I can’t quite believe that it’s already been nearly two weeks since I returned from the sticky summer heat of New Orleans!…So much for blogging as I went along!?
I could use the excuse that there was just no time to blog, but lets be honest, I was more often than not far too
intoxicated busy to document correctly! What can I say though, this was the 10 year anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC)!
Many of my blogging companions have long since posted there highlights from the trip, but one of the reasons I have taken so long to write this post is because I am almost overwhelmed with where to begin. There were many more parties, tastings and seminars than I have space to cover here so I am going to give a very brief break down of the events that interested, excited or inspired myself and my darling mixologist boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) in particular. This isn’t to say that there weren’t many more during the week that were great, these are just the ones that stood out and made it to MY tale of Tales.
Lets begin at the beginning…
On the shuttle from Louis Armstrong airport to our hotel in French Quarter we found ourselves stuck in a fair bit of traffic due to the arrival of President Obama, who was visiting for the day. Ok, so this isn’t really all that relevant to TOTC, but come on, what a cool start to have the President wave at some of the World’s best bartenders!
An Absolut Welcome
Event: Absolut Welcome Party Location: Contemporary Arts Center
First stop was the Absolut Welcome party. For those of you who read my posts regularly, you might recall I reported on the Absolut Stuga event last month for Tasting Panel Magazine. In that piece I noted how Absolut had managed to bring Sweden to Hollywood with the placement of small swedish cottages and snowy white trees around the room…fast forward to Wednesday night and I found myself again standing in Sweden, only this time I was in New Orleans.
The Absolut team had done a great job transforming the Contemporary Art Museum in to a Swedish landscape, complete with falling snow. I must mention, the snow was a beautiful touch but proved to be extremely impractical. I think I must have choked on at least 12 bubbly flakes blowing in the air and had many more land in my drinks, which was somewhat annoying and impossible to avoid.
The event itself was nicely done though. Blue lights made the room appear cold and wintery, which was a pleasant change from the humidity outside. There were drink stations set up representing different areas of the World too. My favorites were Absolut Japan and Absolut Italia.
Hidetsugu Ueno had created the Absolut Diamond Tea drink that used local Japanese Honey and Japanese Tea a long with regular Absolut vodka. The tea was a prominent flavor, but the drink itself was balanced and had a nice sweetness to it from the honey. It was served over an ice ball that was skillfully carved in front of us using a Japanese ceramic knife.
Over at Absolut Italia I enjoyed a very different kind of drink, the Coppa Di Fiori. This was made with Absolut Citron, Cynar, Lemon juice, Mint, Simple syrup and Tonic water. It was certainly bitter, but still very enjoyable….even for my sweet tooth!
Later in the evening Simon Ford, Gary Reagan, Nick Strangeway and Lynnette Marrero performed the song ‘Take a chance” by ABBA which was both hilarious and slightly disturbing! haha
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOTC
Event: William Grant & Sons Location: New Orleans Museum of Art
Buses courtesy of TOTC shuttled us off to the 10 year Birthday Bash put on by William Grant & Sons. On the ride we indulged in Hendricks flavored ice creams before arriving at an even grander Art Museum with giant candles lining the drive.
There was so much to see at this party I can only touch on a few of my favorite areas. The Hendricks Gin spectacle was very peculiar, the bartenders would make drinks at the top of the roof and pour them down to the glasses below.
Inside there were delicious appetizers, desserts and drink selections provided by Glenfiddich and Belvenie. Outside there was a ‘Slap and tickle village’ (which had bartenders shaking drinks whilst jumping on trampolines), a giant birthday card to sign and burlesque dancers.
There were photo booths, clowns, a fireworks display and plenty of cocktails to be had in amongst the artwork. As fellow blogger Dave Stolte pointed out…
“A Henry Moore statue can also double as an impromptu drinks stand in New Orleans!”
Japanese Whisky, fill me up!
Seminar: Non-Stop to Kyoto Presented by: Neyah White & Gardner Dunn
The seminar that really stood out to myself and FG on this trip was ‘Non-Stop to Kyoto’ which was put together by Neyah White and Gardner Dunn. This was a really relaxing experience and a great escape from the craziness of Tales.
The room had been transformed in to a little Japanese hut, with a great selection of some of the best Japanese Whiskies available, ranging from Hibiki 30 year to 1984 Yamazaki Single Malt. We each sat down at our own little table and were given a blending kit with a selection of whiskies in test tubes. Neyah explained that there was no right or wrong way to put together our own drink, it was simply a teaching aid to help understand how master blenders come up with combinations. I actually really enjoyed my creation, it was a little smoky, a little sweetness and not too hot.
I tried the Yamizaki 1984 and really liked it, it was very smooth with no dramatic heat despite being 96 proof. It had a slight cinnamon nose which I am told could come from the Japanese Oak it’s aged in. It is named after the year 1984 which was the first time they felt their product was good enough to serve as a single malt, before that date Suntory had only ever produced blended whisky.
Small bites, which included a delicious ’Scrambled egg on vanilla brioche with bacon caramel’, ‘Banana Mochi’ and ‘Spicy caramel popcorn’ was provided by World famous Chef Michael Mina, as you can imagine the dishes were incredible and I wish there had been more. The spicy sweet popcorn brought out interesting flavors in the whisky too.
Ooh how that pig packs a punch!
Event: Bon Vivants Pig & Punch Location: Washington Sq Park
The Pig and Punch party had us drinking a variety of creations out of trash cans, yes you heard correctly, trash cans. Obviously they were clean and filled to the brim with alcohol and fruits, but it was quite an experience to say the least. The highlight of the event was when 4 men carried the cooked beast in and placed it on a fire pit while a classic New Orleans brass band played bouncy songs as if it were a Jazz funeral.
There was plenty of food on offer. I had sausages with Templeton rye that were awesome and some incredible sorbets and gelatos created by Luxardo and La Divina Gelateria. My favorite flavor was the peach amaretto sorbet, which was like eating liquid marzipan. Just delicious!
Crawl to the Brawl
Event: Bar Room Brawl Location: Generations Hall
I have to say, this was a little bit of a cluster f!@k to get in to. There were long lines and too many people on the guest lists, but once inside it was well worth the wait. For those who don’t know, the idea behind Bar room brawl is to find the best bar in the US, voted in by the industry.
This year saw no Los Angeles bars nominated so FG and I decided to cheer for The Passenger/Columbia Room of DC. My review of Washington DC is coming soon, but even if we’d never been or met the incredibly talented Derek Brown we still LOVED all the drinks that this bar produced that night.
Beretta from San Francisco won the title of best bar, and Bar Manager Ryan Fitzgerald collected the trophy.
We weren’t by any means disappointed with this win, it was nice to have a Californian bar take the title even if it wasn’t LA. Having been to Beretta ourselves just this past January, I can attest to the fact that the restaurant and bar program there is truly fantastic.
It was at Beretta that I finally found out I liked brussel sprouts (after Ryan forced me to try them)…it was one of the first times I had been convinced to try something ugly and green! That particular experience was one of the reasons I started the FussyOne blog a month later, to be able to tell others like myself, “it’s ok to try scary green vegetables!”
There were several tasting rooms and vans that popped up during the week, below are just a few of the drinks and products I enjoyed the most.
Giovanni Martinez representing Chivas Regal gave me a cocktail named ‘The Green Room’ which had Carpano Antica Formulae, Clear Creek Pear Liqueur, Miracle Mile Toasted Pecan Bitters, and Chivas 12 yr. The entire cocktail was aged in glass with oak staves that had originally stored barley wine. The drink itself was served straight up and was really strong, but full of interesting flavors.
Ben Davidson, The National Spirits Ambassador for Pernod Ricard Australia had prepared two other cocktails that included Chivas and were barrel-aged. These were also very strong, and tasty. I find that the new craze of barrel-aging cocktails is a great one, it gives complexity to certain drinks and softens other. I look forward to seeing more barrel-aged cocktails coming to bars in Los Angeles soon.
I tasted the White Montanya Rum for the first time and was pretty impressed by the product as a whole. It had a slight nuttiness to it and wasn’t at all harsh like most white rums. I am generally a dark rum drinker but the rep. explained that they age this rum in oak then filter it through coconut husk charcoal so it retains the flavor, but removes the color. Nice little product.
Nick Strangeway introduced us to his new Absolut Craft line at the Flavor Innovation Workshop, which was held at the
creepy historical Pharmacy Museum. He gave a really interesting talk on how he came up with and created the three new flavors he’s produced with the Absolut vodka brand. The three flavors he’s created are Smokey Tea, Herbaceous Lemon and Bitter Cherry.
The Herbaceous Lemon was very interesting, because although it had a strong citric flavor Nick explained it had no actual lemon or citrus in it. He wanted to create a citrus vodka with no citrus, just using citrus flavored herbs. He certainly achieved this because it tasted like fresh lemon zest was incorporated, but instead he had chosen to use Lemon Mertyl, Lemongrass and Lemon Thyme to create the strong lemon flavor. It was very original and an interesting concept.
The Bitter Cherry, was indeed bitter and not really my favorite but The Smokey Tea was a really fantastic product. It had a really nice smokiness to it which we later enjoyed in a pineapple-tini style drink that was probably one of the best drinks we had the entire trip!
All good things must come to an end…
Like I said at the start, this post can only touch on a few of my favorite parts of the trip. Juniperlooza, The Rum & Reggae pool party, The Macallan Ice Ball plunge and The Pink Pigeon Spirited dinner were all noteworthy events also, but I could go on and on so I have to stop somewhere.
Below I have thrown in a bunch of photos that can touch on the mayhem that I simply don’t have room to write about…
Please note, there were a number of Bars and Restaurants that FG and I visited separate from the Tales debauchery, including Commanders Palace, Cure, Arnauds and The Carousel Bar. I will be writing a separate post about these soon so be sure to look out for that in coming weeks.
There’s really nothing left to say now, except…
Here’s to another 10 years of Tales!