The word ‘legend’ gets tossed around a lot. Particularly, in the beverage industry. While you could occasionally argue the legend status of many, there are those among us that no one would question their overall impact.
One such name is Tony Abou-Ganim, who, among others such as Bridget Albert, Dale DeGroff, and Julie Reiner, helped immeasurably in kicking off the modern cocktail movement. Tony has assisted in opening and consulting dozens of venues around America, ever since he was chosen in the late ‘90s to institute a cocktail program across The Bellagio by Steve Wynn.
Today, his company The Modern Mixologist, although based in Las Vegas, has a global reach consisting of an online store for bar tools, books (several of which he’s authored), as well as videos and educational programs.
Tony first arrived at Tales of the Cocktail® in 2004, the second year it was held.
“I think it might have been Dale (DeGroff) who called and told me about Tales,” Abou-Ganim recalls. “Unfortunately, the first year it happened, I was still at Bellagio and I couldn’t get off work. Then in 2004, I attended, and I’ve been there every year since. In the early years, I remember doing my first Spirited Dinner at Café Giovanni. At that time, the whole event was solely sponsored by Southern Comfort, which made sense given the history of the brand in New Orleans. It did present some problems when you were trying to do a 5-course dinner pairing and every drink had to have Southern Comfort in it,” he says, laughing. “But we got pretty good at it, and I was actually then hired by Southern Comfort to do something called Comfort & Joy for three years, where we would host cocktail and cooking demonstrations.”
Were this a regular year, you’d find Tony sipping a drink first at The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. It was a personal favorite for starting afresh week of Tales of the Cocktail® and a great venue for bumping into friends. He counts Founder of Q Mixers, Jordan Silbert, among those.
“Jordan embraces that philosophy that the simple things really matter,” he says. “Carbonation is a great example. It’s such a simple drink, The Highball. But so often, it’s lackluster because the fizz isn’t there. I use Q Mixers because I love the number of bubbles it has and the fact that it comes in those small bottles. That’s what we have in our fridges at our places. Q Mixers tonic holds that carbonation.”
For Meet At Tales, Abou-Ganim made a fantastic, fizzy, variation on the Moscow Mule, with those dreamy flavors of the Amalfi Coast highlights. The Mediterranean Mule is a citrusy twist on the classic Moscow Mule with the addition of Citrus Vodka and lemon juice. The subtle bitter notes from the Aperol balance out the spiciness of the Q Hibiscus Ginger Beer for a visually striking and incredibly refreshing cocktail.
If you ask Abou-Ganim to look back, beyond arriving in Las Vegas, to usher in fresh-fruit-juice cocktails across a huge casino/hotel operation in 1998, he would reflect back to his first days bartending at a bar in Michigan with his aunt Helen David as pivotal mentored moments. Descending from a long line of family bartenders, Abou-Ganim has been a mentor for dozens of people in our industry who now have known names in their own right.
“I always tell the young bartenders that you have to love bartending first. Then, find a way to work with great bartenders. The goal should be to get to a place to then mentor those behind you. Our industry is, at the end of the day, all about hospitality; about hosting people like you would in your own home, and I think mentorship plays into that.”
Q Mixers and Tales of the Cocktail Foundation present, Meet at Tales––a program going behind the scenes with eight industry leaders, delving into their best times at Tales of the Cocktail®––raising a virtual toast to the people, places, and drinks that have shaped their careers.
After several challenging years, Meet at Tales is a chance for our Industry Leaders to give advice and mentorship to those rising up. Six lucky Tales of the Cocktail 2021 registrants will be selected to Meet at Tales for a 15-minute conversation and will receive a custom cocktail kit developed by the Q MIXERS Industry Leader they are paired with. Following Tales, each Industry Leader will select one individual for a one-hour follow-up conversation.
We could think of no better partnership for this project than Q Mixers––a brand whose entire mission is to make truly spectacular mixers Additionally, during this year’s conference taking place in a hybrid format September 20-23, Q Mixers will host 4 Mix at Tales Happy Hour events ––each of which pair up 2 industry leaders to host a happy hour to field fun and pertinent questions, brainstorm, and have a few drinks of course.
Already registered? View the full Tales agenda to add Tony’s or any other Mix at Tales Happy Hour events to your Tales of the Cocktail 2021 agenda.