Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Day Five...welcome to Day Five.

Oh, Internet.

Internet, Internet, Internet...

I am so.bloody.tired.

Go ahead and guess how often I drank -- and by "drank" I mean "chugged without pausing to breathe" -- water today. Go ahead and guess.

No.

You're wrong.

I was holding it together deep into the late afternoon/evening. But by the time I came home and flopped into bed it would not be so far off the truth to say I fell asleep in midflop.

This is not, mind, a complaint. A mere recitation of fact.

And ponder this little factoid, I was one of the ones who had made it a point to pace himself. as you may well imagine, there were not a few who took all that was offered, opened up like a mailbox and sloshed the contents of the glassware on a downward trajectory to the digestive system. I didn't actually listen for it, but had some begun to slosh like water balloons as they walked, that would not have surprised me.

If you run the numbers, the consumption can be pretty staggering. Without really going out of your way, just going to official events, each day had you sponging up between 12-16 cocktails, and pretty much nonstop from 9am-11pm.

That, you may have noticed, takes it out of you. Especially when your consumption pattern is more marathon than sprint.

So what did Day 5 have in store for us?

Sunday had a rise-and-shine routine different from the norm. It kicked off with the "Secret Sherry Society(?)’s French Toast Breakfast." The cocktail part wasn't as big a draw as having a substantial amount of system-cushioning nutrition on what was the part of the thing where energies would start to wane. But. That said, the "special cocktail" called the French Toast Flip was surprisingly tasty, if a bit rich. But it went well with the rather substantial foodstuffs and those who managed to power through the rather lovely I-could-use-a-nap were rewarded with a choice between a surprisingly fascinating history of New Orleans cocktails and a seminar on Cognac.

The first struck me as a documentary on TV that you catch when you are flipping channels that, for reasons you don't quite understand, just arrests your attention. A lot of this tends to be that whole Pre-Prohibition Gay 90s trip (hence the vests and handlebar moustaches and goatees). While I have an appreciation for it, it's not quite my thing. Maybe it's all those delicately etched coupe glasses.

The cognac thing was more my speed. There was a guy named Olivier who is the master distiller (I think...open to correction on this point) of Frapin Cognac, and the cocktails were courtesy of Salvatore [insert surname I was too distracted to recall] and Dale DeGroff, one of the big wheels in the cocktail rennaissance. Again, more my speed.

As usual, when the midday rolls by you are torn. Nourishment or a seminar? But what's this?

"Plate and glass, finding Harmony" Hmm. This is one of those that's really more geared to the People In The Industry. But. There will be "pairings" and "pairings" means "food." almost invariably REALLY delicious food. Since that French Toast thing had, er, nutrient-laden staying power, even a tiny bite or two would be all that one needs to keep motoring. Excellent.

Even better, this was a hands-on seminar with a guest chef (an interloper, hawking edibles in the land of the potable!) There was a lot of restaurant/industry jargon, but if one nods sagely and looks perfectly at easy, no eyebrows are raised. And yummies consumed. Also excellent preparation for opening up a restaurant with a food/cocktail pairing prix-fixe tasting menu.

After wrapping up, something beckons from the schedule up at me. It, translated into common, plain English says: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. What it literally said was "Mezcal, Mezcal, and Mezcal Cocktails!" It wasn't as bad as you may have feared. I am, after all is said and done, no bigger a fan of Mezcal than I am of Tequila, which I consider to rest somewhere in the "Not bad" to "Pretty decent" part of the gustatory spectrum. But the coloring pages were, I firmly maintain, a nice touch.

After all this there was nothing else to do other than go to the semi-After Party at the pool or head straight for the airport. I took a brief look at the pool activity as that is all my schedule would allow, and buggered off.

Again, photos as soon as I find the bloody camera wire thing.

WHEW.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:03 PM 3 comments

Day Four (Four, right?) UPDATED

As I sit here, calmly reflecting in a bloggy reverie, the events of yesterday for your consumption today, I am filled with a mellow wistfulness. Tales of the Cocktail wraps up today and (much) later tonight I shall be found abed in my own, er, bed.

For all intents and purposes -- and the absolute best way imaginable -- yesterday was more of the same. Well, almost.

Let's start at the end.

One of the new traditions at TotC is the "assassination" of a drink. That done, it is treated to a full on New Orleans Jazz Funeral.

This all started in 2008 -- back then TotC was much more of a professional's event, and not as filled with dipsomaniacal arrivistes (hi!) as it is now -- when the For Real Industry Professionals were grumbling about what drinks were so awful and trendy they should be forever banished.

In 2008, the inaugural dishonor fell to the Appletini. 2009, the Redheaded Slut and for 2010 it was Sex On The Beach. (Speaking editorially, I'm somewhat suprised the Amaretto Sour or the Blue Hawaii are not in there, I think either of the latter to be infinitely worse than either of the former. But I digress.)

I think it's a capital idea. I may have some quibbles with the choice of victim, but this just gives me additional incentive to make it back to New Orleans next year. (Pretty much same time, next year. For those of you who might be enticed to come over, it's July 20-24, 2011.)

Of course, it wouldn't be New Orleans unless some sort of natural calamity threatening and in this case it was TS Bonnie. Not an all-out hurricane, but New Orleans' big worry is more the rain than the ferocious winds. (It was the "after-rain" from Hurricane Katrina that breached the levees, not the winds.)

So, naturally, there was some...y'know...edginess. Those who had grumbled at being stuck at the Hotel Monteleone's 833rd floor (hi!) were feeling rather smug (hi!) about it all.

Anyway.

At 11:30pm, rain or no, there was man's work to be done. It is Sex On The Beach's fate to be dead and buried. So the assembled throng, uh, assembled at the nearby Hotel Roosevelt at more or less the appointed time and proceeded. It would be something of an exaggeration on my part to state with absolute certainty that all of those in the processsion were fully cognizant of the circumstances. It certainly is well within the realm of possibility that several of them just noticed a crowd holding rather jovial beverages -- Aussie readers, be proud of your delegation, as they do not stint in voicing their joy -- and a largeish assembly of people with musical instruments and allowed themselves to be enveloped and carried by the zeitgeist du jour, as it were.

It must also be said there are some people whose energy is, and there's no way around it, flagging badly. By the time (near midnight) the Jazz Funeral is going on, people have been "carryin' on" for the better part of four days straight, and long days at that. Not everyone has my foresight to find a lull in the schedule about halfway through the thing in order to execute a well engineered short-term comatose state power nap, arising refreshed and renewed.

It also helps if, say, your energies are flagging badly, to be in your hotel room. You pop on your PJs and execute a well engineered short-term comatose state power nap. The further afield from this desired situation, the greater the potential to afford your fellow man some welcome comic relief, so needed in these dark times. I won't name names but someone who is known as "Simon" was resting amiably in the cool that is the marble flooring of the Hotel Monteleone's lobby by the time I was proceeding to attend to the matter of my slumber.

Being an ardent libertarian, I refused to interrupt the man's rest. That said, should I have been apprised, at very first light, "Dude! There was a dead guy in the lobby ALL NIGHT LONG!" it would have only surprised me very little.

[It is at this point I had to break off. There was a MASSIVE French Toast breakfast put on by the Sherry importers. I wrote "Can't possibly miss. Ta." and buggered off. This will be explained in the Day Five entry.]

Day Four, as previously stated was More Of The Same. What's interesting is that after a while, at least on my case, your body adjusts. It's very weird to spend hour-upon-hour-upon-hour just slightly Not Sober. "Crafting the buzz" is the term thrown around. Well, I can be a craftsperson.

Something else struck me, and that is that, unlike most of these events (I assume), there were a LOT of heavily tattooed women. There were some men equally inked, but in percentage terms the women sported, by far, the greater proportion of tattoos. Don't really know what that all means, but I'm just saying.

So.

Back to the beginning -- if this is starting to seem like Tarantino with jet lag, sorry...may take a few days to regain the customary clarity of thought -- which brings us to breakfast. A little bit of research clued me in to the fact the Absolut Bloody Mary thing (at the Carrousel Bar!) started at 9am, but...the Kahlua Coffee Bar opened up at 8:30am. You see where I am going with this, right?

So, by 10am-ish, without any material amount of effort, one already has about a couple of drinks in one's system. And I haven't even hit a single seminar or tasting event.

There were a few events events scheduled for the next block, and any rational person would have been torn by the options. Example? A seminar on bartending in the 40s-60s by a guy named Brian Rea. Mostly on the strength Brian Rea is 722 years old and --I'm just guessing here -- may have a story or two that might prove amusing. However, my choice was for a brunch hosted by Laird's Applejack. I figure food to nestle in my system alongside any Kahlua coffees and Absolut Bloody Marys may also give my liver me a respite, as it doesn't seem to be a sampling-intensive sort of thing. Which it wasn't, really, although there were a few tipples to be had. But let's just say the combination of artisanal cured porcine excellentness, paired with apple distillates is well worth inspecting.

At this point, my body clock has been jettisoned entirely. Sleeping too little, then sleeping overlong, not breakfasting at ALL but brunching pretty regally, skipping lunch and having a spectacular dinnah or skipping dinnah after a very impressive lunch, or just grazing freely all throws your rhythm off.

But, dear reader, this is precisely what I undertake as a service for you.

(Another option - and there were several more - was a tasting session hosted by Hendrick's Gin, but much as I love and respect gin in general and Hendrick's in particular...at 10:30am? Even I have my limits.)

Now, part of the reason for my wanting nutritional fortification is that there was one seminar at 12:30pm which I was loath to miss, sacrificing my Spirited Luncheon opportunity. This was the "Tiki" seminar hosted by a guy named Blair "Trader Tiki" Reynolds. I won't write too much about that because I have it from the Very Highest Sources this seminar would be available online. (There may be a prize for whoever spots me in the audience.) It was tailor made for my very own enjoyment. That's all I'll say for now.

(Here's my fave cocktail of the whole thing:

Occam’s Second Thought by Blair Reynolds

Bols Genever
Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
Trader Tiki vanilla syrup
FRESH lemon juice
muddled crushed Thai chili pepper)

That led to a Sazerac tasting (for those of you who enjoy a Manhattan, you may want to consider a bottle of Sazerac Rye...just sayin') and that led to a choice between a Pernod Absinthe tasting and Coole Swan Irish Cream tasting.

Here's the dilemma. I cannot stand licorice. Other than in cooking with anise-flavored spirits. I can appreciate and enjoy a serving of pastis/absinthe/etc. in context but not two. Still, absinthe has a service procedure that is so arcane and riddled with esoteric equipment so cumbersome and utterly useless for anything else that it makes for fascinating viewing. But Coole Swan is something I hadn't tasted before and its marketing implies it's going to cost a bundle (someone at Coole Swan may want to look at the business news to ascertain the wisdom of launching a "superpremium" anything these days) and that was enough to tip the scales in its favor.

Would you look at the time? 6pm!

At various rooms, there are fully functioning bars set up. No. You didn't grasp what I said. There are hotel rooms, regular hotel rooms, in a perfectly normal hotel where the guests assigned to that room have taken over the space and PUT IN A BAR. And not just one or two of these. Oh no.

How do you choose which of these extracurricular Happy Hours to attend? Easy. Go for the one with food the aroma of which lures you in. Why? Well, if the food smells like something you like, then the chances are good the beverages will also entice.

The problem with that is that you, should you find more than one of these, wind up hopping from room to room and next thing you know it's 11pm and where has the evening gone?

[More photos just as soon as I can find the camera wire thingy.]

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:51 AM 2 comments

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wait, wait.

Dear Internet,

I am so, SO tired. Happily tired, sure, but very tired nonetheless. I will take this week to air out the liver, in a personal sort of unbridled Temperance binge. I will finish up yesterday's post and write up on the doings of today.

(I hope the airlines know better than to put outbound TotC-ers in the exit rows.)

Wow I had a fun time.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:05 PM 2 comments

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day Three

Well. There may be more than one reason why I was all by my lonesome at breakfast. Some of you might assume, with what I would consider sound reasoning, that the bulk of the population of TotC simply cannot manage to assume a vertical status, never mind an ambulatory one, at such an early hour. Even with the enticement and allure of the Kahlua Coffee Bar.

This is perfectly valid thinking.

There may be another reason, into which I will delve and report any findings. This reason is encapsulated by the phrase Absolut Bloody Mary Bar. While I yield to none in my affection for a caffeinated jumpstart to my day, I am also among the greatest of admirers of the Bloody. (For further details, please see my published works.) So I suspect many among the hardier exemplars might make a quick dash for some caffeine-fueled first aid, and boost their operational range by consuming sweet nature's tomato-based restorative. Even those who court the lovely and gracious Badger's wrath by slagging on vodka.

Something else has captured my attention, as I stop to ponder things in the time allotted between seminars and symposia, when lesser mortals swig desperately at bottles of Fiji Artesian water in an effort to keep their embattled electrolytes in homeostatis. This something else is this: TotC runs FIVE days. Five FULL days, really. (July 21, 22, 23, 24 and & 25) There is some putative respite by having awards ceremonies, but I am not fooled.

My strategic advice? Consume only what's placed before you and only finish which taste you enjoy. The more innocent among you will be stunned to learn there are not a few people among the assembled who are not necessarily exhibiting optimal levels of temperance. (Ahem.)

Anyway, Day 3 (hey, give me a moment...it isn't easy to rummage through ill-cobbled notes!) featured the expected cavalcade of events:

The aforesaid Bloody fest, leading directly to what strikes me a particularly posh academic discussion on being an empowered agent of change: "Armagnac, France's First Brandy." Now, although Cognac is France's most exported brandy, Armagnac is its most popular among the French. I think Team Armagnac's suffering a bit of an (unwarranted) inferiority complex. But "Alain" is doing a good job of explaining the differences in terms the pros and the (hi!) laity can grasp. There may have been a great deal of emphasis on "terroir" and soil alkalinity, as muddling through a Lilliputian browser window as tasting samples are being distributed tends to distract even the most seriously-disposed attendee.

(Normally, I would have attended Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's presentation, but he had run that one -- on a fascinating character named Joe Scialom who was pals with Churchill, had a doctorate in chemistry and spoke 8 languages -- a few weeks earlier at The Hukilau in Ft. Lauderdale. Also tempting was the Honey & Smoke event with Irish whisky and Zino Davidoff cigars, but even I know better than to partake of straight whisky and cigars at 10:30am.)

This led all concerned into the lunch hour. The seemingly wiser members of the contingent (hi!) headed over not to a Spirited Luncheon, but to "Bax vs Clift: Progressive Cocktail/Cooking Techniques from Tippling Club & Der Raum." To those who have been pacing themselves carefully, an opportunity to further pace themselves with something less taxing to the liver and digestion at the time of the midday meal is a welcome opportunity. Frankly, I have NFI what "Progressive Cocktail/Cooking Techniques" really means, but the subheading promised it would be Asian, award-winning and at "the Riverview room" and that sounds like far more incentive than my willpower can overcome.

I am, after all, merely flesh and (rather diluted, by now) blood.

This seminar, run by some rather jovial Aussies flush with Singaporean funding, turned out to be rather...molecular. Lots of VERY deconstructed things. Most were...um...interesting. Some were...er...not my thing. This seminar was packed and, frankly, I doubt many thought skipping the more conventional luncheon was a wise decision. (A smoke infused Scotch drink? "Tastes like a Marlboro made into a beverage" is more like it.)

Now, if you attend this seminar not only do you forego the Spirited Luncheon, you also forego the Great Vodka Debate. Two cocktail experts for, and two against, slugging it out on the relative worth of vodka. If your mind is pliable, perhaps this is for you.

Anyway, the problem is that if you stuck it out the whole way with the molecular Aussies it would certainly feel as if they had fed you but a mere molecule. If that. (Even when you pace yourself, you still need something to cushion your system, yes?)

Decision time. The molecular Aussies are playing to a very packed crowd and so the truly wise among the teeming horde (hi!) decide to bail out, while there is still time to make the Spirited Luncheon. My thinking is that, if one is going to have a Very Late Evening, where food is likely little beyond the odd canapé, then lunch should be of impressive proportions and staying power.

The decision, then, is a no-brainer: Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse for The Spirit of Texas lunch. The only drawbacks, and they are small, are that it's PACKED, I have no idea what the cocktails are going to be and I'm not even sure there's going to be a "pairing" thing, and while undoubtedly delicious, it's not going to be particularly fancy. But I don't mind. Look:

1st COURSE
Shrimp Rémoulade
Steamed jumbo Gulf shrimp with "Texas coleslaw" (huh?) with chipotle rémoulade sauce, applewood smoked bacon and deviled egg. Yummy.

2nd COURSE
Mesquite Grilled Prime Ribeye
Prime steak served with jalapeño and cheddar mash, beer-battered onion rings -- shatteringly crisp is ideal -- and ancho chile & honey BBQ sauce. (Sauce struck me a superfluous and I didn't bother with it.) Leidenheimer French Bread Texas Toast also, which is kind of hard to describe to someone who's never had "Texas toast" before, but it's nice.

DESSERT
Pecan Pie
Drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce and served with sweet cream. (Sauces seemed to me a bit of overkill. But I would have eaten two.)

The spirited part is a highlight of Texas distillates (Tito's vodka, Paula's Texas Orange liqueur, Treaty Oak Rum, Corazón Tequila -- how's THAT from Texas? -- and other spirits I didn't catch, because OMG you would not believe the din. The margaritas are appreciatively downed with all the chile stuff going on.)

That crisis solved, the time comes to go to the happy hour for The Cocktail Spirit (a web series on SmallScreenNetwork.com) in preparation for dinner. This is preferable to me over the pool thing because a) I'm not all that hopped up about pools, b) I'm not that hopped up about Pama and its compatriots, and c) TCS is giving away free t-shirts.

Having accomplished my mission, the natural thing to do is to skip around to see what events catch my eye. Grappa! There is a grappa thing. I figure grappa = Italian = food. Never mind that by this point I am quite satisfied. That leads to Russian Standard's vodka tasting (Russian-style) which is quite nice. Especially since they are doing it in an authentically Russian way.

It may surprise you, but I decide to take a nap after this wraps up around 6pm-ish, figuring to be well and properly rested for the long night ahead. Small problem is that I wake up at 6:50am.

Oops.


-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:58 AM 5 comments

Funny You Should Ask, Part 1

[This is a recovered post, some stuff I originally wrote is now lost to history. Probably the funniest stuff.]

The lovely and gracious bb, in the previous post's combox, asked (regarding Tales of the Cocktail) "How is this different from BlogHer? We move from room to room drinking." This is not materially different than what my car blogger pals, making their pilgrimage to Monterey, CA for "Monterey Week" have asked me. The impolite analogy is to compare these other events to a torrid tryst, and TotC to a Roman orgy. But that is imprecise and not really, y'know, informative.

Anyway, I started to issue a comment in reply, but it soon spiraled (volume-wise) into something worthy of its own entry.

Not being among the target market for BlogHer, I can only offer surmise and conjecture. But, as far as I can tell here are the main differences:

1- There are significant numbers of people (I'd say not quite 60%) officially part of this august event who have prostates.
2- If one is so inclined, the drinking is free. The assiduous can find venues where one may pay for ones tipples. (I consider them demented.)
3- The goody bags seem to have a singularly boozy theme. (There are TONS of goody bags.)
4- Nobody has yet said "website metrics." (To be utterly fair, a lot of perfectly aggravating mixological jargon has been uttered.)
5- All of the sponsors are spirituous liquors, liqueurs, assorted mixers or otherwise unclassified ardent spirits.
6- Nobody moves from anywhere to anywhere to drink. (Good heavens that sounds like effort.) You sit down pretending to take notes and strange new libations are practically given to you intravenously.
7- There is very little blogging going on. And that's the bloggers.
8- Come to think of it, there is very "motor-skillswise" going on.
9- It's in New Orleans.
10- The giga-deluxe hotels are going for a fraction of what they would in any other city.
11- The food. Oh, dear me, the food. And not just the "New Orleans" food.
12- There are not only a lot of prostates around (cf. #1) but there are a LOT of men with vests and "creative" facial hair. (Not I.) I'll try to take a census of the number of goatees and handlebar moustaches.
13- Seminars and events generally involve giving the attendees at least three drinks. Yes, even at 8:30am.
14- The lunches! The dinners! (cf. #11) These are also paired with, on average, between five (!) and eight (!!) cocktails.
15- Issues related to interpersonal relationships haven't yet come up.
16- This probably has a LOT more unexpected mopping at 3am.
17- There sure seem to be a lot of free t-shirts one gets along with one's complementary drinks. (If Donald Duck were a dipsomaniac, he'd be in Heaven.)
18- The Mayor showed up. (Possibly it was some state legislator. Or some official functionary. Either way, it was someone supposedly important and official and there seems to have been a proclamation. But. There were some lovely beverages within my orbit and as a result I temporarily lost interest in the proceedings.)
19- There are a lot of expensive, pseudo-vintage, silk bowling shirts being worn. And those little Rat Pack straw mini-fedoras.
20- There are very heated discussions on the correct way to make, say, a Sazerac.
21- Vodka is scorned by a lot -- not most, but a lot -- of people at this event. I mean they are really hatin' on it. (Badger would have no option but to resort to physical violence.)
22- It's eerily quiet here early in the morning. (I just finished breakfast and I am the ONLY person here.)
23- The main bar is a carrousel. Yes, it spins (slowly). No, it's not you. No, they don't go out of their way to point this out to newbies.
24- If you ask your bantender how s/he made your, say, Old Fashioned you will start an argument between the bartender and someone who overheard the bartender.
25- I'm guessing the word "digestif" gets a bit less airplay at BH.
26- "Dude, dude. What's your name? Think you're sober enough to be on a podcast?" is likely said more frequently at TotC than at BH.
27- I have to put up with a lot of First Name "Crazy Cocktail Nickname" Last Name. (Such as Larry "Dr. Digestif" Johnson, to invent an example.)
28- There are a LOT of people photographing little plastic cups, close up.
29- There are people who have fully set up bars in their (standard!) hotel room. Stop and ponder that.
30- No, seriously, EVERY SINGLE OFFICIAL EVENT involves at least three cocktails. Except breakfast, which only has one.

-J.

* For fun, while it would not truly capture, y'know, the whole zeitgeist of the thing to compare the schedule at the former with the one of the latter, feel free to see if you can spot any general thematic differences between Day One at BlogHer and A Typical Day at TotC:

8:30am - 10:30am
Breakfast at Kahlua Coffee Bar

10:30am - 12:30pm
There and Back Again: Dos Maderas Rum, The World’s only Dual-aged Rum. Come sample and experience Dos Maderas, while sipping cocktail creations from the award-winning team at Alambiq Mixology.
Scotch Mixability - William Grant & Sons

12:30pm - 2:00pm
Spirited Luncheon - Antoine's

2:00pm - 4:00pm
Team Spirits Imports and Friends Tasting - Professionals and aficionados can sample spirits from some of their favorite boutique importers currently or soon to be available the market.
Wodka Polska - Come enjoy Poland’s national drink with us while learning more about the history of Vodka. Mixologists will be pouring creative libations, authentic Polish food will be served and live music will make for a carnival atmosphere. Sponsored by: Sobieski Vodka
Suntory Presents... “Blending” Harmony with Nature - A full HIBIKI blending apothecary lab where Shinji will invite select guests to “Blend” harmony with nature while making their own personal HIBIKI 12 year old blend.

4:00pm - 6:00pm
Brugal Rum - Go on a Caribbean holiday featuring food, drinks and entertainment of the Dominican Republic.
The History of Bar Tools and Bar Ware from the 1800's to Today. At the Museum of the American Cocktail.
The Dalmore Tasting - Learn from The Nose! This tasting, hosted by Richard Paterson, master blender for Whyte & Mackay, will introduce participants to one of the most awarded single malt scotch whiskeys, the Dalmore.
The Official hum® Lab will allow you to create your own unique libations using hum®, specialty liqueurs, and an assortment of fresh ingredients.

6:00pm - 7:30pm
Aperitif Bar With Martini & Rossi, Sponsored by: Martini & Rossi

7:30pm - 10:00pm
Spirited Dinner – Arnaud’s

Posted by Joke at 10:02 AM 4 comments

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day Two

While this is not officially an event for bloggers who are left handed, bloggers who are redheads, bloggers who own uteri, or bloggers who only drive hybrids -- or, for that matter an event for bloggers, per se -- it is, by all indications, an event geared almost exclusively for people whose unexpressed motto runs along the lines of "Nothing is more fun than fun."

There is, of course, the merest veneer of seriousness. Seminars aimed, ostensibly, at For Real Working Bartenders and other industry professionals. But even those relatively few symposia are more than a little leavened by the fun. Most of the time, it's a few souls making glorious cocktails, and multitudes of other souls absorbing them.

Let other events try to lure you with near-pornographic enticements such as "Utilizing Social Media To Market Your Writing." The utterly earnest folks here must make do with dry and dispassionate fodder such as "Art of the Aperitif: Exploring Pre-Prandial Spirits, Wines and Cocktails" or "Civilization Begins with Distillation." Also, strictly in the name of science, there is serious tippling going on well before noon, to say nothing of 5pm. (In fact, if you make it a serious point of going out to drink, you will probably collapse into an ethanolic coma. The smart thing to do is just sample a little bit, and you may escape with but a mere intoxication.)

Me, being the high-minded and terribly serious individual, will be reporting on one the events most closely approaching seriousness. Such as that is.

The first one I bring you is the recentky concluded, if rather unfortunately named, "Bartending Fun-da-mentals."

Here is a recap, based on my notes:

The premise of this one is "To put the fun back into bartending." (Because we all knew what a meaningless nightmare of despair it is?)

The two presenters (hosts? guys in the front?) are "Jacob" and "Angus." Never heard of 'em before today. Jacob dons a horse head, Angus makes a couple of insider-ish wisecracks. They suggest bartenders are in it for sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Then! Actual content!

Principles
I Make the guest smile
II "Optimize the Guest Sale" which, unless it has to do with how the Royal Navy used to recruit with the aid of unscrupulous pub owners, I have NFI what that is.
III Give people reason to come back, by making them feel
a) comfortable
b) important
c) welcome, and
d) understood

They talk about how "customer time is 5x normal time." Also have NFI what that is, but it sounds completely true. "Always smile," is another.

Aha! Some real wisdom for schleps like me: Ask your guests questions about how they want their drinks." That is, don't just make a "Manhattan" but try to get guidance from your guests to see if they want it with rye or bourbon; dry, sweet or perfect...that sort of thing.

More "interesting" than strictly informative, Angus (or possibly Jacob) starts rattling off the "ages" of bartenders. Currently, says them, we're in the 2nd Golden Age (I'm waiting to hear the 1st.) The 1990s started the Age of Ingredients (fresh lemons and limes, say, or herbs, spices, aged spirits) followed by the Age of Technique ("molecular mixology" for example).

That, in turn is followed by what they call "The Age of Scrutiny and Authenticity." The hallmark of this is going back to cocktail history, old cocktail books, bartenders who look like "Winky" from Disney's Wind In The Willows. We also see ingredients that are resurrected (eau celeste, anyone?). The problem says Jacob (althought it might have been Angus) is that all of these Ages are "serious." Not a whole bloody lot of fun.

Oh, look, a lovely beverage...a Corpse Reviver #2 but made with blue curacao. Not bad, although I'm not so fond of blue drinks.

And then...the rules! What's good and what's bad. (I'm more the sort who focuses on the drink in hand. I'm a baaaaad boy.)

I- Small is good: big is evil. (No, GOOD is good, bad is evil. Sheesh.)
II- Vodka is evil. We drink vodka wrong, we don’t drink it like the Poles or the Russians.
III- Commercial is evil.
IV- Not obeying rules is evil.

Another good bit of advice: You can’t truly resurrect ancient recipes. Everything is different now. (Spirits are different, mixers and modifiers are different, etc.) No harm trying, though.

(Hey! Another drink came and went! I didn't get to taste it! I'm sure another will be by soon. Aha. A drink here with rosemary in it. Interesting, but I'm not REALLY convinced by it.)

Some examples of serious-with-a-side-of-fun drinks are mentioned, including one served with some sort of S&M accessory.

The next one I bring you, is the most-talked about one thus far: "The Smooth and Creamy History of The Fern Bar."

For those of you who have NFI what a Fern Bar is, just think back to the hit show Three's Company. In that show, set and produced during the woefully lamentable ghetto-of-a-decade 1970s, the characters' watering hole of choice was a place called "The Regal Beagle." Men in polyester suits with condor-wing lapels, Qiana, disco, Farrah Fawcett hairdos. THAT kind of bar.

The panelists, Martin Cate & Jeff Berry are two of the funnest and most charming guys around. It's impossible to not be when your careers are devoted towards a fanatical pursuit of perfection in the realm of tropical drinks, and when you make a detour into the slushy ones of the 1970s, it's even more delightful. This was, by everyone's estimation, the one nobody should have missed. I hope against hope some or all of it finds its way on YouTube. It was that fun.

Then of course, there was the Spirited Dinner mentioned yesterday.




And here I am.

I'll try to post photos, after I look for some kind of detox beverage.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:04 PM 0 comments

Thursday, July 22, 2010

As promised.

There are some people -- a benighted sort, in my opinion -- who attend gatherings of people solely because they are [demographic category] who also happen to enjoy [hobby or activity]. God bless them. We live in a pluralist society, and that, while unfathomable to me, is fine.

Me, I don't loiter with people because we happen to share bonds of ethnicity, gender, hair color, diopter, etc.

I do things like this.

This is my first dispatch on the matter of the utter excellentness on Tales of the Cocktail, as I promised. Think of it as a "ComicCon" for people with civilized dipsomania.

Here goes.

There are people (and I really need to figure out how to be officially recognized among them, for reasons which shall become pellucidly clear) who are The Cocktail Bloggers. Which is fine, especially since they have been able to hang out in a house -- as opposed to the Hotel Monteleone, etc. as "the little people" must -- with a fully stocked bar sponsored by several major distillers. They also get goody bags which are likely to require pack animals for transport. (Expect an interesting array of boozy memorabilia on eBay next week, as some try to cash in on the free branded glassware, bar mats, etc.)

The main spot for all the ardent fans of even more ardent spirits is the aforesaid Hotel Monteleone. It is very nice, and the rates, even for such a popular event as Tales of the Cocktail, are infinitely more than reasonable. As people were checking in, a large church youth group was trying to check out. There were several eyebrows raised, but most people from either group had other things in their sights to provide much more entertainment beyond that.

Highlights:

They have what they call "tasting rooms." I can't (yet) say they all function a given way, but the first one up was the Kahlua Coffee Bar. It's a smallish reception room, where a given brand has various tables and each has a different cocktail. You could wind up having, say, four full cocktails in one room, and then stagger to the next. To start things off easy, there was only the Kahlua one on the first day. (Think "caffé corretto" with Kahlua in lieu of grappa.) The remainder of the days of TotC there many. For example, here is a random day's listing of tasting rooms:

Absolut Brooklyn
Cabana Cachaça
Casa Noble
Cointreau "Bar Star" Mix-Off
Engineering Gin
Grand Marnier
Kahlua Coffee Bar
Oxley Gin
Pernod Absinthe Green Hour
Rémy Cointreau USA

So, as you can see, even with only ONE drink at each, you could be really doing a number on yourself.

Another highlight: There are a LOT of men here with unusual facial hair, vests* and those silly little Rat Pack hats. They utterly despise 99% of all vodka cocktails. I think these are the manqué bartenders, but I cannot be sure. There are cocktail groupies in mufti (that'd be my group, really) and then there are the celebrity bartenders. Yes, there really is such a thing.

Yet one more highlight: "Spirited Lunches/Dinners." If you guessed these are meals at restaurants where each course is paired off with a corresponding cocktail, you'd be right. My first choice, for a number of reasons beyond the scope of this immediate post, would HAVE to be Arnaud's.

Arnaud's is the kind of restaurant that used to be found in most major cities, a grande-dame sort of place. Where the dishes were all named, as opposed to described. (Think "Tournedos Rossini" vs. "Medallions of seared Kobe beef on a Beaujolais reduction on a bed of Morel mushrooms and...")

To make things even more exciting this particular Grande Dame of a restaurant is showcasing itself with an EIGHT course meal. Surprisingly, the prices are VERY reasonable.

First Course
Leontine Aperitif and
hors d’Oeuvres

Second Course
Consommé and
Ti Punch Leblon

Third Course
Turbot and
Windsor Cocktail

Fourth Course
Selle d’Agneau and
Décolletage (a Dubonnet and tequila drink, surprisingly well recieved!)

Fifth Course
Sorbet à l’Absinthe (meh, not a huge fan of licorice)

Sixth Course
Salade Cresson avec Fromage Blanc

Seventh Course
Bombe Glacée

Eighth Course
Café, Digestifs and Bon Bons

(They even feature a "Service d’Absinthe" for those doing that whole Green Muse trip...not I.)

Next report: Tasting rooms and "Fun"damentals -- hey, I don't make up these names -- of Bartending.

-J.

*waistcoats


Posted by Joke at 10:26 AM 4 comments