Five-plus days of tastings and parties in the country's most booze-friendly city. More than 20,000 attendees from all over the world. Untold thousands of drinks poured. Tales of the Cocktail is a cocktail convention on an epic scale. Here's how to attend and survive.
'New Orleans' on Serious Eats
This month, in advance of Tales of the Cocktail, we're looking for the best places to drink in New Orleans. We asked nine local bartenders where they drink in and around the city; here are their picks, from the French Quarter to Metairie.
A cocktail crawl through the French Quarter, to the ambitious but uninitiated, is a game of chance. Beating the odds and finding great drinks requires talking up the bar staff, asking lots of questions, and being open to some of the chattiest, most genuinely friendly people on earth. Along the way, make sure to find yourself bellied up to at least one of these five local favorites.
If you've come to New Orleans to explore, your crawl should include a few classic cocktails: the Sazerac, the Vieux Carré, Milk Punch, and yes, the Hurricane. Some of these drinks are original to New Orleans and have spread outward from here; some—like the Pimm's Cup—are transplants that have been welcomed and found a new home. Here are 6 essential stops on your Big Easy classic cocktail tour.
It says something about the talents and reputation of Neal Bodenheimer, Kirk Estopinal, and Matthew Kohnke— best known for Cure in New Orleans—that they can open a bar entirely dedicated to 19th-century cocktails and have it be a runaway success. Cobblers and sherry cocktails and milk punches—"These ancient forms of drinks seem sort of bizarre to us," Kirk Estopinal told me, "but that's why we find them fascinating." We asked Estopinal to show us three of his favorite drinks right now; here's what he poured us.
Brunch is a necessity in a city known for late night revelry and booze masked in ungodly amounts of sugar (Hurricanes, I'm looking at you).
Think about the last time you were in a bar where you were not known, and the bartender reached out and shook your hand. How often will a mixologist look up from the execution of his "mixology" when someone new bellies up? The phrase most necessary, but least often heard, in cocktail bars is "How are you enjoying your drink?"
The playing field of cool brewed coffee has widened considerably since the days when espresso over ice was the only option. From industrial plastic tubs to mesmerizing chemistry-set corkscrew drippers, cold brew is in full summer effect. Whether you're toting a cup of melting ice cubes to the park, or bringing home a handsome bottle to nurse all week long, you want your coffee cold? Baby, you've got options.
At times, it's difficult to take the dining and drinking scene of the French Quarter in New Orleans seriously. But around the corner from the myriad of tourist-friendly chain restaurants, Iris has taken root, and sports an ambitious menu and equally ambitious cocktails.
If you can't make it to Bourbon Street this year, you can still celebrate Mardi Gras at home. Here are nine New Orleans cocktails to mix up for Fat Tuesday (and any day you want to drink something delicious.)
The term "chicory coffee" conjures romantic images of leisurely breakfasts in New Orleans, munching beignets and sipping from a steaming mug while the lazy strains of jazzy trumpets float through the air. But what the heck is it, and is it actually good, or just a French Quarter daydream? Let's get down to the root of the root that makes this chicory coffee thing.
Herbsaint digs out its 1930s recipe and releases a vintage replica of the longtime New Orleans favorite. It has a more gentle, floral anise flavor mixed with an herbaceous complexity and bottled at 100 proof, it's pretty potent stuff.
Now in its seventh year, Tales of the Cocktail attracts thousands of spirits-and-cocktails devotees to New Orleans each summer, where they spend the better part of a week sipping their way through liquid history.
Many people may consider Bloody Marys and mimosas de rigeur for weekend brunches, but the world of breakfast cocktails is much bigger than most may think. As David Wondrich points out, many nineteenth-century cocktails were designed to be consumed well before the sun was over the yardarm, and were utilized to help the drinker brace up during the morning after a long night.
Tales of the Cocktail is poised to have its biggest showing ever: the five days of sessions, dinners, and parties are expected to draw thousands of people to the city, and its opening session this afternoon will celebrate the recent selection of the Sazerac as the official cocktail of New Orleans.