Scenes from Tales of the Cocktail 2016

Another Tales of the Cocktail is on the books. As always, seminars covered the spectrum of cocktail topics, from “Elevating the Dive Bar” with Michael Neff of Holiday Cocktail Lounge and Delilah’s Mike Miller to “Mexican Flavors” with chef Rick Bayless, agave expert Ivan Saldana and the Bon Vivants’ Scott Baird. Imbibe executive editor Paul Clarke looked into the future of cocktails with panelists Dave Arnold (Booker & Dax) and Jennifer Colliau (Small Hand Foods).

Parties featured notable musical acts this year. Gary Clark Jr. graced the stage at Tuesday night’s Jameson party, Rutte Spirits threw a shindig with hip-hop legend Cam’ron, and New Orleans favorite Big Freedia brought her special brand of Bounce to the Bartender’s Breakfast. Meanwhile, pop-ups and guest bartending events happened across the city, showcasing the talents of local and international bartenders. Caffe Dante’s aperitif pop-up at the Angela King Gallery was a highlight, and Kevin Diedrich’s OH Snap! cocktail was a standout at the P.C.H. pop-up at the Anchor Distilling house—the drink combined gin, manzanilla sherry, snap peas, absinthe, lemon and tonic water.

Spirited Dinner highlights included one hosted by Proprietors LLC and Hollywood director Steven Soderburg and featuring his Singani 63 at Cellar Door, while across town Jim Meehan mixed up Banks Rum and tea cocktails at Cafe Henri. On Saturday evening the annual Spirited Awards took place, with Jeffrey Morgenthaler nabbing awards for both American Bartender of the Year and Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer, while Best American Cocktail Bar went to San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove and Best New American Cocktail Bar went to Sweet Liberty in Miami. For a complete list of winners, visit the Tales of the Cocktail website.

Outside of the festival, we visited some of our favorite New Orleans spots, like Latitude 29 (the Pearl Diver is still amazing, or try a Luau Daiquiri) and Cane & Table, and we got the chance to check out the new Ace Hotel, which hosted several parties throughout the weekend and had guests mingling in the lobby spaces almost 24/7. Inside the Ace, Stumptown served cold-brew concoctions every day, and the nearby Seaworthy offered guests a special sneak peek with fresh Gulf oysters and cocktails. Another happy discovery was John Besh’s Willa Jean, also located in the Warehouse District. The bakery and restaurant features a stellar brunch menu, complete with a signature frosé (frozen rosé). And, of course, no visit to New Orleans would be complete with a trip to Erin Rose for Frozen Irish Coffees.