Seamus Harris is a dedicated enthusiast of well-made cocktails who splits his time between Auckland, New Zealand and Shanghai, China. He publishes the Bunnyhugs blog.
I thought I should post a quick something to just round off the Tales of the Cocktail thing. I may still post more on individual sessions later of course. A few random thoughts and observations follow:
- The best thing was probably getting to put faces to so many names. It seemed like almost everybody who blogs about cocktails was there, as was everyone who runs online communities with a cocktail or spirits focus. Everybody turned out to be very sociable and I had some great times chatting with people. Knowing who people is also going to make it so much more interesting reading what everybody writes in future.
- Thanks to Paul of Cocktail Chronicles for organizing us bloggers. Somebody likened the task to herding cats, an apt comparison if ever there was one.
- Thanks also to Ann Tuennerman for letting us descend on the event like a plague of booze fueled locusts, then saying how everybody loved us being there.
- While I saw, heard and tasted an awful lot of good stuff, I also missed out on so many amazing sessions. How could I have missed Juniperlooza, where they sampled all the major styles of gin – including things like Old Tom and Spanish gin that I have yet to try? Some of the presenters organized simply fantastic sessions. How did I miss the American Whiskey and Rye sessions? It was just a case of too much happening in too little time.
- New Orleans needs to do some work to lift the quality of its drinks. Highlights were the Absinthe Suise at Luke, the Calvados Cocktail at the Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide (most of it ended up on the floor, but it was tasting great until I knocked it over), and the Brandy Milk Punch at the Carousel Bar (just seeing a worked-off-his-feet barman throwing together something as obscure as a Brandy Milk Punch without complaining was a treat). Low points were the lack of a truly good Sazerac anywhere, and the barely shaken Ramos Gin Fizz at Café Adelaide. Café Adelaide was a weird place, a mix of very good and very bad.
- While New Orleans may not make the greatest cocktails in the world it has an awful lot of beautiful old bars. Some, like Lafitte’s Blacksmith’s Shop are amazing venues that have fallen on hard times. My pick would probably be the French 75 Café at Arnaud’s. You have a beautiful old wooden bar, a marble counter, a scattering of rattan furniture, an absence of crowds despite the close proximity to Bourbon Street, and a barman that makes good drinks. I am not a fan of a French 75 made with Cognac – I prefer it with gin. However, I gave the drink a try and they make it well. They looked to be making good Sazeracs though I didn’t have time to have one.
- Tales of the Cocktail really needs to issue everyone with a schedule that gives the locations of events. Between sessions everybody was running around asking each other which room their next session was in. The fact that people had to mill around the hotel simply to find out where they were supposed to be added enormously to the congestion and chaos – especially in the lifts. Some people were walking from the 15th floor down to street level via the fire escape, then reentering the building through the lobby just to dodge the crowds. Lack of organization was part of the problem here, but maybe the event has just become too big for the venue. That is sad though, since the Hotel Monteleone is a great old hotel that oozes character.
- I thought I had bid a temporary goodbye to my bottle collection when I left New Zealand. However, what with all the stuff the sponsors threw at us I now once again possess a respectable sized bar – albeit in miniaturized form. The Asian inspired ‘liqueur’ called something like ‘Ty-Kyu’ was unimaginably dreadful. It wasn’t even a liqueur as such, more a ready to drink cocktail – though drinking it is not really advisable. Everything else was pretty good. Being in the Caribbean I will use my numerous Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur miniatures to spice up my rum and coke.
- Getting to see, meet and chat with so many well known drinks writers was amazing.
- Martin Cate of Forbidden Island gets my award for best presenter at Tales. His presentation on cocktail garnishes was very entertaining, The guy’s timing and level of preparation were amazing. The Tiki drink experts might have found it covered familiar ground, but much of it was new to me.
- There was so much happening at Tales of the Cocktail that I barely got to see New Orleans. That was a shame since it seems an amazing city full of fun and friendly people. I pretty much covered the French Quarter, ate enough beignet from different places to begin getting a grip on why they are the ideal breakfast, and tried some of the local restaurants on my to do list. There was an awful lot that I did not get to see though. Perhaps I need to visit New Orleans again at some stage.