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Where Y’Eat: At Tales of the Cocktail, A Mix of the Modern and Timeless

The White Russian (from left), margarita, bloody mary and Moscow mule are some of the most searched cocktails of 2015.
Ian McNulty

You can shake or stir a good cocktail anywhere, with the right ingredients and know-how. Making a true cocktail culture, however, that’s something different. New Orleans has the essentials.

It has cocktail history, both documented and fabled. It has personality, with its inclination to indulgence. It has bars and restaurants that uphold cocktail traditions and elevate new ideas. It has locals who get it and a continuous stream of visitors who want to explore it all.

New Orleans also has Tales of the Cocktail, which puts a different lens on what it means for a city to have a cocktail culture.

Tales of the Cocktail is underway this week. It’s primarily an industry conference.
But it makes a deeper impact than the typical conference coming to town because of the way it frames and engages ideas of hospitality and conviviality, two cornerstones of how New Orleans sees itself and presents itself to the world.

The pillars of modern cocktail culture are revival and creative innovation, standing side by side. I’d said that sums up the best of New Orleans culture right now, too. It's the effort to embrace what gives this place its character while ensuring it remains relevant and viable as times change.

Tales of the Cocktail has been around for many years and grew in step with the modern craft cocktail trend. Not too long ago there were fears that it might fizzle or relocate. Instead, new leadership took over, and it was restructured with a nonprofit foundation at its base.

You can see the impact around the city this week, as people from around the world soak in the scene, and bolster local businesses at a time when they need it most in the teeth of summer.

This brings us back to the idea of New Orleans as a hub for drinks culture, not just drinking.

Something that positions New Orleans in the center of the conversation of what’s timeless, what’s new and what’s in flux fits precisely with where New Orleans culture needs to be right now. At the very least, it calls for a toast.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.