Paul Clarke is a Seattle-based writer specializing in spirits and cocktails. He publishes The Cocktail Chronicles.
Yesterday was the official Day One of Tales of the Cocktail, and the headline statement, uttered at a room party around 3 am by a very tipsy Bay Area bartender, capped the day properly. As did the invite to the room party: “I’ve got Antica, Sazerac, some homemade tonic syrup and that apricot liqueur from Haus Alpenz–you coming?”
I started the morning slow — as was fit, considering the way I’d ended Tuesday evening — but by noon, with a panel on Researching Drink Recipes and Collecting Cocktail Books, I was ready to go. New York bartender and consultant Jonathan Pogash led the panel through a discussion of how they utilize certain books and resources (Jerry Thomas is an obvious long-standing influence) to research new drinks for bar menus; even more up my alley was Brian Rea’s talk about collecting cocktail books. Rea, an 81-year-old bartender who at one point had amassed what’s likely the largest collection of drink books in the world, gave out his tips for the books to have and the antiquarian dealers to use for other collectors of these rare volumes. Rea also had the runner-up for quote of the day: “David Embury was a lousy tipper. I know, I used to serve him.”
After catching Lauren Clark’s great media panel, we headed over to the blog reception (“Welcome, Bolgers!”). After knowing many of these fine people online for a couple of years, it was magnificent to have them all come together at one time. We had some excellent Cabana Shrubbs prepared by Maxwell Britten, made with our sponsor, Cabana Cachaca, and while shifting event times and room changes made the start of the event a little slow, soon we had a really nice party going on.
Evening was for the Beefeater party, a wall-to-wall crush of people drinking Jasmines and Gin-Gin Mules; then, after a dinner of Shrimp & Grits backed by an Ojen Frappe at Luke, a group of us hit Bourbon Street, shying away from the crushing crowd at Arnaud’s in favor of absinthe frappes and sazeracs at the Old Absinthe House. A few go-rounds on the Carousel Bar set the stage for the room party of bartenders from both coasts, with Manhattans served over the drunken body of Camper English. But Camper’s a pro, and he concealed his inebriation much better than the other Bay Area bartender we encountered in the elevator.
Next: Tales of the Cocktail, the hangover edition!