Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tasting Spirits and Sipping Cocktails at Tales of the Cocktail 2011, Part I

While in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail, we end up sipping dozens of spirits, liqueurs, sodas, and new cocktails whipped up by the world’s greatest bartenders and mixologists (why do some people pooh-pooh the word mixologist and why is it not recognized as a real word in dictionaries?—it’s been around forever!). Here is a sampler of some of our favorite tastings during our first few days down in NOLA:

Lights and action at the Shore Leave Part at the WWII Museum at New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail.

The Shore Leave Party at the WWII Museum was insanely fun. We started out chatting with journalist Michael Anstendig over some Hudson corn whiskey lemony highballs that were easy to sip and a great way to cool us down. Then, we ran into the gentlemen from Templeton Rye, who slipped us a flask filled with their smooth as silk spirit (we’ve been making Templeton Rye Manhattans with them all summer, and cannot stop!). Thanks, fellas, for the hooch! Also dishing out cocktails made with Milagro tequila, orgeat, horchata, coconut milk, and dashes of some other tasty ingredients was Jaime Salas, a fellow Brooklynite (who as a Brand Ambassador of course is rarely in his home city). Thanks for chatting with us and providing us one of the many fun photo ops available throughout the event.

We caught the tail end of the World’s Largest Negroni event. Wall-to-wall imbibers eagerly sipped, from a flagon of thick ice, one of our favorite cocktails of all time. This Negroni was special though; besides the bittersweet musings of Campari and Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth, the classic drink boasted the slightly sweet and tea-tasting Beefeater 24, which we lauded a couple of years ago during its launch in the U.S.

Raising a glass to the world’s largest Negroni, at Tales of the Cocktail 2011.

The Negroni

1 ounce Beefeater 24 London Dry Gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Martini Rosso (sweet vermouth)
orange slice, as garnish

Pour ingredients into a rocks glass filled with ice then stir and serve. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Steve Schul enjoys a Negroni at the World’s Largest Negroni event.

Of course, the largest smattering of various spirits was presented by Diageo at the Cabildo Museum. Dubbed “Cocktails from Around the World,” 50 bucks got you a sampling of dozens of cocktails mixed by the world’s most flavor-savvy cocktail creators. We tried new concoctions by Lynnette Marrero, Joaquim Simo, Ryan Fitzgerald, Enrique Sanchez, Misty Kalkofen, Dänny Ronen, Fred Sarkis, all of which satisfied our taste buds, to say the very least. We could have drunk all night, but, well, a sip of each was just enough to make us happy.

Cheers to Lynnette Marrero for creating a delicious Black Daiquiri for the Diageo event.

One of the most fun events was Purity Vodka’s make-your-own infused bloody mary–style martini. Bartender & brand ambassador John Pomeroy Jr. guided us through the process, which involved dumping your favorite bloody mary ingredients into a siphon, adding Purity vodka, charging it with CO2, giving it a little shake, and straining it into a cocktail glass with a lovely ice orb. We, along with fellow cocktail writer (and our logo illustrator) Dr. Bamboo, experimented with a variety of ingredients. But our favorite? Shrimp, andouille, okra, peppercorn, green bean, salt, and tomato. It tasted like New Orleans in a glass. You must try this at home! Use a cream siphon so it’s a little more manageable than a big soda siphon. Thank you Purity for provided a jazz trio and an amazing spread, in the cozy Bombay Club.

Tasting rooms are very creative these days, and just tasting an unmixed spirit simply is not enough apparently anymore at Tales. Some of these, such as the Sandeman Ruby Port tasting, went all-out. At this tasting, where a cocktail competition was taking place, we were treated to three unique drinks created by three very talented bar chefs. Steve loved Don’s Dram by Andy Minchow of Holeman and Finch in Atlanta; Paul, the Red Cape Cocktail by Adam Sieczka. Also on hand was Cheryl Scripter from Bittersweet Confections here in New Orleans who encouraged every passerby to sample all the truffles at her table. Ruby Port and truffles are indeed a marriage made in Elysium.

Red Cape
(created by Adam Sieczka)

1 part Sandemans Founders Reserve Ruby Porto
1 part rye whiskey
1/2 part simple syrup
1/2 part fresh lemon juice
1/4 blood orange
6 small basil leaves

Muddle blood orange and basil leaves with simple syrup and lemon juice. Add port and rye whiskey. Add ice. Shake and pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with blood orange slice and basil leaf.

Don’s Dram
(created by Andy Minchow)

1 part Sandemans Founders Reserve Ruby Porto
1 part Martell VS cognac
1 part freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 bar spoon Ricard (pastis or absinthe)

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and shake for five seconds. Double strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a pinch of sea salt and one grind of black pepper.

❤ ❤ ❤

Let us continue into the realm of something new: Cupcake Vodka. We were so intrigued by the name, we had to stop by for a sip. Let us tell you that these vodkas are not in the least bit cloyingly sweet. Touted as all-natural, they are easy to sip, fun to mix, and are worth more than a try. Our favorite expression was the Devil’s Food. A truly interesting find. It got our creative minds racing.

A few minutes later, we found ourselves in the Drambuie tasting room. We are very familiar with Drambuie, and were eager to try its new product, one which is peatier and slightly less sweet than the older model. We chatted with Anthony Caporale who created a delicious creamy lavender Drambuie concoction that we would have killed to have a scone with. And on the opposite spectrum of taste, there was a global-inspired Drambuie drink with lemongrass and jalapeños that made us reconsider that Drambuie is limited in what you can do with it. We love surprises.

Kilbeggan, aged in bourbon barrels, was a lovely way to reacquaint ourselves with blended Irish whiskey. The aroma is slightly sweet and rich, with vanilla and, of course, bourbon. A nice change from the usually Irish whiskeys aged in sherry barrels. We are looking forward to mixing with it in some of the cocktails we’ve developed when we get back to Brooklyn.

Other welcomed tastings didn’t involve alcohol at all. Barritt’s ginger beer is a lovely addition to the ginger beer canon: light and refreshing, and served by rep Paul Imbesi, donning some sweatbands around his head and wrists. We dubbed him the Olivia Newton-John of the Tasting Rooms. Never lose your sense of humor, Paul! We’ve talked about Fentimans sodas in our previous post, and we are excited to experiment with the Rose Lemonade in future drinks. What a great tasting room, with so many of their soda flavors on hand, being mixed with all kinds of spirits and liquors. If you haven’t tried the Dandelion and Burdock soda, you are missing out!

More tasting notes to come. Stay tuned.

Thanks to all the hard-working men and women who gave us their time. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. I went to the Cupcake tasting room hoping for cupcakes that tasted like cocktails, not the other way around; the description was a little vauge. Luckily, I was able to score a mini-cupcake though. Ah, marketing.


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