Two years into her role as president of the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Caroline Rosen (above) takes on what must be one of her biggest challenges yet: transforming the largest, most successful cocktail festivals in the world into a digital format.
Mind you, if Caroline is even the teensiest bit worried about the transition, she’s doing a good job of keeping her fears under wraps. In fact, she sounds positively chipper about taking Tales on a new, exciting journey.
Coincidentally, the theme that had already been decided for this year’s event which should have taken place in New Orleans last month was Catalyst, which by definition is a person or thing that precipitates change. While there’s no denying that Tales of the Cocktail 2020 will indeed be different, it’s also going to be much more inclusive. For the very first time in its 18 year history everyone will be able to access the live seminars, distillery tours, brand experiences, networking opportunities and famous New Orleans hospitality that Tales is justifiably famous for without spending a penny. We checked in with Caroline to find out more.
Like you, we really missed the event taking place in New Orleans this year. When did you realise that you’d have to change the format of Tales of the Cocktail 2020?
We already had to cancel Tales on Tour [planned to take place in Puerto Rico, April 19-22], so we were thinking about how things might pan out on a Tales of the Cocktail perspective pretty far in advance. We were hopeful that we might be able to do something but the Major of New Orleans cancelled all festivals and events for the rest of the year [New Orleans has 300 festivals a year] which made the decision easy for us.
Then the question was what do we do? We decided that we owed it to our global community to do something; to continue to proceed in some way. So we decided to embark on a digital gathering.
Tales is such a monumental thing, how do you even begin to replicate the energy and excitement of a week in New Orleans into a digital format?
Everyone has had to get more creative during the pandemic and our team and committee members are no exception. They’ve definitely shown off their creativity putting this year’s Tales of the Cocktail together.
But the best thing is, this year the festival is free and open to anyone in the world – that was really crucial to us. Very few people can travel to New Orleans so this gives them a chance to experience Tales of the Cocktail without leaving their homes.
So what can we expect?
Lots! What’s really wonderful this year is that there’ll be conversations going on all over the globe. We have an app which attendees will be available to download to find out the schedule of events and partner experiences – they’re going to be scheduled in different time zones for regional engagement, so whether you’re in Europe, Asia, the US or Australia, there’ll be something you can access in real time.
The week kicks off with 30 pre-recorded educational seminars that will live on the platform so they can watched and digested at your leisure. Throughout the week there will also be live Q&A sessions. That’s really important as we still want to give people an opportunity to connect, learn and ask questions.
Tell us more?
Unlike other years, we’ll have a lot of timely conversations which means we have the flexibility to talk about the current status of our community. Right now things are changing daily, so we’ll be able to have very pertinent conversations, the content which can change up to the day before. That will keep things fresh, topical and exciting.
We’ll have panels on various topics including hospitality, health, innovation and social issues and subtitles will be added to key programming for Spanish-speaking audiences. Mentorship Hours will be available under our Beyond the Bar programming during which a global group of industry leaders will donate blocks of their time for 15-minute virtual meetings to network and share ideas.
That sounds like an amazing, action-packed week!
I think so too. I think our community will find it interesting as well. We’ve had to stop and course correct multiple times since this all started but I’m just fortunate that we have such an active and engaging education committee who are able to help and guide us in the right direction because everything is happening so quickly.
What are you most looking forward to?
I’m really interested in some of the seminars that we have coming up, such as Ian Burrell’s ‘Underserved Communities and Entrepreneurship/Capital’ and Chris Cabrera’s ‘The Queer Handbook For The Recently Woke’. And there’s the ‘Creation, Equity and Building a New Table’ live panel, focusing on diversity, equality and inclusion hosted by Jackie Summers. We’ll also have some kind of Mindfulness moment very morning which I’m looking forward to as well. Most of all though, I’m really happy that I’ll be able to enjoy the seminars on demand – usually I’m running around so much, I never get a chance to see them!
And what will you miss?
All of the wonderful people in our industry together in the greatest city in the world. I’ll miss the sweaty hugs, escaping to have a sneaky drink and going and showing off my city. But that said, we’ll have a virtual lobby so people can hang out just as they would in New Orleans.
What have you learnt from this experience?
Tales calls for so much planning but what’s more important than the planning is people. We’ve had to ask a lot of people to come in to help – to brainstorm and be thought partners. I can honestly say I’ve learnt that it’s more important to do and reflect what’s needed rather than staying the path. It’s a lot more work but I’ve learnt how to be much more adaptable.
Do you think that you’ll incorporate some kind of digital experience to the Tales offering going forward?
I can’t wait to see how this goes – I would love to incorporate anything that works well, the things that our community loves, for years to come. We’re really looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks.
Tales of the Cocktail 2020 runs from 21-24 September, with the Spirited Awards ceremony taking place on 24 September. Registration opens 31 August (24 August for registered media). To book and for more information, go to talesofthecocktail.org