Tales of the Cocktail 2017 has come and gone. Now that the last sample has been sipped and the final shaker shaken, Neat Pour took a moment to reflect on what mattered at this year’s gathering. As the annual event continues to grow in size and stature, there was still plenty of time to sample micro-distillers and spritzes, celebrate Dave Wondrich, and of course, see a wide range of tattoos. Read through for our seven takeaways from Tales ’17.
A Kinder, Nerdier Tales
At age 15, Tales has grown up. The mood was far more subdued in 2017, and the focus shifted back to seminars and conversations with the experts. The tasting rooms were less crowded, and navigation was pleasant once again. Challenge coins, shotgunned beers, and other frat staples were far more scarce than recent years. While extravagant, big budget parties still abounded, there was just as much excitement about smaller gatherings in local bars. Bottom line: TOTC 2017 assumed the feel of an industry family reunion–which was nice.
Not everyone loves the Gentian plant, but during Tales 2017, everyone was talking about it. The bitter roots and flowers of this Alpine flora are already a key ingredient in many liqueurs, digestifs, and aperitifs, including Suze, Aperol, Angostura bitters, Underberg, and Maine’s favorite soft drink, Moxie. New infusions and tonics created from the flora are now popping up faster than you can say “fat-washed.”
In the ballrooms, Saler’s Eric Seed was joined by Alain Royer of Renaud Cointreau, Kirk Estopinal of CureCo, Roberto Bava of Cocchi, and Robert Jones of Saffron to discuss the history and uses of Gentian. However, the group’s rosy take was offset by others at TOTC concerned about safety issues. Food science enthusiasts noted that while Gentian can alleviate stomach pain and provide excellent flavor, if over consumed it can also have laxative and diuretic effects.
Micro-Distilling is the New Bitters
The Bitters Market was back again in 2017, but the buzz about bottles has shifted. (Don’t worry, there are still plenty of startups offering mediocre bitters with top tier packaging.) However, the cause célebre in 2017 is micro distilling. Dozens of products from startup distillers peppered the Talescape. Beyond the tasting rooms, it was nearly impossible to walk into a French Quarter bar without a fledgeling distiller pulling a tasting bottle with a punny name out of their tote.
Some of these offerings
were awful needed some work, but a few standouts emerged. Fresh off their three medal showing at the ADI’s 2017 Annual Judging of Craft Spirits, Roulaison’s rum impressed the crowds. Domaine de Tariquet’s collection of Bas-Armagnacs is truly impressive. Their Blanche AOC is a rare treat, and the entire line offers better brandy in a category often overshadowed by cognac.
From consumers to distillers, sustainability is the word on the industry’s lips. Tales even hosted a summit on the topic featuring Chad Arnholt, Richard Young, Nicole Brisson, Rich Hunt,
A massive marketing campaign by Aperol (aided by an excellent book by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau) has pushed the Italian favorite to the vanguard–again. The lobby of the Hotel Monteleone was filled with rotating popups offering the aperitif and it was nearly impossible to escape them at the parties. And why not? The combination of bitters, bubbly, soda water, and citrus is a perfect low-proof antidote to a hot summer day.
A different impresario may be dubbed, “King Cocktail,” but there is no denying that Dave Wondrich is sitting on the Iron Throne these days. The author of Imbibe!, Stomp and Swerve, and Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl held court throughout the week. Wondrich sat on three panels, tended bar at two Dynamic Duos, hosted one reading, and appeared at countless parties. For good measure, Tales presented him with the Spirited Award for Best Bar Mentor.
Sales of mustache wax must surely plummeting. The trend of faux old-timey bartenders is dissipating along with the dedicated cocktail bar. These days, it’s all about the man-bun. Ever since Jon Snow started sporting the style, you can’t order a Manhattan without spotting a top-knot. Traditionalists can take solace in the fact ink is still in. (Tattoos are permanent, after all.)
We bid another Tales adieu, and are already looking forward to next year.