Tales of the Cocktail will kick of its tenth year this July in New Orleans, and in addition to drawing professionals from around it's catering specifically to Texas bartenders.
Ann Teunnerman, the founder of the growing cocktail gathering, hosted the event. Next she's headed to subsequent events in San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.
About 30 bartenders and other industry professionals from around Dallas stopped in to hear Teunnerman pitch her event. Charlie Papaceno and partner Louise Owens opened up the dimly lit bar to host the gathering, pouring rhubarb frappes garnished with basil leaves so big they might have come from basil trees.
The quick meet-and-greet was part of an effort to lure martenders from Texas. In March we told you about the North Texas chapter of the Bartenders' Guild, which is pushing to send 10 bartenders from Dallas to New Orleans to represent the city's craft cocktail culture. Chris Furtado, the president of the local chapter, is still finalizing those 10 attendees but hopes the list will highlight the best of Dallas' cocktail scene.
As we stood out front of the Windmill Lounge under the shade of an umbrella, I asked Rocco Milano, Private Social's lead barman, to help me define Dallas' cocktail culture. Milano was describing different characteristics of mixology in the larger coastal cities, so I asked if Dallas was getting closer to finding its own recognizable cocktail identity.
Milano pulled hard on a cherry-flavored clove cigarette and answered philosophically that Dallas' biggest strength is that it has no identity. Leveraging trends from either coast, Dallas is instead a melting pot for mixologists, who borrow elements from other cultures and then experiment on their own. Milano became animated as he described a collection of bartenders who a few years ago had zero direction or mentorship. Everyone was learning on their own, trying new things, fucking them up, learning from the mistakes and moving forward. Dallas celebrated a spirit of creativity borne out of cluelessness -- and it's working, at least according to Milano.
Ten years ago Tuennerman wanted to promote the historic cocktails and bars of New Orleans to locals in the Big Easy. Only around 100 people came to her one-day event, but a seed was planted. Now she's promoting craft cocktails, mixology, bar management and every other facet of spirit-driven business to more than 20,000 attendees over an entire week. The event has grown into an annual gathering for those who want to learn more about their craft and share ideas with others in their trade.
Tuennerman says a swelling Dallas contingent is an important indicator for the Dallas cocktail scene. Cities with high attendance to her event usually have strong cocktail cultures, and while past events have been dominated by bartenders from New York and California, Texas attendance has been swelling. The tasting event featuring Dallas mixology will mark the first of its kind representing Texan bartenders. For at least a brief moment, on what has become the world stage for cocktail culture, Dallas will enjoy the spotlight.