Recently a fine, enterprising group of booze nerds formally known as the Cocktail & Spirits Online Writers Group descended upon New Orleans and held its first official conference. Waving a giant banner bearing Stan Jones' likeness, they invaded a fairly sedate stretch of Rampart street and set up a base of operations from which both cocktails and cocktail knowledge would issue forth.
The 2-day extravaganza dubbed "drink. write" took place in two locations: a stately Victorian dwelling dubbed the "Mixo house" and a cozy gathering spot located literally across the street . Two days worth of intense drink-related knowledge was shared in the conference facility, while the casual swapping of booze-centric info, socializing and imbibing took place largely at the Mixo house.
Camper English, Jay Hepburn, SeanMike Whipkey and Paul Clarke drop some science.
The presentations and panel discussions covered topics such as how to be a better writer, connecting with the cocktail community at large, how to optimize your blog's effectiveness, taking nifty photos of your drinks, and making dazzling garnishes. These events drew upon the collective skill and talent of people like Jay Hepburn, SeanMike Whipkey, Paul Clarke, Tiare Olsen, Rick Stutz, Martin Cate, Jamie Boudreau, Darcy O'Neil, Camper English and Chuck Taggart , who were kind enough to get up in front of a herd of knowledge-hungry cocktail geeks and dispense wisdom.
After the PowerPoint glare had faded and all the citrus carcasses had been swept up, the gathering eventually shifted to the Mixo House, where the surprisingly named "Mixo Bar" formed the centerpiece of the proceedings. Seemingly everyone took a turn behind the stick, and if you couldn't get a good drink, it was probably your own fault- the generosity of the sponsors ensured that product was in good supply, and there was always someone on hand who knew what to do with it.
Chris Stanley personifies bartender bushido at the Mixo bar.
I could attempt to do a blow-by-blow chronological narrative of the whole conference, but as I mentioned in my Tales of the Cocktail wrap-up, I'm better at disjointed commentary. Bearing that in mind, here's a handful of thoughts filtered through the hazy lens of my memory (and barely legible notes)...
~ After a few nights of wondering why my bed felt so cold, I realized an AC vent in the floor was positioned dead-center below my bed (or more accurately, my bed was positioned dead-center above an AC vent). Thereafter, I began keeping bottles of vermouth under my mattress.
~ The "Foxy Cocktail Garnish" session resulted in more slaughtered produce than I've ever seen in my life. It was like those old civil war battlefield aftermath photos. Except the North was limes, the South was lemons, and the horses were oranges.
~ You can really test the performance envelope of an ice machine by placing it in a poorly-ventilated utility shed. In New Orleans. In July.
Our ice machine makes its feelings perfectly clear on where we chose to put it.
~ Every night ends with scotch (regardless of how large a variety of drinks you may have consumed up to that point).
~ Banging a muddler up and down a flight of wooden stairs is a traditional old New Orleans method used to rouse revelers who may be flagging late in the evening. Or maybe someone just made that up to justify their doing it at 1:30 am.
~ You can never have too many bitters.
~ When a third of the house's liquor supply is stored in your bedroom, you wield unimaginable power.
Me realizing my bed is probably underneath all that liquor.
~ Next year I will be organizing a scavenger hunt. The first person to find a restaurant offering an item that contains neither pork nor shellfish wins.
~ Pouring Branca Menta directly into an open wound will not only disinfect it, but will give you +2 on your saving throw vs. breath weapon.
~ If you enjoy cigars, I can think of nowhere better to have one than a secluded, quiet, brick-paved courtyard surrounded by lush greenery. Having a fully stocked bar mere feet away in the air-conditioning is also a bonus.
~ Despite claims to the contrary, you CAN make a meal out of nothing but cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese.
Joana Marquette making sure we ingest something other than hooch.
~ A broken toilet does not seem that urgent or troubling when you are holding a glass of 23 year-old-rye.
~ With great karaoke comes great responsibility.
~ A 6-month old child was able to weather several days in New Orleans with more resilience and fortitude than I could. He can probably out-drink me too.
~ I consider the large patch of mint growing next to the Mixo house a gift from the Garnish Gods.
~ When Tiare moves to New Orleans, she's hosting all the afterparties.
Also, a few quick words of thanks & recognition need to go out to the following:
~ Matthew Rowley for his fine work moderating the discussions.
~ Joana Marquette for her seemingly endless stream of top-notch munchies.
~ Nathan Lutchansky for barbacking above and beyond the call of duty.
~ Sponsors and representatives for supplying us with product and stopping by to help sling it.
~ Fellow members of the CSOWG who all contributed to making the event a success!