[Helena Yankovska/Unsplash]

Slush, dreams and superstars: Tales of the Cocktail 2012 so far

00:00 July 27, 2012
By: Kristal Blue
[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

I found a bottle of absinthe in one of my running shoes Friday morning, a sign that the world's premier cocktail festival has fully captivated me. And why not? Here's a glimpse of where we are, a little more than midway through Tales:

NOLA rain. She can be counted on daily to throw down driving rain and the occasional flash flood, but Tales-goers are adapting with waterproof fascinators (and, when the deluge ends, using long umbrellas as walking sticks).

Great promotion. To introduce their Belgian orange-aged Cognac liqueur, Mandarine Napoléon held tastings at the Napoleon House (where it was deliciously mixed with Bittermens Coffee Liqueur and a splash of cream), is sponsoring a digital-image treasure hunt through Saturday, with the chance to win a distillery jaunt through Europe.

Beer-flavored cocktails. For Coquette's Spirited Dinner, Twelve Mile Limit's Cole Newton masterfully crafted a cocktail list that featured Stillwater beers in different ways: grounding a plummy gin, adding earthy sage to tonic and citrus, or as the refreshing, flowery counterpoint to dry gin (taken neat). He also used creamy chocolate stout in a dessert flip, and paired sour lambic with mezcal and sheer tomato juice for a palate-cleansing revelation. Avenue Pub's Polly Watts partnered in the event, which we hope is a sign of more beer-spirit collaborations to come.

Costume or lifestyle? I ran into a modern pirate (from Ireland, living in the French Quarter) wearing a vintage wool coat and carrying a tankard, his daily uniform.

Vodka heaven. Dale DeGroff was the superstar bartender at Wednesday's Absolut party at the Contemporary Art Center, and the molecular shots of minty caraway simple syrup were sexy, but I was most intrigued by the Japanese-themed cocktail that blended vodka with roasted tea and honey--and used fine-shaved ice in the shaker, and one large rock in the glass.

Bar myths. Writer Wayne Curtis, drinks historian David Wondrich, and cocktail technologist Dave Arnold put together a trippy test of common bar myths for a Thursday seminar. Many myths are somewhat based in truth (fresh-squeezed lime juice and just-opened vermouth taste best to most people; dry-shaking adds heft to eggy drinks). Afterwards, I asked Dr. Wondrich how he senses whether a bar myth is a phony. "Question everything", he said.

Stretching out. Bright young bar talents, all local, were behind the stick at Monday night's Museum of the American Cocktail reception, mixing base spirits with clever lengtheners and sweeteners like Mexican limes, beet juice, sparkling coconut water, and housemade pineapple shrub and tonic syrups.

On the tail end: Sunday's street food and go-cup lunch at Lafayette Square, free to anyone with a Tales tasting room bracelet.

If you count these events as the beginning and end to Tales (and I do), then Tales has truly become a week-long festival.

Bedroom brands. We're seeing more bartenders with bigger dreams: a step before opening their own joint is to launch a "bedroom brand"; the Wednesday seminar showed us to how to deal with U.S. regs (daunting but not impossible), choose a name (draw a"word cloud" to find all possible connotations), and, most importantly, create a product that people want. Think of the tool or flavor you'd want your favorite bartender to have on hand, like Smoke and Oakum's powerful, smoky Cherry Gunpowder Rum, which stands in for scotch whisky and cherry liqueur in a Blood and Sand.

What's next. Bartender throwdowns, seminars, late nights and a burial for the truly awful Cement Mixer are on the schedule.

Reach me on Facebook or on Twitter @AnneBerryWrites

Sunday's street food and go-cup lunch at Lafayette Square runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is partially sponsored by Where Y'at.

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