The impetus for launching LibationLab came from my experience in New Orleans a few weeks ago, at Tales of the Cocktail. “Tales” is the preeminent cocktail event in the nation, and probably the biggest convention of bartenders in the world. With press credentials secured based on my existing food and beverage blog, I went out to NoLa not knowing what to expect, but friends in the bartending community insisted that it was the highlight of their year.
Tuesday, my fake sister and I rolled into New Orleans early evening, checked into the Hotel Monetleone, grabbed a Sazerac at the Carousel Bar and then dinner at Gumbo Shop. From there, we went to the first party of the week, hosted by the monks of Chartreuse (or at least their representatives supervising a staff dressed as monks). The party was quiet from start to finish, we met a few good people, sampled a variety of cocktails and called it a night. I had reaffirmed my love of Chartreuse, but still had no idea what lay ahead of me.
The next day was a blur of tastings, seminars and socializing followed by a jaunt to the bad part of town (apparently a bartender here was shot in the back on the way out of work the week before) for a party at Bar Tonique hosted by the good people of Don Q Rum, then out onto Bourbon St. with my new crew. We hit Yo Mama’s for dinner, where I feasted on the Peanut Butter Burger recommended by my amazing bartender/soulmate. The best trick of the night: she had rigged the jukebox to play a different song, should a rube like me choose to play “When The Leavy Breaks” by Led Zeppelin.
The highlight of Thursday was an invitation to one of the Spirited Dinners at the Bombay Club by the lovely Christine from Bombay Sapphire where they paired 4 courses with specialty gin cocktails, and the rest of the week was full-tilt days of fascinating presentations by the national and international cocktail elite, and nights of events, parties and Bourbon Street shenanigans. Some of the seminars were heavy on math, like “The Science of Shaking,” some very technical, like “Secrets to Successful Cocktail Photography,” some with a culinary focus, like, “Carnivorous Cocktails,” and some that really got me thinking, like, “Creative Mixology: Finding Inspiration in the Everyday.”
Although the seminars and events varied in theme, style and content, the consistent threads running through the week were humor and camaraderie. I was really impressed by the sense of community in the bartending industry, and with the new friends I made, we are already planning our return to Tales of the Cocktail in 2010.
Note: all of the links on New Orleans business names are tied to my bar and restaurant reviews. If you want a deeper understanding of what I experienced at each location, click away.