Douglas Ankrah created the pornstar martini in London in 2003. It features vanilla vodka, passion fruit liqueur and passion fruit puree with a shot of Champagne on the side. Ankrah eventually got out from behind the bar, and in 2017 he released a bottled version of the cocktail. He’s at Tales of the Cocktail this week, where’ he’ll participate in a seminar titled “Stayin’ Alive: Why Disco Drinks Never Die” (12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17), which celebrates the Pornstar martini, Harvey Wallbanger, grasshopper and other cocktails that were popular in the disco era.
The spirits and bartender event Tales of the Cocktail takes place July 16 to 21 at the Royal Sonesta hotel and venues across New Orleans. There are tasting rooms, cocktail pairing dinners, parties, cocktail history walking tours in the French Quarter and seminars on a variety of topics featuring liquor brand ambassadors, bartenders, spirits writers and others. In its 16 years, Tales programming has diversified to include everything from spirits focuses to business topics, inclusivity, sobriety and health and mental wellness.
Spirits are a primary focus at Tales, and there are seminars on everything from varieties of whiskey and gin to mezcal, vermouth, apertivo, Chambord, Japanese shochu and artisanal Colombian spirits. There are more than 50 tasting rooms featuring spirits and mixers at the Royal Sonesta. Attendees who spend more than $150 on seminars get free admission to tasting rooms. A wristband for tasting room admission only costs $125.
“Liquipedia” (3:30 p.m. Friday, July 19) is an annual seminar that highlights esoteric and scientific drink knowledge. Panelists, including Time magazine writer Jeffrey Kluger, strive to answer as many questions as possible in the 90-minute session. There’s also a myth-busting panel called “Fake Booze News: How to Tell When a Cocktail Story is Total Crap” (10 a.m. Thursday, July 18). Participants include food writers Robert Simonson of The New York Times and M. Carrie Allan of the Washington Post.
“Cannabooze 2025” (3 p.m. Saturday, July 20) is a business-centered seminar that will project how the legalization of marijuana will impact the spirits industry.
In addition to the disco drinks seminar, there’s an air of indulgence to tiki drink seminars, a boat drinks pop-up event and, if there are any fans of Tom Cruise’s “Cocktail,” a pop-up of ’80s movie-inspired drinks. A business seminar about “The Future of Daydrinking” (12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17) examines bar programs and promotions in a climate of moderation. At the other end of the spectrum, there are events focused on nonalcoholic drinks, such as the Mocktail Project (6 p.m. Friday, July 19).
In recent years, Tales has expanded programing about wellness and workplace safety. Programs range from daily yoga sessions to seminars on mental health in the hospitality industry and self-care and sobriety. Safety is the subject of “101-Harassment and Hospitality Don’t Mix” (noon Thursday, July 18) and “What’s My Role?” (12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17), which addresses prevention of sexual violence in hospitality businesses.
Programs focused on inclusivity include “Change: The Bar Fight for Diversity” (10 a.m. Saturday, July 20) and “Demystifying Pronouns: Beyond the Binary” (10 a.m. Saturday, July 20).
Other events include the Spirited Awards, which recognizes bartenders, bars, brand ambassadors, spirits media and more. Pop-up events take place at local bars. Spirited dinners are offered at casual to fine dining restaurants. Seminar and event prices vary and tickets are available on www.talesofthecocktail.com.