Well, about Tales of the Cocktail anyway. You can only beat a dead horse for so long before you need to move on. This post will summarize all of the other great things and events that happened while I was in New Orleans. There is a lot to cover, including the Spirited Dinner at the Delachaise, the Rum Tasting, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s “Best of Show” presentation on all things Tiki, and the Absinthe session which has peaked my interest in this otherwise forgotten spirit. There were some other things in there as well, such as the VIP dinner, breakfast and the Cocktail Hour. I’ll touch on those briefly, but all the other cocktail bloggers have written about the same thing so I’ll try not to bore you. After this we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.
One of the highlight for me was the Spirited Dinner at the Delachaise. Chef Chris DeBarr is the epitome of what a Chef should be. He’s got a great palate, but he also spends time in the front of the house talking with guests. Food is social, and being able to chat with the person who created your dining experience is an absolute joy. Not only do I feel this way, but so do many of his regular guests who I had the opportunity to speak with.
Then there was the great food. The menu was exploratory, but still familiar. You can check out Chef Chris’ blog for a full list of menu items. Along with the great food, Paul and I had created a matching cocktail menu. I tend to be very critical of the cocktails I make, so creating five new ones in such a short period of time, without tasting the menu, seemed a bit daunting. But it turned out well. We were a bit heavy on bitters. Most people didn’t mind. I explained to the guests that we weren’t trying to convert anyone, just helping them to explore an area of drinking that isn’t common, cocktails and food. They appreciated the concept and jumped in with both feet. Neil, the bartender, was absolutely outstanding.
At the end of the night I jumped behind the bar to make up some Burnt Island cocktails for everyone. The response was good, except for Mr. Honesty, Rick from Kaiser Penguin. He called my drink “one dimensional”. That was awesome! I always like someone to challenges me and not let me become complacent. With that one comment, and some chance Pimento Dram tasting, I think this drink will be multi-dimensional shortly. Then I’ll need to take a quick trip to Pennsylvania to get Rick to test it one more time.
The night ended with Paul, Chris and I sitting around drinking cocktails, and tequila. It was one of those memorable nights.
The next event is what I considered to be the best presentation of the whole Tales of the Cocktail event. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s session called “Tiki Drinks, from A to Zombie” was one of the most anticipated events at Tales. The best part was that it exceed all of my expectations.
I haven’t really delved into Tiki drinks, but I think that will change. The session opened my eye's to the rich history of Tiki drinks and Mr. Beachbum impressed me with the detailed history of the Tiki phenomenon and his seriously dedicated research. Also, the 7 hour delay at the airport gave me a chance to read Sippin’ Safari from front to back. If you haven’t already picked up a copy of this book, you really need too, it is a great read. Now I just need to double my supply of rum, start creating a whole bunch of new “Don’s Mixes” and start my Tiki mixing adventures.
The rum tasting sessions with Ed Hamilton were great too. I had an opportunity to taste a lot of rum's that would be difficult for me to get at the LCBO. Over the two days I tasted about 50 different rums and rhum agricole’s. In the end I found that the El Dorado 12 year old rum was my top pick. This stuff is great. I talked to Ed and asked if the 15 year El Dorado was a magnitude better, and he said it was. If you can find it, I recommend picking up a bottle. You can see the list of rums and their ranking over at the Ministry of Rum.
The session on Absinthe really peaked my interest in this spirit. I have always seen it in the liquor store, because in Canada it technically isn’t banned and never was. Now things are getting a little murky with importation, but you can still buy absinthe at the LCBO. I’ve always looked at the price tag ($80) and figured it was for suckers who think that it has hallucinogenic properties. Reality, it doesn’t. But with Ted Breaux’ session it open my eyes to the artisanal aspect of absinthe. Also, the great history of the drink makes me even more curious. Plus the fact that Ted Breaux is a chemist, who basically reverse engineered a lot of vintage absinthe to create modern day equivalents, makes me want to dive into this a little deeper.
The rest of my time spent in New Orleans was spent eating and drinking. The VIP dinner was a great social event where I met a lot of people. It’s great to be able to put faces to names finally. The breakfast at Cafe Adelaide was very tasty, and again I met some great people at my table. The idea of a three course breakfast, with cocktails, still makes me chuckle. Then there was the Cocktail Hour where many authors were serving up drinks. A fun event, but very crowded.
Well that is it until next year. Overall Tales of the Cocktail exceeded my expectations. The people, and city of New Orleans, were great hosts. I’ll definitely be attending next year, but I’ll be bringing my “A” game for a presentation, if I can weasel my way in again. If you missed the event, try not to miss it next year.