Every July, the country's most cocktail-minded bartenders gather in the sweltering summer heat of New Orleans for what the English like to call a good, old-fashioned piss-up. Of course, Tales of the Cocktail, which took place last week, is much more than that. It's a boot camp for the spirits industry, with a week-long curriculum of seminars and workshops on everything from "The History of Bar Tools and Barware from the 1800s to Today" to "The Truth (La Verdad) About Mezcal: Its Past and Future." In this era of celebrity chefs and mixologists, this year's event even also featured a series of talks offering practical advice on how to be interviewed by the media, give presentations, and protect your intellectual property (i.e. signature cocktail recipes).
There were also countless tastings and wheelings and dealings. Big booze companies are there as sponsors, hoping to recruit young bartenders and bar owners to be ambassadors for their brands, as well as charm bloggers and other media in attendance. And, while small brands are there, too, trying to get their name out, it's the big boys who sponsor all the most extravagant parties—from Dita Von Teese's live burlesque performance in which she winds up naked and sudsy in a giant martini glass (courtesy of Cointreau) to a lavish party at a 19th-century mansion in the Garden District where the drinks flowed freely and a brass band played out in the gazebo, hosted by Williams Grant & Sons.