Start Spring Training Now for Tales of the Cocktail

25 01 2009

Tales of the Cocktail is coming!  I may be a bit premature in getting excited about Tales of the Cocktail, but realistically it is time to start spring training to prepare!  The 7th anniversary Tales of the Cocktail will be held July 8-12, 2009 in New Orleans so save the date!  You can get tickets at in early Spring.  This is truly one of the most fun events of the year, attended by mixologists, bartenders, writers, spirits professionals and more the eventcelebrates spirits of all types with seminars, tastings, parties and more. 

I attended in 2008 and the best news is that, well, I survived!

I am more recent spirits professional, my background has been primarily wine.   I embarked into the spirits industry, due to a love of Tequila.  I even survived multiple trips to Jalisco, Mexico with Julio Bermejo’s of Tommy’s Mexican restaurant.  So, I thought, cool, no problem, I can totally handle this, but I was in for a bit of a surprise…

I set out way early on Wednesday for a 5:45 am flight.  I mean, seriously, this was just cruel torture.  But I had to head through Denver and onto NOLA.  I had barely enough time to grab a pretzel and crawl on board my second flight when I ran into my friend Greg Lindgren of Rosewood and Rye bar in San Francisco, so the flight went really quickly as we discussed my tips for the best food and beverage in the city.  Upon arriving in New Orleans I checked into the Monteleone Hotel, one of the greatest places to stay in the French Quarter.  This historic hotel was purchased by Antonio Monteleone in 1886 and over the years has become larger as other properties were added on.  Located in the quarter it is close enough to walk over to the casino and close to where you can pick up a streetcar.  It is also the home of the amazing Carousel Bar, a bar where the center REVOLVES, talk about getting a buzz.  Despite the seemingly “kitschy” atmosphere they make an amazing Pimm’s Cup, a must on your cocktail tour of the quarter.  This trip I had no chance getting a seat at the 25 seat rotating bar as each and every moment it was PACKED.  The hotel is also said to be haunted, but other than the weird twists and turns and subfloors and weird staircases, I didn’t notice any spirits other than the ones I was imbibing.

At any rate, soon I was ensconced in a beautiful corner room with a sitting room, two baths and a bedroom complete with fruit plate and bottled water.  I was in heaven, but who spends time in the room.  I set off almost immediately to hit the Andy Warhol party at the W Hotel hosted by Martini and Rossi.  Martini and Rossi vermouth may at first strike you as something your grandma may drink, but they have really delicious products that make a big impact in cocktails.  I recently met up with pro-football star Jimmy Cefalo and tried his favorite simple drink, a splash of Martini & Rossi red vermouth on ice with some orange juice, actually a really refreshing aperitif.  At the Warhol event they served variations on classics like the Warhol Manhattan (2 parts Martini & Rossi Rosso vermouth, 2 parts Dewar’s White Label, and three cherrries on the rocks.)  For a less potent beverage I preferred the Celebrity Crush (1 & 1/2 parts Martini & Rossi Rosso, 2 parts cranberry juice, 3/4 part simple syrup, 6 fresh raspberries and 12 fresh rosemary needles muddled.)  Afterwards it was quickly off to the Absinthe party promoting the new Absinthe Museum where absinthe relics now live.  It is great to see Absinthe culture embraced in the US, Absinthe is now legal and available to us all.  Then through the sweaty late afternoon heat it was off to a Welcome Reception at the Palace Cafe for Beefeater where I enjoyed an amazing Gin Gin Mule made by Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club in NYC.  Headed over to Emeril’s to see Charlie Brown, great bartender, and my buddy and Saint’s fanatic Steve Russett.  Then the Save the Daiquiri party at Arnaud’s (visit Chris Hannah for a classic French 75), an after party with Jacques Bezuidenhout and bartenders from around the world, and wow, suddenly there I was sneaking away.  This has never happened to me before… I am usually the last to leave!  I slunk back to my room at the Monteleone like an amateur.

Thursday was the first day I hit the seminars.  I’ve been to wine conferences, like the Society of Wine Educators conference, so I expected this would be much of the same, seminars, information, lots of spitting, but I underestimated my stamina.  Still, I was impressed that I was able to attend four seminars while staying relatively sober.  My only issue with the event was the mere 30 minutes between sessions which kept both attendees and presenters alike scrambling.  I was able to sneak out at about 2pm to hit the Acme Oyster House and grab a debris sandwich.  Debris is the local term for the drippings that come off the roast beef, and it is a 10 napkin job as Acme suggests.  Messy but delicious.  I learned about Molecular Mixology at a seminar where they served us Ramos Marshmallows and Sazerac Gummi Bears, learned How to Taste Like a Pro from Paul Pacult, tasted Cognac and Armagnac, and enjoyed the British Invasion of the American Cocktail Hour, a very creative seminar run by Charlotte Voisey of Hendrick’s Gin.  After all this tasting I found myself once again slinking off to my room where I took a brief rest.  I pondered calling some of the SF Cocktailians, but decided I would be safer just having a peaceful meal by myself at Cochon, my favorite restaurant in NOLA where my former co-worker Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski pay homage to the pig by using just about every conceivable part and actually making it all taste incredible.  I was about to sit at the bar when another Tales attendee, Bill Owens of American Distilling Institute invited me to join him and a group of journalists for dinner.  It was fantastic as we tried almost all the items on the menu and ended with some spirits tasting, a tobacco infused something or other.  Then it was off to Muriel’s for a toast to Desmond Payne and once again at the after party I stealthily crept out and away while the cocktail crew partied until the wee hours.

When my alarm went off at 8:30 am I was laying diagonally across the bed fully clothed with all the lights on.  A quick shower and it was off to the Brennan’s media breakfast, no hangover was going to keep me from dining at Brennan’s, plus the hangover didn’t have a chance to arrive.  I was both relieved but slightly scared to see the U’Luvka Bloody Mary waiting for me (made with Trinchero Red Wine and Clamato).  The breakfast included a baked apple served in a rich double cream sauce with cinnamon toast, Eggs Hussarde (an egg poached on a Holland rusk with Canadian bacon) and Eggs Sardou (poached eggs over an artichoke heart on a bed of creamed spinach) both smothered in Hollandaise, and of course their famous Bananas Foster for dessert, all served with Louis Latour Grand Ardeche.  It was incredible.  I tried, I really did, to go to a seminar after, but it just didn’t happen.  Instead I invested in a nap and then crept off to my favorite sandwich shop in the quarter, Verti Marte, where I got the shrimp po’ boy undressed with butter and pickles and my favorite Zapp’s Crawtators (crawfish flavored potato chips).  I nearly raced over to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop bar and with my Abita (a local brew) in hand devoured my sandwich finally felt human again.  A rum seminar, a liqueur seminar and then it was off to the Bloody Mary Competition at the House of Blues, where sadly the SF contingent didn’t win, despite what I thought were the best bloody marys there.  We headed to the casino for some craps (I won!). 

Greg Lindgren and David Nepove, The SF Contingent

Bloody Mary Competition: Greg Lindgren and David Nepove, The SF Contingent

By Saturday I had about given up.  I went on the streetcar to take in the sights.  It had rained a bit and was a moist but cooler day as I strolled back down Magazine Street where there are some great shops.  I ended up walking all the way back to the casino sweating out the booze.  By early evening I was ready to get some food at Harrah’s Besh Steakhouse (I used my casino points too!) and enjoyed some steak tartare, an iceberg wedge and a bottle of Austrian Riesling.  Although I was trying to hide, I found myself back at the casino almost immediately as most were gathering for the Spirits Awards.  I ended up eating a second meal just a few hours later at Mother’s, played some roulette and then it was off to the Bartender’s Midnight Breakfast at Cafe Giovanni.  Somehow in New Orleans time morphs and you don’t quite know where the hours really go, this was how I felt when we were traipsing around the quarter to quickly brightening blue skies wading in muck and being splashed by the street cleaners as they tried to sweep the night’s mayhem under the rug.  I found myself ordering a beer at 7:30 am and decided to call it a night and said goodbye to my co-conspirators in the bright sunlight.

Dawn on Bourbon, the Street that is...

Dawn on Bourbon, the Street that is...

If you decide to go:

2009 Tales of the Cocktail Spring Training List

Practice carrying martini glasses filled to the brim (I am used to walking around with wine glasses, so carrying martini glasses around is not my thing, they spill so much more easily!)

Work on stamina (these attendees are super stars, they can surely hold their liquor, so I need to work on sipping spirits slowly so I can hang with the big dogs)

Plan out meals better (There is so much to eat in New Orleans and I just scratched the surface, make plans and reservations now!)

Invest in some cute closed-toe shoes for the late night walks home through the muck of Bourbon Street (sandals just didn’t cut it and I had to santize my feet and shoes afterwards)

Some great cocktails:

 Jamboozle (Charlotte Voisey)

2 oz Hendrick’s Gin

2 bar spoons blackberry jam

1/4 oz Chambord or creme de mure

1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Assemble and shake well, strain over crushed ice and garnish with a lemon wheel and blackberry.

Sun and Moon

2 oz U’Luvka Vodka

1 oz Pineapple Puree

2 tsp Simple syrup

1/2 oz lime juice

sage leaves

Club soda

Muddle the sage with simple syrup, add the rest of the ingredients with a scoop of crushed ice, mix then top with club soda.  Garnish with a wheel of pineapple or a sage leaf.



One response

1 02 2009

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction for Po’ Boys and crap tables.
Have one for me this year, I will be changing diapers!

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