The same night Jim Cantore landed in New Orleans, cocktail judges were deciding between Most Imaginative drinks at Bourbon Heat.
I was home, hustling to meet deadlines before Isaac knocked out the power, so I wasn't there to see Ian Julian take the top prize, and I wasn't there to try his cocktail, Sippin' on Gin and Juice with a Spicy Breeze.
But I was intrigued by the recipe - it includes almost equal parts Bombay and pineapple juice, lengthened with Bissap Breeze, a locally-made hibiscus tea that's sweetened with agave nectar. Nearly an ounce of cayenne spiced pineapple syrup rounds out the drink.
A few weeks later, Ian and his drink would rep Louisiana at the national finals, hosted by Bombay Sapphire and GQ in Las Vegas. The competition itself would cap the end of a long day, which began with a 6:30 a.m. flight from MSY and continued with a GQ photo shoot in the desert, with 50 other semi-finalists (look for Ian in the December issue).
The contest itself took place on the rooftop of Caesar's Palace, cameras rolling. "You have to be clean and precise," says Ian, "and don't spill anything."
To stay cool, Ian pretended that the judges were customers, and that he was behind his own bar at Vitascope Hall, "where I'm most comfortable".
That's where you can try his winning cocktail, the one that took him to Vegas and landed him in a magazine - it's frothy, with an herbaceous, rhubarb aroma, and a tart, juicy palate shot through with heat.
You'll have to ask for it, because this sipper's not on the menu, though you might see traces of it for dinner - the kitchen's been known to borrow Ian's housemade spiced pineapple syrup to glaze pork.
Vitascope Hall at the Hyatt Regency, 601 Loyola Ave., 561.1234
Learn how to make handcrafted drinks at Vitascope's first "Cocktail How-To" event on Oct. 4 from 5-6 p.m. The first 8 Facebook fans to respond get hands-on lessons, or come as a spectator.
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