Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans' Super Bowl of the Spirits World

20080716-talesofthecocktail.jpgIn our globalized world, it's refreshing to remember that each part of our culinary universe has a distinctive home. This also applies to cocktails; while New York is certainly a world capital of mixology and has the historical record to back it up, New Orleans is the spiritual home of all things spirituous.

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Every July, New Orleans hosts thousands of fans of good cocktails and great food who come together for an event called Tales of the Cocktail--the Super Bowl, World Series, and World Cup of the spirits world, all wrapped up in one event. Now in its sixth year from July 16 to 20, 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.

A lot of people wilt when I tell them I'm spending a week in New Orleans in July, but this will be my third year at Tales, and I've been looking forward to it ever since I came home from last year's event. And while it's certainly hot as hell, spending a few summer days in the Big Easy is a great way to come to a deeper appreciation of ceiling fans, mint juleps, and the art of the slow saunter.

If you're coming to the event, please stop by and say hello—I'm moderating sessions on absinthe cocktails and making your own cocktail ingredients (the former with co-moderator Gwydion Stone, founder of the Wormwood Society), as well as co-hosting a dinner at Palace Café with Jim Meehan from PDT in New York, who created cocktails to complement a menu developed by chef de cuisine Ben Thibodeaux. But even if you can't make it, you can get a contact buzz by following the exploits of myself and more than 30 other spirits-and-cocktail bloggers who are coordinating our efforts on a special group site, Blogging Tales of the Cocktail.

While I've been to New Orleans many times, I'm always discovering new places to eat and visit. Have you been to New Orleans recently (or do you live there now)? What are your favorite places?