Looking Up To Edinburgh

Tales of the Cocktail Foundation and Edinburgh Bartenders
Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Co-Chairmen Gary Solomon, Jr. and Neal Bodenheimer pose with some of Edinburgh's finest bartenders on a recent trip to Scottland.

When Tales on Tour was first developed, the goal was to help raise awareness of emerging cocktail communities and to provide them with educational resources and encourage growth. Under our new leadership, Tales on Tour 2018 is taking a different approach. We’re looking up to stalwarts of the UK bar scene operating in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, and we’re learning a lot.

“Edinburgh is a mature cocktail community that already has three generations of talent,” says Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Co-Chairman Gary Solomon, Jr., upon return from a recent trip to the city with TOTCF Co-Chairman Neal Bodenheimer. “They’re exporting bartenders, not importing bartenders, and they’re doing it on a world class level.” Gary and Neal booked their trip to Edinburgh shortly after taking control of TOTC, and then fully converting it to a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity, in anticipation of Tales on Tour Edinburgh next month. What they discovered was a generous community with a deep sense of pride and commitment to excellent hospitality.

Gary Solomon, Jr. and Neal Bodenheimer TOTCF Co-Chairmen Gary Solomon, Jr. and Neal Bodenheimer.

The per capita talent behind Edinburgh’s bars is impressive, to say the least. Many of the establishments are clustered within the easily walkable New Town neighborhood, and the collaborative energy between them is palpable. “Their energy is contagious,” Neal says. “There are a lot of people in the world who know how great they are and a lot of people who don’t. We want to work with them in conversation to highlight what they’re doing and to make a contribution.”

TOTCF has pledged $25,000 to the Edinburgh cocktail community in partnership with 100 Scots, an organization focused on supporting the Scottish hospitality community with education and advocacy, positive mental health and wellbeing, Scottish tourism promotion, and youth employability. Part of our new mission at Tales is to form collaborative relationships where we can give back to cocktail communities - here at home in New Orleans, across the country and abroad, where TOTCF events call home.

For Tales on Tour Edinburgh 2018, our hope is to spotlight the mastery that Edinburgh bartenders have been exhibiting for years, and to draw a little more international attention to them, to look toward them as leaders across the pond. “They’ve got an amazingly innovative community,” Neal says. “These men and women have been at the forefront of cocktail culture for a lot of years, and we can learn from them.”

Gary and Neal departed New Orleans on a sunny 70-degree day and landed in a cold, gray Scotland, but the warmth and welcome from the people they met quickly validated the notion that Edinburgh is a community we are excited to work with. By the end of day one, after meeting countless pillars of the cocktail community and spirits industry, a group photo had been arranged for the next afternoon. Someone had the idea to bring all the bartenders together to make the photo at the top of this article, sent out a text message and, to Neal and Gary’s surprise, everyone showed up, a positive mark of what’s to come. “We met so many people at the top of their game,” Gary says. “And it’s not just the bars. It’s the whole ecosystem. For example, it’s incredible what the Edinburgh Ice Company is doing. It’s a world class ice operation.”

All of us at the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation are looking forward to experiencing what the Edinburgh cocktail community has shown to Gary and Neal, to visiting their many stellar establishments. Join us in Edinburgh April 7-10 for a series of educational seminars, tasting rooms, opportunities to meet the distillers, and the chance to belly-up to the bars that are making Edinburgh, Scotland a cocktail enthusiast destination.

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