My fourth year at Tales of the Cocktail and an even different take from the previous three years. I’m hoping this is a trend that continues for a while. As previously mentioned in my coverage of Tales of the Cocktail in 2011, as Tales of the Cocktail has grown so has my involvement in the behind the scenes of what’s happening throughout the week long cocktail festival. My first year in 2009, I was exclusively attending Tales of the Cocktail as media and had no idea what experiences Tales had in store for me. After that first round in 2009, my second tour at Tales in 2010 was spent as an Cocktail Apprentice behind the scenes prepping, batching and making sure all the seminars had what they needed to succeed. My third year attending Tales had me co-hosting a spirited dinner as part of the Cocktail Guru Team with Jonathan Pogash at the Grill Room in the Windsor Court hotel, attending a few seminars(covered here) and working a few events. As my involvement and overall level of experience and career has grown so has the amount of downtime versus time spent working at Tales of the Cocktail. And by downtime I mean time that I wasn’t batching, shaking, stirring or working some other aspect of an event.
And now on to year four, which I might also add was the 10th year anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail.
My week in New Orleans started with a 6:45am arrival at the airport on the Tuesday before Tales was starting. I had to sneak in early before Tales officially kicked off as I was working the Rhum Clement 125th Anniversary which was attending by a few hundred people. I worked alongside Jonathan Pogash, Jessica Dure(Of Dick and Janes-Brooklyn) and several other bartenders at this event which took place at Calcasieu located above infamous New Orleans Restaurant, Cochon.
Sadly I wasn’t able to snap any photos of the event in action as I spent the evening slinging and serving drinks to attendees.
Though here’s a sneak peek of some of the behind the scenes prep with Jessica Dure.
This brings us to Wednesday, the official first day of Tales of the Cocktail. I spent a good part of the day wandering around the Hotel Monteleone, catching up with friends and exploring. Here’s a few things I came across while hanging out in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone on the first day of Tales of the Cocktail.
And then just like that it became Wednesday Night, the night for two of the biggest parties of the week. The Beefeater Welcome Reception and then the William Grant Party. This year the William Grant Party was held at the New Orleans Museum of Art and celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Tales and included everything imaginable from clowns to classic cars to Lorne Cousin, the West Coast Balvenie Brand Ambassador playing bag pipes to Ann and Paul Tuennerman, founders of Tales of the Cocktail blowing out a giant birthday cake and everything in between.
And now for the big day, hosting my second spirited dinner with the Cocktail Guru Team(Jonathan Pogash, Jeffrey Pogash) at the Grill Room inside the luxurious Windsor Court Hotel. The Head Bartender from Cocktail Bar at the Windsor Hotel Christine Jeanine Nielsen also joined us to bring this dinner to life. For this year’s spirited dinner we decided to explore spirits that originated from the the grape which included Grand Marnier, Hennessy Cognac and G’Vine a grape based gin. And while it’s come and gone, here’s a quick recap of the cocktails and menu served that evening.
Exploring the Grape
A Polite Introduction-
G’vine Nouasion Gin, Cardamaro, Lemon Juice, Cinnamon Syrup, Watermelon, The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters by Hal Wolin
Citrus Poached Gulf Shrimp, Shaved Fennel, White Balsamic, Chili Flakes
The South Coast-
G’Vine Florasion Gin, Lemon Juice, Ginger-Chili Syrup, Sparkling Wine by Jonathan Pogash
Seared Local Grouper, “Jazzmen Rice”, Charred Green Onion, Kanzuri Broth
The French Horn -
Grand Marnier, Liquid Smoke, Cardamom, Peychaud Bitters by Jonathan Pogash
Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck “a l’Orange”, Foie Gras, Israeli Couscous, Spiced South Carolina Peaches, Grand Marnier Reduction
Hennessy VS,Amontilllado Sherry, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, simple syrup, peaches by Christine Jeanine Nielsen
Grilled Dry Aged Strip Loin, White Asparagus, Summer Mushrooms, Hennessy Reduction
Smoke and Romance-
Hennessy VSOP Cognac, Aperol, Ardbeg 10 Year Old Scotch, The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters by Hal Wolin
“Crepe Suzette” Crispy Crepe, Orange Blossom Ice Cream, Hennessy Fluid Gel
Paired with Grand Flip-
Grand Marnier, Hennessy VS, Orange Flower Water by Christine Jeanine Nielsen
After the dinner was finished I managed to catch up with a few friends at French 75 and pay a visit to infamous New Orleans bartender, Chris Hannah before deciding to head back to the Hotel Monteleone for the night. A side note, see this man if you want to enjoy a great cocktail and even greater hospitality.
And then it very easily became Friday. Friday was a fairly packed day for me as I was scheduled to work and pour at a Mou Tai presentation around lunch time and then follow that up with pouring Camus Cognac in the late afternoon poolside. I know it’s a tough life sometimes.
Around 11am I headed up to the Riverview Room in the Hotel Monteleone to work a presentation being given by the importers of Moutai and co-hosted by Dale Degroff and Dave Wondrich. So what’s Moutai ?. Well Mou Tai is an spirit distilled from fermented sorghum and has a taste similar to a very musky soy sauce but with some mild bitterness. It’s definitely an acquired taste and is meant to be sipped after each bite of food. Several people myself included noticed that you start to develop more of an enjoyment of Moutai the more sips you have at it. Though this could be related to each of us having just finished a quarter of a bottle broken up into several small sips.
After a brief presentation on the history of Moutai, and how it’s made lunch was served. It was during this time that Dale and Dave hosted several tables leading them in the ceremonial Moutai toast in between bites.
After a few bites of food and many sips of Moutai, things definitely got interesting towards the end of lunch for most people. As someone who was unfamiliar with Moutai, the experience was definitely eye-opening.
A few hours later I found myself working up at the rooftop pool of the Hotel Monteleone tasting attendees on the Ile de Re line of Cognacs, a product line that’s part of the Camus family of Cognacs. Originating from an island off the west coast of France in the most westerly area of the Cognac Region known as Bois Ordinaires. Due to being grown in soil that has been influenced by maritime conditions such as decayed kelp and organic marine matter, the Il de re line-up of Cognacs has a flavor profile that is cross between traditional cognac and whiskies, specifically those originating near the sea.
The lineup includes Ile de re Fine Island, Double Matured and Cliffside Cellar offerings.
The double matured bottling has first been aged in french oak barrels with a secondary finish in barrels that have been charred to a great degree. The Cliffside Cellar bottling has been aged in barrels that are stored extremely close to the sea. Due to the proximity of the location of these barrels, Cliffside Cellar has even greater noticeable maritime influences such as iodine present in each sip than that of the other two Ile de re offerings.
After I wrapped up Ile de re tasting, the rest of Friday evening night was spent wandering around and exploring the town a bit. Which brings me to Saturday, part of which was spent at a thought provoking seminar led by Tanqueray Gin Ambassador Angus Winchester and Cocktail Consultant and general man about town Phillip Duff leading a seminar on what goes into the creation of cocktail names, what works, what doesn’t work and what should never be. They also managed to fit in some discussion on the origins of cocktail families and classes.
Flash forward to Saturday Night and that brings me to the final event I was able to attend this year, Juniperlooza formally the Bartenders Breakfast. Sponsored by Plymouth, and Beefeater Gins, this event took place at The New Orleans Board of Trade and featured bartenders from around the country slinging and stirring drinks with a rotation of live bands and Beefeater Brand Ambassador Nick Van Tiel himself djing between sets.
As much fun as the Bartenders Breakfast was, I had to sneak out earlier to catch a plane back to NYC early the next morning. So that’s my wrap up of Tales of the Cocktail for 2011.
As you can imagine I’m wondering what’s in store for me for Tales of the Cocktail 2013? Only time will tell, though I’ve got my fingers crossed that my submission for a spirited dinner alongside William Grant Portfolio Ambassador, Charlotte Voisey, DC Bartender Gina Chersevani, New Orleans Bartender Christine Jeanine Nielsen and The Cocktail Guru himself Jonathan Pogash will happen. And for those of you attending Tales of the Cocktail 2013, if this dinner does happen, I’ve got three words for you: Gin vs. Whisky. Which will be the crowd favorite?
I’ll leave you with a view of the 23rd floor of the Windsor Hotel, where this event will hopefully be taking. I think that says it all.
Until next year..