Tales of the Cocktail Seminar: I Love/Hate Cocktails

“Nine out of 10 bartenders deny drinking cocktails—they only make them,” and with these words from moderator Claire Smith from Belvedere Vodka began a cheeky 90 minute debate about whether or not cocktails were worth drinking.

Of course this seminar was at an event that has been celebrating cocktails for 10 years, and I’ve written a book about cocktails in addition to being a fan of them … so I wasn’t expecting this debate to end with me (or the audience, for that matter) landing on the “hate” side of the fence. However, there has been a definite movement away from the pretension and complications of “Mixology” and a longing for simple, approachable drinking experiences. Also, every bartender at Tales of the Cocktail seemed to revel in “beer and a shot” experiences when you caught them away from the actual events. So I expected some good points along with some good fun. And the seminar didn’t disappoint.

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Tales of the Cocktail Event: Food Trucks and Go Cups

Even when pacing yourself, the parties, seminars, tastings, bar tours, and all the other Tales of the Cocktail revelry can really wear you out! So I appreciated the mellow last-day Food Trucks and Go Cups event in Lafayette Square.

It was just a beautiful, lazy day in the park … surrounded by gourmet street food, tasty cocktails in to-go cups, and a band playing jazz standards for a small group of relaxing Tales attendees. Don’t get me wrong—I love a big Tales party! But it was nice to kick back and take it easy.

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Tales of the Cocktail: Spirited Award Winners

The Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail are like the Oscars of the drinks industry. While some of the awards may seem a bit insider-ish to those not in the biz, these awards really do give some good information about the state of cocktails and what to look for in the coming year. For example, LONDON was the big winner of the awards in so many categories. So look for more Brit-inspired cocktail trends and maybe even some book deals for bartenders from London bars. (And those cocktail books will inspire cocktail menus around the US!)

New York, LA, and San Francisco are still big deals on the cocktail scene, but keep your eye on England, everyone!


The 2012 Spirited Award Winners:

American Bartender of the Year
Joaquin Simo of New York, New York

Best American Brand Ambassador
Jim Ryan of New York, New York

Best American Cocktail Bar
The Varnish of Los Angeles, California

Best Bar Mentor
Steve Olson of New York, New York

Best Cocktail Writing – Author
Dave Wondrich of New York, New York for his writing on Liquor.com

Best Cocktail Writing – Non Book

Best High Volume Cocktail Bar
Eastern Standard of Boston, Massachusetts

Best International Brand Ambassador
Angus Winchester of London, United Kingdom

Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book
PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan & Chris Gall

Best New Product
Cognac Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula of Bonbonnet, France

Best Restaurant Bar
Slanted Door of San Francisco, California

International Bartender of the Year
Alex Kratena of London, United Kingdom

World’s Best Cocktail Bar
The Connaught Bar of London, United Kingdom

World’s Best Cocktail Menu
Callooh Callay of London, United Kingdom

World’s Best Drinks Selection
Salvatore’s at The Playboy of London, United Kingdom

World’s Best Hotel Bar
Artesian at The Langham of London, United Kingdom

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar
The Zetter Townhouse of London, United Kingdom

Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award
Gary Regan of New York, New York