The stories of our hometown heroes at Tales of the Cocktail
Tales of the cocktail played host to nearly 50 of Colorado’s most motivated industry professionals from behind the stills to across the bars. The Colorado Bartenders Guild made up about 60 percent of that population as they cruised down to represent in proper fashion. Across the length of their stay, members of the guild would hit a variety of seminars and presentations, participate in a slew of competitions and shake cocktails for some of our local spirits producers. A bounty of Colorado spirits producers participated in different tasting rooms, streetside snow days and spirited dinners across their stay. It was quite a beautiful reunion with Industry Denver’s hometown heroes and even more beautiful to imagine the next year in spirits and cocktails back home.
On Thursday, Montanya Distillers brought the spirit of Paris and Colorado to New Orleans for a Moulin Rouge Spirited Dinner at Little Gem Saloon. Renowned New Orleans-native Chef Robert Bruce created a traditional Creole cuisine. Karen Hoskin, crafty owner, distiller, and lead mixologist of Montanya, paired cocktails. Entertainers performed throughout the sold-out dinner including Montanya’s own brand ambassador Vivienne VaVoom, who dazzled guests with vintage burlesque teases, fan dancing, and can-cans with stiltwalkers, contortionists and clarinet jazz.
Friday was a busy night for our Colorado personalities beginning with the Tales tasting room exhibition of Meet the Craft Distillers. A great display of representation, Dancing Pines, Golden Moon, and Breckenridge Distillery each staffed a tasting booth. Throwing down behind the bar with Breckenridge Distillery was Liquid Chef, Billie Keithley. Billie appeared on ABC 26 in New Orleans last year, a piece that ran on Good Morning New Orleans in coverage for Tales 2012. The next afternoon on Saturday, they called for a snow day in front of Hotel Monteleone with signature grown-up snow cone cocktails served up streetside, which let New Orleans experience high country cocktails with the biggest little snowball to hit the Big Easy.
Dancing Pines Distillery added a new line of artisanal bitter spirits and released it during their exhibition in the same tasting room. The new product line, “Les Fleur” pairs flowers with citrus. The first three products in the line include Lavender-Grapefruit, Hibiscus-Lime and Rose-Orange. These bitter spirits are bringing a botanical element to cocktails and are the first of its kind for an American distillery. Head distiller Kristian Naslund created these spirits as handcrafted alternatives to other bitter imports like Amaro & Campari. Brand Ambassador Justin Lavenue, who departs Colorado for an Austin venture mid August, had a major hand in constructing the line of spirits.
Golden Moon Distillery was also hot down in the tasting room with the first public tasting of Amer dit Picon, which was released at the event. Golden Moon Amer dit Picon is produced using the finest hand-selected herbs, spices and botanicals available. Owner and spirits creator, Stephen Gould mentions that they have recreated the original manufacturing processes, acquired original ingredients, and utilized manufacturing notes written by legendary distiller Gaetan Picon.
Later in the evening, Bryan Dayton of OAK at Fourteenth, which was a nominee for a Tales Spirited Award this year, appeared in the All-Stars edition of Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition. The world’s top bartenders each competed for the peoples’ choice award against five others who have proven themselves as masters of mixology across the country. The guild was hugely present to cheer him on at the event held at House of Blues and same is to be expected when the competition rolls into Denver this coming Monday.
Saturday was another big day for Colorado and Denver. In particular, Sean Kenyon became a finalist in the Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards for American Bartender of the Year. From Jerry Thomas onwards, American bartenders have been amongst the most influential on drink styles and cocktail culture in general. The award recognizes the most influential American bartender today though exhibition of proficiency in all recognized classic drinks and contemporary cocktails that have influenced their peers. Nominees like Kenyon must actively work behind a bar for nomination. Kenyon of course regularly serves his time on the cocktail line at Williams & Graham, which was nominated for a spirited award this year, he is also known for his work on building the cocktail menus at Squeaky Bean.
Sunday was a relaxing day spent with the members of the Colorado Bartenders Guild at the fourth annual Pig & Punch. The event was one of the few events that was not about making cocktails and looking fancy, but rather to make friends by gathering to raise money for charity. Louisiana barbeque and porky picnic food lined a 24-foot long food line that stretched hundreds of bodies deep. The line was worth the flavor, especially if you had a punch runner hopping out of line to snag a round from six of the different punches batched up in 88-gallon trash bins. Needless to say, the punch was impressive and the line was never than one person deep. The Bon Vivants partnered with New Orleans KIPP Charter Schools to produce the event. Proceeds from the sale of t-shirts were given directly to the KIPP Charter Schools and they did sell out, a feat well accomplished. Cheers to that, Bon Vivants.
Once boozed up a bit, members of the guild proudly unwrapped matching bandages revealing the newest COBG logo displayed in fresh ink from Electric Ladyland Tattoo around the corner. Together, it was decided to meet back at d.b.a. for the final rounds in the heart of NoLa before hitting the pool and turning in for the night. Patches of friends would trickle in arm-in-arm with Bin-27 hats to find fellow members learning two-step on the dance floor or clinking glasses bellied up at the bar. A small duo of French-style bistro musicians played at Three Muses over one more round of food in the Frenchman Street corridor and that would do us in.
Arriving at the steps of The Green House Inn in the Lower Garden District of the city, it was rather relieving to settle in for a relaxing evening with a group of my closest friends poolside. The hotel website describes the pool area as a ‘lush tropical paradise with a European attitude tree-shaped pool’. Unfortunately no Europeans showed up to make it interesting, but it was still a paradise. A kitchen still full of top shelf spirits faired nicely with the swimwear bartenders shaking the night up. It was one of the most fun experiences that I had shared with one of the most united groups of bartenders in the country. Shoptalk was actually kept to a minimum now that I think about it, but who noticed anyways – Let’s have another drink, I’m sleepin’ on the lounge chair tonight.
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