How to Do Tales Right: Pro Tips from the Veterans

Two people standing in front of a pool party.
As any well-versed Tales vet will tell you — don't forget to bring hats, shades and an extra bag to bring home all of the swag to this year's Tales of the Cocktail. Photo courtesy of Tales of the Cocktail.

Inevitably, your first trip to Tales of the Cocktail is something of a trial by fire. But for participants who return year after year, there's an art to mastering the week — packed full of new people, top-notch education and many, many more drinks than any one person could drink in a lifetime. A few Tales veterans weighed in on what to do, what to bring and the rookie mistakes to avoid making.

What was the most surprising thing you discovered at your first Tales?

“The most surprising thing that I discovered at Tales was the uniqueness of Nawlins and that catfish po'boys could be that damn good.” — Chase Worthen, bar manager and co-owner of Ruin (Salt Lake City, Utah)

“The depth of knowledge that is presented in the seminars — the new ideas and exploring a rich, important past ... and the sheer amount of cocktails you can — and will — be exposed to.” — Brian Aurand, retiree (Traverse City, Michigan)

“My first Tales was in 2008, which in many areas was a turning point for the awareness of high-quality spirits and cocktails. That experience showed me how this awareness had spread far and wide. I was thrilled to see so many passionate people from far-flung areas making the investment in themselves, their brands, and their bars by coming to ToTC.” — Antonia Fattizzi, founder and president of Cork and Tin (Brooklyn, New York)

“The most surprising thing was how comprehensive Tales is, from bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts to distillers, brand ambassadors and manufacturers from all over the world.” — Don Spiro, bartender at Flute Midtown (New York, New York)

“I was completely unprepared for the scope and sheer volume of the events. I expected just some busy tasting rooms and seminars, but the creativity of the organizers and brands was staggering.” — Aaron DeFeo, property mixologist at Casino Del Sol Resort and USBG Tucson President (Tucson, Arizona)

“Just how accessible everyone was — standing next to industry legends sipping a lovely cocktail, while sweating your face off.” — Layla Linn, beverage development manager at Breakthru Beverage AZ (Phoenix, Arizona)

What's one thing you wish you'd known about Tales before going?

“The lay of the land, now I have a much better mental map of NOLA.” — Brandon Crisler, sales, marketing and chief mixologist for Trellis Wine Group (Oakland, California)

“To not take too many classes in one day. You end up missing a lot of networking opportunities that way.” — Kristin Amron, bar manager for Dragonfly Sushi and Sake Co. (Gainesville, Florida)

“You physically cannot do or see it all. Sleep, eat, hydrate and take notes! Don't be shy — take the time to stay after and introduce yourself!” — Layla Linn, beverage development manager at Breakthru Beverage AZ (Phoenix, Arizona)

“To bring an extra suitcase for all of the goodies that you acquire!” — Jen Ackrill, director of mixology at Sky Waikiki (Honolulu, Hawaii)

“How easy it is to fill up your calendar from dawn to dawn. It can be very overwhelming if you don't go with some form of game plan beforehand. Talk to veterans and use the event calendar to plot out a basic structure, but make sure to give yourself plenty of openings to wing it as well.” — Brian Robinson, financial planner (Vienna, Virginia)

“I should reserve more time off from my real job to recover from the tasting rooms.” — Jenn Rogers, GM of Reyn Studios and cocktail consultant for Offre Joie NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana)

“I wish I'd known how much time I would want to spend at Tales, I would have booked a few days extra just to explore New Orleans.” — Don Spiro, bartender at Flute Midtown (New York, New York)

“Some of the most memorable experiences happen between seminars. Bring business/contact cards to keep track of the fun folks you meet.” — Jeff Osadczuk, Business Analyst for Tecsys Inc. (Montréal, Canada)

“There is nothing that can prepare you for Tales. It's just one of those great events where everyone goes for different reasons and therefore has a different experience.” — John Raibikis, retiree and author of “Journey to Cocktail Enlightenment”

“Utilizing the Tales app to try to take advantage of as many events, tastings and classes as possible! There is so much going on, that it is impossible to do everything, so the app really helps. Also, don't finish every drink.” — Anna Mains, owner of Rockford Cocktail Den (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

“Pack fancy clothes. Many great restaurants in NOLA have super strict dress codes that require a fancy southern getup before you're allowed in. Relish in an opportunity to dress fresh as a peppermint!” — Chris Lowder, head bartender of Four Seasons (Seoul, Korea)

“Bring Tums, Pedialyte, comfortable walking shoes.” — Kenny Dayton, general manager of Pacific Edge Wine & Spirits (Las Vegas, Nevada)

What's the one thing you bring from home and can't live without during Tales of the Cocktail?

“Dry shampoo.” — Mia Klein, sales at Hearst Digital (New York, New York)

“High potency b-vitamin complex. Don't leave home without it.” — Gray Blue, VP of Business Development at DISTILLER (Seattle, Washington)

“Favorite breezy dresses.” — Jen Ackrill, director of mixology at Sky Waikiki (Honolulu, Hawaii)

“My raincoat. It rains a lot during the summer in New Orleans, and you can expect a shower at any time.” — Emily, computer security researcher (Berkeley, California)

“My running shoes for my daily morning runs. My morning runs keep my head clear and set the tone for each day. Sunday is the only day I'm allowed to sleep in!” — Nicola Riske, Edrington Americas - National BA for Cutty Sark & The Famous Grouse, USA (Brooklyn, New York)

“Sunglasses and a water bottle.” — Ross Hendry, marketing for Pernod-Ricard (Glasgow and Toronto)

“My journal to capture all the tasting notes, observations and contact information.” — Tim Flowers, hospitality consultant (Los Angeles, California)

“Lightweight clothing AND a sweater for the air conditioned rooms!” — Karen Hoskin, president and CEO of a craft distillery (Butte, Colorado)

“A portable phone charger.” — Evan Charest, corporate mixologist for Patina Restaurant Group (Los Angeles, California)

“Cross-body bag to carry all the swag.” — Dana Eliason, business owner (St. Louis, Missouri)

What's the one mistake you would tell Tales virgins to avoid making?

“The Absinthe House at 4 a.m.” — Emory H. Blackstone, craft spirits director at Johnson Brothers Liquor Company (St. Paul, Minnesota)

"Not carrying a bottle of water — it gets hot and you need to triple hydration level after tastings and partying. And planned naps during strategic downtimes during the day so you are back fresh for networking events at night.” — Alina Diaz, senior vice president of Cassandra Market Research (New York, New York)

“Overcommitting. Be real about how many things you can attend. Be nice to your body. It's a marathon, not a sprint.” — Jenn Rogers, GM of Reyn Studios and cocktail consultant for Offre Joie NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana)

“Make sure you pace yourself. Too many tasting rooms or events in a row without nourishment and water, and you'll end up on the floor. If you see someone walking at a 45 degree tilt with one hand on the wall, it's a sure bet that it's a newbie.” — Brian Robinson, financial planner (Vienna, Virginia)

“Don't forget to get away from the French Quarter and see more of New Orleans.” — TJ Palmieri, owner and operator of Madrina’s (Miami, Florida)

What draws you back to Tales each year?

“It is a week of fun, and learning about things that I can't learn anywhere else. Opportunities to learn about not just cocktails but cultures and history. I always come away from the week with excitement and a head full of knowledge.” — Candace Henderson, social worker (New Orleans, Louisiana)

“New Orleans is such a great city, for one. I think the most appealing thing about Tales is the opportunity to interact with a large group of people that take the service industry seriously. Many people view it as a temporary job, but at Tales the majority of participants have chosen this field as a lifetime career. Being around other people with the same drive is rejuvenating.” Cala Miller, taproom manager at Tin Roof Brewing Co. (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

“My wife and I are huge cocktail nerds and home bartending enthusiasts. We always learn a ton, and it's so much fun being immersed in bar culture for a few days and seeing what's new and trending, especially in other parts of the country and the world. Plus, any excuse to go to New Orleans is a good one.” — John Karotkin, orthodontist (Houston, Texas)

“Each year I make more connections, I truly look forward to a reunion with the new friends I make each year! I also always leave with new inspiration and excitement! The parties are always out of this world as well, and it is one of the most fun weeks of the year!” — Anna Mains, owner of Rockford Cocktail Den (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

“Content and connectivity. Hundreds of people work together to keep the seminars and their content top-notch. You won't find better panels at any other cocktail event. I also love the connectivity. It gives me an opportunity to see people that I otherwise wouldn't be able to stay in touch with. Old friends, new friends.” — Chris Lowder, head bartender of Four Seasons (Seoul, Korea)

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