A handful of the seminars, cocktails I drank, and other aspects will be covered in individual posts later. Here is the first half of a list of a few dozen superlatives that I compiled while waiting in the airport on the way home. Enjoy this for now, and I will have some recipes and the like to share later!
• Best Spirit Tasted: A pre-Castro Old Havana Brand rum. It had been aged in sherry casks which lent a cherry-like note on the sip. This was technically a post-Tales, invite-only rum tasting at Steve Remsberg's house. We got invited when Andrea's queries about what old New England Rum tasted like led her to speaking with Steve who invited us to the gathering. We got to taste a 17 year aged specimen made back in the day in Everett, MA! Somerville and Medford, MA, were major centers back in the day (see Wayne Curtis' And a Bottle of Rum).
• Most Elegant Drink: The Sherry Cobbler made for me at the Cure bar during the Bittermens Bitters release party. The Cobbler contained their Xocolatl Mole Bitters and was garnished in the Jerry Thomas-esque "berries of season" style.
• Most Surprising Spirit: Advocaat is actually really tasty! A creamy spirit made with egg yolk that was the Dutch way of reproducing the texture of avocado. This treat was brought to us by the speakers at the Eggpire Strikes Back seminar.
• Best Nonalcoholic Drink: Lebanese iced tea flavored with rose water and pine nuts at Mona's on Frenchman. We drank this both times we went there this year. And free refills in that hot New Orleans weather was definitely appreciated!
• Best Drink: Gabe from CocktailNerd's Chartreuse Swizzle. We ended the evening at our blogger-rented bed and breakfast every night with one of these. They were served in flower vases with straws for 4 or 5 people. Gabe's recipe will be a post in itself, but it was closer to this rather than that.
• Most Posh Drinking Spot: Windsor Court's Polo Club. We were off by a day for an absinthe event but the bartenders there were willing to make the drinks in advance for us.
• Best Keep It Simple Drink: Lapsang Martinez at the Beefeater Gin party. The recipe will be forthcoming, but it was only 3 ingredients: Beefeater 24, Lapsang Souchong tea syrup, and Lillet Rouge.
• Best Homemade Spirit: Matt Rowley of Rowley's Whiskey Forge's Creme de Noyau. It was at a homemade and random bottle tasting event the day before Tales officially began, and I felt lucky to taste something this well crafted!
• Most Mocking: Noyau de Poissy, a Creme de Noyau made in France. They had a bottle at the Bariana session (the Bariana cocktail book frequently calls for it). I have not seen it in the states but after I compiled this list yesterday afternoon, I have found a contact at Preiss Imports who may be able to help me.
• Best Street Beer: Abita Abbey Ale. Strangely, the place I bought it at looked at me like I was crass for asking if they could open it for me after I purchased it. Without a church key, I did end up opening it up with some swag -- a Hendrick's Gin metal H key chain. It seems wrong to miss chances to drink beer while walking in public, because it is outlawed almost everywhere else in the country.
• Best Sandwich: Veggie Ham at Carmo's which is billed as a "tropical cafe." A San Francisco aesthetic crossed with Brazilian flare.
• Best Fine Dining Dish: Green Goddess' Indian Pancake. Imagine bhel crossed with a pancake finished with a delightful tamarind sauce.
• Best Ethnic Dish: The vegetarian Bennachin at Bennachins. It was the African version of fried rice and was really satisfying (the meat version was apparently damn good too).
• Best Local Flavor: White Bean Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop. True, they only have one vegetarian option, but anyone who can make and is willing to serve traditional local dishes in vegan form gets my praise!
• Best Dessert: Meltdown Gourmet Popsicles. Andrea learned about it in Edible New Orleans magazine, and flavors like Saffron Rosewater and Strawberry Hibiscus were wins!
Part 2 of 2 forthcoming...