Friday, August 12, 2011

Tales of the Cocktail: Random Observations


So here it is a few weeks after Tales of the Cocktail. Much as I did two years ago, I find myself sifting through notes and compiling a loose collection of info from the event. It's difficult to do justice to a five-day booze extravaganza with just a few words, but hopefully what I've listed below can help illustrate a small fraction of what takes place. Just like last time, I call this handful of disjointed thoughts...

Random Observations

- If seeing a bunch of people wearing seersucker suits, vividly-colored bowties and brimmed hats with deadly seriousness unnerves you, then Tales of the Cocktail may not be the event for you.

- My advice to anyone attempting to schedule a meeting with anyone for a specific place and time during Tales is to scrap that idea immediately. Just sit in the lobby of the Monteleone for a bit, and whoever you want to see will eventually walk by (Okay, they might be staggering or crawling, but you'll see them nonetheless).

- While we're talking about the Monteleone lobby, do not be surprised if while you're there someone produces a full, sealed bottle of booze from a backpack or purse and gives it to someone else. In most cases, the person offering up the bottle is a brand rep, and the other person is someone who happened to mention they liked the particular brand the rep works for. I tell everyone I like everything, just to be on the safe side.

- However, if you see someone produce a half-full bottle from their backpack or purse, it's harder to determine where it originally came from. But they'll likely share it with you, so go strike up a conversation.

- It's been said before, but it bears repeating: The people in the Cocktail Apprentice Program are a truly vital component of Tales and need to be recognized for their efforts. They work like crazy, get little rest, and generally grind themselves to a nub so we all can enjoy nifty drinks throughout the event. Big thanks go out to all of them.

- Speaking of the CAP folks, I was lucky enough to get a brief guided tour of one of the "backstage" areas where they prepare the drinks. I don't think you can grasp the scope of what they're doing until you see a floor-to-ceiling wall of lemon crates. I wish I could have hung around, because I'm pretty sure later on Jackie Chan crashed through it.

- Telling someone in New Orleans you're a vegetarian will get you the same reaction as telling someone in Pittsburgh you don't care about football.

- Whoever put a Walgreen's a half-block away from the Monteleone has my deepest gratitude. I know New Orleans is famous for its world-class restaurants, but Clif bars and Gatorade from the big W are what kept my engine running most days. Plus, the people-watching there is sublime.

- Thanks to branded keycards, every time I unlocked my hotel room I thought about gin. Actually, it had nothing to do with keycards...I just think about gin a lot.

- You know some serious cocktailing is taking place when a local remarks he can't understand how so many people can be drinking hard liquor at ten in the morning,

- Someone described all those unorthodox drink-making techniques involving iSi whippers, sous vide, liquid nitrogen, lasers, etc., as the "'Gee whiz!' school of bartending." That is now my favorite bit of cocktail terminology.

- Seeing the look on people's faces who are trying to board the Monteleone elevators on any floor other than the lobby or the roof is priceless.

- I ate a crappy meal at a crappy sports bar purely because I was in a hurry and it was convenient. But they had beer, so it was still kinda worth it.

- If you enjoy hearing two different bar bands playing two different classic rock covers at arena-level volume 20 feet away from each other, then the French Quarter is your kind of place.

- I don't know what the current homicide rate in New Orleans is, but I'm fairly certain a few of the murders last month were committed by Monteleone staff trying to get from point A to point B around tipsy, oblivious Tales attendees clogging the high-traffic areas.

- Whoever says that Bourbon Street has the highest concentration of boisterous drunks in town has never been to the Spirited Awards ceremony.

- Security measures at the swag room continue to be top-notch. I thought the retinal scanner was a nice touch.

-Craft distillers like to talk about their products and how they make them. A lot. On the off chance you're feeling lonely at Tales, find someone who works at a small distillery and ask them how their product differs from other similar products.

- Apparently, attending Tales of the Cocktail without a smartphone is equivalent to attending a Phish concert without can still enjoy the show, but everyone will look at you with a mixture of pity and suspicion.

- Liquor companies continue to shell out absurd amounts of money to promote themselves at Tales of the Cocktail. I know there are no easy solutions to the US debt crisis, but I think one approach could involve telling multinational spirit brands that they can use Montana as "The World's Biggest Tasting Room" and watch the cash roll in.

- If you blew up the Monteleone during Tales of the Cocktail, 97% of the world's moustache wax supply would instantly disappear.

- I saw two guys almost come to blows debating the merits of the seamed vs. seamless Yarai mixing glass.

- Watching someone start their morning with a brisk treadmill session in the hotel gym is inspiring. It inspired me to hit the pool and grab a drink.

- Holding a tasting session for a very popular liquor brand in the smallest room in the hotel goes from "intimate and convivial" to "potentially fatal mosh pit" rather quickly.

- Media access was severely restricted this year, which resulted in many fine cocktail writers being noticeably absent. I don't know if this was intentional or simply an oversight, but let's hope the situation improves next year and we can look forward to a greater volume and variety of coverage.

- Judging from the faces and sounds they were making, I can only assume that for many people, consuming oysters is analogous to a sex act. (Note: this also applies to oyster po' boys.)

- Speaking of sex acts, adult film icon Ron Jeremy was in town promoting his namesake rum. I actually got to see him late one night in my hotel on the TV in my room.

- People are still obsessed with ice. Round ice, clear ice, Martian volcano ice, you name it.

- Someone created vodka that tastes like cupcakes. Which reminds of the saying, "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."

- There's always room for one more gin & tonic.


Tony Harion said...

Great thoughts!

Speaking of cocktail apprentices, I wonder what the Monteleone people are feeding them. As far as I could tell they were always the last ones to leave the night events, but were always up way ahead of anyone else. I gotta get me some of that stuff!!

I just now realize why I saw you so much at e Moteleone lobby. There was more booze giveaway there than the swag room!

It’s funny to me that the cup cake vodka people chose the entrance for the bitters session to do the heavy promoting of their stuff.

It was great to catch a few drink with you again this yeah.

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