Culture

So, You're Coming to Tales for the First Time?

Close-up of a woman wearing a "Tales Virgin" button
First-time Tales attendees, or "Tales virgins," have a lot to look forward to this year.

Festive as it may be, attending your first Tales of the Cocktail is no small undertaking. You've surely heard stories from coworkers and fellow industry members — you know about the seminars and the parties, the high energy and the abounding booze. But you also know that it's a rare chance for so many of the bartending and spirits community's brightest stars to collect in one place — to share knowledge, to give encouragement and to help one another grow professionally. So, what's on the minds of some of this year's TOTC Virgins? Find out:

What made you decide to come to Tales this year?

“Chris Bostick is my bar director and hearing his experiences and connections made at his previous attendances made me jump on board early this season. I'm tails over heels!!” — Ana P. Cabrera, bar manager of St. Francis Room (San Antonio, TX)

“I've been trying to come for the past four years, but as a newish business owner, there's always been a speed bump. Tales is the end-all, be-all of cocktail events. I want to be involved!” — Aaron Post, owner of Valkyrie (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

“Tales creates an environment that treats bartending and cocktails as a legitimate career, and I'm excited to meet and learn from the best in our industry.” — Jenney Grant, culinary and beverage director of Downtown Market Grand Rapids (Holland, MI)

“I was always the main manager for the restaurants I worked for and never been able to get time off to go. I spent years watching my colleagues come back with new techniques, skills and talking for months about it. Its like being the only kid in your class that has never been to Disneyland, you cant help feeling like you've missed out. My trip this year was a birthday present from my boyfriend who will also be attending. So excited to celebrate my birthday in such a unique exciting city and finally being able to attend Tales.” — Marcelle Gonzales, assistant general manager at E&O Kitchen and Bar (San Francisco, CA)

What do you hope to get out of your Tales experience?

“A better understanding of what it takes to make a bar succeed in a small city; more extensive knowledge of liqueurs; day drunk.” — Heidi Washam, server and manager at Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Icehouse Bar (Yakima, WA)

“I hope to meet people, learn a thing of two, and overall have a great time exploring the city! I would also like to eventually submit a successful seminar pitch. So hopefully I'll be inspired for future times!” — Ryan Ringer, owner/operator of Grey Tiger (Toronto, Canada)

“I hope to meet a ton of amazing people, learn everything I possibly can, and take it all back to my bar and use it to further my program and enrich my guests' experience.” — Noal Smith, bartender at Old Hickory Whiskey Bar (Fort Walton Beach, FL)

“Being a social media expert, I'm constantly looking for fresh content and new ways to engage with our audience. Our followers love to see where our staff travels and the ideas they bring back to the bars.” — Katie Fraser, co-owner and creative director of The Overlook Lodge and Video Archive (Cincinnati, OH)

“World changing knowledge! And to meet the movers and shakers of our world and to pick their brain.” — Brett Steigerwaldt, distiller’s assistant at Lyon Distilling Co. (Nashville, TN)

What seminar(s) are you the most excited to attend?

“All, to be honest. I have waiting for this event all year. I am really looking forward to be around the energy and innovativeness of this crowd.” — Aleka Ross, marketing and events manager of One Eight Distilling (Washington, D.C.)

“Bourbon: Do the Myths Matter. I love marketing — I'm very excited to hear their take on the influence of a story.” — Jourdan Elyse Reinhart, assistant brand manager of Cocktails & Modifiers at Anchor Distilling Co. (San Francisco, CA)

“It is so hard to narrow it down. I'll definitely hit The Greatest Brandy, since I missed The Greatest Whiskey last year. I am also looking forward to Talking Rot and Pay to Play, but there are easily half a dozen more I will try to fit in.” — Becky Harris, chief distiller of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (Purcellville, VA)

“The Aperitif: A Drink and a Way of Life — I used to live in France and fell in love with the aperitif culture of Europe and seek to recreate it here in the US. Deconstructing the Solera Method: I think it has applications with vermouth, herbal liqueurs, and their base spirits!” — Brett Steigerwaldt, distiller’s assistant at Lyon Distilling Co. (Nashville, TN)

“I'm most excited to attend anything that explains the science of the bar to me. I want to know how things are working on the smallest level.” — Joshua Brandenburg, bartender at the Royalton Hotel (New York, NY)

“Honestly, if I could bounce around from one room to the next and sneak into every seminar, that is what I'd do. But there's only so much time in the day and so many seminars I can sign up for, so I picked and chose the ones that really caught my eye. I am very excited for Citrus Complexity (not usually excited about fruit, but this seems perfect for me), as well as Barista meets Barman. I love coffee; I love coffee cocktails, so what can go wrong?” — Zach Odachowski, bar manager at Requin (Fairfax, VA)

Are there any other events you're looking forward to?

“Just looking forward to making some new friends, having some amazing meals and drinks.” — Aaron Post, owner of Valkyrie (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

“I love going seeing new distilleries and tasting new spirits. I used to be a whisky blender with 30,000 casks at my disposal, so finding balance and flavor as well as radical off the wall sets my creative juices flowing.” — Andrew, who builds malt whisky distilleries worldwide (Scotland)

“I'm really looking forward to meeting Tales participants in random bars!” — Ryan Ringer, owner/operator of Grey Tiger (Toronto, Canada)

“Everything except the heat — [I'm] Wisconsin-born.” — Jourdan Elyse Reinhart, assistant brand manager of Cocktails & Modifiers at Anchor Distilling Co. (San Francisco, CA)

“Everything. Tastings, meeting makers, the competition, the awards. All of it.” — Noal Smith, bartender at Old Hickory Whiskey Bar (Fort Walton Beach, FL)

“The Dame Hall of Fame — a chance to meet a bunch of impressive industry women, especially, but A Spirited Salon looks very fun.” — Becky Harris, chief distiller of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (Purcellville, VA)

“I'm really looking forward to taking yoga at Tales this year. Getting bartenders to the mat is a personal goal of mine and I cannot wait to meet other likeminded yogi-bartenders and hear how they are all influencing their communities!” — Katy O'Donnell, bartender at The Nice Guy (Los Angeles, CA)

Who would you most like to have a drink with at Tales this year?

“Far flung friends who will probably be there.” — Melissa Watson, customer service and social media at Bitters + Bottles (San Francisco Bay Area, CA)

"It's about impossible to narrow this down to just one person, but if I had to choose, it would probably be Jamie Boudreau, were he to attend. I learned almost everything I know from him via his YouTube series. His videos sparked a passion which gave me the courage to drop a 12-year career I hated to pursue this field which I have a passion for and love going to work every single day.” — Noal Smith, bartender at Old Hickory Whiskey Bar (Fort Walton Beach, FL)

“Anyone with stellar banter and can hold their own on the dance floor.” — Rachael Hand, bartender at Goldilocks Rooftop (Melbourne, Australia)

“Someone who will encourage and inspire my passion for cocktail culture in my up-and-coming city.” — Heidi Washam, server and manager at Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Icehouse Bar (Yakima, WA)

“Literally everyone. I want to just be able to go around and share a drink and a story with every person who shares the same passion that I do. However, if I did get a chance to pick Dale DeGroff's mind a bit, I wouldn't say no.” — Zach Odachowski, bar manager at Requin (Fairfax, VA)

“My future husband.” — Miranda Leurck, bartender at Overlook Lodge (Covington, KY)

“Tough one. Paul McGee and Shelby Allison because Lost Lake is the best bar I've ever been to and they are a super awesome husband/wife team, who are killing it together. Jeff Berry because he is the dad of modern tiki. Ivy Mix because she is doing TONS for women in our industry.” — Baylee Pruitt, bartender at Cardinal Spirits, The Bishop (Bloomington, IN)

Any last words about the approaching event?

“If you see an overheating Scotsman, bring him a cool refreshing drink as it's going to be way too hot and humid for my comfort level.” — Andrew, who builds malt whisky distilleries worldwide (Scotland)

“There are a tremendous amount of enthusiasts in Facebook groups. It's amazing how easy it is to connect with like minded people nowadays. However, nothing compares to meeting people in person.” — Ivar de Laat, works in real estate (Toronto, Canada)

“Can't wait to be a part of this experience. I have a feeling this is going to be something that shapes my career behind the stick. Might end up having a few fun stories to tell the regulars, as well (or not tell).” — Zach Odachowski, bar manager at Requin (Fairfax, VA)

“If you see me walking me away from the hotel I am staying at at around 4 a.m. please just turn me around.” — Amar Dillon, bar manager at Hecho (San Francisco, CA)

“To be from a small city in the middle of nowhere Canada, the passion for cocktails is small. It is growing however, and I want to be apart of bringing that culture to our city.” — Kandra Kergen, bar manager at The James Hotel (Saskatoon Saskatchewan, Canada)

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