Each July, when much of Las Vegas’ bar community heads to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail (the industry’s preeminent gathering of beverage professionals), a core group stays behind to keep the home fires burning, ensuring that the city continues to deserve all those critical nominations and awards that make it a dining and entertainment destination.
Last year, a small group of industry members quickly cobbled together an impromptu event to honor the members of the highly active Las Vegas chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild who step up while their colleagues travel to Louisiana to pursue all the abundant educational and networking events Tales has to offer—and, of course, have a whole lot of fun. As the Las Vegas attendees, award winners, seminar panelists, presenters and Cocktail Apprentice Program volunteers prepare to once again take on NOLA, an ambitious second annual A Tales of Our Own prepares for a July 18 return.
One of the affair’s three key founders, Jessica Albano, has since relocated to Denver, but the remainder of the trio, Maison Ferrand Nevada ambassador Kinson Lau and Crater Lake Spirits ambassador Rob Amato, have stepped up once again along with Oak & Ivy bar man Vedo Pitnjakovic, and will be joined by Echo & Rig lead barman Bryan Pierzga and Campari America key account rep Tony DeMaria.
“I don’t want to take away from the focus on Tales of the Cocktail, or for this to be a substitute. Rather, the mission is to give people a glimpse of what going to Tales might be like,” Lau says. This year’s event will also take participants beyond the confines of Downtown. “Not only are we going to promote getting to know each other, we’re going to try to promote newly opened venues and spots people don’t necessary know about yet.”
For a lucky few, the day will begin with brunch at Carson Kitchen, featuring Crater Lake Vodka Bloody Marys. Everyone else can assemble for a Plantation Rum DTO (Daiquiri Time-Out) at the new 7th & Carson, then mosey on down to Oak & Ivy first in Container Park and then Cornish Pasty Co. for the first two in a series of cocktail hours featuring drinks and a little brand education by sponsors including Campari USA, Maison Ferrand, Crater Lake Spirits and Fernet-Branca.
A long break in the itinerary provides time for guests to rest or break from the group for a while; others can participate in a scavenger hunt. The group will come back together at Chinatown’s Sparrow + Wolf for the next happy hour before moving to Herbs & Rye for Pierre Ferrand Cognac Sidecars and then Plantation Rum Dole Whip floats at Golden Tiki, where the scavenger hunt winners will be announced and prizes handed out.
As the hours grow late, a New Orleans–style second line will lead the presumably lively crew from Golden Tiki to the Sand Dollar Lounge for a late-night taco party complete with live music, Negronis and frozen coffees a la NOLA’s Erin Rose, and finally, a midnight closing party will refresh the weary crawlers.
At least 40 people participated last year. With more advance planning, Lau and the group are expecting to top that.
“This event will never replace Tales of the Cocktail,” Lau says. “But it’s a nice opportunity for those who stay behind to work, who can’t get time off or maybe can’t afford it right now. It’s a chance to have fun while everyone else if off having fun. Someone’s got to hold down the fort! This is our tribute to them—you’re part of something bigger: the bar family that is being recognized on the world stage. You deserve to enjoy some of that, too.”
Participation in A Tales of Our Own 2017 is open to confirmed USBG members and their accompanying guests. To encourage responsible imbibing, transportation will be provided. To follow the crowd on their crawl, keep an eye on #HOOTLV17 because, as Lau last year stated: “It’ll be a hoot and a half!”