Finding Love at Tales
A few months into the new year, and New Orleans is basking in the after-glow of Carnival and Mardi Gras. It's a season of soul-searching and simple living. For some, it's a season of love. In honor of St. Valentine's Day, four lovestruck Tales veterans share memories of special moments when New Orleans and the tonic of Tales of the Cocktail hit them with Cupid's arrow.
Daniel Castro, a bartender at the soon-to-be-opened Maple Leaf Tavern in Toronto, not only fell in love with New Orleans through Tales of the Cocktail, but decided Tales was the perfect time to propose to his girlfriend (now fiancé) Eleni Kamperogiannis, whom he has known since high school.
"There's no other way it could happen," Castro says. "None. We feel more at home in New Orleans than we ever have in Toronto. It was our calling. Many industry peers have moved there because they've connected to the city in some profound way. WWOZ plays regularly at our home."
Upon his own first visit to New Orleans, Castro quickly made friends with the crew at Arnaud's French 75 Bar — and who could ask for better guides to the city? Years later, Cynthia Turner helped him pick out the engagement ring from her favorite jewelry store nestled in antique row on Royal Street.
"It's like traveling back in time when you step into Arnaud’s," Castro said. "It happens to be the very first place I ever visited in New Orleans back in 2010. I got settled into my hotel and off I went to French 75 bar to meet with Chris Hannah. I had contacted him previous to my trip and wanted to introduce myself. Life forever changed that night."
Castro and Kamperogiannis started dating in October 1st in 2011, and will be married at Arnaud's on October 1, 2016. They have come a long way since meeting in 9th grade. In August 2011, long after their school days, Kamperogiannis messaged Castro with a sweet 'Happy Birthday' note and the following Sunday the couple found themselves on their first romantic get-together. Castro claims this was "a masterclass on how to ruin a first date, but to my surprise, she didn't get up and leave."
"I was working on a daytime press event that we helped to create for Grey Goose at Tales in 2014," Kaplan said. "I had seen Jenna in passing during the event, thought she was absolutely stunning. She was part of the PR team and our company was new to working with the brand, so I (wrongly) assumed any dating within the greater circle would be frowned upon."
Kaplan said it was actually industry friends that brought them together with some friendly nudging.
"Later, at the Bacardi portfolio party I made a quick lap to look for her amidst the sea of friends in attendance, and cozied up to her when I finally did," Kaplan said. "I was heading to another bar and asked if she would like to come with me, which she thankfully agreed to. We hopped in an available cab with just the two of us (a minor miracle) and as we were closing the door an industry friend tried to hop in."
Kaplan shooed the pal out of the cab with a hurried apology. "Once we took off Jenna laughed and asked if that was just a ploy to get her alone, which I smiled at and said 'yes,' and then snuck my first kiss."
Gerbino and Kaplan now live together in Los Angeles (the other L.A.) and got engaged this past weekend on a friend’s winery in Napa Valley. "Thanks to Tales of the Cocktail and this great industry!" Kaplan exclaims.
Castro was all in for the full New Orleans experience, proposing at Spanish Plaza by the water fountain in front of the Riverwalk during Tales 2015. The fountain was especially important to Castro because it was the site of their very first photo together in New Orleans.
"Tales was ideal for my proposal because there so many parallels," Castro says. "What the city means to us, what the industry means to us. ... I knew I wanted to marry her months before and knew I wanted it to be special. There's a sense of romance and allure about the city — the people, architecture, the history, their lust for life — everything. New Orleans always welcomed me with open arms, it 'got me,’ and it felt natural since the beginning. It was the same for Eleni."
For Castro, life, both personal and professional, came full circle in 2015. It was the couple's first Tales to volunteer together and through this cocktail festival they have made some lifelong friends.
"I want to look back 50 years from now, with our hands locked together with our rings meeting and know that we did it the right way," he says.