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Tales of the Cocktail as a Microcosm of New Orleans

Tales of the Cocktail as a Microcosm of New Orleans

This year marks my seventh year that I attended Tales of the Cocktail events. It was my third consecutive year having a media pass. The first four years, I simply attended as a cocktail enthusiast. I’ve seen and done so many cool things in those years (check out all my articles by following this link). I’ve also witnessed Tales evolving into a powerhouse of a cocktail conference. It’s been amazing to be a part of.

During my previous two years with a media pass, I imbibed rather heavily, but I always kept it in check until about Saturday or so. This means that I’d start drinking on Wednesday and kept going moderately (yes, really!) until Saturday when I’d inevitably overdo it. This year was different, though. I wasn’t as mindful on this past Wednesday as I should have been, and I overdid it on the first day! Not as bad as you can imagine, but it was bad enough. I basically bailed on Tales on Thursday and had a moderate Friday as well.

However, this over-imbibing revealed to me some parallels about how Tales of the Cocktail is a microcosm of New Orleans. If you know New Orleans, this shouldn’t be a surprise at all. We’re known for our liberal laws on alcohol and our copious consumption habits. I’ve learned quite a bit about drinking from living in New Orleans for the past 11 years. Here’s how Tales is similar.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. This is rule number one when you live in New Orleans. This is how we all survive three weeks of Mardi Gras madness and all seven days of the Jazz Fest debauchery. You can’t just go balls out on the first day, as I did this year at Tales. You must pace yourself. The road ahead is long. Don’t just blow your wad on the first night. Taking a paced and moderate approach to imbibing pays off not only at Tales, but in New Orleans, in general. By forgetting this rule, I diminished the rest of my week at Tales of the Cocktail. I’m a bit embarrassed about it, but hey, I own it.

No one will put on the brakes for you. This goes hand-in-hand with point number one but is something entirely different. You and you alone must apply the brakes in New Orleans as well as at Tales. Taking responsibility for yourself and your experience is key to your success at Tales. It’s up to you to know when you’ve had enough and when you can keep going for more. This is one of my tried and true life lessons about living in New Orleans, but I only recently realized that it applied to Tales as well. It’s a good reminder that one must always be actively involved in their consumption and thinking about these things. It’s hard to slow down once you’ve had a couple, but you and you alone must know when enough is enough. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to complete that marathon. This is the lesson I re-learned this week. And of course, it was at the expense of further fun and drinking, which sucks.

You can’t do it all. Finally, the final way that Tales is a microcosm of New Orleans is that you can’t possibly to do it all. You can only be once place at time, and there’s always at least a dozen “things” going on at any time. Planning a bit ahead of time and knowing what kind of experience you want to have go a long way to making the most of any experience, but especially here in New Orleans and at Tales. This year I didn’t plan as well as I did in the past, and I paid the price. I “winged it” quite a bit more than I ever have before and my experience suffered, on the whole. Sure, I had fun, but I missed so much of what Tales had to offer. Next time: more planning and intentionality around my experience.

Ah, New Orleans. She’s like life: you can’t just learn a lesson once then be immune to it’s effects forever. Nope, she keeps you on your toes. Just like Tales, too. Knowing ahead of time what type of experience you want to have and having at least a loose plan to make that happen are essential to making the most of your time in New Orleans and at Tales. Sure you could wing it all, but don’t be surprised if you end up overdoing it early and then having to spend more time recovering as a result. Take your time, be intentional, but most of all, have fun. That’s what New Orleans and Tales are there for.

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  • Grace Athas

    I have enjoyed your reporting on TOC over the years!
    Every year I say I am going to go….and every year I have something that I MUST attend at work! I don’t think I could go to a seminar and them come back to work!
    For the first time ever,I did go to some of the events! Prohibition Tea on Saturday at the Windsor Court was fun! And the TOC lunch on Sunday @ MoPho was excellent! Maybe next year!

    • I’m so glad that you were able to at least a few things, Grace! Maybe next year you can increase it a little more. 😉

  • Your post brought back memories of my days living in the French Quarter and living my version of the New Orleans lifestyle. I’ve found that all three of your points – it’s a marathon, not a sprint; no one will put on the brakes for you; and you can’t do it all – apply to not only living in New Orleans but also can be applied in other ways to my life in general. For me “You can’t do it all” – meaning I can’t be a reckless drunken philosopher and a mindful spiritual student at the same time – has proven to be true. The road to mastery is definitely a “marathon, not a sprint”. And when I falter, when I haven’t “put the brakes on” and lost my self-discipline, it’s been up to me to get back on track. And like when was living in New Orleans, I found I’ve had to wake up the next day, forgive myself, and keep going. But unlike when I was living in New Orleans, I now look for ways to get better. As much fun as I’ve had in the past at TOC and living in New Orleans, I would have benefited from a more thoughtful way of being and exhibiting far greater self-control.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences as well, Ron. I appreciate you extrapolating this to a larger point and perspective on a life well lived. As usual, you’ve given me much to think about. Thank you! 🙂

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  • I love how your spin on Tales really is a lesson for a tale of a life well spent. You nailed it. P~