Being somewhat new to this industry, I had attended a number of cocktail events and conferences, but none could prepare me for what Tales of the Cocktail would be.
Let’s face it - who doesn’t want to attend a festival featuring cocktails from all over the world that takes place in New Orleans? I’m not a liquor brand rep, bartender, or bar owner/manager, I’m just a media maven.
… WHY should I be there?
Let me tell you.
I highly advise getting with your local USBG chapter and see who is attending. Find out if you can shadow them, or meet beforehand and get some tips from veteran attendees. There’s so much going on - from education to special events, and tasting rooms to private dinners and parties. I guarantee it will be worth the time to experience this world-renown gathering.
While checking out the website and learning more information on it, I discovered that there were media credentials for this! I had been working a few months with a local online magazine and pitched a story to him that was approved, so I applied. And to my surprise, got accepted!
The more I learned about this festival and spoke with people attending, my brand reps, etc., I quickly discovered that this was much more than just a cocktail event. I started thinking of the additional stories I could write about and curate content through my experiences at Tales.
As a marketing major, upon arrival I was taken aback by the great branding of the event throughout the city and hotels - from schedules on the walls, to lobby pop-ups, to media suites and bathroom signs. Even the staircase steps were branded.
I attended numerous tasting events/rooms and parties. I did interviews with various vodka brands, women in the industry and covered media events that I later wrote about for the magazine and my blog, and still working on some. I met brand owners, cocktail celebs, industry influencers and new friends. I got to pull a prize from a giant vending machine, meet the grandson of the original Moscow Mule creator, was given a coin by the owner that makes the USBG coins for chapters and brands, discovered shochu and vodka made from milk (yes milk!), participated in the USBG toast with the Texas Chapter, and acquired so much swag that I was grateful I had another bag to put it in.
Here are some first-timer tips (or reminders for seasoned attendees):
Dress cool and comfortable: New Orleans is HOT in the summer, wear comfortable shoes and carry a change of clothes/extra shirt if possible.
Take a hand fan: I have a ton of fans that I’ve received from various events over the years and man, did they come in handy while there. Again, NOLA is hot. Throw a few in your bag.
TASTE, not slam: While we want to try everything and there’s an abundance of alcohol available, it doesn't mean you need to consume it all. They're called “tasting rooms” for a reason!
Pace Yourself: As mentioned above, you can cocktail from morning to late night. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Sip and enjoy responsibly. This is still a professional environment.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: There’s plenty of water through the venues from which to grab your water. Drink plenty to keep your system in check - especially after all the partaking. Take a refillable water bottle too for when you’re not able to grab some easily.
Learn: Take advantage of the great seminars that are going on. So much education is available, all in one place and it’s a great time to gain knowledge straight from the brands and bar owners.
Charge Up: This means your body as well as your phone. Invest in a good phone charger and carry some granola bars on you at all times. With so much to do, you may forget a meal or two and they may come in handy.
Totes: Pack an extra bag and tote. As I mentioned, there’s lots of swag and product handed out. You want to be sure to get them home safely. You also want to carry a tote or backpack that will carry your water, phone charger, power bars and fan!
My first year was truly an experience I will never forget, and I look forward to attending this year… and the next… and the next… and the next!