Hot, humid and lively with good food and drinks around every corner is how many remember the city of New Orleans in July. It is far from a secret that the coronavirus many of us thought would be on its way to being a distant memory has continued to disrupt almost every industry, causing unexpected shifts and pivots. For the organizers of the world’s largest gathering for hospitality and spirit professionals that takes place in “The Big Easy” each year, that pivot came immediately.
With a mission to “educate, support and advance the global drink industry,” this year’s annual Tales of the Cocktail conference is shifting to a digital format with robust programming available for a global audience from September 21–24.
Catalyst for Change
This year’s conference theme, “Catalyst,” is appropriately suited to describe what the Tales of the Cocktail foundation set out to do years ago. Witnessing the impact of the pandemic on an industry it is committed to serving, its new digital conference format will offer all of the informative content, networking and brand experiences through live and pre-recorded streams to attendees free.
“This has been an incredibly challenging year, and while it’s not quite the same as gathering together in New Orleans, we are grateful to have this platform and time to be together to collectively forge a path ahead and become a catalyst for change,” says Caroline Rosen, president of the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation.
In addition, through its Business, Culture and Behind the Bar initiatives, which streaming content can also be viewed under on the platform, the foundation takes a deeper dive through thoughtfully curated conversations and resources to address the needs of hospitality and spirit professionals.
“We wanted to make sure we were creating spaces where we could have these conversations,” says Rosen, about the committees and their members spearheading these efforts.
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One of these committee members is award-winning writer and entrepreneur Jackie Summers, who chairs the Behind the Bar committee, which focuses on professionals’ lives at work and outside their positions with dialogues around lifestyle, health, addiction and social justice. Summers’ own story of creating his brand, Jack From Brooklyn which produces Sorel Liqueur, is a true testament in itself of how hard it is to break into the spirits industry, especially if you are a person of color.
This year at Tales, he is leading one of the most highly anticipated discussions around industry inclusivity called Creation, Equity, and Building a New Table, which will feature Yannick Benjamin (sommelier and co-founder, Wheeling Forward) Samara Davis (founder, Black Bourbon Society) and Lynnette Marrero (bartender and co-creator of the first all-female speed bartending competition) among the prominent industry voices to be heard. “Build a table that is designed to be inclusive from the ground up,” says Summers sharing a preview of the desired action he hopes follows the discussion. The passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion speaks around the country about creating your own path in business and life with the help of community.
Tales not only provides greater access to a global audience to hear important conversations such as this one, but it also provides a microphone to amplify the diverse voices that are championing these talks, which is something Rosen is excited about.
Streams, Chats and Experiences
Whether you are a hospitality and spirit industry professional or someone who appreciates the art of creating and drinking a good cocktail, you shouldn’t let this year’s conference go by without registering and checking out some of the programming.
“We are honored that so many industry luminaries are lending their time and talent to make this caliber of education and programming available to the global spirits community,” says Rosen as she leads the team working behind the scenes to deliver a seamless virtual event.
Registration also comes with the opportunity to build a schedule so you can enjoy the content at your convenience over the four days thanks to the On-Demand feature. Live sessions will also be recorded and available afterward.
Cuisine Noir is partnering with Tales for the first time under its Business programming to offer a pre-recorded panel discussion with five Black-owned spirit brands from the U.S. and Canada that includes a candid conversation about growing a brand in the industry.
In addition to this discussion as well as Summers', other conference highlights from the team include:
- CocktailSafe! Dangerous Drink Ingredients 101 presented by Bombay Sapphire & Patrón Tequila, hosted by Camper English
- The Queer Handbook for The Recently Woke presented by Grey Goose Vodka, moderated by Chris Cabrera, featuring Ezra Star, Deborah Vantrece, Alejandro Mazza, Sagan Gray and, Tiffanie Barriere
- Tipping For Equity: Shifting the Balance Within the Hospitality Industry moderated by Lynn House and Tracie Franklin, featuring Lauren Paylor, Mary Palac, Tiffanie Barriere, and Chelsea Gregoire
- Supporting Employee Behavioral and Mental Health moderated by Patrick S. Bordnick, PhD, MPH, LCSW, featuring Jeffrey Goldring
- The Bartender Pivot: The Importance of Adaptability moderated by ms. franky marshall, featuring Pippa Guy, Aaron Joseph, and Danil Nevsky
- Evolution of Competitions in a Digital COVID World – Competitions over the last few years have been opportunities for craft bartenders to distinguish themselves, gain more opportunities in the industry, and practice creativity. Many things have changed during the global pandemic and events have shifted to online. This roundtable will discuss the evolution of competitions in a digital world.
- The Future of N/A – Looking ahead to the changing and growing landscape of non-alcoholic drinks and the ‘trend' that is here to stay.
A conference is not complete without a chance to connect with brands and your favorite presenters. There will be close to 50 virtual partner booths where you can learn more about brands and products, set up time meeting times to connect directly, watch live videos and more.
Reimagined to serve in a time of need, Tales of the Cocktail 2020 will deliver all of the conference excitement and fun, along with the opportunity to meet new friends from around the world.
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- Empower Cocktails Sends a Message in a Bottle
Tales programming launches at 10 am CST on Monday, September 21. For more information about the foundation and its work as well as the conference, visit https://talesofthecocktail.org.
To register and gain access, click here and follow #TOTC2020 on social media for additional conference highlights.
Lastly, check out this cocktail recipe, Sweetie Pie, featuring LS Cream, a Haitian liqueur brand based in Montreal, Quebec.