Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Arriving in New Orleans a Tales Virgin

When the decision was made that I was going to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail, I spent a month going between excited and terrified. I had heard so much about this non-stop party in one of the most sinful cities in the world. When I finally did arrive and made myself through a drunken crowd to receive my credentials and my “Tales Virgin” button, all of the apprehension came flooding back.

The trip to New Orleans had been uneventful. In fact, I had actually been able to catch an earlier plane. I checked into my room at Hotel Monteleone and picked up my packet. I have to admit that dazed and confused was probably the best way to describe me as I started walking the streets of New Orleans with all the liquor company trucks handing out samples and the Tales revelers in the street.

My first event was an early one, the Diageo Happy Hour.  Since it was a few miles away I decided to take a cab. Unfortunately, the driver was as new to NOLA as I was and he couldn’t find the spot. By the time I walked to it in the pouring rain, I was drenched. I wasn’t alone as some of the water was actually seeping through the tents. I tried not to let it get to me and instead got right into the party.

There were some great hors d'oeuvres being passed around. I hadn’t stopped for lunch so I helped myself to the Spring Rolls, Duck in Pepper Sauce, Veal in Phyllo and Apple Dumplings. There were stands throughout the room with cocktails made from Diageo spirits and the mixologists who had created them standing by. I made sure to have plenty of water between tastings to keep myself going.

I ran into Dan Dunn, who was about to do his Sirius radio show, but took a few minutes to help this Tales Virgin out with some pointers.  We chatted for awhile before he was off to do his show and I was back to tasting on my own.

There were a lot of choices, but my favorite drinks at the event were:

Ka-Tet
Zacapa Rum 23, Amontillado Sherry, maraschino liqueur and angostura bitters
by Jenn Tosatto, 2012 USBG & Diageo World Class U.S. Finalist Cocktail

Tequila-Mockingbird
Tequila Don Julio Reposado, Manuka Honey, fresh lime juice and tabasco
By Tim Phillips, 2012 Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year

The Big A
Zacapa Rum 23, ginger liqueur, unfiltered apple juice, lemon juice and ginger beer
By Tony Abou-Ganim, 2012 USBG & Diageo World Class Luminary

I left the Diageo party just before it ended to make my way over to the Beam Global Spirited Dinner at The Pelican Club. I sat with three fellow writers who I had met on three different press trips at Beam’s guests’ table and enjoyed a dinner paired with some of Beam’s latest and greatest. 

Host Noah Rothbaum of Liquor.com, who had been on my trip to Paris for the Perrier Jou√ęt Anniversary, talked about the various eras of whiskey through the years as the drinks and courses were served. He was accompanied by Fred Noel and Max Watman, who were equally as knowledgeable on the history of spirits.

Even though whiskey isn’t usually my top choice, I liked all of the drinks they served, especially the Ginger in the Rye (Knob Creek Rye, ginger liqueur, fresh lemon sour, fresh pressed apple juice, pear puree and a pear garnish) and the Storyville Julep (Knob Creek Bourbon, thin honey syrup, fresh pressed pineapple juice, club soda, pineapple and mint).  I noted the trend in apple cocktails, which certainly fit in well for fall.


The dinner was good, but the dessert had everyone wanting to clean their plates. It was South Carolina Peach & Honey Cobbler, with a white chocolate and pecan crumble. To finish it off, we were given the Stag Spiced Mocha, with Red Stag Spiced, Kamora Coffee Liqueur, French vanilla ice cream and a caramel drizzle.

I was more than full and exhausted by the time I walked into the Hotel Monteleone. The crowds were still sampling the endless spirits in the lobby and for a moment I thought to join them, then I remembered my full schedule for day two and instead headed to my room.          


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