It begins even more. Tales of the Cocktail Day One, the mayhem officially starts. Shenanigans have been going on now for at least 24 hours, but according to the calendar, this is the first real day of the conference. Classes begin this day and the kick off parties are scheduled for the afternoon and evening. Now begins the real agony of deciding where to go. Time conflicts abound and more booze than a Drunken Army can imbibe begins to flow.
How many ways can you split yourself and where’s the good swag? Can you squeeze multiple tasting rooms, seminars, meals, and events into the same time slot? How far away is that next thing you want to do? Actually, where in seven hells is it? Am I properly libated to make it there? Oh man, I want to make sure we get a drink together! What? You’re going where for lunch? I wonder if I blow this off, can I make it back in time for my next seminar? That’s the general thought process that runs through your head in between every single block of seminars and tasting rooms. Plans change, spontaneous things happen, and yet, sometimes you need to be disciplined and head to your damn class.
This was one of the best lineups of classes I’ve seen at Tales. There were actually more classes I wanted to go to than I had slots in my days. This is a great thing, while you may be disappointed or annoyed that you can’t attend everything you would want to, it just means that there are a lot of things worth going to. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to go to them next year, so deal with it. Here, have another pull off my flask.
This day began in the best way possible as far as I was concerned, and the worst way possible for my roommate. Jim Romdall was struck down by the hand of god and laid out in a feverish state. The previous night, there was a strange overlap of groups. A church group was on its last night in New Orleans , being wholesome, fighting malaria, and who knows what else. Probably, a hymn was sung or something. Jim took it upon himself to heckle the churchy types and for his blasphemy was stricken with a nasty cold. Myself, I went off to the Dos Maderas Rum Tasting Room. Tried some delicious rum, snagged a few minis, a cigar, drank some more rum, and then went off to breakfast.
Many brands generously sponsored breakfast and lunch for media and presenters this year. It was kind of an anchor of stability over the next few days to have this routine to of stumbling up and grabbing coffee and something to eat along with my first two or three bottles of water of the day. I have said this before, and I’ll say it again, the copious amounts of Fiji provided over the course of Tales is the singularly best sponsorship and is an absolute brain, liver, kidney, and lifesaver.
My first seminar that day was the Creativity in Cocktails with Kathy Casey and Cameo McRoberts leading it and Andrew Friedman, Thomas Bondesson, Alex Velez, and yours truly leading tables of attendees astray. We were to encourage them to think outside the box when it comes to cocktails and to use the power of teamwork and brainstorming to come up with something new. Working from a broad range of spirits on each table and a wildly random assortment of other ingredients that they could grab, I challenged my tables to work with Twinkies and see what they could come up with.
One group took me up on it and produced what I thought was wonderfully wacky and tasty Twinkie Flip that they dubbed the Lunchbox Treat after the fact that when you were a kid and you got a Twinkie, it was often in your lunchbox and was what you looked forward to the most.
From there it was on to the Yamazaki blending session where I was one of the lucky ones to make up my own blend from the nine individual whiskies that make up Hibiki Whisky. As the session started and those of us who were going to be able to blend our own sat down, we found lab coats to get us into the spirit of things. Master Blender Seiichi Koshimizu went over his methods for tasting and balancing his blends, as well as leading us through a tasting of the nine whiskies that make up Hibiki and what they each lend to the final product. After that it was mad scientist time and it was hard to actually try to make a blend instead of grabbing as much of the one component that I liked the most. In the end I resisted and made something that appealed to me but I doubt very much the smooth integrated preferences of the Japanese palate.
Moving on from there it was time to get ready for the Cocktail Fresh Market event where I had volunteered myself to shaky up drinks and flog one of my favourite rums, Rhum Clement. (Full disclosure, I rep this rum in the Pacific Northwest, but my love for it came first.) It was a nice smooth event and lots of Rhuberry Rhum Rhequisites were doled out, rhum was poured, and I thanked Toby Maloney silently in my head for the popularization of the metal on metal shaking tin.
This day also kicked off some of the really big parties of Tales. The perennial Beefeater Welcome Reception featured a great lineup of bartender from all over mixing up original drinks. Given the heat and humidity of New Orleans though, nothing could really beat a nice simple refreshing gin and tonic. I ran into more people for the first time this time around at Tales, and as usual, the event proved to be a great way to really get the festivities going.
One party down, time for the next, after the Beefeater event it was then time to move on to the William Grant and Sons Mansion Party. Yes, mansion party. Some people have house parties, these guys have mansion parties. It was huge, it was epic, we huddled around fans and air conditioning vents, it was a great way to kick off Tales.
Piling back on the busses afterwards, we headed back to the French Quarter and the nightly ritual of congregating at the Old Absinthe House. After a while we noticed people we knew looking down from a balcony above us, time to find our way up there. William Grant and Sons, not being finished for the night had grabbed a suite and we gladly gave in to Jon Santer’s call to join him upstairs. Much whisky later, and the morning looming ahead, I made my way back to my room to dream of ice balls and rum.