CONTINUED FROM THIRSTY IN NOLA: TALES OF THE COCKTAIL 2013 PART ONE
The second half of Tales of the Cocktail 2013 would bring a few surprises, including drinks from a New Orleans legend, an unexpected tasting, a blended Martinez, as well as the annual Spirited Awards and Pig & Punch.
Our window seats in the Stanley dining room provided a great view of the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. To start, we shared the Voodoo Bayou Gumbo with alligator and Andouille sausage.
For yours truly, the Boar’s Head pastrami and corned beef hash with poached eggs, slices of toasted French bread and Creole Hollandaise.
Stolte had the Breaux Bridge Benedict: poached eggs, house-made boudin, American cheese, Creole Hollandaise, Canadian bacon, and French bread. And a side of bacon, because there wasn’t enough food already. Start to finish, we couldn’t have asked for a better dining experience.
A couple of stops later, and it was time to head back to the lobby of the Monteleone, where Fever-Tree co-founder Charles Rolls tasted us through the marvelous new Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic Water.
We found out from the man himself that legendary New Orleans bartender, Chris McMillian would be behind the stick at Kingfish later that day. It was a rare opportunity to sit in front of a master and one that many an imbiber would not want to miss. Sure enough, we were joined at the bar by familiar faces like Simon Majumdar and Virginia Miller (The Perfect Spot).
It was my first time sitting in front of McMillian – sipping his exquisite Sazerac will be a lasting memory. Stolte went with a Mint Julep, a cocktail that McMillian was known for making while reciting Joshua Soule Smith’s ode to “the very dream of drinks.” And in one of those “only at Tales” moments, Stolte gave McMillian a signed copy of the brand new second edition of Home Bar Basics (and Not-So-Basics), and McMillian returned the gesture by giving Stolte a signed copy of the Museum of the American Cocktail book.
An unexpected invitation from Trevor Easter, the West Coast brand ambassador for Beefeater and Plymouth gins, resulted in a marvelous dinner at Stella! with a world-class guest list of bartenders. The occasion was a tasting of the new Burrough’s Reserve Oak Rested Gin, with Beefeater Master Distiller, Desmond Payne as our guide. Named for Beefeater founder James Burrough, this expression is distilled by hand using Burrough’s original 19th century copper “Still Number 12.” The spirit is rested in barrels that held Jean de Lillet, a vintage version of Lillet Blanc.
Payne explained that the two-piece tasting glasses – designed by Tony Conigliaro – allowed for a full range experience. The stemless Martini glass at the top, with its wider rim, was well-suited for the chilled Burrough’s Reserve. The bottom glass held room temperature gin, and indeed offered a different taste profile – dryer and more pepper notes than the more floral and viscous chilled gin. The Burrough’s Reserve is truly a sipping gin, one that enthusiasts should seek out as soon as they can.
Saturday began with one of the last seminars of the week, and one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever attended at Tales. The Dark Ages: Mixology, 1967-1988 – presented by David Wondrich and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry – covered the years when craft and quality disappeared from bars in favor of the hook-up scene. While waiting on line, attendees were handed some of the best swag items ever, including an awesome Harvey Wallbanger trucker hat. Inside the ballroom, we knew we were in for a unique seminar when Wondrich and Berry began with a demo of a blended Martinez, which tasted as wrong as you’d imagine.
The highlight was Berry’s slideshow of hilarious photos from the era, including “fern bars,” menus and jaw-dropping fashion “don’ts.” As he clicked through images of archetypal bar patrons, Berry wryly described the social situation like Sir David Attenborough explaining the food chain of the African savannah. Cocktails were served – including the aforementioned Harvey Wallbanger and other “historic” drinks like the Sex on the Beach – which underscored how far the global cocktail culture has come. The session ended appropriately enough with Wondrich and Berry leading the audience in a recitation of “The Last Barman Poet” from Cocktail.
Saturday night, and it was time for the 7th annual Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, honoring eighteen of the world’s top bartenders, brand ambassadors, bars, spirits, authors and more. It was my first year as a member of the USA Judging Committee, which offered a much different perspective than previous years. For a complete list of the winners and more, read the Spirited Awards recap.
After the Spirited Awards, it was time for Juniperlooza, the annual gin and music fest that is also the official Tales of the Cocktail closing party. As we left the awards ballroom, Stolte and I followed the ubiquitous Desmond Payne and lucked into a couple of seats on the Beefeater bus to Juniperlooza. Next thing you know, we bypassed the line and strolled into The Sugar Mill with the VIPs. The party was in full swing, and the dance floor was rocking to the Brotanicals, featuring Nick van Tiel on the decks, and Trevor Easter on the drums.
While legendary British DJ Norman Jay MBE whipped the dance floor into a frenzy, the room hosted by The American Bar at the Savoy was the place to be, a party-within-the-party featuring Daniel Baernreuther, Erik Lorincz and Chris Moore.
For a taste of Nick van Tiel’s set, check out Juniperlooza 2013: The Official Mixtape.
It was Sunday, but no rest for the wicked, because that afternoon The Bon Vivants and Imbibe Magazine presented the 4th annual Pig & Punch at Washington Square Park.
Admission to Pig & Punch as always was free, and proceeds from sales of the Pig & Punch t-shirt raised nearly $20,000 for New Orleans KIPP Believe Primary and other local KIPP schools.
According to Imbibe, Pig & Punch featured some impressive numbers: “Three whole animals amounting to 400-500 pounds, 90 racks of ribs, 300 pounds of pork shoulder, 500 pounds of sausage, 500 pieces of chicken and 500 pounds of sides. … To drink? A total of 7 punches amounting to 132 gallons, 6 kegs of Anchor Steam, 35 cases of Perrier and countless bottles of Shrub & Co. There wasn’t a drop left.”
A small group of us walked from Pig & Punch to Cane & Table, the new bar and restaurant from the Cure Collective (Cure and Bellocq). The “proto-tiki” cocktail menu is overseen by Nick Detrich. The Cane & Table interior has a weathered look that evokes Old Havana, much like La Descarga here in L.A.
After the whirlwind of activities from the previous days, a quiet drink with Brent Falco, Cari Hah, Josh Lucas and Yuval Sover was just what the doctor ordered. Cheers to everyone at Tales for putting on yet another outstanding festival. Friends near and far, we hope to see you in New Orleans in 2014.