Where do the grandmasters of cocktail culture collide with the best and brightest in the spirits industry over phenomenal libations? Tales of the Cocktail, of course!
It is the highlight of the bartender circuit. Held annually in New Orleans, the week features seminars, parties and cocktailing galore in this boozy 24-hour playground. It can be a liver workout—trust me!
Bar pros from all over the country attend this conference and Seattle was well represented: local spirits guru Rocky Yeh, Rob Roy’s Anu Apte, Liberty’s Andrew Freidman, and the list goes on. Jacob Grier of Portland’s Metrovino won an award for his Portland Rickey (get the recipe here), the official cocktail of this year’s event. It was a refreshing combination of Martin Miller’s Gin, fresh lemon, Green Chartreuse and lengthened with Le Merle Saison, which is a light and lovely floral beer.
Local spirits writer and mixologist Andrew Bohrer and chef Neil Robertson of Seattle’s cult favorite bakery Crumble and Flake paired up and got all food-bar geeky with their A Chef Walks into a Bar… seminar. The duo covered cooking techniques and how those techniques relate to cocktails, and discussed seasonal produce and the nuances of flavor. (Example: Don’t pick blackberries on the side of the highway unless you actually like the taste of exhaust.)
My other favorite panel was Fun With Hydrocolloids. I’ve been playing with them for years making boozy gelees, but this was definitely the ultimate crash course. The Sazerac we tasted was served up in a glass flavored with absinthe and firmed up by a magic mix of hydrochlorides—yes, you could eat it, but it was a bit…um …“firm.”
Also making a splash this year: the ladies. For the first time in Tales history, a woman—Miami’s Cricket Nelson (pictured left)—won The Bombay Sapphire Gin Most Imaginative Bartender competition. Nelson took gold with her “Sapphire East Love Game,” crafted with Earl Grey tea, rosebud syrup and fresh Thai basil. Delicious!
As for event swag, presenters, media and VIPs were given an “all you can fill” bag. I filled my bag with all sorts of goodies: Dirty Sue Jalapeno-Stuffed cocktail onions and citrus zesters, baby bottles of pisco and amaro, sassy swizzle sticks, paper fans for the heat, notebooks for writing down all those new cocktail ideas, a limoncello compact rain coat (yes, I needed that).
I’m always sad to leave Tales. It’s a fantastic week, but once the floors at the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone (Grand Central Station for TOTC) start getting a little too sticky, you know it’s time to head home. Until next year!
Kathy Casey is a chef and mixologist. She is known as a pioneer in the bar-chef movement and host of Liquid Kitchen cocktail show. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyCaseyChef and blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey.