Sam Meyer is an editor at CNN and blogs about cocktails at cocktailians.com.
Oh, it's a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning. How do Tales of the Cocktail attendees go to church? They attend a seminar on "Religious Beverages" with Allen Katz and Garrett Oliver. Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, drew the connections between Trappist ales and other beverages originated by monks, such as Bénédictine and Chartreuse - which French Carthusian monks still make and sell it to support their order.
The discussion concludes with a Vieux Carré. Named after the French Quarter, the drink contains Bénédictine – as well as other New Orleans-associated ingredients like rye, Cognac, and Peychaud's Bitters – and was invented by bartender Walter Bergeron at the nearby Hotel Monteleone in 1938. It's a fitting end to a weekend in the French Quarter devoted to fine cocktails.
Sam Meyer is an editor at CNN and blogs about cocktails at cocktailians.com. In this series, he's reporting from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
The lobby of the Hotel Monteleone is a-twitter with cocktailians, decked in their traditional uniform of camp shirts, straw fedoras, and facial hair. They're scurrying to and fro among the tasting rooms: there's a discussion of triple-distilled Irish whiskey in the Iberville Room! Applejack's being poured in the Bienville Room! The Naked Bartender's in the Bonnet Carre Room! (Incidentally, my friend Helen investigated and discovered that much like the Naked Cowboy, the Naked Bartender was wearing shorts.) PR folks are liberally dispensing swag along with libations; I picked up a Luxardo keyring and a Bulleit Bourbon glass, which Tom Bulleit himself was happy to sign for me.
Outside the hotel, the discussion centers around Tropical Storm Bonnie and its possible effect on the Gulf oil spill. (Favorite souvenir spotted thus far: "I Went To New Orleans And All I Got Was This Oily T-Shirt.") But inside at Tales of the Cocktail, the most discussion of the weather I've heard was a lively debate on what a hypothetical drink dubbed the "Tropical Depression No. 3" might contain. If it pours, I'll stay inside the hotel, venturing outside only for medicinal Powerade refills and fried-oyster po'boys.
I have seen strange and wondrous things. I have seen a hairless cat with a rhinestone-bedecked velveteen collar advertising Slovakian vodka. I have seen green monkeys (more about that later.) I have seen grown men dressed as tomatoes and celery, beckoning passersby to a Bloody Mary bar.
I am in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail, the biggest cocktail convention in the country.
The home of jazz and gumbo is also one of the homes of the cocktail - the city's official cocktail is the Sazerac, properly made with hometown Peychaud's Bitters - and the city boasts the Museum of the American Cocktail and several top-notch watering holes, to say nothing of NoLa-associated drinks such as the Ramos Gin Fizz and Brandy Milk Punch.
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