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The movers and cocktail shakers of the global booze scene arrive in New Orleans this week with renewed hope for the hospitality business and a desire to satisfy the nation’s surging thirst for agave spirits.
Tequila, mezcal and trending regional Mexican spirits such as raicilla — each made from the agave plant — top the chatter at the 2022 Tales of the Cocktail.
It’s a New Orleans trade show and celebration of cocktail history, culture and trendsetters.
It features the nation’s best mixologists, top distillers and leading restaurateurs among its 15,000 cocktail enthusiast attendees.
“As people made more sophisticated cocktails at home during the pandemic, they are coming back to bars and restaurants with a renewed interest in premium agave, mezcal and whisky,” Tales of the Cocktail keynote speaker Brandy Rand, chief strategy officer of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, told Fox News Digital in an interview.
“Requests for anything agave are high — tequila will be the top-selling spirits category in the U.S. by next year given the pace of high-end spending.”
Spirits volume grew 4% last year, IWSR reports, led by agave brands, which surged 17% in 2021 after growing by 30% from 2015 to 2020.
Tequila’s popularity has been boosted by celebrity investment in the sector.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson founded Teremana Tequila in 2020, while Kendall Jenner launched 818 Tequila in 2021.
George Clooney sold his high-end Casamigos tequila brand to Diageo for an estimated $1 billion in 2017.
Former Van Halen frontman and solo artist Sammy Hagar brought Cabo Wabo Tequila to the U.S. in 1999, helping turn it into one of the nation’s most successful booze brands before selling a majority of the business in 2007.
He partnered with Food Network star Guy Fieri in 2019 to market Los Santo Tequila.
Sales of agave spirits such as tequila and mezcal surged 17% in 2021.
Tales of the Cocktail celebrates its 20th year here in 2022, though the last two events were held virtually amid COVID-19 restrictions, which devastated the American hospitality industry.
“Everyone is excited to be back, so there’s a renewed energy to recreating the hospitality experience,” said Rand.
The event will also crown the best people and places in both and U.S. and the international cocktail scenes.
The finalists for U.S. Bartender of the Year are Josh Davis of 16th Street Bar in Chicago, Chris Hannah of Jewel of the South in New Orleans, Masahiro “Masa” Urushido of Katana Kitten in New York City and Christine Wiseman of Bar Lab Hospitality Group in Miami.
Bar Goto and Katana Kitten in New York City, The Roosevelt Room in Austin, Texas, and Thunderbolt in Los Angeles are the final contenders for Best U.S. Cocktail Bar.