Darcy gave me the most original answer I received, and I'd be lying if I said I remembered half of it. Darcy has a diploma in chemistry and you can tell when he talks. Most of us know that certain liquors go well together. He knows why, in terms of science. I listened, fascinated. I always did well in science in high school, but it wasn't because I really understood it. Must have been memorization.
Anyhoo, I, too, have often wondered why Tales is what Tales is: so buoyant, so joyful, so inexhaustable, so drenched with Joie de Vivre and Hale-Fellow-Well-Met, so replete with back slaps and guileless grins and happy-go-lucky semi-raucousness. It can't just be the booze, or the fact that there's a party everywhere you turn. Booze can make you surly just as soon as giddy, and there's nine bad bashes for every good one thrown.
Darcy boils it down to this: Tales' personality is essentially the bartender's personality. I'll let him speak:
One of the comments I constantly hear about Tales is how friendly everyone is. Well, as a large number of the participants are bartenders, whose job it is to talk to people, it makes for a very social, friendly, environment. Plus, these are the top bartenders in the world so they are good at what they do.
Being a great bartender requires a unique personality. You have to be able to handle a fast paced environment, have physical stamina, enjoy the company of strangers, flirts and wierdo’s, function counter to the human bodies natural clock (i.e. late nights). You need to maintain a coherent thought process for making the dozens of different cocktails and taking orders fired at you non-stop, for hours on end. Then throw in a little math, add an owner who is constantly stressing, maintain your sense of humour, deal with drunks, take very short breaks, if any, plus a dozen other things, and there you have it, the bartender.
Bartending isn’t for everyone, but the people who do it well have a list of qualities that make them perfect for large gatherings.
That all sounds about right. Makes me think I should have been bartender rather than a journalist. Writing is a solitary profession, about as far as you can get from bartending as possible. And as much as I love reporting, and as much as I relish many aspects of Tales, being a journalist at such an event as Tales of the Cocktail is to feel forever the straight man, the staff photographer at a flea circus, the court reporter at a sensational trial in a Kangaroo Court.
It is perhaps no wonder that reporters over the decades have long sought out the comfort of the barstool, and the ear of the bartender. After a day spent in your head, staring at the typewriter, it's a nice break when the circus comes to town.