Thursday, July 23, 2015

:: best of tales and nola 2015 ::

I got home Monday night from Tales of the Cocktail, and soon after had to work two full shifts at work, so today is the first time I can sit down and compose my thoughts about a jam-packed week where I attended a dozen talks, lots of liquor-brand sponsored parties, and other events as well as roamed the city for good food and drink. I figured that I would start with my favorite parts of official Tales events and then mention my favorite parts of New Orleans this year.

Stressing hospitality: While there were plenty of seminars on technique and history, there were many on not only bartender-guest interactions but that of restaurant/bar staff with each other. While I did not hear key note speaker Danny Meyer speak, plenty of others also dealt with this topic. Pamela Wiznitzer during All the Bar is a Stage stressed hospitality by starting with not superstar bartenders but by choosing a "family" that supports each other as well as the guests. During Strong Opinions, Erick Castro retold a story where one of his bartenders asked if and where he should get a second job; he surprised the bartender by not mentioning another craft bar but a "Sports bar. You learn how to get regulars to see you, not your new amaro and gadgets."

Bumping into old friends: I am glad that I had the opportunity to run into my first bar mentor, Sam Gabrielli. I remember some of the early advice that Sam gave me related to the above hospitality point, but Sam said it so eloquently with, "Don't be an asshole!" (before explaining it better, that is). I also got to meet up with my old Cocktails in the Country roommate Christopher James, and I had a chance to hangout over beers and later interview writer-blogger Paul Clarke (not over beers). While most of our interactions have been via blogging, it still truly feels like hanging out with an old friend while with Paul, and it is a pleasure to hear his positive outlook on life (hint: buy his new book).
Tiki culture: Tiki played a big role this year with one of the social nexuses of the event being Beachbum Berry's new Latitude 29 restaurant. There were also pop-up bars with offerings from Paul McGee of Lost Lake and Martin Cate of Smugglers Cove. The Tiki crowd's joyous energy and serious yet not pretentious attitude was much appreciated.

The Daiquiri Time Out makes even bigger waves as it drives off that bridge: Andrew Deitz has taken the Daiquiri Time Out phenomenon from a personal pastime to larger one with events at Boston Thirst. This year, the DTO stepped up from being a Boston thing to a national or international one as Tales of the Cocktail threw a large DTO-themed event with rum and cachaça producers paying tribute.

Randomness at sponsored parties: The Hendricks Gin area of the William and Grant party was indeed surreal and absurd. Another of my favorites was the 610 Stompers, a bunch of in and out of shape hipsters who do choreographed (but not necessarily well synchronized) dance routines for Mardi Gras and other, and last week they performed at the Bacardi event. And at the Diageo "Backyard House Party" (which was held in a large warehouse), there was a mechanical bull. Matt Schrage pulled me in line; while there is no video of Matt since he split his pants getting onto the bull and left, Ben Sandrof shot this clip. I never appreciated how hard it would be to get on the bull, but enjoy:

More nonalcoholic and low ABV beverages options: Everything from Perfect Puree smoothie bars which came in handy when I did not have time for breakfast were probably much better for me than some of the boozy early morning booths from previous events. Bars and events definitely seemed to have more low alcohol offerings so that you could keep drinking tasty beverages without being wrecked for the following day's activities. Cobblers were big as were other vermouth and fortified wine-based concoctions. And for Pig and Punch this year, the heat index was at 108°F which made it too hot for me to drink sweet punches, so I stuck to the nonalcoholic offerings to prevent myself from sweating myself into dehydration.
The beer scene: Before departing for Tales, I messaged Avery Glasser of the Bittermens for beer bar suggestions. His trio was the Avenue Pub, Courtyard Brewpub, and Barrel Proof (more of a whiskey bar with beer). The Avenue Pub was a 24 hour craft beer bar near where I was staying that did it all with great hospitality whether during the dayshift hanging out with bartender Meriam or during the graveyard shift for a nightcap. When I finished my hat trick of suggestions at the brewpub and tweeted it, the brewer found me and offered me a tour and a few tastes of his new beers. A little less formal of a tip is Sidney's on Decatur Street -- a store with a great single can selection which made for great street beverages while walking around.

Latitude 29: Yes, I already mentioned this place in the Tiki part above, but it was the only other place besides the Avenue Pub that I returned multiple times (save for Cane & Table, but the second and third times were for pop-up events). Whether it was watching Beachbum Berry garnishing drinks or having the staff know my name by the second visit, I was definitely impressed. Beautiful drinks and decor definitely made for this to be a major hangout spot during Tales.
Bar Tonique: Sunday night there was an official tour of Cure and other bars on Freret Street, but I had already been there on Tuesday and lacked the energy to make it out there again. So like 2011, I spent Sunday night on Rampart Street at Bar Tonique. I met a lot of people including some bartenders that I will be at my Camp Runamok session in September. I also got a tour of other industry bars on the street from Trader Dick of Tujaques. But overall, it was great to spend the last night in a low key setting with well made drinks.

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