T ales of the Cocktail 2013 is officially over. We’ve been slowly but surely giving you out tales recap highlighting all the craziness and awesome that went down in the week long festival. I would be lying if I said a part of me isn’t happy it’s over (my body), while the rest of me is shedding a single tear knowing Tales 2014 is a year away. We’ve known about Tales for a while now, but this was only our second year in attendance, and yet we feel like veterans already.
The Bartenders Handshake: I’ve known about this tradition for years, but never was I apart of one, and in such a large setting. Hundreds of bartenders gathered outside of the Old Absinthe House at midnight and took a shot simultaneously of Fernet Branca. The crowds looked confused as they saw an eclectic group sharing stories, hugging, taking shots, and even shedding a few tears. It was the combination of a day of binge drinking, and utter appreciation for what they and their peers do for a living.
It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon: We actually figured this out last year, or so we thought. But even though this wasn’t our first rodeo, day one we still managed to come out the gates blazing and finish the day crashing early. It happens to the best of us, but when you’re drinking all day, and walking the hot streets of New Orleans, chances are things won’t end well. No lunches were tossed, and there certainly aren’t any war wounds (externally anyway) to show for, but let’s just say we saw the sandman well before midnight on day one.]
A Good Bartender Can Use Any Ingredient: Seriously, have you heard some of the stuff mixologists are using to make cocktails these days? Jalapeno, Bacon, Kale, etc. Cocktail ingredient lists are starting to more closely resemble an episode of Iron Chef than your local dive bar, but you know what? If your bartender knows what he’s doing he can create some pretty amazing liquids. Chicago’s own, Anne Marineau, did just that with her Stoli’s Original bartender cocktail that included Jalapeno. Another big trend this year was absinthe cocktails, which to say the least is an acquired taste.
I LOVE Shrimp and Grits: BUT ONLY IF IT’S THE DISH I HAD AT TALES. Okay, a bit of a background story here. I dislike….no, I hate grits. My experience with grits has only gone as far as them entering my mouth and then promptly being spit out when I realized what it is. The taste, the texture, none of it’s appealing to me. I’ve never swallowed a grit, nor have I ever had one of those grit cakes I hear so much about. But, when you’re in new cities, and more importantly, slightly buzzed, you tend to give in to peer pressure and trying new things. We attended an event held by D’usse Cognac, pairing cocktails and culinary cuisines. The main course featured bacon wrapped shrimp seared in a sweet D’usse cognac reduction over grits with brie. Holy Jesus did that taste good. Kudos to Chef Scot Craig of Katie’s Restaurant and Bar.
Beware the Pedi-Cabs: I should have known better being a resident of a tourist trapping town like Orlando, but I didn’t and learned my lesson. Everywhere we turned there were pedicabs, and the idea seemed simple. Need to get somewhere that’s slightly too far to walk, and yet close enough that you don’t wanna drive or cll a cab? Grab a pedi cab! They’re those guys/girls riding on bikes with a small cart attached. We needed a short ride and when we heard $1 per block, we figure, great. We didn’t do the math, and as we kept counting the blocks we just kept seeing dollar signs in the sky. $20 and 20 blocks later, we realized we could have just taken a cab for about $6 bucks. Our driver was awesome though, and knowledgeable of the city so I guess that’s added value.
Nola Culture is Amazing: Call me captain obvious, but this one always gets me every time we visit. What more can I say, the food, the people, the artistry, the night life. It has so much to offer. Have you ever listened to a genuine resident of New Orleans speak with that accent? It’s great. Ask them to say “baby” and you’ll know what I mean. Have you ever walked the streets of the French Quarter and admired the amazing artwork, all while smelling a combination of alcohol, trash, seafood, and urine? Trust me, it works for the city.
Bartenders Like to Drink Too!: The only thing better than being around drunk people, is being around drunk bartenders. Bartenders love to drink just like the average patron, but you don’t usually see them in this setting, among their own. The stories, the connections, and the respect they have for one another is awesome, and when they have no inhibitions it gets really interesting.
Until Next Year Tales…