If you're typically on the receiving end of the Saturday night cocktail shaker, you may not have heard of Tales of the Cocktail, the see-and-be-seen event for cocktail and spirits professionals in New Orleans every July. If you're a mixologist, you likely at one point considered giving a seminar on hooch, sitting on a panel as a brandied cherry “personality”, or perhaps applying for the Cocktail Apprentice Program (which goes by the acronym, CAP) — all handy ways to attend the premier cocktail event in the Swig Easy without ponying up the big bucks.

Of course, there is the little matter of coming up with a topic that passes muster with the New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society, the nonprofit that puts on the 5-day event (July 21-25). Or being accepted to that apprenticeship program. Naomi Schimek, one of the former Tar Pit-turned-First and Hope mixologists, is notably the only Los Angeles representative among this year's fifty cocktail apprentices (there are a lot of aperitifs to mix up for the 10,000 plus attendees at all those seminars).

Eric Alperin of The Varnish will also be in New Orleans hosting a “cognac and blues” luncheon, and his crew from The Varnish are competing against five other nationwide bars in the “Bar Room Brawl” competition to come up with the best drink using Grand Marnier (guess who's sponsoring the competition).

And on that note. Squid Ink applauds Tales for its stellar programming (we've attended several), most notably for pioneering a cocktail festival that provides an educational forum for professionals (amateur Sazerac fans are welcome but can be hard to spot among the sea of hobnobbing mixologists, spirits company reps, swizzle stick biz owners and journalists).

But we'd still like to see a few more sponsorships, or perhaps “apprentice programs” is the correct phrase, for the tiny artisan distiller we so rarely hear about at Tales. You know, those single-barrel gin makers in Oregon who can't afford to pack it up and hike to New Orleans with quite the same financial ease as the mid-to-mega sized spirits companies who are out in full force (much less underwrite seminars or part with copious amounts of free product). But in the age of $12 cocktails and seminars such as “A Special Relationship: Running Your Bar With the Help of Consultants, Sales Reps and Brand Ambassadors,” we realize that is probably wishful drinking.

Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, July 21 – 25, ticket prices vary. For more information, visit www.talesofthecocktail.com.

LA Weekly