20090706-talescocktail.pngWhile I dutifully made my way through the original Star Wars franchise during my preteen years and I managed a few rounds of Dungeons & Dragons before adolescence got in the way, I've never gotten very deep into comic books, hobbits, or many of the other things that many folks of my generation have embraced at a level that is, dare I say it, geekish.

But as Derek Brown wrote recently on the Atlantic Food Channel, cocktails are an aspect of the culinary world that not only inspire their own level of geekery but even have their own equivalent of a Star Trek convention: Tales of the Cocktail.

Now in its seventh year, Tales of the Cocktail attracts thousands of spirits-and-cocktails devotees to New Orleans each summer, where they spend the better part of a week sipping their way through liquid history. While you won't find any fake Vulcan ears or Klingon-speaking attendees, Brown notes that Tales has its own set of groups who take their fondness for all things bibulous to an extreme degree: "[J]ust like Star Trek conventions, there are attendees bedecked in costume: vests, fedoras, and pocket watches; celebrity bartenders everyone wants to see; and kitschy merchandise."

This year, Tales of the Cocktail takes place July 8-12, and for the fourth year running, I'll be there. While I plan to spend much of the time ingesting my annual quota of jumbalaya and gumbo, not to mention Ramos Fizzes and Sazeracs, I'll put down my muffaletta and Pimm's Cup from time to time to do a little work: on Thursday, July 9, I'm joining spirits importer Eric Seed and San Francisco bartender Neyah White in a wide-ranging panel discussion about vermouth; and on Friday I'm moderating a panel discussion on the role of blogs and online tools in today's cocktail world. I'll also be shaking drinks at the Cocktail Hour on Thursday evening, and on Friday night I'll compete in an Iron Chef-style on-the-fly mixing event against some of the top bartenders and cocktail experts in the country, including Misty Kalkofen from Drink in Boston, Giuseppe Gonzalez from Dutch Kills in Long Island City, Eric Alperin from The Varnish in Los Angeles, and drink historian David Wondrich.

Tales of the Cocktail is the largest event of its kind in the world, and I'm looking forward to meeting more Serious Eaters in New Orleans this year. Are you planning to attend this one-of-a-kind event? And for those of us about to descend on New Orleans, what are some of your favorite places to eat and drink in the city?

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