In most cities, the idea of 20,000 boozehounds traipsing through the streets completely obsessed with all things alcohol may be enough to bring out the locals in protest. But this is New Orleans—a city that, according to legend, invented the cocktail. And if it didn't invent it, New Orleans surely helped make the cocktail famous with the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin, the Hurricane and so many more original creations. So really, Tales of the Cocktail and New Orleans are a match made in heaven.
Over the past ten years, the city has embraced Tales of the Cocktail, extending that patented New Orleans hospitality to masses of cocktail professionals and enthusiasts. With that support, Tales of the Cocktail has grown from a just small gathering to what has been widely recognized as the world's premier cocktail festival. Though satellite events have been held in Vancouver in years past, Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman says that the festival's home will always be New Orleans.
"So much of what makes Tales of the Cocktail what it is comes from the people and places of New Orleans," said Tuennerman. "There's just no way to separate Tales from New Orleans. This is our home and it always will be."
The unwavering support the local government and community has shown Tales of the Cocktail since that first event in 2003 has paid annual dividends to New Orleans. In 2011, the five-day festival had a $12.7 million economic impact on the local economy, up from $11.3 million the year before, and the city collected an additional $885,000 in tax revenue.
Buried deep within those numbers is Tales of the Cocktail's support of New Orleans small businesses. Since the beginning, Tuennerman has sought partnerships with small businesses to support the local economy and provide festival-goers, a majority of which come from outside New Orleans, with a little bit of local flavor. That commitment to small business continues today with Sweet Olive Soap Works, Octavia Books and Fleurty Girl.
New this year is a partnership with Sweet Olive Soap Works, a local maker of artisanal, hand-crafted soaps inspired by the unique scents of New Orleans. Emily Manger Davis, proprietor of the five-year-old business, will be making a special batch of Sazerac and Absinthe soaps that will be available at the Tales of Cocktail store, on-site at the Hotel Monteleone throughout the five-day festival.
"Tales has given me the opportunity to do something that needed to be done—expose booze blended soap to admirers of the cocktail," said Manger Davis.
In the early years of Tales of the Cocktail, Tunnerman reached out to Octavia Books, the locally-owned Uptown institution, to set up an on-site bookstore selling cocktail-themed books. Since then, Octavia Books has been a mainstay in the Hotel Monteleone lobby offering an exhaustive library of the greatest pieces of cocktail writing as well as a series of book signings by the contemporary masters of cocktail literature. Annually, the festival serves as the largest off-site sales event for Octavia Books.
"We're excited to be continuig our relationship with Tales of the Cocktail into this 10th anniversary year," said Tom Lowenburg, owner of Octavia Books. "With hundreds of hand-picked titles and author signings almost every half hour, the onsite book room at the Monteleone is the intellectual focal point of Tales of the Cocktail and an integral part of the festival experience."
A special addition to Octavia's offerings this year will be Tales of the Cocktail's first ever book, Tales of the Cocktail from A to Z. Written by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller, the book shares stories and insights from the festival's past 10 years as well as the rich drinking traditions of New Orleans. Both authors will be available throughout the festival to discuss the book and sign limited-edition copies.
Octavia Books will be open from 10am to 7pm in the Hotel Monteleone lobby throughout Tales of the Cocktail 2012.
A Fleurty Partnership
In February 2010, just months after Lauren Thom opened her first Fleurty Girl store at the end of Oak Street, Thom and Tuennerman started working on their first joint venture, a T-shirt celebrating the city's most legendary cocktail—the Sazerac.
"Lauren is passionate about New Orleans. We're passionate about cocktails. I feel like us coming together to create a New Orleans cocktail T-shirt was just a matter of time," said Tuennerman.
Since then, Fleurty Girl and Tales of the Cocktail have both grown exponentially, and with that and entire Cocktail Collection of shirts is now available at all of Fleurty Girl's New Orleans-area locations and on-site at Tales of the Cocktail 2012. In addition to the Sazerac, the collection includes shirts honoring the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Vieux Carré and, this year's addition, The Old Fashioned.
"Ann approached us about a Tales t-shirt partnership during our first year in business. No one really knew who we were," said Lauren Thom, aka Fleurty Girl. "Tales of the Cocktail was our first major partnership that allowed us to expose our brand to people from outside of the city and also align our young company with a strong, established New Orleans event. Now in our third year, I attribute a lot of our business success to that."