As the 11th Annual Tales of the Cocktail took place this past July, it was my 5th journey to one of the world’s largest cocktail festivals. Bringing together industry professionals and cocktail enthusiasts from around the world, Tales of the Cocktail is made up of hundreds of events including seminars, tastings, Spirited Dinners, cocktail competitions and parties. There are so many things to do and it’s impossible to do everything. Even when trying to pick and chose carefully, schedules fill up fast and no matter how hard we try, we still were running from event to event. Here are the highlights from our 2013 trip.
The Perfect Respite by Perfect Purée of Napa Valley – What a perfect way to start the day – with Perfect Puree smoothies, hangover helpers, antioxidant nibbles and massages. We were relaxed and at peace, ready to face the day.
Auchentoshan Whisky & Whiskers – From breakfast, we were whisked away on a Pedi Cab to Aidan Gill for Men for an Auchentoshan dram, a cocktail and a hand massage. Going from one massage to another was definitely a treat but the best part were the Auchie Highballs with Auchentoshan Classic, cucumber soda and RX Auchie bitters.
Dame Hall of Fame Lunch – LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) honored five women for their contributions to the cocktail arts and inducted them into the Dame Hall of Fame. Considering that at one time women weren’t allowed in bars, today women are are owning brands and running bars and each of the women took a few minutes to talk about women leading the charge in the industry. Cocktails included a Sake Colada by TyKu, a Mexican 75 by Tres Agaves, a Boulevardier by Zacapa Rum, and others by Lillet, Montanya Rum, Michters, Fernet and Dorothy Parker Gin.
Two quick stops were made before heading off for evening events. The Pernod Absinthe Tasting Green Hour and Becherovka Garden Party at the New Orleans’ Pharmacy Museum featured Becherovka punch as well as candies, pastries and an ice cream float all made with Pernod Absinthe. The Fernet Branca Tasting Room was packed but we squeezed in, got our shot of Fernet Branca Menta and left.
Before heading to dinner, we stopped by the Diageo World Class U.S. event and in one hour we managed to sail through and taste 33 Mediterranean inspired cocktails made using the Diageo Reserve Portfolio (Bulleit Bourbon, Ciroc, Tequila Don Julio, Johnnie Walker, Ketel One, Tanqueray and Zacapa).
We then dashed over to the Bourbon House restaurant for The Great Whisk(e)y Debate Spirited Dinner featuring seventh generation Jim Beam master distiller, Fredrick “Fred” Booker Noe III. Fred went head-to-head to debate the merits of Bourbon whiskey against ambassadors representing Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch, Canadian Club Whisky and Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey. Humorous and all in good fun, the insults were slung…and who won in the end? Debate still continues.
After dinner, we stopped by the Angostura U.S. Cocktail Challenge where bartenders competed to win a trip to Trinidad for the Global Competition. The US winner is Yani Frye of Detroit’s The Sugar House who prepared The Room Key [1.5 oz Angostura 5 Yr. Rum, .5 oz elderflower liqueur, .5 oz fresh lemon juice, .5 oz raw ginger syrup**, Shake, strain, Tall/collins glass with an ice spear, Top with soda., Heavily top drink with Angostura aromatic bitters **Raw juiced strained ginger juice 1:1 ratio to raw sugar by weight. Heat, Stir, Cool.] and The Morning After [2 oz Rum, .5 oz Fresh Lime Juice, .5 oz Maple syrup, Shake, strain, low ball/rocks glass no ice. Top with Angostura Aromatic Bitters foam***, A very small dash, very lightly over top cayenne pepper. ***Angostura bitters reduced 25%, Add equal parts simple syrup by volume to create, **"Ango. reduction syrup" Foam In an isi Whip, add 7oz "Ango. reduction syrup", 8oz egg whites, Shake, two No2 charges, keep cold] in seven minutes.
To end the night, we swung by the Licor 43 Midnight Tapas event where Spain came to New Orleans. Here we got to create our own cocktails using Licor 43, the yellow liquor from Spain with flavors of citrus, vanilla and herbs and spices.
Day 2 (yes, everything listed above was all done in just one day)
We got a late start on Day 2 and began with a Juleps and Southern Lunch hosted by Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Tom Bulleit and his daughter Hollis Bulleit were on hand to discuss the history of Bulleit Bourbon and the great mixing potential of their rye whiskey. We enjoyed Bulleit Mint Juleps with food prepared by Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Lunch was followed by a exclusive Inglenook + Krug Champagne Tasting. What’s better than an afternoon of Champagne? The answer is Krug Champagne…especially the Rose!
The afternoon also included stopping by the Broker’s Gin tasting room for “A Brilliantly British Spirits Affair” where we met owners and brothers Andy and Martin Dawson who greeted us in their bowler hats and suits, looking like British stockbrokers. We joined in the fun and put on some hats as well as we enjoyed cocktails by the four winning mixologists from the Broker’s Bowler Cup Competition.
We also went to the Disaronno and Meet the USBG Mixing Stars Event where top national finalists from the Disaronno Mixing Star Final Cocktail Competition showed the versatility of Disaronno.
After dinner, New Orleans Bare Knuckle Bar Fight was the party to be at as as several bars from the USA competed in a gloves off mano-a-mano cocktail combat mixing cocktails with Fords Gin, Tequila Cabeza, Caña Brava Rum, Del Maguay Vida and Aylesbury Duck Vodka. Winners earned bragging rights over the fellow competitors.
Bringing the stylish ‘French Riviera’ (where Chivas is a sponsor of the annual film festival) to New Orleans, Chivas Brings Cannes to Tales featured Gatsby-esque cocktails poolside while enjoying massages, manicures, food and music.
After a little relaxation, we headed over to the Hotel Monteleone for the seminar of all seminars – “I Love…I Hate…Big Brands” where Claire Smith moderated Simon Ford, Robert Cameron and Erick Castro who were pro-small brands and Angus Winchester, Jacob Briars and Jacques Bezuidenhout who were pro-big brands. Lots of banter and humor as they debated the merits of both. The conclusion….can’t we all just get along? We need both big and small brands.
The night ended with Juniperlooza, presented by Beefeater 24, Beefeater Dry, Pymouth Gin. If you love gin, as we do, this is the party to be at. Gin cocktails along with food trucks, live music and the top bartenders in the industry spells fun!
Before heading home, there was still one more event to attend – the 4th Annual Pig & Punch. This event, hosted by The Bon Vivants, is a must-attend event, not only for the food and fun but because of the great cause. This year 111 bartenders donated their time to clean up the KIPP Believe Primary Charter School. Then on Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people (industry and locals) came to the park for a free event. More than 200 pounds of cole slaw, 300 pounds of bean salad, 500 pounds of meat and 7 trash bins of punch were prepared. 1000 Pig & Punch tshirts were sold for $30 each. In the end, $19,034.24 was raised for KIPP Believe Primary, bringing the total raised to date to $58,949.47!
Four jam-packed days at Tales of the Cocktail. Now there is an entire year to rest up and start prepping for next year!