I've often thought that the most important outcomes of the modern craft cocktail movement aren't at the frontier; it's in the filtering-down of this knowledge to the rest of America's bars. At Tales of the Cocktail this year, I found a good deal of attention paid to the everyman's cocktail—not at the cutting edge of mixology, but in the rest of those bars out there.
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It'd be impossible to calculate how many drinks I sipped at Tales of the Cocktail last week, because something new ends up in your hands at every turn. Here are the highlights.
With hundreds of events every year, this annual cocktail extravaganza has a lot of highlights. We asked 8 bartenders about their favorite memories from Tales of the Cocktail.
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.
Tales of the Cocktail has been celebrating the art of mixing (and drinking) cocktails in New Orleans for over a decade. The past few years, they've also brought their act on the road to Vancouver, but this year, TOTC headed south to Buenos Aires, Argentina to soak up local cocktail culture and bring a little NOLA to South America.
The thing about assembling enough people from any industry, as I was reminded of at Tales of the Cocktail down in New Orleans a few weeks back, is that discussions get heated and conflicts arise. Get enough bartenders in one room and differences in philosophy will emerge pretty quickly. One of the more interesting debates arose about cocktails on tap—not only whether they could be as good as a freshly made cocktail, but how customers would perceive them: how the drinking experience would differ. What do you think about cocktails on tap?
Few spirits are so stigmatized as vermouth, especially in our cocktail-adventurous age. It's something drinkers think they know, even if they have limited experience. "People think of it as 'martini vermouth' or 'Manhattan vermouth' and that's about it," says Andrew Quady of Vya Vermouth. "And most drinkers here just have a dusty bottle of something that's been in the back of their liquor cabinet for 5 years. Of course it tastes terrible." At Tales of the Cocktail, four vermouth makers (in conversation with Paul Clarke) came together to talk about the challenges of the industry and where American vermouth is going.
My knowledge of alcohol from India has so far been limited to Kingfisher beer, which quells the spice from Vindaloo at my local Indian restaurant, and Amrut Fusion, a tasty whiskey made with Indian and Scottish barley. But my lack of knowledge isn't because I don't venture out from sips I'm already familiar with. As I learned from the seminar on Indian spirits at last week's Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, it's because only half of local Indian spirits find their way out of the states they're produced, let alone to the United States.
While my attempts at live-blogging Tales of the Cocktail fell victim to the sheer intensity of the schedule, I did participate in many events, attended several seminars, and took copious notes on what was going on around me. What follows are thoughts about the event itself, some highlights, and a few musings on why the cocktails were so bad.
The daiquiri is a classic three-ingredient cocktail (made from just rum, lime juice, and sugar) that's a favorite among cocktail drinkers for its beautiful simplicity. At Tales of the Cocktail on Friday night, the Hand-Shaken Daiquiri Competition challenged 12 bartenders from across the country to create their own spin on the classic formula. Here are 5 take-home tips from the competition.
Here are a few tips and a little advice for those attending Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
It's raining in New Orleans and the intensity has begun. Thousands of people attend Tales of the Cocktail, and they all converge on one place for much of the week. The lobby of the Hotel Montoleone is stuffed full of people. It's hard to move in the best of circumstances. It's impossible when people stop every few feet to hug their long-lost friends.
Morning is not the French Quarter's finest hour. The streets smell like beer and bleach, and the poor souls out are either still up (a sight sorry enough that I won't describe it) or tasked with cleaning up from the revelry of the night before.
Held in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Tales of the Cocktail consists of bar-related seminars, street-side reunions where bar professionals of all stripes roam cobbled paths drinking Abita Amber, and a four day party in a city that truly never sleeps.
It's been said that the sun should be warm over your toes before you have a cocktail—but here in New Orleans, at the site of Tales of the Cocktail, the cocktail shakers never stop making their sing-song sound of rattling ice. There are new products from almost every brand, new technologies to explore, and old drinks to rediscover. Check out some of our favorites sips and scenes.
Last week the organizers and sponsors of Tales of the Cocktail brought this signature New Orleans event to Vancouver, B.C. How did the event function in another, less notoriously party-hearty city? Did it translate into Canadian? After spending several days in Vancouver for before-and-after celebrations, as well as for the main event on Monday, I can say with a little surprise that the answer is "mostly yes."
While there were many new spirits and other products to discover at this year's Tales of the Cocktail, one of the most intriguing developments was the renewed emphasis placed by bartenders on service and hospitality—the very elements of the bar world ignored by so many frowning, arm-gartered bartenders during the recent speakeasy trend.
"New York has played a role in my own bibulous education." [Flickr: ilmungo] New York City has always been a drinking town. From the first taverns of New Amsterdam to the palatial 19th century hotel ballrooms to the Prohibition-era speakeasies...
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.
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.