Each year for the previous 8 years, I have been invited to do the official poster for Tales of the Cocktail. It is a liquor industry event held in New Orleans, in July every summer. Over the years, it has grown in size tremendously. Fifteen years ago, when it started, I believe there were about 32 people in attendance. Now that number is closer to 24,000 attendees. That translates into an approximately 16 million dollar impact on the local economy.
In 2017, since it is the 15th anniversary for Tales of the Cocktail, and it is the 200th anniversary for El Floridita (Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar in Havana, Cuba), we decided to do a poster to celebrate the occasion. Tales of the Cocktail is heading to Havana in October to present a special event at the bar. Though I was happy with the El Floridita image, I still wanted to do a poster specifically for Tales in New Orleans. So that lead to my doing two posters.
The El Floridita poster required a large number of images to commemorate their anniversary. Very tricky thing to design. In fact, I designed three tight versions and numerous rough sketches before I was satisfied. I even had one version about halfway finished at one point, and decided to scrap it and move on. In the end, I had to delete all the images of famous movie stars who visited whenever they were in Havana, and focus on Hemingway, but I did keep everything else that was required. It became a combination of vintage Cuban cigar box labels, and old postcard art, like the ones that would have said, “Greetings from Havana”.
After I finished the El Floridita poster, I focused more on the theme for this year’s event, which was “Craft Your Future”. The official cocktail this year is the martini. That evolved into a painting of a blacksmith crafting a martini on his anvil, with a 1930’s vision of the future in the buildings behind him. At first it looked like he was about to smash the martini, but after adding the sparks, and the gold rim on the glass, I don’t think that is a concern any longer. He is forging his future, and in total control of his craft.
Doing the Tales of the Cocktail is one of the most interesting projects I do every year, because I am in complete control, and don’t have to deliver it until I am satisfied with the end results. And other than giving me the theme and the official cocktail, Ann Tuennerman, the founder and director of Tales of the Cocktail, pretty much gives me the freedom to create.