusive opportunities to try products and meet people you couldn't anywhere else. Photo via Tales of the Cocktail.

The reasons for a bar or spirits professional to come to Tales are innumerable — anyone who’s been could tell you that much. In a single week, you’ll network and make new industry friends from across the world, you’ll learn things from how to build your brand to the history of club cocktails, and you’ll attend parties that dreams are made of. But Tales is also the lucky purveyor of some important first looks and exclusive opportunities. Here are a few things you can learn, do and taste only at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail.

1. Be among the first to try a new premium Japanese whisky blend. Fans of Japanese whisky will be thrilled to learn that The House of Suntory Whisky is launching a new premium blend at Tales — look out for the opportunity to try Suntory Whisky Toki. “Toki” means time in Japanese, and the blend represents the meeting of heritage and innovation and the congruence of old and new.

2. Get your hands on some exclusive whiskies you can't find in the U.S. More good news for whiskey geeks: in the Lock, Stock and Six Smoking Barrels seminar, you’ll have the chance to try six exceptional whiskies — several of which aren’t available in the United States — all while taking an in-depth look at the process of wood finishes.

3. Experience the world premiere of goods from our friends down under. Along the same lines of international appeal, the Uniquely Australian seminar boasts the chance to taste twenty Australian products, including the world premiere of a 100% rye whisky, peated in the most environmentally sustainable distillery on earth.

4. Sip a selection of mostly-extinct amari. At Tales, there aren’t just first tastes — there are some spirits that you may not get the chance to try again. In Philip Duff’s seminar, Iron Amaro: The Ferrochina Category, you’ll get to experience extinct Ferrochina Amari, which are amari fortified with iron citrate and originally intended as medicinal tonics. Get a deep insight to the category and taste the largest selection of mostly extinct Ferrochina that’s ever been amassed — it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get your hands on many of these rare amaros again.

5. Test out St. George's brand new bitter aperitivo liqueur. St. George is beloved for their innovative spirits, and at this year's event, they're premiering Bruto Americano, a bitter aperitivo liqueur with gentian, California oranges, balsam fir and buckthorn bark. The liqueur began its roll-out in California only last month, but bartenders at Tales will have a chance to try it before it goes nation-wide.

6. Talk shop with a seven-time James Beard Award winner. It’s not just exclusive products to look for at this year’s event — there are also many people who you’re not going to want to miss. In the Mexican Flavor Beyond Frontiers seminar, celebrity chef Rick Bayless (seven-time James Beard award-winner and Top Chef Masters winner) will tell the tale of Mexican flavors and how they influence cocktails. Bayless will even demonstrate how to use each focal Mexican flavor to create outstanding cocktails in the seminar.

7. Share a beer cocktail with one of only 11 master cicerones on the planet. Beer-lovers take note: in the The Boilermaker tasting room, presented by The High End, Mirella Amato, one of only 11 master cicerones in the world will be their to discuss incorporating beer in cocktails.

8. And try a beer product meant for cocktails. The Beer Syrup Company is back at Tales with another new product to premiere. This year, get a taste of their newest gluten-free, cider-based beer syrup.

9. Discuss one of the most elusive aromatic profiles with some of the industry's smartest flavor intellectuals. In the Talking Rot: Rancio, Scotch and MADness seminar, three of the most prominent and creative thinkers in the cocktail world, Dave Broom, Ryan Chetiyawardana and Arielle Johnson, will discuss the elusive aroma of rancio, complete with tastings of ultra-rare blends from Johnnie Walker. This is a rare chance to hear from such lauded intellectuals unpacking one of the most enigmatic aged spirit aromas.

10. Build your own bourbon blend with the masters. If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon’s Make Your Own Small Batch brand education session is for you. You’ll get the unique chance to try making your own batch of bourbon, and likely you’ll leave with a greater appreciation for the effort and precision involved in making great blends.

11. Get a first taste of Plantation Rum's newest addition. Though they haven't released the name yet (or the names of the "six grizzled old salts" that came up with the blend), we do know for certain that Plantation Rum is bringing a new rum to the party this year. For now, details are shrouded in secrecy, but they're planning to let bartenders get first dibs. Look out for a chance to try it first in their exclusive tasting room.

Choosing your own Tales adventure is half the fun at a festival with so much to offer. There’s certainly no way to go wrong, but it’s worth studying the schedule and plotting out where you want to be and when. In the coming weeks, we’ll tell you even more about what to expect and how to make the most of this year’s TOTC experience.

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