Much like your average booze-fueled night of revelry, the annual Tales of the Cocktail event — which went down last week in New Orleans — is usually recalled in a series of blurry flashbacks and questionable recollections. Sometimes, it takes a few days to sort through it all. This year was no different.

To wit: Was that really a llama I saw walking through the quarter promoting a new brand from South America? Yep. Did I drink sherry from a watermelon keg suspended from the ceiling at Friday night’s Bar Fight? Correct. Pretty sure I took part in a dance party to "Lovefool" by The Cardigans at an aquarium, while sea turtles and sharks swam behind the DJ booth. Indeed, it's confirmed: I wasn’t dreaming.

The surreal spectacle that is Tales of the Cocktail brings bartenders, brand folk, cocktail enthusiasts and others to the Crescent City in a weeklong celebration of all things spirited. So, of course, things can get a little debauched.

Here are a few notable moments from the fest this year:

  • On the new product front, the biggest news comes out of the House of Angostura, which will launch an Italian-style Amari, or bitter liqueur, called Amaro di Angostura. I didn’t get a chance to try it, but I'm told that it tastes like a drinkable version of their iconic aromatic bitters. Other notable products include the Yeoman Tonic Syrup, a collaboration between Beefeater Gin and Small Hand Foods from California, as well as Solbeso, a spirit distilled from cacao (its makers are the ones who brought the llama to the party). 
  • If you’ve ever been to "TOTC," as it's often called, you’re likely familiar with the series of brand-sponsored, invite-only events where each major portfolio company attempts to outshine the others with big names and creative venues. This year was the same pissing contest, much to the delight of partygoers. The William Grant & Sons event posted up at an old airport terminal, complete with a live camel for additional entertainment. And, Saturday night’s Bartender’s Breakfast, hosted by Beefeater and Plymouth gins, brought bar stations from such illustrious outfits as PDT, Pouring Ribbons, Polite Provisions, Smuggler’s Cove and more to the Audubon Aquarium. There were piranhas. There were alligators. And, of course, there were lots of gin martinis.
  • For many years, East and West coast bars have dominated the Tales landscape. But, recently, operators from the middle of the country have started to earn recognition, as well. Texas, for instance, has had an increasingly large presence over the past several years. This year, the Lone Star State contingent hosted a Texas Tiki Throwdown at the Hotel Monteleone. Denver’s Williams & Graham, meanwhile, had an ongoing presence serving drinks at various locations. And, at the culminating event, the annual Spirited Awards, Sean Kenyon from Denver was awarded the coveted title of "American Bartender of the Year." Three Dots and a Dash made Chicago proud with its award for "Best New American Cocktail Bar," and fellow Windy City representative Aviary took home honors for "World’s Best Cocktail Menu," as well.
  • Also: Ibérico, the jamón-infused mezcal from importer Ron Cooper's Del Maguey label and celebrity chef José Andrés' ThinkFood Group, won for "Best New Product." (Food Republic first reported on the collaborative liquor back in January; read all about it right here.)
  • Finally, the Tales crew announced that the next “Tales on Tour” — the new annual mini-festival of sorts (last year was in Buenos Aires) — will head south of the border again this year to take place in Mexico City. Until then, check out the #totc hashtag on Twitter for more civilian reports from the event, and start prepping your livers for 2015.

Read more reports from New Orleans on Food Republic: