I've met new spirits this festival week (hello, flower-distillate June liqueur; good to see you, Bayou Rum) but so far Tales, for me, has been about life's turns (and not just around the Carousel Bar). Here's what I mean:
State of success. MOTAC's fundraising State of the Art (a showcase of local bartending talent) exploded this year--as spirits flowed and guests crowded the Windsor Court party room on July 15,I was most struck by the range of accents and unfamiliar faces among us. For the first time in appreciable numbers, bartenders worldwide had come to watch our locals strut their stuff.
A new princess in the Palace. Amber Peterson was working at a craft cocktail bar in Brooklyn until Sandy swept in. "If I have to mess with hurricanes, I may as well come home," she thought. Now the Palace Café's bar chef, Amber is "juicing up their game" with a fresh cocktail list she wrote just ahead of Tales.
Drinks include a "bracing" variation of a Saratoga made with unaged whiskey and pear brandy; the Picnic Thump, a sweetly herbaceous pairing of honeysuckle vodka, watermelon purée and cilantro-infused simple; and the Hide and Seek, aptly named as its caramel rum, bittered wine and sparkling float unfold while you sip.
Post-Tales, consider Amber's clever list of non-alcoholic sippers, which draw on ingredients like juniper syrup and grape juice. She'll craft bottled cocktails eventually, but for now she's nurturing this list, her very first.
The find of a lifetime. Tales-goers attending "Rise of the Zombie" were lucky to hear Jeff "Beachbum" Berry tell his own tale of tracking down the original recipe for The Zombie, a multi-rummed, tropically juiced tiki drink created by Don the Beachcomber, and which "kickstarted" post-Prohibition drinking, Jeff says.
His odyssey to find the true recipe took more than a decade and many twists (to stop copycats, Don encoded it). Jeff featured the quest in his 2007 book "Sippin' Safari", establishing his industry-wide reputation as a master drinks sleuth. Jeff's next chapter: opening his own tiki bar in New Orleans. Stay tuned!
What's next? Great bartenders eager to move up probably want to own a bar (risky, exhilarating) or become a brand ambassador (sexy, competitive), though at a seminar on Tales Wednesday, Gaz Regan and Darcy O'Neil (joined by marketer Audrey Fort and importer Paolo Domeneghetti) seemed to steer us to other options: for stability, be a wholesaler's rep or an importer's portfolio manager; rogue barkeeps could be an independent broker (liaision between wholesaler and brands), or develop and make your own spirit.
As in the Wizard of Oz, you already have the skills: working knowledge of spirits, the ability to identify current and future cocktail trends, and the ability to sell. Take it to the next level by building your brand, penning a blog and getting on Twitter.
Let's talk on Facebook, or on Twitter @AnneBerryWrites.