The driver picked us up from the airport and asked us where we all were from, I could tell Greg was a bit hesitant to tell him “Albuquerque.” Once he did, the conversation went from remarks of how long the distance was to what I can only think was confusion in the driver’s geography. He skipped around from saying he loved “Cancun, New Mexico” and all those beautiful beaches to talking about his quick trip through Deming (which actually is in NM). After telling him this was in fact our first visit he turned to me and said: “Baby girl I’m sorry to say this but your gonna gain some weight on this visit……here in New Orleans, we like are girls to look like bell peppers.” I figured that was the most accurate thing he has said so far.
My Tales of the Cocktail trip was not 100% full of excitement or eagerness, but more like self consciousness and anxiety. Let’s face it, I was more then a little bit out of my element. If you’ve listened to our podcast you’ll realize my place: I’m your average at-home cocktail party host who’s not too bad at salting that mug and poring the refreshing Corona ever so smoothly. The one who up until recently would order a more-dirty-than-vodka martini. I’m the timid bar guest who thinks that cocktails can taste like bitter dish water….. but I’m probably just not drinking it right (or fast enough).
I questioned Greg many times if Tales was something he really thought I could do, but I was overjoyed that our first night in New Orleans would set the tone of the trip, and also happen to be the best night at TOTC. This would be the perfect introduction to give me just enough courage and confidence to put on my big girl shoes, sip those drinks with more vermouth then I’m used to, and hold my chin high.
After checking in as media and stuffing as much free swag in my purse as possible, we started making our way through the tasting rooms. I was very impressed by the use of full barware but I felt guilty when only a couple of sips were taken then just left on the table.
We arrived at our first event, which was the Pernod-Ricard portfolio party. Some of the first to arrive, in fact, which I’m sure showed our age and level of responsibility we carry in real life. Greg was pleased with our early-ness because it left a wide open window to interview our first, highly respectable, bartenders before the crowd arrived. Now here is were the bitter truth sneaks in: Greg had given me a quick “bartenders and drink enthusiasts I hope to meet and interview” lesson on the airplane. Most of you know that Greg is the man with the information so because I’m in such close proximity to him, I’m not always completely available to soak in all that brilliant information. The excitement on Greg’s face as he talked with, and took drinks from, some of these highly commendable bartenders brought me just as much excitement for him. My job was simple: I was to push him to make those contacts then swoop around and take photos of the interviews.
With our last interview completed we finished just in time to push through the now-tightly-packed high energy party, down the flights of stairs glowing from the enormous Mardi-Gras-decorated chandler, and into a car waiting out front to take us to our Martin Miller’s Gin dinner at Doris Metropolitan.
We were the first to arrive – again – because we are lame. We sat at the bar and enjoyed some cocktails while we chatted with the incoming party guests. I assume because it was a somewhat late dinner everyone else was coming in from other events, because there was definitely a laid-back, “hey its nice to meet you, tell me what you do?” vibe with everyone. I liked that all were so natural and easy going. The table was set for 13 of us, all of which were contributors to the liquor world in some way: writers, editors, publishers, spirits representatives, cocktail museum directors and of course the CEO of Martin Miller’s Gin….
And me. The one who one time caught herself just in time before packing a Corona beer into her daughters school lunch instead of reaching for the bottled water next to it.
We ate some of the best food in New Orleans and sipped on amazing cocktails until the restaurant was quite empty. I loved when the conversation turned to teaching our small children to make proper drinks and the level of pride we have when our children say words like “bitters,” “shakers,” and “prohibition.” We picked each other’s brains about different cocktail renditions and compared our most favorite spirits.
I remember enjoying that first night so much, and thinking “does it get any better than this?”
From that point on, it was a back-to-back whirlwind of events. Camper English’s seminar on liqueurs was packed, He is one funny, entertaining speaker! Definitely his lectures will be a priority next time.
TOTC also succeed in making me a believer in Jägermeister, which I’d never tried before for fear of becoming a douche. We enjoyed a 4-course cocktail-paired lunch with them, and the cocktails that they made were amazing, in fact, some of my favorites of the whole show!
To our surprise, those bartenders and drink enthusiasts that Greg had listed off for me were quickly crossed off our list. Every event or seminar allowed us to interview most (if not all) of them.
I learned in many cases that the concept of simple cocktails is a common one, as we discovered many of our favorite spirits are very complex in how they are made. It seems that a complex spirit deserves a simple drink so that you can really enjoy the flavor and the craft that’s gone into your favorite liquor.
Was I your average home-cocktail-party-host learning a few things at Tales of the Cocktail? Was I able to hold my own in conversations with experienced liquor people? I’m not sure yet, but I’m getting closer to that. And I’m definitely able to handle more vermouth and bitters in my drinks now.