Highlights from Tales of the Cocktail 2012

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This past week marked the 10th installment of New Orleans mixology orgy, Tales of the Cocktail. It is by far the largest celebration of cocktail culture in the country. Tales (as it called by ‘vets’) is a who’s who of bartenders, journalists and brands. It is a wonderland for up and coming barterers and enthusiasts.

We spent a whirl wind 72 hours in New Orleans, camping at the famed Roosevelt Hotel rather than Tales HQ, The Moteleone. This was a great plan for escaping the crush of people going from one event to the next and for the Sazerac Bar and it’s amazing Ramos Gin Fizz.

Arriving late on Wednesday, we decided to turn in and hit the ground running the next morning.

We ‘officially’ kicked off tales with a meeting with our PR friend over Cafe Au Laits and Beignets and then a Coffee Cupping Seminar by Kahlua. Ok, so no cocktails yet. Rule number one at Tales is that there will be plenty of cocktails, so no need to rush. Other things to keep in mind are to drink lots of water. It’s hot in NOLA this time of year. Also, Eat! Seems easy, but with all the rushing around, heat and booze, you can easily find yourself several drinks in and no food. Not good!

There were many highlights in our 3 days of Tales. They included:

Signing copies of our book, DIY Cocktails, at the Tales Book Store! 

Macallan Ice Ball Plunge: a benefit for The American Museum of the Cocktail bartenders from around the US plunged into a pool full of Macallan “ice balls”

Commander’s Palace Le Voyage Lunch: In a prefect recap of my recent trip to France, I was reunited with Francois, Ludo and Dimi. The cocktails were the hit of Tales (and all Vodka) and were expertly paired with Commander’s Palace cuisine. After this lunch we will never look at a pear the same!

Jim Beam Spirited Dinner: Master Distiller Fred Noe’s oratory, Bobby G’s Amazing cocktails and incredible food at the Pelican Club, ’nuff said.

Fernet Branca Spirited Dinner: beertails with Fernet, the restaurant filled with cocktail apprentices and dinner with Edourdo Fernet, what could be better.

Pig and Punch: Now an annual event held in in Washington Park on the far end of the French Quarter. The event is put by San Francisco’s own Bon Vivant’s and all profits got to benefit NOLA  KIPP Charter Schools. This year the boys roasted 7 pigs, created some amazing punches featuring Tequila Don Julio, George Dickel & others, and raised more than $21,000.

Chinese Banquet Lunch: Hosted by legendary brand Moutai, we were told the story of Moutai, by Dale DeGroff and Dave Wondrich, who recently journeyed to their far off distillery complex. Many Moutai toasts were enjoyed!

Bar Myth’s Seminar: Dave Wonderich try to mix a Flaming Blue Blazer 4 feet over his heat, check. A lengthy debate on dry vs. wet shaking, check. Mixing 150 Ramos Gin Fizzes with an industrial paint mixer while one is shaken for 10 minutes, check. Yes, this one had everything!

Drunken Botanist Seminar: Amy Stewart offered a fascinating look into the life of plants and their use in medicines and spirits.

Oh yeah, and they gave out some Spirited Awards:

  • American Bartender of the Year: Joaquin Simo of Alchemy Consulting in New York
  • International Bartender of the Year: Alex Kratena of Artesian Bar in London
  • Best American Cocktail Bar: The Varnish – Los Angeles (friendly tip – make sure you have a reservation)
  • World’s Best Cocktail Bar: The Connaught Bar – London
  • World’s Best New Cocktail Bar: The Zetter Townhouse – London
  • Best High Volume Cocktail Bar: Eastern Standard – Boston
  • World’s Best Hotel Bar: Artesian Bar at The Langham – London
  • Best Restaurant Bar: Slanted Door – San Francisco
  • World’s Best Cocktail Menu: Callooh Callay – London
  • World’s Best Drinks Selection: Salvatore at The Playboy – London

If you love cocktails, Tales of the the Cocktail is for you. Sure there are long lines, late starting seminars (most of them) and drinks in little plastic cups, but it is a wonderland of booze hosted on the doorsteps of America’s Party Street. Amazing venues, very cool tastings and plenty of free on the street events made the 10th Tales the best so far.

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