The Cognac Summit was the first cocktail we imbibed after we landed in New Orleans. Shaken at the Tales of the Cocktail Media reception at the French 75 Bar in Arnaud’s in the French Quarter, it was a smooth and extremely well-balanced introduction to a week of revelry, seminars, and meet-and-greets in this southern city that never seems to sleep.
1 lime peel
4 thin slices fresh ginger
1 ½ ounces VSOP cognac
2 ounces traditional lemonade
1 long piece cucumber peel
4 or 5 ice cubes
Lightly muddle the lime zest and ginger slices in a rocks glass with the cognac. Fill glass half-way with ice. Stir well for 5 seconds. Add lemonade and cucumber peel. Stir well for another 5 seconds.
As we filled up on piquant gruyere-laden gougères (which pair perfectly with the Summit Cocktail, by the way), and other assorted tasty nibbles, we met costumer Thayer Abaigael and her husband Scott Lund, recent transplants from San Francisco who have completely embraced the NOLA way of life. The sultry air mixed with savory conversation, plus a French 75 made with cognac and lemonade, led the four of us to a pizza joint not too far from Arnauds where we continued our conversation about Tales and the city. Scott developed the extremely user-friendly Droid app for Tales this year (they should have asked him to develop the iPhone app as well), and Thayer runs the Vieux Carre Media breakfasts and lunches that have turned out to be the saving grace for us during our stay thanks to the amazing food and the opportunity to rub elbows with the executives and distillers who sponsor everything at Tales.
For example, we attended the Bulleit-sponsored luncheon, and after we were greeted at the door by Thayer’s soothing voice and hospitality, we were instantly drawn to the orange-plumes and infectious grin donned by Bulleit’s World Ambassador, Hollis Bulleit. Sure, we shared with her how much we love love love her family’s bourbon and rye, but sometimes at Tales, you need to talk about something other than booze, and Hollis and our conversation quickly turned to politics (socioeconomic, gender, queer), the pros and cons of East- vs. West-Coast living, and the crazy wonderful ebullience that gushes from every seam of this city. (We keep running into her, and every moment shared is filled with fun, sass, warmth, and laughter.)
She grabbed us by the arms and said, “you must meet my father,” and led us to Mr. Tom Bulleit, founder, and sixth-generation distiller, who rose from his chair mid-bite, and took the time to talk to us a little about the family biz, but, more important, about the films he loved, and those we shared a common admiration for. He was warm and generous with his time. We will be watching McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Cannery Row when we get home, Tom, we promise.
Some other new friends we met in the Vieux Carre Media room, and who we’ve been running into again and again, hail from Vancouver: Craig James, the CEO of Fentimans, and his sharp-as-a-tack daughter, the lovely Samantha. They asked us if we had the opportunity to sample their products at one of the Tasting Rooms, and we were quick to respond with a resounding “yes!” Our favorites are the Dandelion and Burdock, Rose Lemonade, and Shandy, but they’re all good, and a much needed and refreshing respite from a cocktail-heavy day.
Getting back to Scott and Thayer, that first night after pizza and salad, we wandered to the Grey Goose party at Latrobes’s on Royal Street where it seemed all of NOLA’s beautiful people converged. We were greeted by a spectacle of lights, camera, and action adorning one NOLA’s most architecturally significant buildings from 1818 in the heart of the French Quarter, a stunning place to sip a barrel-aged cocktail by Guillaume Jubien and Nick Mautone. Consisting of Grey Goose La Poire, Noilly Prat dry vermouth, Monin white cocoa syrup, this “Feu d’Artifice” is barrel-aged 2 to 3 days and after some stirring in ice, garnished with a lemon peel. A highly flavorful—but not too sweet—unique and satisfying after-dinner drink.
It was then time to hit the hay. Thanks Hotel Monteleone for such a gorgeous room!
photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz