by Francine Cohen

Tell someone who isn’t in the spirits industry that you’re headed to New Orleans in late July and the first question you’ll get is usually something along the lines of, “New Orleans in July?!” which you should read between the lines to mean, “Are you nuts?!  Do you know how hot and humid it is down there in July?  What kind of masochist goes somewhere like that for their summer vacation?!”

Well friends, that masochist would be you.  Why?  Well, why not?  As the whole world prepares to converge on the Hotel Monteleone (and the Royal Sonesta, Omni Royal, Bienville House Hotel, W New Orleans, Ritz Carlton New Orleans, JW Marriott and The Roosevelt, etc.) in New Orleans for the 10th Annual Tales of the Cocktail it seems like there’s nothing else most of us would even consider doing in July but spend a few days sweating it out in the Crescent City.

It’s an opportunity to get out of your usual routine, rub elbows with the best, brightest and most engaging hospitality industry folks on the planet, put in some elbow grease making the city a better place for others less fortunate, learn about that thing nearest and dearest to your heart – beverages (and everything related to them), eat great food, hear live music of the sort that touches your soul, sit by the pool, drink blender drinks, drink cocktails, drink beer, make new friends, catch up with old friends, meet potential business partners at 7:30 a.m., ingest beignets and po’ boys and oysters galore, figure out what drink goes best with alligator sausage cheesecake, and donate some hard earned cash to a city that could definitely still use your tourism dollars to help rebuild.

With that in mind, and knowing that everyone is gearing up for a week of the usual welcome madness, replete with exhaustion and lost voices, we polled bartenders, brand ambassadors, and spirit brand owners around the globe to see just how they are getting ready for Tales.

Below (in alphabetical order) are their game plans and tips:

- June was all about the launch of Johnnie Walker Platinum Label to the trade in Australia, while running the 3-day final of the World Class competition coming at the end of a year-long program!  So now is time to enjoy extra-curricular activities in the soft sunny Aussie winter, while preparing concepts for the new financial year with my Behind Bars colleagues. Still a fair bit of work that requires all my attention!

But good news! The company is sending me to Tales of the Cocktail in a month (for my 5th participation to the global gathering!) and Dry July is my best excuse to justify a little break from local industry events and parties leading up to it! Hopefully, when touching down in NoLa, my body and mind will then be more than ready for the great catch ups Tales will be there to offer. Let's see if the plan works! See you all very soon, I cannot wait! -- Laurene Bourges

- Packing list:
1. Flask of Del Maguey Tobalá & extra copitas
2. Two bottles of Tobalá to refill said flask
3. 100ct bottle of Advil 
4. Vitamins, Milk Thistle, dehydrated coconut water
5. Sunglasses (for the bright, bright morning sunlight)
6. Four Guayaberas, swimsuit, winegeek jacket
7. Mixfits T-shirts & Stickers
8. Gold Bond 
9. Beard comb
10. More Tobalá

Leave at home:
1. My dignity
-- Sean Kenyon

- I’m getting my money together, making sure I have arrangements in the hotel, deciding which hats to bring, stocking up on cigars, figuring out what killer bottle to bring for my room so my friends who come over can have a nip of something special. -- James Menite 

- Most people prep for Tales by doing liver stretches. The Anvil crew and I have been doing boot camp led by Forrest De Spain (bartender, marine, and all around badass) in the park to be in the best shape of our lives. Don't be surprised if I pass up that 10th shot at 5 a m or decadent Nola dessert by saying, "Forrest said 'no'."

When not working on physical fitness, I've been working hard on making sure things are set for Agriculturally Anonymous and the Tasting Tequila seminar. By that I mean, I've called Don Lee a couple of times and he responds "I got this." Then I don't worry because he's a Cocktail science ninja... I am excited to see the seminars happen though. Both seminars have TIP members involved and I think what they have to share is important to Tales.

Aside from that, we'll have really cool TIP t-shirts available for donation thanks to Combier. Come find any TIP member for one!

Most importantly, I'm just really excited to see friends from all over the world there and share good drinks. -- Ceci Norman 

- Just before Tales I'll be in Vegas to celebrate Erick Castro's birthday, preparing my liver and hopefully winning lots of money so I can make it rain at the Old Absinthe House.-- Maria Pribble

- I’m getting the most powerful Iphone battery charger/case thing I can find, dusting off my seersucker suits, going on a fast in advance – leaving a lot of room in my stomach and arriving in New Orleans with a healthy mind and liver, getting plenty of sleep, crafting the most creative out of office message I can, getting elbow crash pads and a helmet together for the Milagro pool party – you’ll never know what part of you will end up in the pool first, and, I’m going to visit my parents before Tales of the Cocktail, rather than after (like I did last year).  Big mistake. -- Jim Ryan

- Dominos, dancehall, Ocho, high rife, pals, nuff said! -- Mathias Simonis 

- I’m mentally putting together thoughts for the presentation, while physically having my liver doing pushing ups.  Looking forward to my 4th Tales of the Cocktail participation --David Suro-Piñera

- It is 10:33am CST and I am multitasking as usual and answering emails, on a call with one of the angels working on final ads and editorial for a publication.  At 10:34 it will be something different.  -- Ann Tuennerman

- I'm looking forward to grabbing a burger at Yo Mama's, getting out of the heat and into a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's with Glen behind the bar (he's been there over 40 years), also looking forward to doing some community service for the schools of New Orleans with some of my favorite people in this industry. -- Dominic Venegas

- Testing out dresses to see which one maintains my internal body temp most effectively.  -- Yael Weisberg

- Most people detox after Tales; I am about to enter my pre-tox.  I eat well, go to the gym, make sure my body is ready for it.  I make myself a schedule and encourage everyone to take the time you need to go through all the events and map out what you want to see and make those your priorities.  You’ve got all those brains to learn from so it’s a shame if you’re so hung over or still in bed and miss an opportunity. -- Charlotte Voisey 

- I start acclimating to Tales scale drinking and sleep deprivation about a month ahead of time slowly ramping up and then the few days before I take it easy and stock up on sleep and fluids.  I also hit up Amazon.com for supplies to send to myself like Nuun hydration tablets, cases of coconut water, Gatorade, and water guns to meet me at the hotel.  That way it’s all there waiting for me when I arrive and I can hit the ground running.  -- Rocky Yeh 

Good advice all!  And you might consider taking a page out of their playbook as you plan your trip down.  But honestly, can you ever really be ready for Tales?  Probably not. Which is why we recommend that you simply laissez les bons temps rouler.

***There’s one other ambassador out there we know has something special up their sleeve.  But to reveal it would ruin the surprise.  Keep your eyes peeled, your ears open, and yourself in the right places, and you just may be part of it.

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Shakestir.com is a forum for bartenders and mixologists, and the Features provide an opportunity for them to speak their minds about the issues that matter inside the industry. While the opinions expressed within the articles are exclusively those of the writers and their sources, Shakestir gives the space for them to share. Want to write for Shakestir? Send an email to Writer@ShakeStir.com.