A Muddled Thought

Category: Tales of the Cocktail

Year 6: Tales of the Cocktail

My trip to Tales of the Cocktail was an interesting one compared to past years. Usually I arrive on the Tuesday night before Tales starts and stay until sometime Sunday, the last day of Tales. Which had been the original plan this year, but unfortunately due to a pretty intense rainstorm hitting most of the east coast including New York my flight was delayed a full twenty four hours getting me in at around midnight Wednesday night. After five years of attending Tales of the Cocktail this was the first time I missed the entire first day and night including both the Absolut Welcome Party and the William Grant and Sons Party (see here for last years shindig ).

Thankfully I did make it to New Orleans in time to prep on Thursday for my spirited dinner, make a seminar or two and attend a few parties.

As we did last year Jonathan Pogash and I joined forces with with Charlotte Voisey of William Grant and Sons and Gina Chersevani of Hanks Oyster Bar to host a Spirited Dinner. This year our dinner was held at the Grill Room within the Windsor Court Hotel. The theme for this year was “The Seven Deadly Sins”.

This year’s spirited dinner’s theme gave Chef Skip Adams and us a lot to work with regarding cocktail concept and food courses. And this unique theme allowed us to have some fun with our wardrobes. Jonathan Pogash and I decided to dress as sloth which took form as robes and slippers.

Jonathan Pogash and I representing Sloth.

Jonathan Pogash and me representing Sloth.

Here’s a look at the full menu for the evening:

The 7 Deadly Sins of Cocktails

PRIDE
Proud to Pear
by Charlotte Voisey
Girvan Patent Still No 4 Apps., Lemon Sorbet, Hard Pear Cider
WRATH
Cinnamon Cured Tuna
Pickled Beets, Satsuma-Ginger Vinaigrette, Fennel, Watercress
paired with
What’d I drink last night?
by Jonathan Pogash
Flor de Cana 4 Year, Solerno, Kronan Swedish Punsch, Lime, The Perfect Purée Carmelized Pineapple,
Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters
LUST
Blue Crab Gratin
Braised Radishes, Caviar, Black Garlic, Manchego
paired with
Ravishing Radishes
by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey
Pickled Heirloom Radishes, Lillet Blanc, Hendrick’s Gin
SLOTH
Ginger Beer Braised Short Rib
Carrot Broth, Chestnut Puree, Swiss Chard
paired with
The Long Stretch
by Hal Wolin & Jonathan Pogash
Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, Root Organic Liqueur, Lillet Rose, Chai Cinnamon Ginger Syrup,
The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters, Sea Salt
GLUTTONY
Chappappeela Farms Duck Breast
Foie Gras, Pecan Puree, Carmelized Fig Jus, Arugula
paired with
Over-inDUCKgence
by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey
Duck Fat & Herb Washed Flor de Cana, Orange Peel, Bitters, Fig Sugar
ENVY
Lemon Posset
Brutti ma Buoni Cookies
paired with
Jealous, Yet?
by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey
Tullamore Dew, Lillet Rouge Spiced Syrup, Cream, Lemon
GREED
Dulcey Chocolate Crémeux
Almond Sable, Candied Rhubarb
paired with
Sharing not Allowed
by Hal Wolin
Glenfiddich 21 Year, Snap, Averna, Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters

The first cocktail of the night: Proud to Pear by Charlotte Voisey.Girvan Patent Still No 4 Apps. whisky Lemon Sorbet, Hard Pear Cider.

The first cocktail of the night: Proud to Pear
by Charlotte Voisey.Girvan Patent Still No 4 Apps. whisky Lemon Sorbet, Hard Pear Cider.

Ravishing Radishes by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey Pickled Heirloom Radishes, Lillet Blanc, Hendrick’s Gin

Ravishing Radishes
by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey
Pickled Heirloom Radishes, Lillet Blanc, Hendrick’s Gin

What a sold out dinner at Tales looks like.

What a sold out dinner at Tales looks like.

Ginger Beer Braised Short Rib and the Long Stretch Cocktail.by Hal Wolin & Jonathan Pogash Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, Root Organic Liqueur, Lillet Rose, Chai Cinnamon Ginger Syrup, The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters, Sea Salt Garnished with a candied carrot.

Ginger Beer Braised Short Rib and the Long Stretch Cocktail.by Hal Wolin & Jonathan Pogash
Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, Root Organic Liqueur, Lillet Rose, Chai Cinnamon Ginger Syrup,
The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters, Sea Salt
Garnished with a candied carrot.

Musician David Higgins of Charleston entertaining guests between courses.

Musician David Higgins of Charleston entertaining guests between courses.

Over-inDUCKgence by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey Duck Fat & Herb Washed Flor de Cana, Orange Peel, Bitters, Fig Sugar.

Over-inDUCKgence by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey Duck Fat & Herb Washed Flor de Cana, Orange Peel, Bitters, Fig Sugar.

Gina Chersevani discussing some of her cocktails.

Gina Chersevani discussing some of her cocktails.

Chef Skip Adams of the Windsor Court discussing the inspiration for the evenings dishes.

Chef Skip Adams of the Windsor Court discussing the inspiration for the evenings dishes.

Sometimes you need to make crushed ice for 120 people.

Sometimes you need to make crushed ice for 120 people.

Crushed Ice for Days.

Crushed Ice for Days.

Jealous, Yet? by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey Tullamore Dew, Lillet Rouge Spiced Syrup, Cream, Lemon

Jealous, Yet?
by Gina Chersevani & Charlotte Voisey
Tullamore Dew, Lillet Rouge Spiced Syrup, Cream, Lemon

The final cocktail of the night,Sharing not Allowed by Hal Wolin. Glenfiddich 21 Year, Snap, Averna, Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters

The final cocktail of the night,Sharing not Allowed
by Hal Wolin.
Glenfiddich 21 Year, Snap, Averna, Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters

The entire bar team that made the night possible. Slippers, pajamas and all.

The entire bar team that made the night possible. Slippers, pajamas and all.

After we wrapped up our spirited dinner Jonathan Pogash and I headed over to Bourbon Street and the infamous Absinthe House for the traditional United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) toast.

USBG Members from all over the country for the yearly toast outside the Absinthe House.

USBG Members from all over the country for the yearly toast outside the Absinthe House.

One of the seminars I did manage to catch was “Thirsty Masses: More Drinks & Happiness” presented by Alex Day of Death and Company/Honey Cut, Erick Castro of Polite Provisions and Boilermaker and Dieter Cartwright of Warren Red, a branding and interior design firm.

Warren Red, Dieter’s firm helped create one of the most well thought out bar designs I’ve seen thus far, Pouring Ribbons.

The seminar discussed how to execute high quality, multi-ingredient cocktails more efficiently in high volume environments successfully. The presenters also provided tips on how to maximize the design of your bar design for both efficiency and for profitability.

Here are a few tips I picked up:

1.When designing the bar layout build in cockpits so your staff can crank out cocktails with minimal movement. Bottlenecks create sadness and unhappy customers.

2.The bartender should have 3 feet worth of room to move around/pivot from their station.

3.Create informal places to sit which helps create social interaction. The more comfortable the customer the longer they stay which in turn leads to more profit.

4.Create a training program and progression system with incentive for your barbacks to learn more, get more involved and work their way up to bartender.

5.Use your space, be creative. This was best illustrated in how Pouring Ribbons efficiently uses every inch of space behind their bar.

An overview of Pouring RIbbons in NY.

An overview of Pouring RIbbons in NY.

The floor plan of Pouring Ribbons.

The floor plan of Pouring Ribbons.

From the pictures below you’ll notice that the bartenders rarely have to bend down or move far to get glass from the glass chiller as it’s within an arms reach of the wells. As far as maximizing space since they don’t have much room to work with they had little storage nooks built into the bar.

The back bar of Pouring Ribbons.

The back bar of Pouring Ribbons.

Storage Nook behind the bar at Pouring Ribbons.

Storage Nook behind the bar at Pouring Ribbons.

The seminar also highlighted some additional equipment such as glass rinsers, hooks for bar tools, and foot pedals to active sinks to help speed up service.

Some additional equipment to maximize bar space and speed up service.

Some additional equipment to maximize bar space and speed up service.

The tips I picked up in this seminar will stay with me for a long time and will definitely be utilized in future projects.

On Friday I managed to find a bit of time to explore New Orleans a bit, and get stuck in a torrential downpour on my way to Café Dumonde for some beignets before having an incredible dinner at Peche.

This was followed by a stop at the Diageo House Party, which featured the Diageo portfolio of spirits including Ketel One, Zacapa, Tanqueray, Don Julio, the Classic Malts, Bulleit and George Dickel whiskies. The Contemporary Arts Center Warehouse was broken up into different areas highlighting each spirit.

Some of the standout areas were the Road Soda trailer with Ben Clemons and Marshall Altier serving Don Julio Cocktails, some of the Diageo Whisky Ambassadors such as Todd Richman dressed in his best country attire slinging Dickel cocktails and Kyle McHugh and Bill Codman doing their best Hugh Hefner dressed in pajamas offering up Johnnie Walker and Classic Malt cocktails.

Welcome to the the Diageo House Party.

Welcome to the the Diageo House Party.

The crowd inside the Diageo House Party.

The Road Soda Trailer serving Don Julio Cocktails.

Inside the Road Soda Trailer with Ben Scorah behind the bar.

Diageo Whisk(e)y Ambassador representing George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey at the House Party.

Diageo Whisk(e)y Ambassador representing George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey at the House Party.

Whisk(e)y Ambassador Kyle McHugh mixing up Johnnie Walker Cocktails at the DIageo House Party.

Whisk(e)y Ambassador Kyle McHugh mixing up Johnnie Walker Cocktails at the DIageo House Party.

This brought Friday evening to a wrap. After working the Sandeman Tasting room and spending some time at the pool I managed to catch up with some friends to the see the infamous Chris Hannah at French 75 before heading to my last event of the week, the Bartenders Breakfast presented by Beefeater and Plymouth Gins. This year the event was held at the Audubon Aquarium of America.

The entrance to the Bartenders Breakfast

The entrance to the Bartenders Breakfast

The crowd at the Bartenders Breakfast.

The crowd at the Bartenders Breakfast.

I’ll say this much: it’s a truly strange sensation to eat fish and chips while sea creatures stare back at you. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing but it’s one of those chicken before the egg type of moments.

Few things in life wash down fish and chips better than gin and there was much in many various cocktails to be enjoyed at the Bartenders Breakfast, ranging from Plymouth Gin and Tonics to canned Martini’s to Southside’s and everything in between, all from a variety of bartenders including the likes of Erick Castro (Boilermaker), Jim Meehan and Jeff Bell (PDT), Dominic Venegas (PDT), Jamie Gordon( Pernod Ricard), Devon Tarby (Of Proprietors LLC) and Joaquin Simo (of Pouring Ribbons), to just name a few.

Beefeater Gin and Tonics for days!

Beefeater Gin and Tonics for days!

Chris Patino of Pernod Ricard with cocktails served in fish bowls.

Chris Patino of Pernod Ricard with cocktails served in fish bowls.

Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons serving up some punch featuring Beefeater Gin.

Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons serving up some punch featuring Beefeater Gin.

After exploring the aquarium for a while and realizing gin and sea turtles go well together (no not in that way), I decided to head home as I had a 6am flight back to New York.

Turtles at the Bartenders Breakfast!

This Tales was definitely shorter than previous years but somehow I managed to cram almost as much education, work and fun into the shortened trip.

I’ll leave you with this image of a canned Plymouth Martini.

CannedMartinis

Until next year’s adventure…..

Photos of Spirited Dinner, and Diageo House Party Provided by Jennifer Mitchell Photography. www.JenniferMitchellPhotography.com

Photos of Plymouth and Beefeater Bartenders Breakfast provided by Gabi Porter.

Year 5:Tales of the Cocktail 2013

Five years attending Tales of the Cocktail, 4 spirited dinners co-hosted, one tour as a Tales of the Cocktail Apprentice (otherwise known as a CAP) in 2010, gallons upon gallons of cocktails batched, numerous seminars attended. How the time goes by.

Each year seems to continue to top the previous year. This was the year that involved an Untouchables themed bar, the largest spirited dinner I’ve ever been involved in, and lots of Cognac.

But let’s rewind a bit and go back to the beginning of the week.

Tuesday July 16th. My flight from New York city lands at Louis Armstrong Airport around 9:30pm. Along with several friends I share a cab to the Monteleone hotel aka main headquarters for Tales of the Cocktail. After dropping of my bags I headed over to the Absinthe House right around the corner from the Monteleone to see what friends might be out and about and to grab a quick drink or two. After running into a few friends from San Francisco, New York and Boston I called it a some what earlier night around 1am.

Wednesday July 15th. I head over to the Jackson Civic Center where I’m scheduled to bartend at The William Grant & Sons Cocktails in Film Festival party, one of the three biggest parties of the entire week. For this year’s party the folks at William Grant had each of their brands paired up with a movie.

The Calm before the storm.

The Calm before the storm.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum was being served in a makeshift bowling alley themed area inspired by the movie the “Big Lebowski”.

The Big Lebowski meets Sailor Jerry Rum.

The Big Lebowski meets Sailor Jerry Rum.

The Monkey Shoulder brand amabassador team of Freddy May and Dean Callan were set up in a bar dubbed “Cocktails and Dreams” and were utilizing their flair bartending skills to conjure memories of the movie “Cocktail.” And Balvenie and Glenfiddich were served both neat and in cocktails in an area inspired by the movie the “Untouchables”.

Monkey Shoulder Brand Ambassadors Freddy May and Dean Callahan conjuring memories of the movie "Cocktail".

Monkey Shoulder Brand Ambassadors Freddy May and Dean Callahan conjuring memories of the movie “Cocktail”.

This was the area I had been scheduled to work and for the occasion I created an Untouchables inspired cocktail I dubbed “The Tax Evasion”.

Tax Evasion
2 oz Balvenie 12 Double Wood Scotch Whisky
1/2 oz Lillet Rose
1/2 oz Mathilde Creme Peche
2 Dashes Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters

Directions:Combine ingredients in mixing glass. Stir, strain into coupe. Garnish with grapefruit twist

The Tax Evasion.

The Tax Evasion.

The whisky fueled crew behind the Untouchables bar:Gable Erenzo,Lorne Cousin, Hal Wolin, David Laird,Mitch Bechard, and Jonathan Wingo.

The whisky fueled crew behind the Untouchables bar:Gable Erenzo,Lorne Cousin, Hal Wolin, David Laird,Mitch Bechard, and Jonathan Wingo.

And most memorable of all was watching attendees do lay-backs from a giant Hendricks Gin powered cannon.

Hendricks Gin Cannon

And that brings me to Thursday July 16th, and probably my favorite part of Tales of the Cocktail, the night of the spirited dinners. This year Jonathan Pogash and I teamed up with the always lovely and charming Charlotte Voisey of William Grant and Sons and her partner in crime, Gina Chersevani of Hank’s Oyster bar in Washington Dc. Our theme was Beauty vs. the Beast: Gin vs. Whisky. Jonathan and I took the side of the beast, aka the whisky side, and created cocktails featuring Monkey Shoulder, Hudson whiskies, Balvenie and Glenfiddich.

This year as we have the past few years we worked with the Windsor Court Hotel to host our dinner. The big change this year was that we used the 23rd Floor of the Windsor Court which has one of the best views of New Orleans I’ve ever seen. It also gave us the space to host 120 attendees for the evening.

The view from the 23rd floor of the Windsor Court Hotel.

The view from the 23rd floor of the Windsor Court Hotel.

The menu of Beauty vs. the Beast.

The menu of Beauty vs. the Beast.

Menu

Aperitif Cocktails

The Sasquatch Expedition
By Hal Wolin and Jonathan Pogash
Gibson’s Canadian Whiskey, Byrrh, Mathilde Peche, Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters, Lemon Peel, Sugar served Punch Style

Champagne Cobbler
by Gina Chersevani and Charlotte Voisey
Bubbly served with seasonal berries and fresh mint over Lillet Rose cobbled ice

Shrimp Ceviche
Louisiana Citrus, Jalapeno, Fresh Cilantro, Sesame, Petite Mustard Greens
with
Juniper Meadow
by Charlotte Voisey
Hendrick’s Gin with mandarin, strawberry, pineapple, pink peppercorn, fresh lemon and arugula

Poached Halibut Cheeks
Red Quinoa, Garlic Vinaigrette
with
Cheeky Scotsman
By Jonathan Pogash
Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Whisky, pineapple juice, housemade grenadine, Barrett’s Ginger Beer

Roasted Poussin
Parmesan Risotto, English Peas, Sherry Cream, Black Pepper
with
Pleasantly Peasing Soda
By Charlotte Voisey
Hendricks Gin, Pea+Pepper+Basil Elixir, Lemon

Grilled Prime Tenderloin
Potato Butter, Summer Chanterelles, Cherry Tomato, Honey-Bourbon Jus
with
Tender Rosie
By Jonathan Pogash and Hal Wolin
Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Grapefruit Juice, Lillet Rose, The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters, Sparkling Wine

Citrus Salad Pavlova
with
Sour Sipping Cream Soda
By Charlotte Voisey
Hendricks Gin, Yuzu, Vanilla Cream Soda

Smoked Dark Chocolate Cremeux Tart
with
Speyside in Moonlight
By Hal Wolin
The Balvenie 15 Year Single Barrel, The Balvenie 17 Year Peated Cask, Amaro Nonino, Bittermens Mole Bitters

 

 

 

Some behind the scenes shots of what it takes to make a spirited dinner for 120 guests happen.

Jonahtan Pogash and Gina Chersevani batching and shaking up some cocktails.

Jonahtan Pogash and Gina Chersevani batching and shaking up some cocktails.

Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Jonathan Pogash, and myself prepping 120 Sour Sipping Cream Sodas for our guests.

Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Jonathan Pogash, and myself prepping 120 Sour Sipping Cream Sodas for our guests.

A few of Gina Chersevani's Sour Sipping Sodas ready to be served.

A few of Gina Chersevani’s Sour Sipping Sodas ready to be served.

Gina Chersevani and the WIndsor Court's Assistant Food and Beverage Director/Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh discussing one of the cocktail and food pairings.

Gina Chersevani and the WIndsor Court’s Assistant Food and Beverage Director/Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh discussing one of the cocktail and food pairings.

The final cocktail, "Speyside in Moonlight" being prepped for service.

The final cocktail, “Speyside in Moonlight” being prepped for service.

The final course and cocktail of the evening:Smoked Dark Chocolate Cremeux Tart paired with Speyside in Moonlight.

The final course and cocktail of the evening:Smoked Dark Chocolate Cremeux Tart paired with Speyside in Moonlight.

Your hosts for the evening- Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Hal Wolin and Jonathan Pogash.

Your hosts for the evening- Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Hal Wolin and Jonathan Pogash.

With that let’s get to Friday July 17th:

And Cognac, lots of Cognac, otherwise known as an event called “Back to the Classics: Revisiting Cognac” which was sponsored by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (also known as the BNIC). The BNIC is an organization that exists to promote the region of Cognac, France and its growers and producers as well as to educate the consumer and spirits industry.

Attendees at the BNIC tasting room.

Attendees at the BNIC tasting room.

Jonathan Pogash and Casey McMurray sampling attendees on  Frapin Cognac.

Jonathan Pogash and Casey McMurray sampling attendees on Frapin Cognac.

The BNIC tasting room was filled with vintage barware including this 1950s traveling bar kit.

The BNIC tasting room was filled with vintage barware including this 1950s traveling bar kit.

Pierre Ferrand Cognac Juleps, one of the cocktails offered in the BNIC Tasting Room.

Pierre Ferrand Cognac Juleps, one of the cocktails offered in the BNIC Tasting Room.

Lots of Cognac. Just a small sampling of some of the Cognacs being offered to try in the BNIC tasting room.

Lots of Cognac. Just a small sampling of some of the Cognacs being offered to try in the BNIC tasting room.

Like I said a lot of Cognac….

On Saturday, which was also my last day at Tales this year, I managed to catch a very memorable seminar called 60 ideas in 60 minutes seminar.

With presenters such as Jamie Evans of Oxley Gin, Paul Tuennerman, Laura Cullen, Theresa Paopao, Charles Joly of the Aviary, Sean Kenyon of Williams and Graham (and the Mixfits), and Jackson Cannon of Boston Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne, the room was filled with a packed house of bartenders, media and consumers eager to learn.

A packed house at the 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes seminar.

A packed house at the 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes seminar.

During this seminar the presenters shared 60 different ideas and concepts covering everything from menu concept to inventory to tips on hospitality to just name a few.

Some tips and ideas that really stood out for me were:

Build it and they will come: Be a trend setter not a trend follower. Don’t build a bar program based on a trend. Make it your own. –Sean Kenyon

Stage and Guest Bartend: It helps keep you and your bar program relevant and helps everyone in the community learn from each other. –Sean Kenyon

Cradle to the Grave: The taste of a cocktail begins from the customer’s first steps inside the bar until they leave. Make the entire experience the best memorable and the best it can be. –Sean Kenyon

Your staff is as important as your guests. Everyone from the dish washer to your general manager should be treated equally. A happy house(restaurant/bar) makes for a happy and memorable customer experience. –Sean Kenyon

Charles Joly and Sean Kenyon presenting at 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes.

Charles Joly , Jackson Cannon and Sean Kenyon

Bartending should be fun. You make drinks and moments for a living. Stop taking yourself so damn seriously. –Paul G. Tuennerman(aka Mr. Cocktail)

Libraries are for reading, bars are for drinking- Crafting the perfect cocktail menu. Cut the fat on that menu and give me a cocktail.Our guests and our cash drawers will be happier. Trend is cyclical, menus get bigger and bigger, then suddenly, everyone is sick of the bibles and we trim to minimal size. Dead Rabbit and Justice Snow’s are the exceptions to prove the rule. –Charles Joly

Always be aware of who is in the room, who needs help. If you have a packed house and a regular walks in trying to maneuver their way to the bar, have their favorite cocktail waiting when they finally make it to the bar. Go that extra step.- Charles Joly

These are just a few of the “make you think” tidbits of knowledge that were shared with attendees at this seminar. A lot of useful information that with some work can be applied to your bar or restaurant and can help improve both your staffs’ experience and your customers’ experience.

(Please note a few of these quotes were paraphrased)

As an industry we’re always learning, trying to improve ourselves and create memories for our guests. This seminar more than anything brought that message home.

And of course Tales of the Cocktail wouldn’t be complete without a surprise or two. And this seminar had a pretty big one…

Oxley Gin Brand Ambassador took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend.

Jamie Evans proposing to his girlfriend, Chelsea Pecco.

Jamie Evans proposing to his girlfriend, Chelsea Pecco.

After that surprise ending to an already amazing seminar, I spent the rest of Saturday catching up with friends and seeing the sights in New Orleans.

I’m already looking forward to what Tales of the Cocktail has in store for me in 2014.

[Photos of BNIC Tasting Room and 60 ideas in 60 Seconds courtesy of: Cameron Michael Smith of The Brewer. Some photos of the William Grant and Sons Party courtesy of Jennifer Mitchell Photography. All other photos provided by Hal Wolin.]

And Round 4 of Tales of the Cocktail 2012 -Go!!!!

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.

A poster created to celebrate the past 10 years of Tales of the Cocktail.

A poster created to celebrate the past 10 years of Tales of the Cocktail.

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.

Jessica Dure prepping before the Rhum Clement party started.

Jessica Dure prepping before the Rhum Clement party started.

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.

The lobby of the Hotel Monteleone. You can spot Cocktail Kingdom in the corner selling some of its wares.

The lobby of the Hotel Monteleone. You can spot Cocktail Kingdom in the corner selling some of its wares.

Absinthe Fairies. I don't really need to say anything else do I?

Absinthe Fairies. I don’t really need to say anything else do I?

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.

The William Grant Party happenings outside the New Orleans Museum of Art.

The William Grant Party happenings outside the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Balvenie Brand Ambassador Lorne Cousin rocking out the bagpipes at the WGS 10th Anniversary Party.

Balvenie Brand Ambassador Lorne Cousin rocking out the bagpipes at the WGS 10th Anniversary Party.

Stoli Brand Ambassador Charles Hardwick serving cocktails at the William Grant 10th Anniversary Party.

Stoli Brand Ambassador Charles Hardwick serving cocktails at the William Grant 10th Anniversary Party.

Julie Reiner of Clover Club and The Flat Iron Lounge serving up Glenfiddich Punch.

Julie Reiner of Clover Club and The Flat Iron Lounge serving up Glenfiddich Punch.

What's a birthday party without Cupcakes?

What’s a birthday party without Cupcakes?

Hal Wolin of The Cocktail Guru serving up Balvenie Punch.

Hal Wolin of The Cocktail Guru serving up Balvenie Punch.

Tales Founders Ann and Paul Tuennerman blowing out the candles of cake at the William Grant 10th anniversary party for Tales of the Cocktail.

Tales Founders Ann and Paul Tuennerman blowing out the candles of cake at the William Grant 10th anniversary party for Tales of the Cocktail.

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.

Premaking six different cocktails for 80 people attending your spirited dinner is always a fun challenge.

Premaking six different cocktails for 80 people attending your spirited dinner is always a fun challenge.

Exploring the Grape

Apertif Cocktail

A Polite Introduction-

G’vine Nouasion Gin, Cardamaro, Lemon Juice, Cinnamon Syrup, Watermelon, The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters by Hal Wolin

First Course

Citrus Poached Gulf Shrimp, Shaved Fennel, White Balsamic, Chili Flakes

Paired with

The South Coast-

G’Vine Florasion Gin, Lemon Juice, Ginger-Chili Syrup, Sparkling Wine by Jonathan Pogash

Second Course

Seared Local Grouper, “Jazzmen Rice”, Charred Green Onion, Kanzuri Broth

Paired with

The French Horn –

Grand Marnier, Liquid Smoke, Cardamom, Peychaud Bitters by Jonathan Pogash

Third Course

Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck “a l’Orange”, Foie Gras, Israeli Couscous, Spiced South Carolina Peaches, Grand Marnier Reduction

Paired with

Alabama Cobbler-
Hennessy VS,Amontilllado Sherry, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, simple syrup, peaches by Christine Jeanine Nielsen

Fourth Course

Grilled Dry Aged Strip Loin, White Asparagus, Summer Mushrooms, Hennessy Reduction

Paired with

Smoke and Romance-

Hennessy VSOP Cognac, Aperol, Ardbeg 10 Year Old Scotch, The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters by Hal Wolin

Fifth Course

“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

Jeffrey Pogash of the Cocktail Guru Team getting ready to fill some cocktail glasses.

Jeffrey Pogash of the Cocktail Guru Team getting ready to fill some cocktail glasses.

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.

The infamous New Orleans Legend Chris Hannah behind the stick at French 75.

The infamous New Orleans Legend Chris Hannah behind the stick at French 75.

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.

Learning all about Moutai.

Learning all about Moutai.

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.

Toasting Moutai with Dave Wondrich.

Toasting Moutai with Dave Wondrich.

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.

The Il de Re lineup of Cognacs.

The Il de Re lineup of Cognacs.

Pouring Il de re Cognac poolside at Tales of the Cocktail.

Pouring Il de re Cognac poolside at Tales of the Cocktail.

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.

Levels of Classics from "The Name Game Seminar"

Levels of Classics from “The Name Game Seminar”

A tip from  "The Name Game Seminar" on how to properly name cocktails.

A tip from “The Name Game Seminar” on how to properly name cocktails.

Another tip from  "The Name Game Seminar" on how to properly name cocktails.

Another tip from “The Name Game Seminar” on how to properly name cocktails.

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.

The scene when entering Juniperlooza formally the Bartenders Breakfast.

The scene when entering Juniperlooza formally the Bartenders Breakfast.

Beefeater Brand Ambassador Nick Van Tiel djing the Juniperlooza party.

Beefeater Brand Ambassador Nick Van Tiel djing the Juniperlooza party.

New York Bartender Jason Littrell behind the bar at Juniperlooza.

New York Bartender Jason Littrell behind the bar at Juniperlooza.

Gin and Tonics anyone?

Gin and Tonics anyone?

NY Bartender Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons serving up punch.

NY Bartender Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons serving up punch.

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.

The view from the 23rd floor of the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans.

The view from the 23rd floor of the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans.

Until next year..