New cocktail program at the Theatres at Canal Place. In April, Brian Adee revamped the Theatres' cocktail program, crafting a focused list that's easy to skim, will appeal to most moviegoers, and that other bartenders can make quickly (the cocktails are largely pre-batched, and none uses more than fi ve ingredients). "I'm looking to blur the line between a speed bar and a craft cocktail bar," Brian says, relying on quality spirits, just-juiced fruit, and his own infusions and bitters. The list (all with movie references) includes Clockwork (a milder take on the Aperol Spritz, with grapefruity white wine and salt); #42 (a beautiful, buttered popcorn-infused bourbon gets caramel smoke and complexity from Brian's own ale bitters); Oh Brother (a margarita variation of tequila, grapefruit juice, and yellow Chartreuse); Manhattan Project (a silky, bracing and cold-brewed coffee cocktail, spiked with brandy, rum, Licor 43 and amaretto); and Mr. Lebowski (a creamy, smoky Scotch-splashed root beer float).
A bartender lands his first recipe on Bellocq's list. After nine months behind the stick at Bellocq, Winston Willingham saw his own recipe land on the drinks list in April. His King's Evil, based on a dry Madeira, echoes Bellocq's focus on fortifi ed wines. He pairs the lower-proof wine with an almost equal pour of bourbon, matching the Madeira's caramel and candied orange notes while ramping up the alcohol content. "It comes to a point where there are hundreds of recipes in your brain, and that's when you really get a grasp for what makes a well-balanced cocktail," says Winston. "I approached it from a culinary aspect, and that takes a lot of trial and error."
"A Sighting" at Sainte Marie. Just before Jazz Fest, Sainte Marie managing partner Murf Reeves gave me a fi rst look at their spring sippers—his Sighting in the Old Iron Yard pairs Donner-Peltier's smooth Rougaroux rum with sweetly spiced falernum, Licor 43's candied citrus, and Cathead's earthy chicory liqueur, which adds a trace of bitterness. There's heat in the fi nish, a warm citrus spice, and the Sighting is nicely rounded with traces of smoke, then sweetness.
Pop Shop 2.0. The Pop Shop guys returned in April, pumping up bottled cocktails for one night at Faubourg Wines. The crew—Steve Yamada (Tivoli & Lee), Sam Kane (Serendipity), Chris Hannah (French 75 Bar) and Brian Adee (the Theatres at Canal Place)—brought back the carbonated, bottled format that helped sell out last year's smash event. This time, they turned their talents to drier, more spirit-forward drinks, crafting playful variations on the Ramos Gin Fizz, Pimm's Cup, New Orleans Mead (a 19 th -century name for what tasted like root beer; this one is blended with rum), the Sazerac, and the MarSaw, inspired by legendary bartender Martin Sawyer's signature berried bourbon and lime drink.
Caterer Open Sesame provided light bites, and—as last year—Pop Shop 2.0 sold out of their cocktails by 8:30 p.m.
Unicum and Unicum Plum launch in New Orleans…If you've had Unicum stateside in the last 25 years, you've probably been drinking a variation on the classic bittersweet liquor, originally crafted by the Zwack family in 1790. The formula changed when Communists occupied the family's native Hungary in 1948 and took over their distillery, relying on this altered, more citrus recipe. You can still get it as Zwack, though the original Unicum formula is now also being distributed in the U.S.
Industry folks eager to try it—and a plum-infused Unicum Szilva— gathered at soon-to-open Ohm Lounge in April. I detected wormwood in the Unicum, and found the plum version rounder, if more bitter. They're each fairly approachable, so try them unmixed on the rocks.
…and so does a Spanish wine. As of press time, Purple Wine Company was set to debut its Alto Cinco Garnacha at NOWFE. "New Orleans is one of the best cities in the country for a wine brand launch," says Peter Baedeker, a Tulane grad and the wine company's managing director of international business. "It's a city with an incredibly sophisticated wine culture; a culinary city with deep roots…and a wine retail market that is less chain-driven." Purple Wine's Alto Cinco, which translates to "High Five" (a reference to Paniza Vineyard's high elevation and Garnacha's "deserved appellation", what would be the fi fth of Aragon) is a "fl avorful" red wine that Peter says "bursts with ripe raspberry, dark cherry and blackberry fl avors, framed by oak notes of mocha and vanilla" and a "crisp acidity" that makes it a versatile companion to most foods.
American Harvest vodka, too. The Idahobased distiller stopped in New Orleans at the Chicory as part of their spring tour. Their vodka is made from organic wheat on a wind-powered farm, and opens with honeyed toasty notes. Try it with equal parts tonic, or with honey and ginger liqueurs, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a spray of Angostura bitters.
New Orleans Original Daiquiris has a birthday. The frozen drinks maker turned 30 this year, marking the 1983 opening of their fi rst location in Hammond. Today the company spins White Russians, Cajun Eggnog, and fruity, rum-based daiquiris in dozens of locations as far away as Las Vegas and Cozumel.
A cooler coffee—on draft. Twelve Mile Limit has begun kegging coffee, lending itself to Anderson Stockdale's Almond Café Cooler, a cocktail drawing on the deep knowledge of coffee Anderson gained during several years lived in Seattle. Her secret is to brew it with a 60-second "hot bloom" (1/5 scalding water), followed by icy water. The method, Anderson says, "adds to the coffee's aromatic quality." She then lets it rest for 12 hours.
As with any good drink, it starts with quality beans—here, a Brazilian light roast that has a tobacco earthiness tarted with dried cherries. "All coffee is acidic, bitter and versatile," says Anderson. "You can use it in a cocktail the same way you would lemon juice or citrus." In the Almond Café Cooler, coffee adds complexity to a frothed, creamy fi zz, and hints of chocolate that, when paired with citrus, give the drink a chocolate-orange-ball tang. Anderson adds a shot of brandy-based almond liqueur that folds in notes of burnt sugar and toasted egg white. (Ali Mills and Jeff Schwartz, formerly of Patois and Coquette, respectively, are now also pulling shifts at Twelve Mile.)
Read Anne Berry's weekly cocktail blog, In The Drink, at WhereYat.com.
Bellocq at The Hotel Modern: 936 St. Charles Ave., 962-0900
Faubourg Wines: 2805 St. Claude Ave., 342-2217
French 75 Bar: 813 Bienville, 523-5433
New Orleans Original Daiquiris: multiple locations
Ohm Lounge: 601 Tchoupitoulas Sainte Marie: 930
Poydras, 304-6988 Serendipity: 3700 Orleans Ave., 407-0818
The Chicory: 610 S. Peters, 521-8055
The Theatres at Canal Place: 333 Canal Street, 581-2540
Tivoli & Lee at The Hotel Modern: 2 Lee Circle, 962-0909
Twelve Mile Limit: 500 S. Telemachus, 488-8114