With the right potables and know-how, you can mix good cocktails anywhere. Making a true cocktail culture, however, that takes some different ingredients.
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, underway this week, is 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. But this week’s edition is also just the second since Tales of the Cocktail itself was revamped.
There were fears that it might fizzle or relocate. Instead, new leadership took over, it was restructured as a nonprofit and it began a grant-making program to address industry wide issues from diversity to sustainability.
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 last, it calls for a toast.