I'm back and only halfway (mentally) recovered from my second Tales of the Cocktail, which celebrated its ninth anniversary in New Orleans this year. The resounding opinion this year was that it was not quite as fun as last year's Tales, and everyone agrees it's because Selena was not there. We're already training our livers for her return in 2012.
Between parties, seminars and tasting rooms, there are too many highlights for one post. Here's Part One of All the Fun That's Fit to Print (or that I can remember):
Grey Goose Inspire: I hopped over to Latrobe's to kick things off at this event which featured four bespoke bars piled high with fresh produce, herbs, juices, garnishes and other beacons of summer abundance. Guests collaborated with bartenders on an array of ingredients, mixers, garnishes and product to create their own cocktails. Grey Goose Brand Ambassador Nick Mautone made me a delicious cocktail with the citrus notes I picked out, and there was also a juicy watermelon libation being passed. Great way to cool off before heading out into the steamy NOLA night.
Next up was the Fancypants Party hosted by Tobin Ellis and the Social Mixology crew out of Las Vegas.
Self-professed rum nut Rocky Yeh mixed up a mighty tasty "Ants in My Pants" with Dos Maderas 5+3 with rosemary and pineapple syrup. He was kind enough to dole out some straight pours when the night started getting interesting at the event's secret venue in the French Marketplace. Also making an appearance were Trevor Schneider, fresh back to the U.S. from Australia and NYC's Enzo Lim.
On Wednesday, Tales' Official Day One, I enjoyed the Opening Toast at Hotel Monteleone where, with over 400 folks, I knocked back a “Kopstootje” (a shot of Bols Genever paired with a beer) to set the world record for the World’s Largest Kopstootje. I got a warm welcome by Brand Ambassador Tal Nadari and managed to down the shot of Bols without getting it all over myself. Great success.
From there, I checked out the Tales bookstore with a couple of friends. People in all facets of the industry have been busy behind the pen as well as the stick this past year, so I picked up the fairly new title DIY Cocktails, edited by our friends over at DrinkOfTheWeek.com.
Another highlight of Day One was the Cocktail Fresh Market, which showed off cocktails made with ingredients from a local farmers market and 18 new and traditional spirits. I spied Russell Davis of San Francisco's Rickhouse mixing things up with classic Luxardo maraschino liqueur and The King's Ginger, an intense ginger liqueur and relative newcomer to the U.S. market.
After that it was rum and more rum, as I hit the Zacapa Rum Garden Party at the St. Louis Hotel and the Brugal Rum Poolside Party on the rooftop at Monteleone. Zacapa's shindig was a classy affair studded with colorful frozen cocktails and a buffet of what looked like delicious apps (got there too late to partake myself). Brugal's party featured a secret room with a private tasting nook to sample Brugal's newest release, Brugal 1888.
After a lovely afternoon of day drinking with friends, it was time to don my best black and white frock and head over to the Beefeater Masquerade at Gallier Hall. There were the signature giant British flags and fairytale ballerinas rolling around in super-sized transparent bubbles.
I spied Audrey Saunders and Erick Castro behind the bars before getting sidetracked by the mushroom pasta and Beefeater 24 cocktails.
I took a car with our friend Carmen Operetta from the Beefeater soiree to the National World War II Museum for the William Grant party. Just like last year, there were Sailor Jerry Rum photo backdrops and a dizzying array of drinks showing off the myriad spirits of the William Grant portfolio. The historic setting leant glamour and romance to the otherwise almost overwhelming litany of options.
I was happiest with a drink from Julie Reiner in my hands, though it was wonderful to see Gable Erenzo (Tuthilltown) and his lovely wife dressed up in '40s character.
The highlight of the evening was probably the mashup of this year's official Tales cocktail and the "-est" theme with the "Freshest Ramos Gin Fizz," made by the Hendrick's Gin team using freshly-laid eggs, cream churned from a cow that was right there, at the party and just-picked lemons (though we didn't spy any lemon trees around).
Later that night, I found my way to ye Old Absinthe House, where I enjoyed shots of Green Chartreuse with a water back with friend Mayur Subbarao (Bittermens Spirits, Dram, Amor Y Amargo), declined more shots from Todd Richman (Sidney Frank) and said a quick hello to Arik Torren (Fidencio Mezcal).
And that's just Tuesday night & Wednesday! Stay tuned for the next wrap-up post with a recap of the Negroni workshop, Pierre Ferrand's launch of their Cognac 1840, making our own pressure-infused cocktails at the Purity Vodka Bloody Mary Brunch and highlights from the 2011 Bar Room Brawl.
Emily Cavalier is the founder of Mouth of the Border, an online community for lovers of ethnic food and culture in New York City. She’s also the hostess, founder and resident cocktail geek at Midnight Brunch supper club. In addition to food and beverage writing, Emily consults on event and digital media strategy with food and media brands like Conde Nast, The Vendy Awards and Google.