by Brittany Chardin
Earlier than even the most enthusiastic Tales of the Cocktail attendees and a day ahead of the presenters, I arrived in New Orleans on Monday.
Throughout my five stays here I’ve been either nose to the grindstone or nose in a glass. I’ve never seen much of the city really so I decided to come early, get ready for the 18+ hours days ahead and spend a little quality time with NOLA.
Walked the French Quarter in the uncharacteristically balmy night ( 82 instead of 102 degrees) I began to form a theory: Tales of the Cocktail could never have become the success it has in any other city. It is as much about New Orleans as it is about the drinks and the drinking. Fashion week has to be in NYC, Sundance has to be in Park City, Burning Man has to be in the Desert in Nevada and Tales of the Cocktail has to be in New Orleans.
Ok, now that I had my theory, my pace quickened – I was ready to set out to drink – er, I mean carefully research the facts. Here’s what I encountered, in no particular order (mostly because I can’t really remember it):
1) There is not another city in America whose own history is so richly steeped with cocktail history – The Ramos Gin Fizz, Sazerac, Bloody Mary and the Pimm’s Cup are all must-have’s and their respective famous locales gamely crank them out decade after decade. However, these drinks are much more than the cocktail equivalence of Gumbo or Jambalaya. They are not forlorn renderings of the real thing – these are the real deal!
2) Even in the diviest of dive bars, and family/tourist restaurants the bartender likely knows a good deal more about cocktails, spirits and cocktail history than those working behind the stick at many of the top watering holes in the country. The city’s love of a good cocktail really is in the hands of the local bartenders, and they are pretty capable hands.
3) On Bourbon Street between storefronts with entire walls of rainbow-colored frozen daiquiri machines churning away and Big-Ass Beer shops, amazingly, one can also easily find Hendrick’s, Plymouth, Woodford Reserve or other premium brands.
4) A peanut butter and bacon burger at 4 a.m., a 40 plus selection of tequilas and (here’s the hard part) a bartender who knows more than a little something about tequila all under the same roof? Only at Yo Mama’s and only in New Orleans.
With this I decided I had done enough research for one day and headed back to my hotel room to write down my notes over a bottle of Antinori Guado Al Tasso, vintage 2001 that I picked up for a song on Royal Street.
So tomorrow it all begins in earnest. The seminars, the special events, the seeing old friends and making new ones, the cheering-on of the contestants, the tasting new and exciting spirits, the drinking, the networking, and the suffering through the heat & humidity.
So good-bye wine, I’ll have no more of you here and farewell balmy nights, I enjoyed you while you lasted.
See you both in a week when I get back from Tales – But for now I’m Here in Spirits and I hope you’ll join me as I send you Tales from the Other side… of the bar.