This year I feel like I only saw a fraction of Tales of the Cocktail. The event has grown so huge it’s impossible to take in more than that. Or maybe I just don’t have the stamina.
Here are a few highlights of what I did manage to experience that didn’t make it into other stories.
I loved the absinthe snowball that Pernod served on Thursday at the Pharmacy Museum. I had not been in the Royal Street museum in years, and it was fun to revisit. Plum Street Snoballs had a machine right by the front door. The icy snow and the licorice-like tang of the absinthe were a perfect match for the afternoon heat. The jaunty green and white striped paper straw was the icing on the cake, so to speak.
Many liquors, I have learned, have a tradition of being served in a certain way. The “world’s largest Kopstootje shot” event at Tales a few years back featured a tulip-glass filled to almost overflowing, so the drinker bends over and slurps at the top. This year, I was part of of another serving tradition.
At a dinner with Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine at Restaurant R’evolution, we had cocktails made with their spirits, but we also passed around the Mason jars. That’s the way you drink it. Justin King, their master distiller, had a belt buckle that held a flask. (They sell them at their distillery shop in Gatlinburg.) His family has made moonshine for 200 years. He told me that his dad was one of eight children, and one day his grandfather just disappeared and was never heard from again. Among other ways to make money, his grandmother made moonshine to feed her children.
One of the greatest things about Tales of the Cocktail is meeting people and having random conversations. This year I met Jared Brown, who has been coming to tales of the cocktail since the beginning 11 years ago. A drinks historian and book publisher, he now lives outside London and is the master distiller for Sipsmith Gin, which has the first licensed copper still in London in 200 years. “It had dwindled down to just Beefeater,” Brown said. In the 1700s, one of every four habitable buildings in London had a gin still.
Finally, I’m clear on what a cocktail “luge” is. Last year I went to a party where “luges” were served on marrow bones, but I couldn’t make myself look. This year, at the Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky party titled “The Taste of Islay: Bowmore, Bivalves & Blindfolds” at Arnaud’s, I had an oyster luge. We were told to take a drink of whiskey, then eat the oyster on the half shell, then pour the remainder of the whiskey onto the oyster shell and down it. Now I know.
I have to check out two bars that are relatively near New Orleans. I met Houston bartender Bobby Heugel at the “History of Ice” seminar, also attended by Greg Morago, food editor of the Houston Chronicle. Heugel has several bars and Morago told me about one he opened, the Original OKRA Charity Saloon, in downtown Houston. Every time you buy a drink, you get one vote for one of the four charities nominated that month. The bar is directed by a board, and after they pay the servers, bartenders and bills, every cent they make goes to that month’s chosen charity.
In addition, at a panel on aviation history and drinks, the Atlanta airport bar in Terminal E, One Flew South, was named No. 1 on the list of 10 best airport bars in the world.
Lots of new products have an official launch at Tales. A new Louisiana product, Bayou Rum, did just that. Also attending: Real alligators. Social media was abuzz with gator shots.
I rather liked another new product that had its U.S. launch here: Bols Natural Yogurt Liqueur. Yes. The Dutch company is already selling it in China, Russia, Ireland and Bulgaria. It’s low-alcohol, part of a big trend. You can mix it with fruit and make a buzzy smoothie. It’s better than a luge.
Original Story at Nola.com