Tales of Our Own 2017
Every year in July, bartenders, cocktail geeks, and the simply bar-curious head to New Orleans, LA for Tales of the Cocktail—the premier industry event for beverage professionals from all around the world. For nearly a week participants are immersed in seminars on everything from traditional Japanese ice carving to how to prevent sexual assault. Did I mention that these seminars are taught by some of the biggest names in the industry (Dale DeGroff ring any bells)? To cap off all this once-in-a-lifetime networking/professional development, each night (and well, most of each day) a series of sponsored parties is followed by a series of branded after-parties ad infinitum until everyone passes out on the cobblestones in preparation for tomorrow when they will do it all again. Add this to the fact that New Orleans is already a 24hr party and mecca for the cocktail-afflicted (if the cocktail wasn’t invented in NOLA—and many would pull my whiskers for even suggesting that—it certainly grew up there: had it’s first kiss, wrecked it’s first car, etc., etc.) Needless to say, if you’re a bar professional, it’s an experience not to be missed.
But someone has to. While all their coworkers travel to the motherland to learn about homemade bitters and “cucumber appreciation” (this is real), someone has to stay behind and mind the store, all the while having their faces shoved in FOMO every time they open Instagram. Not all heroes wear capes. Most wear denim aprons with ampersands on the hem.
Last year, Kinson Lau and a few other members of the Las Vegas chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild* (hereafter referred to as “USBG” because it’s a mouthful) decided to celebrate this sacrifice. They organized their own miniature version of Tales for the boys and girls back home. It was such a success they decided to do it again.
Lauren and I were lucky enough to have been invited to participate in the festivities this year. The schedule comprised a full day (late into the next morning, in fact) of seminars from brand ambassadors (Jameson and Campari among others) and several libation-heavy stops along the way. We met several fascinating and passionate industry professionals (some of which were actually going to the real Tales the next day: double-dippers 🙄) who’s bars we will haunt for the rest of our time in Vegas.
Here are few snapshots we were able to squeeze in between Dole Whips, and frozen coffees, and second lines (the parade, not cocaine). Thanks again to Kinson and the event sponsors and all the lovely people at the USBG who were so welcoming to some non-Guild strangers with cameras and a notebook. You’re already old friends. We’ll be around to borrow money any day now.
P.S. Lauren, unfortunately, spent the night behind camera which is why she appears in no photos here.** If you absolutely have to get your Lauren fix though you can check out our Facebook post on the event here. There was another photographer and we stole all his pictures and they're really good.
* For those of you who are not familiar, the USBG was founded in 1948 in Southern Califonia and now has representatives in 50 cites and counting (the second chapter, incidentally, was in Las Vegas). The guild is an asset to many bar professionals as a networking opportunity, source of professional development (they organize regular educational opportunities), and even a bit of insurance against unemployment (you may apply for financial assistance through the Bartender Emergency Assistance program, BEAP for short). In my experience, every city’s guild runs a little differently and with varying levels of industry involvement/participation. I have yet to encounter a city with a more vibrant and active guild than the Las Vegas chapter. Big thanks to Vedo Pitnjakovic for sharing the history of the guild over a frozen coffee while I struggled to remember shorthand. I think it’s mostly there.
**She was also wearing sweat pants and a ripped Space Jam t-shirt so...