A Chat with Ann Tuennerman and Tiffany Soles

Tiffany Soles smiling
Tiffany Soles has served on the CAP at Tales of the Cocktail, and continues to be involved with the festival.

In honor of Tales of the Cocktail's 15th anniversary, Tales founder Ann Tuennerman is highlighting 15 bartenders whose lives and careers have been impacted by attending the event, and whose work has elevated the industry as a whole. Here, Tiffany Soles discusses the impact Tales had on her career as a bartender.

Where were you born and raised?

Ft. Worth, TX.

What attracted you to becoming a bartender in the first place?

Attended a Tales Seminar "Bartending 101" in 2006, and the rest is history!

Was it planned or was it a temporary gig that evolved into a career?

It was a "hobby"/part-time job that was supposed to last for the summer.

What and where was your first bartending job?

Bartender at Begue's (now Restaurant R'Evolution) in the Royal Sonesta Hotel.

Was there a moment when you decided that bartending would be your career?

When I started floating between shifts in our other outlets, I realized that the money was good and the hours were better than my full time job. So, after about a year of bartending part-time, I quit my "real" job and went full-time at the Sonesta.

Was your family supportive of your decision to pursue bartending?

I didn't really give my family that option. I told them that they hadn't paid my bills in years, so they didn't get a say in the choices I was making. My friends all thought that I was going through an early mid-life crisis (that supposedly started when I moved to New Orleans).

For someone who wants to pursue bartending as a career, what top 3 tips would you offer?

  1. Have a plan for managing your money! Leaving with cash every night makes it very easy to make a number of bad decisions
  2. Find a mentor! I was lucky enough to work with Laura McMillan, who told me what books I needed to read, introduced me to members. of the local/national/international bar community that I needed to know, and took the time to make sure that any questions that I had were answered.
  3. Get involved in your local USBG Chapter - - - ok, shameless plug for the company I work for, but changed my life and career! Almost everything that I have been able to do in this industry can be directly tied to my involvement in the USBG! I can thank Ann for getting the New Orleans Chapter stated too!

How did you first learn about Tales of the Cocktail?

Probably the Gambit back in 2006.

Where there any challenges you had to overcome to attend Tales the first time (financial, logistical, etc.)?

Lucky to be a local! All I had to do was purchase tickets and walk to the Monteleone.

Kindly describe your first Tales experience and what it meant to you.

At the time, I was mostly a wine drinker and the only cocktails I was drinking were Vodka Tonics, Margaritas, or Cosmos. Tales opened opened my eyes to so many new things and, as I mentioned it was the springboard for my career in the spirits industry, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

What was it like to be immersed in the community of bartenders and cocktail luminaries from all over the world? Did it confirm bartending as your calling?

The first year, I didn't really care too much about that since I was a consumer and had no idea who any of the presenters were. However, as I became more involved in the community and started meeting others from outside of New Orleans, Tales became a much anticipated Family Reunion each year. Now the problem is trying to see EVERYONE in the few short days that they are in town. But it also means that no matter where you are, you will run into someone you know for a quick catch-up between events.

Kindly describe your top 3 favorite moments from Tales.

  1. Serving on the CAP Team - - - a lot of hard work, but you are treated like a ROCKSTAR for a week and you leave as part of a family that continues to grow each year.
  2. Opening Night Parties - (Absolut and William Grant) these events are always so amazing that I refuse to pick just one memory (although the Absolut Alice & Wonderland Party and the William Grant event at the WWII Museum remain a few of my favorites). These events just keep getting more amazing each year!
  3. When Philip Duff recognized me!

Kindly describe any awards or recognition you received at Tales.

Again, CAP Team! All the CAPs were called onto the stage and there was a bar where you could grab a quick shot of something while the others were being called up. I decided to try Cognac for the first time and I was lucky that Martell Cordon Bleu was being served. I was instantly in love!

Kindly describe your top behind the bar experience where you impacted or inspired a guest?

Since I had to be coaxed into gin slowly, I love that I was able to serve one of my signature cocktails to guests who "absolutely hated gin" and they loved it!!! It was always a great conversation that followed and the surprise on their face when I told them they were drinking gin and enjoying it was fantastic!

Kindly describe any key professional relationships that were forged at Tales through networking with fellow bartenders, spirits luminaries and brand managers.

Way too many to list! I will say that getting to see everyone at Tales each year is definitely a benefit to me in my current position. A number of people I met through the years were also USBG members, who were serving on their chapter councils. When I started working with the USBG, it was great because I already knew a number of the officers I would be working with!

How would you sum up Tales to an aspiring bartender who is new to the profession?

JUST DO IT!!! Tales has grown so much since 2006. It can be overwhelming, but you absolutely must be here. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that they regret attending. I have heard numerous friends lament over missing out one year because it was their turn to work the bar back home so others could attend. It is a marathon through Hades, so you must take care of yourself and make good decisions. The July heat/humidity in New Orleans is no joke and there are opportunities to drink 24 hours a day here. Pace yourself and stay hydrated! But have fun, take in everything that is happening, make new friends and most importantly, go to the seminars! These are an investment in yourself and the profession you have chosen. Try to meet those teaching the seminars, if there's time afterward or send a follow-up email to thank them for their presentation. One of the best things about our industry is that there are so many talented people who are so open and willing to share their knowledge.

What is your go-to cocktail when you go out?

A Tiffany Daiquiri.....which is just aged rum on the rocks with a squeeze of lime. I know it's not a true cocktail, but it's damn good!

What is your favorite cocktail to make for friends and family?

Something that they have never had before. I love turning people on to their new favorite cocktail!

Ann Tuennerman Founder of Tales of the Cocktail, Ann Tuennerman is a serial entrepreneur focused on hospitality.

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