Each year millions of people flock to food and beverage festivals and events around the world. Just about every major city in America has at least one annually, usually in peak season and often highlighting cultural dishes common to the area. Many of these festivals have traditionally featured wine, but more and more are popping up showcasing spirits, cocktails and craft beer.
Cocktails are about as old as America itself. While the history of booze in general can be pretty fuddled, some historians have credited the Sazerac cocktail to being America’s first cocktail. Even though this isn’t likely true, we do know the Sazerac was created in 1838 by Antoine Peychaud in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The Big Easy also boasts the creation of other famous cocktails including the Ramos Gin Fizz, Hurricane and French 75. So it is fitting that the world’s leading cocktail festival, Tales of the Cocktail, is held annually in New Orleans in mid to late July. What would normally be off-season in a city heavily dependent on tourism, Tales of the Cocktail takes over much of the otherwise quiet French Quarter district with thousands of bartenders, bar managers and owners, spirits brand producers, cocktail writers and enthusiasts.
In 2002 New Orleans native Ann Tuennerman began the New Orleans Original Cocktail Tour, a walking tour of the city’s most storied bars and cocktails. One year later on its anniversary, it became the first Tales of the Cocktail. Despite the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina in 2005, Tales of the Cocktail returned to New Orleans in 2006, welcoming spirits professionals from around the globe. During this time, America undergoes a “cocktail renaissance” with more and more bars and bartenders around the country rediscovering classics, experimenting with new flavors and demanding quality. Perhaps the cocktail renaissance helped fuel the success of Tales of the Cocktail, or maybe Tales of the Cocktail helped grow the popularity of the American cocktail, today Tales of the Cocktail offers over 200 annual events including seminars, tasting rooms, cocktail dinner pairings, walking tours and the Spirited Awards Ceremony among others.
This July, whether you make it out to New Orleans or not, celebrate America’s birthday this 4th of July with one of the country’s oldest cocktails, the Sazerac and take in a bit of New Orleans history from wherever you are.