Dizzy Recap: Kahlua Cinnamon Spice Launch

Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford.

When a major spirits company launches a new product, the event is usually a flashy affair featuring an exclusive Manhattan locale and maybe even DJs, models and B-list celebrities. To introduce Kahlua Cinnamon Spice Liqueur, a blend of rum, arabica coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (a traditional Mexican spice), I was invited on a press trip to the Hudson Valley for apple picking and an autumn-inspired dinner at the scenic Bedford Post Inn. Let me tell you, this was a brilliant way to get NYC writers’ attention–pull us out of the cold gray city and bus us an hour north where fresh air, foliage and seasonal scents awaited us. LUPEC NYC president and mixology maven Lynnette Marrero whipped up the cocktails for the evening (recipes below), highlighting the liqueur’s surprising versatility by using aquavit, Cognac and tequila as base ingredients.

Hayride!

Photo of Lynnette Marrero by Kyle Dean Reinford.

Durango Royale
3/4 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice
1 oz. aquavit
1/2 oz. lemon juice

Top with dry french fermented sparkling apple cider (Cidre Doux Eric bordelet). In a shaker, add all ingredients except sparkling cider.  Strain into a flute and top with dry fermented cider.

Zócalo Sidra (cider)
1 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1 1/2 oz. Martell VS Cognac
2 barspoons apple butter
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Place all ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into a couple glass and garnish with cinnamon stick

Montanya Mermalada
1 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice
1 oz. Avión Tequila Blanco
1 oz. lemon juice
6-8 concord grapes

Muddle Grapes. Add rest of the ingredients. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

Dizzy Recap: Tales of the Cocktail 2011 Part 3

From guest blogger Emily Cavalier:

I’m back with my final recap of Tales 2011. Thanks for spending time with me here on The Dizzy Fizz. I hope to spend more time with you, whether it be here, on one of my sites or over cocktails.

Saturday, Saaaaturday Saturday! Saturday! Oh yeah. Let’s just say we didn’t get a ton of sleep on Friday night. We were out all hours and I really would not have gotten out of bed for anyone but Melanie and Lizzie da Trindade Asher of Macchu Pisco and La Diablada Pisco.

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I went to their tasting Tasting Room for a traditional Peruvian breakfast and a pisco blending session, where we received vials of the different grape essences that make up the La Diablada blend. La Diablada is the higher-end sister to Macchu Pisco, and just 1,000 bottles are produced each year. Each vintage is a slightly different blend, and the pisco is one of the smoothest I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tasted many). With a deconstructed La Diablada in front of me, I set out to create my own version of “the spicyness of the devil and the sweetness of the angel.”

Bartenders John Hogan of Level Restaurant (Annapolis), Kevin Martin of Eastern Standard (Boston), Brother Cleve of Think Tank (Cambridge, Mass.), Rachel Sergi of Jack Rose (DC) and Lizzy Asher (representing her favorite cocktail from Eleven Madison Park in NYC) all presented a cocktail made with one specific varietal, with wonderful results.

I had two favorites. La Diablada Pisco Punch Fizz (made by Hogan) was amazing with fresh pineapples, torrontes white wine that had been carbonated, Barkeep Lavender Bitters, lime, simple and egg white. The second was The Panamericano from Eleven Madison Park. It was like a white Negroni with equal parts La Diablada Pisco, Cocchi Americano and Dolin Blanc.

It was a blast playing with proportions of Quebranta, Italia, Torontel and Moscotel grape brandies until I got my perfect mix. This was also the most entertaining of the daytime events I attended at Tales, as the participating bartenders were all dressed to represent the personality (metrosexual, dandy, macho, coquettish or sophisticated) of the grape they were mixing with. Brother Cleve playing the part of Macho Man in an El Luchador mask made my day.

I made a quick stop at the Grey Goose relaxation suite at Le Foret for a quick massage and some fresh fruit. After that, it was off to what was probably my favorite event of this year’s Tales: Pig & Punch.

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The Pig & Punch fundraiser was hosted by San Francisco bartenders The Bon Vivants again at Washington Square Park. I missed out on the awesome Pig & Punch logo t-shirts last year, so I made a beeline over to the table this time around and bought two (since it was a fundraiser and all).

The otherwise free outdoor pig roast boasted the Young Fellaz Brass Band and the same delicious spit-roasted pigs from Cochon as last year, as well as panzanella, cucumber salad and slaw. I was blown away by the quality of this year’s barrels of delicious punch, which included variations made with Don Q Anejo, The King’s Ginger, 42 Below, Combier, and loads of fresh fruit. There were Death’s Door vodka lime slushies and a Don Q watermelon contraption. My favorite taste at the pig roast was a shot of Templeton Rye paired with a Templeton-cured, grilled sausage sandwich. But I can’t forget the delicious Tenneyson Absinthe brownie. YUM!

2011 Spirited Awards: The Dizzy Fizz’s (and my) home city of NYC cleaned up the Spirited Awards once again this year, which was held at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. We took home seven accolades. Here are the highlights:

2011 Cocktail Apprentices on stage.

2011 Cocktail Apprentices on stage.

Employees Only took home two honors for World’s Best Cocktail Bar and World’s Best Drinks Selection. Not bad. Kenta Goto (Pegu Club) and Sam Ross (Milk & Honey), tied for American Bartender of the Year award. Audrey Saunders (who we’ll claim due to Pegu Club, though she’s now bicoastal) won Best Bar Mentor. Dizzy Fizz friend David Wondrich walked away with Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book for Punch. Eleven Madison Park earned Best Restaurant Bar.

Congrats to Rickhouse in San Francisco for winning the category for Best High-Volume Cocktail Bar. I was there in June and can vouch for the fact that they’ve earned it. I think Clyde Common (Portland, OR), should have won for Best Hotel Bar, but what do I know? Maybe in future years, I’ll get to judge!

Scroll to the end to see the full list of 2011 Spirited Awards nominees with winners in bold.

The rest of Tales is a blur. I did head to the Plymouth Gin Bartender’s Breakfast. The downside to the party is that it was a madhouse to get in if you didn’t have a special medallion, to the point where they weren’t even letting in people working the party unless they could find someone to escort them in. The upside is that, once inside, I was treated to some of the best bar bites of the week as well as delectable cocktails like the “Coke Den Punch” created by The Florida Room, with mezcal, cucumber juice, apple cider and Plymouth Gin.

Audrey Saunders and Robert Hess wed at Plymouth Bartender's Breakfast

Audrey Saunders and Robert Hess wed at Plymouth Bartender's Breakfast

Had I paid more attention to the inscription on my commemorative Julep glass, perhaps I would have known what surprise was in store for us. But it was too dark, and I was too hazy to read the writing which says, “Congratulations Audrey & Robert.” Yes, if you haven’t yet heard, Audrey Saunders got married to her sweetheart and fellow cocktail giant Robert Hess (of DrinkBoy.Com). I saw it. It was lovely. And then we all danced.

I continued the tradition Selena, Carmen and I started last year, by ending the night with a dip in the pool at a secret location, as guests of Spirited Award Nominee Colin Asare-Appiah (nominated for Best American Brand Ambassador with U’luvka Vodka). The three of us hosted a little gathering of those still standing. Pizza was hand-delivered to me in the pool. People drank while they floated. I’d show you a picture, but it was a No Picture Party. Make sure you stay in touch with us if you want an invite next year.

With friends at the Milagro Closing Pool Party

With friends at the Milagro Closing Pool Party

Sunday started out with the closing party on the rooftop at Monteleone. I was afraid the rain would keep people from having fun in the pool, but with all the delicious Milagro cocktails flowing, I shouldn’t have fretted. There were all sorts of treats, but the Milagro sno-cones might have been my favorite tipple of the bash. I was on the sidelines staying dry, so I had a low-key come down.

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If you were anywhere on the perimeter of the pool, though, it didn’t matter if you had an iPhone or money or a camera in your pocket. You were getting pulled in. Even Milagro’s own brand ambassador Jamie Salas wasn’t safe.

Carmen Operetta, Arik Torren, Trevor Schneider, John Pomeroy and Enzo Lim in the Rematch madness.

After sobering up with an oyster po’ boy at Acme Oyster Bar and a nap, I headed over to Rematch, Beyatch!!! at Cure as if I needed more booze that night. I’m not sure what one would expect when getting some of the country’s top TOP bartenders together for a speed competition involving craft cocktails, but … it was a ish-show, and I’m tired again just THINKING about it, so read all about it and see some pictures here.

So that about does it for the tales of Tales. Missing from the story are specs for the best drinks of the week, more great photos and all the great southern meals shared with friends. For that and more, check out my photos on Flickr (booze here, food here) and stay tuned next week to Mouth of the Border. Until next Tales, if you can’t be good, be careful!

Emily Cavalier is the founder of Mouth of the Border, an online community for lovers of ethnic food and culture in New York City. She’s also the hostess, founder and resident cocktail geek at Midnight Brunch supper club. In addition to food and beverage writing, Emily consults on event and digital media strategy with food and media brands like Conde Nast, The Vendy Awards and Google.

***

2011 Spirited Award Nominees (Winners in bold)

American Bartender of the Year
Eric Alperin, Los Angeles, California
Kenta Goto, New York City, New York (tie)
Misty Kalkofen, Boston, Massachusetts
Sam Ross, New York City, New York (tie)
Joaquin Simo, New York City, New York

Best American Brand Ambassador
Colin Asare-Appiah, U’luvka Vodka
Jacques Bezuidenhout, Partida Tequila
Jamie Gordon, Absolut Vodka
Jim Ryan, Hendrick’s Gin

Best American Cocktail Bar
Clover Club, New York City, New York
Drink, Boston, Massachusetts
Employees Only, New York City, New York
The Varnish, Los Angeles, California

Best Bar Mentor
Wayne Collins, London, England
Steve Olson, New York City, New York
Audrey Saunders, New York City, New York
Dushan Zaric, New York City, New York

Best High Volume Cocktail Bar
Eastern Standard, Boston, Massachusetts
Flatiron Lounge, New York City, New York
Florida Room, Miami, Florida
Rickhouse, San Francisco, California

Best Cocktail Writing – Non Book
BarLifeUK.com
Imbibe USA
Liquor.com
The Tasting Panel

Best Cocktail Writing – Author

Toby Cecchini, New York City, New York
Camper English, San Francisco, California
Darcy O’Neil, London, Ontario
Naren Young, New York City, New York

Best International Brand Ambassador
Ian Burrell
Claire Smith, Belvedere Vodka
Dan Warner, Beefeater Gin
Angus Winchester, Tanqueray Gin

Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book
Fix the Pumps by Darcy O’Neill
Left Coast Libations by Ted Munat & Michael Lazar
Punch by David Wondrich
Speakeasy by Dushan Zaric and Jay Kosmas

Best New Product
Banks Rum
Cocchi Americano
Smith & Cross Rum
Tequila Calle 23

Best Restaurant Bar
The Drawing Room, Chicago, Illinois
Eleven Madison Park, New York City, New York
Hawksmoor Seven Dials, London, England
Hix, London, England

International Bartender of the Year
Erik Lorincz, London, England
Dre Masso, London, England
Sam Ross, New York City, New York
Dushan Zaric, New York City, New York

World’s Best Cocktail Bar
69 Colebrooke Row, London, England
Dry Martini, Barcelona, Spain
Employees Only, New York City, New York
High Five, Tokyo, Japan

World’s Best Cocktail Menu
Artesian Bar at The Langham, London, England
Eau de Vie, Sydney, Australia
Mayahuel, New York City, New York
Sanctuaria, St. Louis, Missouri

World’s Best Drinks Selection
Artesian Bar at The Langham, London, England
Cure, New Orleans, Louisiana
Eau de Vie, Sydney, Australia
Employees Only, New York City, New York

World’s Best Hotel Bar
Artesian Bar at The Langham, London, England
Clive’s Classic Lounge at Chateau Victoria Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia
Clyde Common at The Ace Hotel, Portland, Oregon
The Savoy, London, England

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar
1534, New York City, New York
Dram, New York City, New York
Eau de Vie, Sydney, Australia
Painkiller, New York City, New York

Dizzy Recap: Tales of the Cocktail 2011, Part 2

Old Campari Ad

Vintage Campari Ad

From guest blogger Emily Cavalier:

Read Part One here. We’ll open up Part Two of “All the Tales Fun That’s Fit To Print” with my profession of undying love for the Negroni (even when frozen). The only seminar I squeezed into my Tales schedule was “The Negroni: an Iconic Cocktail.”

The panel was moderated by cocktail journo Paul Clarke. He was joined by USBG Past President Livio Lauro (currently with Southern Wine & Spirits Nevada), Kimpton Hotel Group’s Master Mixologist and Partida Tequila brand ambassador, Jacques Bezuidenhout, and surprise guest, Luca Picchi, Tuscan bartender and author of Sulle Tracce del Conte: La Vera Storia del Cocktail Negroni (On the Trail of the Count, The True Story of the Negroni Cocktail). Lauro is currently working with Picchi to translate and distribute the 2006 book in English.

We sampled several variations on the Negroni theme, including a classic Florentine Negroni as well as a Negroni Swizzle from PKNY‘s Giuseppe Gonzales. Clarke projected images of iconic Campari advertisements from past decades throughout the panel.

Lauro made 80-100 Negronis while translating the book and said he found London dry gins and Plymouth Gin work best in the Negroni. He loves Carpano Antica for what it is, but, in the context of this cocktail, it has a tendency to take over. He prefers traditional Italian vermouth like Martini & Rossi. Bezuidenhout chimed in about the cocktail’s third component, saying “Campari is not debatable.” (The panel was sponsored by Bombay Gin and Campari).

I kept the Negroni theme going by popping over to the Negroni with a Twist Party at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, where the “-est” theme continued with the making of the alleged “World’s Largest Negroni.” (Great pics on Metromix here.) The 30-gallon cocktail was mixed with equal parts Campari, gin and vermouth in a gargantuan ice block.

Master mixologist Francesco Lafranconi presided over the “swazzy” (swank + snazzy) gathering, where a dozen Italian mixologists conjured up their own magical renditions of the classic cocktail. The men’s giant moustaches made the day more entertaining.

Of the nine Negroni variations served up, my favorite version was the Garibaldino, created by none other than Lauro himself. It featured Campari (of course) along with apricot brandy, blood orange juice and Mionetto Prosecco.

Thursday evening was low-key. I swung by a pop-up cocktail hour hosted by Max Messier, formerly of No. 7 in Brooklyn and proprietor of the soon-to-open Whiskey Tango Foxtrot bar, also in Brooklyn. Messier offered cocktails built with infused booze, house vermouths and homemade syrups, which he carted to NOLA from Brooklyn in a giant cooler. Drinks featured Brooklyn Gin, Brugal Rum and Woodford Reserve Bourbon.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stealth cocktail hour

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stealth cocktail hour

Thursday night, I skipped the awesome Spirited Dinners in favor of catching up with the men of Brooklyn Gin and a few other friends over a late dinner at Cochon. Since my last visit to the restaurant, Cochon’s chef Stephen Stryjewski won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the South and it’s completely deserved.

Out at the Zu Vodka Enchanted Forest with Russell Davis of Rickhouse and Dave Shenaut of Oregon's Bartenders Guild

Out at the Zu Vodka Enchanted Forest with Russell Davis of Rickhouse and Dave Shenaut of Oregon's Bartenders Guild

The night ended with a quick visit to the Bombay Sapphire party at the House of Blues and then an enchanted frolic through a magical forest on Bourbon Street. Yes, you heard me right. ZU Bison Grass Vodka teamed up with Adam Aleksander to turn the historic address into a fairy tale filled with Spanish moss and, of course, lots of cocktails.

Friday was another fun-filled day. I started out in a Tasting Room, sipping the one of finest spirits around, Pierre Ferrand‘s Cognac. They were sharing a preview of their 1840 Original Formula, which was just launched nationwide on Aug. 1. The classic Cognac cocktail, the Chanticleer, made for a delicious breakfast as I caught up with legend David Wondrich, who had a hand in creating the formula for the 1840.

Dave Wondrich and Pierre Ferrand President Alexandre Gabriel at the 1840 Formula Cognac Launch

Dave Wondrich and Pierre Ferrand President Alexandre Gabriel at the 1840 Formula Cognac Launch

With a smirk, Wondrich joked with me, “I just came in and took all the credit.” Wondrich worked with Cognac Ferrand President Alexandre Gabriel and cellarmaster Christian Guerin, tasting several three-star Cognacs including the 1840. He continued, “We wanted to create something that was a mixing Cognac and we tasted so many bottles. The 1840 was the one we all agreed on.”

After a boozy good morning, I headed off to eat a proper breakfast and imbibe a bit more at the Purity Vodka Bloody Mary Brunch at the Bombay Club. There, brand ambassador John Pomeroy showed us how to make our own pressure-infused cocktails from an extensive Bloody Mary bar with everything from shrimp to green beans to fresh peppercorns. The fried chicken and waffles were delicious, the tomato-infused vodka cocktail I made was indeed fresh and “pure” and the live jazz band on hand was a soothing start to the afternoon.

Wemyss Malts at the Domaine Select Classic & Vintage Suite

Wemyss Malts at the Domaine Select Classic & Vintage Suite

I stopped by for a quick visit with Ben Jones of Rhum J.M. over at the Domaine Select‘s Classic & Vintage suite at the Ritz-Carlton. There, I was overwhelmed by the sight of seemingly the entire Classic & Vintage portfolio set out for tastings. I settled on sipping a couple of the Wemyss malts, a sip of Averna and tasting the Excellia tequilas.

Chris Elford of Amor Y Amargo (NYC) and Clyde Davis, Jr. of Chairman's Reserve Rum at the WTF/Midnight Brunch cocktail pop-up hour

Chris Elford of Amor Y Amargo (NYC) and Clyde Davis, Jr. of Chairman's Reserve Rum at the WTF/Midnight Brunch cocktail pop-up hour

Late Friday afternoon, Messier and I got boozy again. My supper club, Midnight Brunch, teamed up with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to host another stealth cocktail popup hour to get people primed and ready for the Bar Room Brawl.

Highlights from the 2011 Brawl: Once again, bars from around the country did battle at the 2011 Bar Room Brawl. This year, it was Boston’s Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, L.A.’s Roger Room, Portland’s Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, Chicago’s Sable Kitchen & Bar and NYC’s Little Branch.

The team from Teardrop Lounge (Portland, OR) accepting People's Choice award at Bar Room Brawl

The team from Teardrop Lounge (Portland, OR) accepting People's Choice award at Bar Room Brawl

My personal favorite was Teardrop’s “Latin Quarter” cocktail with Hennessy and house made Amer Picon. The people’s choice award was a three-way tie between L.A., Portland and Chicago. Teardrop didn’t take the big cheese, but congrats to Eastern Standard for taking the night’s title, and to Boston for bringing home the Brawl bacon for the second year in a row.

As is our way, friends and I ended the night at Old Absinthe House again, blurry but determined to do it all over again on Saturday.

With friends at Old Absinthe House

With friends at Old Absinthe House

Stay tuned for my final Tales recap, with tasting notes from the La Diablada Pisco blending session, tidbits from Pig & Punch, The Spirited Awards and what you missed if you left on Sunday before the fun began …

Emily Cavalier is the founder of Mouth of the Border, an online community for lovers of ethnic food and culture in New York City. She’s also the hostess, founder and resident cocktail geek at Midnight Brunch supper club. In addition to food and beverage writing, Emily consults on event and digital media strategy with food and media brands like Conde Nast, The Vendy Awards and Google.

Dizzy Recap: London Gin Tour!

Our "taxis" for the week.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”–Humphrey Bogart

London — the city where gin was both indulged in to the point of near societal ruin and, later, perfected by distilleries as London Dry Gin, is a capital oozing with cocktail history. Recently, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit both the Beefeater Gin distillery in Central London and the Plymouth Gin distillery in Plymouth, England.

The trip, organized as “A Tale of Two Cities,” provided an in-depth education on the histories and distillation processes of both brands as well as visits to some of London’s best bars and cultural institutions. (Disclosure: Travel and accommodations were provided by Access PR and Pernod-Ricard.)

Beefeater through the years.

We began the week with a tour of the Beefeater distillery in Lambeth led by Master Distiller Desmond Payne, one of the most experienced distillers in the world, who has been charged with upholding the original 1876 recipe created by founder James Burrough. Of course, if you have been following Beefeater news over the past couple of years, you know that Desmond has branched out the brand a bit with the creation of Beefeater 24, Beefeater Summer and Beefeater Winter–all of which maintain the integrity of the original Beefeater. “Tiny changes can affect the balance of the gin,” said Desmond. “This is just a way of keeping interest in the brand.”

Juniper berries that will end up in Beefeater Gin.

Desmond showed us the cold storage room where up to two years’ supply of juniper berries are kept after being selected from growers in Umbria, Italy. Beefeater purchases roughly 40 tons of juniper each year to supply the 2.3 million cases of gin they produce each year. Desmond said that selecting a consistent supply of juniper is the most important part of his job, and if the crop has a bad year, he has the extra in storage for backup.

Beefeater purchases neutral grain alcohol made from UK wheat at 96.5% ABV. In order to be considered London Dry Gin, nothing can be added to the gin after distillation. What makes Beefeater unique is its 24-hour steeping process. Water and botanicals are added to the copper pot stills first, then the alcohol, and then the mixture steeps for 24 hours before distillation begins. This allows the botanicals to release their full character–Seville orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root, juniper, coriander seed, orris root, almond, liquorice and angelica seed.

Beefeater's Master Distiller Desmond Payne.

Once the gin is distilled (minus the heads and the tails, which Desmond determines), a week’s worth of production is then blended and prepared for bottling. Soft purified water is added to reduce the alcohol content to 40% ABV. What is most amazing about Beefeater’s production is that other than the bottling process, only five employees work at the distillery.

Beefeater's Global Ambassador Dan Warner.

Following the tour and a blind tasting, we were led to a cozy cocktail bar within the distillery where Dan Warner, Beefeater’s Global Brand Ambassador, mixed a dizzying array of cocktails employing Beefeater and Beefeater 24 as the main ingredient. From the Pink Lady to the Ramos Gin Fizz, these were tasty and certainly held our attention. One delicious drink that was new to me and seemed easy to make was the Army & Navy (2 parts gin, .5 part lemon juice and .25 part orgeat syrup).

How about a Ramos Gin Fizz - or 12?

Later in the week, we embarked on a train journey through the English countryside to Plymouth on the southern coast of England. Famous for being the port where the historic Mayflower took off for the New World in 1620, the town offers much pre-colonial charm to this day. Equally charming was the Black Friars Distillery, home of Plymouth Gin and more than 600 years old.

Entrance to the Plymouth Gin Distillery.

Established in 1793, Plymouth Gin was imbibed by the British Royal Navy and thanks to the navy’s travels around the world, it was widely popular in the 1880s as the cocktail movement took off.  “Plymouth Gin is the most listed product in the Savoy cocktail book,” said Plymouth’s Master Distiller Sean Harrison.

Plymouth Sound, where the Mayflower set sail in 1620.

However, the brand suffered several ups and downs over the years due to damage from WWII and changes in ownership. But thanks to the return to classic cocktail recipes in recent years, the brand has enjoyed a resurgence, with New York City representing about a quarter of its market.

Plymouth's Master Distiller Sean Harrison.

Sean explained that Plymouth’s neutral grain spirit is chosen for its “buttery” mouthfeel, and distilled in a 155-year-old copper pot still with seven botanicals (juniper, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, angelica root, cardamom pods and coriander seeds). The water that is blended with Plymouth to reduce its alcohol content is sourced from a nearby granite-based reservoir, giving the gin its distinctive smooth finish. Again, I was impressed to learn that the distillery here has a small staff–just three employees including Sean.

Distilling my own special blend of Plymouth.

Following our tour and a blind tasting, we each got to distill our very own blend of Plymouth Gin using micro-distillation equipment. I chose a bit too much lemon peel for my botanical mixture, resulting in what I called “Plymonade.” I think the best part of the experiment was seeing Sean’s reactions as he sampled everyone’s results.

The Refectory Bar at the Plymouth Gin Distillery.

The next morning, we took a ride to the Dartmoor Resevoir where the water for Plymouth Gin is sourced. To prove how drinkably soft the water is here, Sean led us to a quiet oasis and made us Pink Gins (gin, water, Angostura Bitters) using water directly from the source.

Sean scoops water directly from the reservoir.

In Plymouth, we stayed at the elegant St. Elizabeth’s House. In London, we stayed at the posh Duke’s Hotel and, for our last night, the funky Zetter Townhouse. Fun excursions during the week included a trip to Tony Conigliaro’s Drink Factory, a molecular mixology lab where Marcis Dzedelanis showed us high-tech twists on classic cocktails. A rhubarb gimlet was made using gin and a rhubarb cordial made by centrifuging rhubarb puree. We also learned how to carve ice into the shape of a horse’s head at the Below Zero Ice Bar–although some in the group made carvings that looked more alien-like. We were even treated to the Ceremony of Keys at the Tower of London.

Nighttime bar crawls included visits to the newly-opened Worship Street Whistling Shop, which features its own lab for techniques such as sous vide,  rotary evaporation and barrel aging to produce off-the-wall ingredients such as chlorophyll bitters and walnut “ketchup” (port wine, green walnut, chocolate, saffron and spice). With a Victorian decor transplanted into the 21st century, the vibe here was refreshingly unpretentious, despite the meticulously-executed drink program.

Other highlights included The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel, where legendary bartenders Ada “Coley” Coleman and Harry Craddock, author of The Savoy Cocktail Book, once stood behind the stick, and The Connaught Hotel Bar, which won Best Hotel Bar in the World at the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail. I couldn’t get over how fast the bartender at the Connaught made drinks, all while maintaining poise and a sense of class not often seen stateside. Add to that the Connaught’s impeccable interior design and a tableside martini trolley, and drinking here was definitely a highlight of the trip.

If you can’t make the trip to London, do yourself a solid and try some of the cocktail recipes at ginandtales.com. Then you too, can be #ginning at life!

Marcis Dzedelanis shows us rhubarb cordial after it's gone through the centrifuge at the Drink Factory.

A page from the cocktail menu at Worship Street Whistling Shop.

French 75s at the Ice Bar London.

Group photo at the Dartmoor Reservoir.

The Savoy Hotel.

The Bar at the Connaught Hotel.

Duke's Hotel in London.

St. Elizabeth's House in Plymouth.

The Zetter Townhouse in London.

Dizzy Recap: SXSWi and Austin Cocktails

"I will not use sour mix." The bartenders' mantra at Second Bar & Kitchen in Austin.

Hi y’all! Thanks for your patience while I recently jetted south for SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas. This was the second year that I attended the tech/marketing/social media conference, but unlike last year, I did not stay for music. (Which is fine–I’m too busy planning my next amazing event to take that much time off!) This year my trip was on behalf of Mission Data, a Louisville-based web design firm churning out exciting web and mobile solutions such as uncard.me and Tasting Table’s To-Go app.

I was hoping to gain insight into the latest social media/marketing/content strategy trends, and to be sure, there were some nuggets–the introduction of group texting apps such as GroupMe, influencer-based marketing from companies such as Klout, and the evolution of networking apps, such as Hashable. But mostly, from my experience, the thought-leaders at SXSWi had more questions than answers–or if they had the secrets to the future, they weren’t sharing them. Overall, the conference was best for networking and inspiration, just like last year.

At any rate, I made sure to check out Austin’s cocktail scene once again while I was there–and I’m happy to report that it’s in damn fine shape.

Newcomer Haddington’s is a sprawling Freemans-like American tavern with an excellent cocktail menu created by Bill Norris (formerly of Fino). [Side note: Wish I had made it to Fino this year!] Try the Duck Fat Sazerac (duck fat-infused rye, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe rinse), the Devil’s Mustache (mezcal, cynar, lime, orange bitters) or the off-menu Corpse Reviver #69 (Tenneyson Absinthe, St-Germain, lemon juice, orange liqueur).

 

Corpse Reviver #69 at Haddington's in Austin.

Another solid newcomer is Bar Congress, with the adjacent Second Bar & Kitchen whipping up cocktails as well. We only managed to visit Second Bar & Kitchen since Bar Congress was closed during the afternoon, but we were not disappointed. The Oaktown Beat-Down (Appleton Estate Rum, Mount Gay Extra Old Rum, lime, orgeat and Luxardo Triplum) was a dangerously addictive twist on the Mai Tai. Be sure to check out the food menu if you go.

 

Oaktown Beat-Down at Second Bar & Kitchen.

 

Manhattan at Second Bar & Kitchen.

As for dining, Austin of course offers plenty of BBQ options, and this year I went to Stubb’s (tender brisket) and Ironworks (finger-licking good ribs, but the brisket was disappointingly dry). When we weren’t in the mood for BBQ or tacos, Haddington’s offered rustic American cooking such as duck liver mousse, scotch eggs and rabbit fricassee. We were blown away by a dinner at Parkside,  where I was bold enough to try a beautifully presented veal tongue, as well as ceviche, blond pate with strawberry relish and a fall-off-the-bone pork shoulder with pickled pear. Other spots we popped into were Peché (solid cocktails but the staff seemed annoyed by the SXSW crowd), The Ginger Man (great Austin beers from 512 Brewing), Halcyon Coffee Bar & Lounge (a chill setting for spicy bloody marys) and Frank (airy coffee shop/gourmet hot dog restaurant with seasonal cocktails).

I’m glad we brought the warm Austin weather back to NYC with us–and I’m definitely dreaming of the day I’ll return to my favorite southern city that keeps it weird.

Blond pate with strawberry relish at Parkside.

Dizzy Recap: Maker’s Mark Distillery Visit

Sipping Maker's Mark at the source in Loretto, Ky.

Just as Bourbon Heritage Month came to a close last month, I was invited* to embark on a trip to Loretto, Ky, to visit the Maker’s Mark Distillery–my first-ever visit to a commercial distillery. On a 90-degree September day, I arrived at the Maker’s Mark campus — a sprawling collection of quaint black barn-like buildings with bright red trim — to see firsthand how the iconic red wax-capped Kentucky bourbon is made.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived–after an hourlong ride from the Louisville airport, which featured scenery of vast tobacco farms, Jesse James-era taverns, and one property with an endless collection of lawnmowers–was the sweet and sour aroma of fermenting grain. It’s fitting to compare the smell to baking bread, since the recipe for Maker’s Mark was reinvented in 1953 after Bill Samuels Sr. baked several loaves to experiment with various grain formulas. He settled on the use of winter wheat instead of the traditional, harsher rye, giving Maker’s Mark its signature soft finish.

At the boardroom, I was greeted by Victoria MacRae-Samuels, Director of Operations, and Dave Pudlo, Distillery Education Director.  I learned that the distillery has a long history, along with the Samuels family. Established in 1805 as a gristmill distillery, Maker’s Mark is the oldest working distillery on its original site, and a National Historic Landmark. A 10-acre spring-fed limestone lake provides pristine, iron-free water for the bourbon. Victoria told me how Bill Samuels Sr., a sixth-generation distiller, purchased the Loretto distillery the same year that he set fire to his 170-year old family recipe and created Maker’s Mark.

After a hearty lunch that included sliced ham with all the trimmings and Derby Pie (a chocolate and walnut tart doused in bourbon sauce) for dessert, Dave led me on an intensive tour of the distillery. I saw how the corn, malted barley and winter wheat are first inspected and then sent through and old-fashioned rollermill, and then the grain is cooked in a massive open cooker. Dave even let me taste the sweet yeast that goes into Maker’s Mark, which uses cultures left over from one batch to the next, meaning that some cultures can be traced back to Pre-Prohibition.

After fermenting in large wooden vats, the mash is double distilled–once in a 16-plate copper column still that reaches through several floors of the distillery, and again in a copper pot still before reaching 130 proof. The white dog is then placed in charred white oak barrels and stored in warehouses (called rack houses or rickhouses) for six to seven years, and the barrels are rotated from top down to ensure temperature variation. Finally, a panel of tasters (who wouldn’t want that job!) select barrels at different stages and balance them for the final bottling at 90 proof.

For more than 50 years, Maker’s Mark has proudly stuck to their one expression of bourbon, but in June of this year, the brand turned heads by releasing something for the next generation of whiskey drinkers–Maker’s 46. Developed by former Master Distiller Kevin Smith ( recently hired as Beam Global Spirits & Wine’s Director of Bourbon and Distillery Operations), the classic Maker’s Mark is aged an additional two months or so in barrels featuring seared French oak staves–not charred, but seared. This wood “recipe” was the 46th variation created by Brad Boswell of the Independent Stave Company, giving the new bottling its name. The result is a more toasted version of Maker’s Mark, featuring bolder spice yet still lots of vanillans and a soft, long finish. Best of all, the 94-proof Maker’s 46 is only about $10 more than the original Maker’s, retailing for about $35.

Maker’s Mark goes to great lengths to retain the level of craftsmanship that started their brand, and this was apparent throughout every step of my visit. It’s why the labels on the bottles feature Marjorie Samuels’ (wife of Bill Samuels Sr.) original lettering and each bottle is hand-dipped in wax. This year, Dave said Maker’s Mark hopes to produce 1 million cases, a company milestone. About 25,000 cases of Maker’s 46 are expected to be released this year.

I want to thank Victoria, Dave, and new Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Greg Davis for showing me such hospitality, and also to Evins Communications for arranging my visit.

If you have the opportunity to visit Maker’s Mark or any other stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,  do it–you’ll experience an American tradition, and best of all, taste the results.

View of the distillery's main operations building.

Mash ferments in large wooden vats for several days.

An open display of the Maker's 46 barrel featuring staves of seared French oak.

At Maker's Mark warehouses, barrels are rotated down six floors for six to eight years.

Shiny copper stills at the distillery.

My tour guide, Dave Pudlo, Distillery Education Director.

*Maker’s Mark paid for my travel and accommodations. I was not compensated in any other way or expected to write a review.

Breaking: Experimental Cocktail Club Expanding to London in December

 

The Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris

Super! Last night at Dram in Williamsburg, I had the good fortune to bump into Romée De Goriainoff, co-founder of Paris’ Experimental Cocktail Club, who was there to visit Nicolas de Soto, a former ECC bartender, behind the stick. Opened at 37 Rue Saint Sauveur in  2007, the ECC is Paris’ premiere cocktail speakeasy and is one of the few bars in the city open after 2 a.m. on weekends. The clandestine 40-seat lounge oozes with 1920s charm and features tipples such as the Experience #1 (Hendrick’s gin, elderflower liqueur, lemongrass, lemon juice and basil) for 10 to 12 euros.  Following the success of ECC, its owners opened Left Bank outposts Curio Parlor Cocktail Club, at 16 Rue des Bernadins, and Le Prescription Cocktail Club at 23 Rue Mazarine in the sixth.

Romée said the Experimental Cocktail Club London is expected to open in the SoHo district (about a quarter of a mile from Milk & Honey London in Soho) this December, and the bar will be open until 3 a.m.

Two ladies have a smoke outside the Experimental Cocktail Club. Photo by Didier Goupy.

Dizzy Recap: Tales of the Cocktail 2010

The crowd at Domaine Select's Classic & Vintage Pool Parlour, July 22, 2010.

Finally, the Sazerac-tinged haze has cleared and I can somewhat recall what happened between the dates of July 21-25, 2010, for what was the 8th Annual (and my first) Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. And what tales I have returned with! Although, I’m afraid, dear readers, about half of those tales I will either keep to myself or have simply lost to the foggy grip of intoxication. I was warned not to overschedule myself, and now I know why–I didn’t go to anywhere near as many seminars and events as I had planned. I learned a few hard lessons (Drink more water!), and will certainly try to do better next year, but as my friend and hotel roommate Carmen Operetta Carroll said, “You’ll never be able to train for Tales.” All I can say is, expect the unexpected! 

Here are my highlights (and yes, I had to look at my Foursquare history to remember a few things): 

  • The Beefeater Welcome Party: Not long after landing in Nawlins, I got gussied up and headed straight to the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center for a scene outfitted in British flags, citrus chandeliers and whimsical characters straight out of a Lewis Carroll acid trip. Carmen and I had fun posing in a Queen of Hearts garden-themed photoshoot before the cocktails took over. With some of the best bartenders in the biz behind the stick–Audrey Saunders, Kimberly Patton-Bragg, Kenta Goto, and Erick Castro, to name a few–I knew I was in for some decent gin-bibing.
  • The William Grant House Party: Following the Beefeater bash, buses took everyone to the Elms Mansion for this grown-up version of a frat party. The elegant setting maintained a casual feel with a vintage Sailor Jerry Rum photo backdrop, and a sprawling backyard featured a live jazz band and endless cocktails from other spirits within the William Grant portfolio. Thankfully there were buses to take us back to the Monteleone, as I was a little “dizzy” at this point. 
  • After-hours drinks at d.b.a., Old Absinthe House, and Alibi: Just about every night/early morning during Tales, I could be found knocking back pints at one, two, or all three of these cozy enclaves. Lets just say these were special moments…
  • “Summer in Paris” Spirited Lunch: What do Chartreuse, Benedictine, Tennyson Absinthe, Dubbonet, Pierre Ferrand Cognac and Citadelle Gin have in common? Oui, all made in France, and all quite délicieux, I might add. These and other spirits were served in abundance along with a French-Creole meal that ended with flaming Baked Alaska at Antoine’s, built in 1840.
  • Domaine Select’s Classic & Vintage Pool Parlour: Retro pool attire was in order at this sunset bash hosted by Domaine Select’s Classic & Vintage portfolio at the Hotel Monteleone rooftop pool. The Tippling Bros. and their startender team turned out refreshments such as the “Lightning Collins” (Death’s Door White Whiskey, Dimmi liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda) and the “Top Cat” (Averna Amaro, muddled strawberries, lemon juice and Fanta orange soda). I was hoping for a swim-up bar, but I still managed to sip and dip at the same time. 
  • Unofficial Spirited Dinner at Elizabeth’s: While many Tales attendees shelled out $85-$100 a head for the luxury of impeccable dining at some of the most reknowned restaurants in NOLA–with cocktail pairings, natch–I joined a group of about 18 for a layman’s version at Elizabeth’s. I got to know a bunch of fun Bostonians and had some killer fried chicken paired with beers and shots–all for the cool price of about $40 a head.
  • The History, Science and Creativity of Essential Oils and Extracts: Ah yes, the one seminar I managed to attend. Although I had a wretched hangover at this point, I enjoyed learning from Darcy O’Neil and Andrew Nicholls about the chemical breakdown of essential oils and phosphated sodas in cocktails. Be sure to use food-grade essential oils in your cocktails, and use them sparingly, such as a spray of lavender oil, so the aromas don’t overpower the drink. Fun fact–Coca-Cola is made with the following essential oils: orange, lemon, nutmeg, cassia, coriander, neroli, lime and lavender.
  • Dinner at Cochon: Finger-licking-good! From the fried alligator to the rabbit livers to the cochon with pickled turnips to the forking-tender smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad, this place is hog heaven.
  • Don Q and Esquire party at Restaurant August: Don Q Rum’s mixologists James Menite and Esteban Ordonez kicked off another night of cocktailing with Puerto Rican-themed crowd-pleasers such as the “El Viejo San Juan” (Don Q Anejo, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Luxardo Amaro, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and orange peel scent). Being an Esquire bash, everyone was smartly dressed with drink in hand.
  • French 75s at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar: In-between events, I joined a couple of New York imbibers at this classic bar just far enough from the brouhaha of Bourbon Street. We sipped Cognac French 75s, admired the antique decor, and chatted up a local, however, our Ramos Gin Fizz left much to be desired–mainly, citrus.
  • Latenight pool party with Belvedere and U’Luvka vodka: I don’t want to give away the location of this pool party because I want to stay at this hotel next year at Tales. No photos were taken, but imagine a lush garden scene, throw in a full moon, and let your perverted mind wander from there!
  • The Gran Marnier Bar Room Brawl: This massive throwdown at Generations Hall featured teams of bartenders from six of the country’s top cocktail bars: Dutch Kills in NYC, Florida Room in Miami, Rickhouse in San Francisco, Drink in Boston, The Drawing Room in Chicago, and Varnish in L.A. Hosted by aka Wine Geek, this was one of the most well-executed competitions I have ever witnessed–with stellar mixology to match. Congrats to Drink for taking home top honors!
  • Breakfast at Coop’s Place: Nothing like a plate of blackened redfish, a cup of coffee, and a shot of Ardbeg Scotch to get the blood flowing again. It took me about 20 minutes into breakfast to take my sunglasses off–yeah, Tales hangovers are like that.
  • Pig & Punch fundraiser at Washington Square Park: Hosted by San Francisco bartenders The Bon Vivants, this perfectly laid-back, free outdoor gathering featured two whole spit-roasted pigs from Cochon, all sorts of fixings such as Cajun cole slaw, barrels of punch, kegs of cold beer, and live jazz from the Smokin Time Jazz Club. T-shirts were sold at the event to raise money for the arts program at a local NOLA high school where a group of bartenders donated their time before Tales began.
  • Pre-awards drinks at Don Q’s hotel suite: From a balcony at the Royal Sonesta Hotel overlooking Bourbon Street, a handful of friends of Don Q Rum toasted (water and Diet Coke for me) in advance of the glamorous Spirited Awards. I would like to personally thank John Eason for the invite!
  • The Spirited Awards: See the winning results below…
  • The Plymouth Gin Bartender’s Breakfast: Nothing to do with breakfast, everything to do with debauchery. One of the most anticipated–and deservedly so–events at Tales.
  • Beignets at Cafe Du Monde: Believe the hype! Even at 7:30 a.m., we had to wait in line for these hot, pillowy doughnuts doused in powdered sugar, with chicory coffee to boot–post-boozing indulgence at its finest.
  • Brunch at Brennan’s: White tablecloths, Southern hospitality, perfect Bloody Marys, rich eggs Benedict… I’m so glad Emily Cavalier took me here–always trust your food blogger friends.
  • Dinner at Bacchanal Wine Bar: The Sunday night gathering spot for all of the bar industry folk left to finish out the weekend, Bacchanal in the Ninth Ward was a purely magical experience. Everyone took over tables in the backyard where bottles of wine flowed under a picturesque moon, a live band played, and food was eaten faster than it could be prepared. T’was a perfectly chill way to close out a wild week.
  • After-hours drinks at Cure: Not ones to let a party end early, most everyone moved onto Cure, one of NOLA’s premiere cocktail dens. Seasonal- and classic-inspired tipples on par with NYC’s made for a smooth liquid transition back to the Big Apple.

2010 Spirited Awards Winners:

World’s Best Drink Selection: Bar Lebensstern in Café Einstein, Berlin

Best American Cocktail Bar: Death & Co., New York City

World’s Best Cocktail Bar: Death & Co., New York City

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar: Mayahuel, New York City

World’s Best Hotel Bar: The Connaught Bar, The Connaught Hotel, London

American Bartender of the Year: Murray Stenson, Zig Zag, Seattle

International Bartender of the Year: Agostino Perrone, The Connaught Bar, The Connaught Hotel, London

Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

Best Cocktail Writing: CLASS magazine

Best New Product: Celery Bitters, The Bitter Truth

World’s Best Cocktail Menu: Death & Co, New York City

Best Bar Mentor: Dale DeGroff

Best American Brand Ambassador: Charlotte Voisey, William Grant & Sons Portfolio

Best International Brand Ambassador: John Gakuru, Sagatiba

Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award: Brian Rea 

My first drink at Tales--caipirinhas at Casa Sagatiba, before I checked into my hotel!

Trevor Schneider gets his flair on at the Beefeater Welcome Party.

Kenta Goto at the Beefeater Welcome Party.

Nicolas De Soto and Cheryl Charming at the Beefeater Welcome Party.

Carmen Operetta Carroll and Charles Hardwick with a couple of Beefeater beauties.

Claire Bertin-Lang and Candice Coy at the William Grant House Party.

Yours truly and Tad Carducci, triple-fisted at the William Grant House Party.

Meaghan Dorman and Laren Spirer at the William Grant House Party.

Austin's Lara Nixon at the "Summer in Paris" Spirited Lunch.

Gianfranco Verga and Jennifer Contraveos whip up libations at the Classic & Vintage Pool Parlour.

Nicole and Joe Desmond at the Classic & Vintage Pool Parlour.

Local lovelies at the Classic & Vintage Pool Parlour.

Stephen Yorsz, Phil Pepperdine and Jim Ryan at the Classic & Vintage Pool Parlour.

Debbie Rizzo and friends at the Classic & Vintage Pool Party.

Leblon crashed the party "gorilla" style!

Colin Asare-Appiah, Amanda Gager, Emile Ilane Chaillot and Trevor Schneider enjoy downtime in the Hotel Monteleone pool.

Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller sign copies of "Spiritous Journey, Book 2."

Darcy O'Neill and Andrew Nicholls lead a seminar on essential oils.

Dinner for six at Cochon, not to be missed.

Austin's Geoffrey Metheny and Josh Loving.

The lovely bartender at Arnaud's French 75 Bar.

Straining those Cognac French 75s before adding the bubbly.

The ever-dapper Fredo Ceraso at the Gran Marnier Bar Room Brawl.

Emily Cavalier, Meghan Manning, Brett Martino, Melanie Asher and friend at the Bar Room Brawl.

Tonia Guffey and Natalie Jacob at the Bar Room Brawl.

Morgan Young and Mia Consiglio at the Bar Room Brawl.

San Francisco's Russell Davis at the Bar Room Brawl.

Joe Brooke and Gardner Dunn at the Bar Room Brawl.

Thomas Chadwick and Nicolas De Soto at the Bar Room Brawl.

Sam Ross and friends at the Bar Room Brawl.

Carving a cochon from Cochon at the Pig 'n' Punch fundraiser in Washington Park.

Sara Reynolds, Esteban Ordonez, Francine Cohen and Laren Spirer at Don Q's warm-up before the Spirited Awards.

John Eason, Robert A. Burr and Esteban Ordonez at Don Q's warm-up before the Spirited Awards.

Blair Reynolds and Nick Nemeth enjoy the view of Bourbon Street at the Don Q pre-awards party.

Oh you know, just some Seattle bartenders carving ice balls at the Spirited Awards.

Lush Life's Lindsey Johnson and Ryan Patrick Johnson doing up the Mad Men theme at the Spirited Awards.

Yours truly and Emily Cavalier at the Spirited Awards.

For many more photos, be sure to check out The Dizzy Fizz on Facebook. Thanks to Ann Tuennerman and the Tales crew, to my friends old and new, and to the city of New Orleans for being so welcoming–I’ll be back!

File Under: Prepping for Tales

“The heat’s no so bad if you stop on every corner for a Sazerac.”

This time next week, I’ll be packing up and shipping out for my virgin excursion to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the premiere liquor industry gathering for bartenders, brand reps, cocktail historians, writers and enthusiasts from across the country and around the world. Most of the events at Tales take place at the French Quarter’s Hotel Monteleone (which features a Carousel Bar), and from what I’ve heard, everyone ends up congregating by the pool. I’m hoping to avoid paralyzing hangovers so that I can keep up with a slew of seminars, tastings, and parties, and still be coherent enough to report all of the juicy recaps for you here.

Fortunately, veteran bloggers such as Camper English of Alcademics, Tiare Olsen of A Mountain of Crushed Ice, and Kaiser Penguin have posted a number of informative articles on how best to prepare for Tales and what to bring. Read Camper’s tips on what to expect and what to pack, Tiare’s lessons, and Kaiser Penguin’s 10 Rules to Follow at Tales. Is it your first time going to Tales too? In addition to Camper’s advice, here are some pointers from bartenders that I’ve spoken with, as well as my own packing essentials:

  • Bringing bar tools to Tales? You may want to ship your tool kit to your hotel in advance of your arrival so that you won’t have to deal with the TSA confiscating your citrus knives and ice picks.
  • If you are bringing liquor with you to Tales (this really only applies to those with exciting new spirits that others will want to taste), pack large bottles with your checked luggage. You may not carry any bottle or container of liquid on to a commercial flight that holds more than 100 ml, or 3.4 ounces of liquid, except if: the bottle was purchased in the security zone of the airport you are departing from; the liquid is baby formula, milk, or juice for an infant and you are travelling with an infant; or the liquid is a prescription medication and the the name of the patient on the prescription label matches the name of the traveller.
  • Leave extra room in your suitcase or bring an extra bag for all of the awesome swag you’ll be bringing home. Or, if you end up with a number of bottles of booze and heavy items, FedEx them home from the Monteleone’s business center.
  • Going to the seminars? Be sure to give yourself an extra 30 minutes to get to any that are on the upper floors of the Monteleone.
  • Speaking of timing, try not to over-schedule yourself–just like visiting the Louvre, you can’t possibly do it all. Pick what interests you most.
  • Every day of Tales, there are four tasting rooms at the Monteleone, and brands are switched every two hours. According to Cheryl Charming, this is the best place for networking and meeting new people during Tales.
  • Whether or not you have tickets to events, there are plenty of free things to do. Check out this schedule for complimentary events, including happy hours, bicycle tours, and Tales After Dark.
  • Stay hydrated. I plan on carrying a water bottle (I hear they are provided at Tales) and stocking my hotel room with coconut water, Gatorade, and perhaps even Pedialyte.
  • Stay sunscreened–sunburns and intense heat are a recipe for illness, add a hangover and you are destined for misery.
  • Just because you can drink for free doesn’t mean you have to slurp every cocktail. Tasting and spitting might save you from embarrassment, nausea, or worse, a blackout.
  • And for all of those unavoidable hangovers, bring plenty of aspirin, milk thistle supplement, and Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief.
  • Bring business cards, and lots of them. Or if you’re fully ensconced in the digital age, have a business card app on your phone such as Dub or Bump.
  • If you have long hair, bring plenty of hair ties. I’m bringing all forms of frizz-fighting ammo.
  • As crazy as it sounds, I’ve been told not to forget to eat or sleep–although I can’t imagine forgetting either. A big breakfast is important to buffer daytime drinking, and I’ve been told to expect to sleep 5 hours or less each night–which means finding time to sneak a nap.
  • Be careful when traveling outside the French Quarter and always have a taxi buddy.
  • Don’t forget your bathing suit and flip flops for the pool!

Food tips:

Other tips:

The infamous Ramos Gin Fizz at Tujague's in the French Quarter. Photo by David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune.

Looking forward to arriving in New Orleans the night of the 21st! If we haven’t met yet, look me up and let’s toast a Ramos Gin Fizz!

Dizzy Recap: SXSW

Frank, for special Chartreuse-pickled Bloody Marys.

Wondering why I’ve been a little sluggish here lately? I’m still getting caught up from last month’s magical mystery tour that was my nine-day excursion to Austin, TX for SXSW. I think a lot people are probably sick of seeing those four letters by now, so for a mini-recap: picture intelligent conversation with tons of creative thinkers, many with exceptional social skills, while getting handed lots of free things in the sunshine, then getting down with loud, epically melodic music at night–and indulging in decadent (not too expensive) food and drink while meeting  cool new friends. Win!

As far as Austin cocktail culture is concerned, I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome, from my first “Conundrum” (Balcones baby blue corn whiskey, Plymouth sloe gin, Fernet Branca) at Fino to my Chartreuse-pickled Bloody Mary at Frank to my on-point Ramos Gin Fizz at Peche–clearly Austin knows what’s up. Getting to know Mindy Kucan (East Side Showroom), David Alan (Tipsy Texan), Bill Norris (Fino), Beth Bellanti (Tito’s Vodka), Russell Davis (Peche), Lara Nixon (Fino), and Ceci “angel” Norman was an absolute blast (house party especially). And keep an eye out for Graham Wasilition’s absinthe this summer–I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say gin drinkers will be into it.

By some further stroke of luck, I was asked to participate in a Booze Blogging panel led by Lindsey “amazing” Johnson, founder of Lush Life Productions. I was asked to whip up a punch to serve for upwards of 50 people on the fly, so I went with a simple, yet seasonal rum punch. It went over well with the crowd full of bloggers, brand reps, booze nerds and other badge holders who wandered (smart choice) into our session. Inspired by my love for a simple daiquiri (and a chunk-less mojito), I went with “Spring Fever:”

.5 oz lime juice
.75 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz mint-infused agave nectar*
.5 oz Benedictine
1 oz. Don Q Gold Rum

Multiply recipe by number of servings. Squeeze fresh juice into punch bowl. Strain mint-infused agave nectar. Add other ingredients, and add large chunks of ice or ice mold.

*Combine one bottle of agave nectar with equal parts boiling water to sterile, airtight glass container, add crushed mint leaves.  Shake, chill for at least four hours. Strain before serving.

Bill Norris and Mindy Kucan shake up Lush Life Mixo Manor.

My first breakfast in Austin.

Jackalope!

Can’t wait to get back!