Tales of the Cocktail 2010 Day Four. Dear, sweet, baton twirling, Lucifer, we’re still here. This morning began much more smoothly than the last one. Back on the routine of hitting the media lounge for coffee and breakfast and the first hit of booze before hitting the first class of the day for me. Rolling out the Red Carpet for Rookies led by Michael Dietsch, Robert Hess, and Adam Lantheaume was a really well put together discussion on how to engage and draw in new customers and fellow bartenders into this thing that we do without seeming like a bunch of jerkholes. After all, it’s all too easy to start expounding, and saying I don’t want to make that, and going ewww, that stuff is gross. Not everyone is looking for a didactic experience when they come into a bar.
I love sharing with a guest anything they might want to know that I can provide, but that’s not the end all and be all of why you came into a bar. You came for a drink, a bit of escape maybe, a pause from the day, who knows, but you probably didn’t come to hear me wax poetic about the virtues of rhum agricole, but if you did I’m happy to oblige.
Then, to more tasting rooms, Mt Gay Rum, Laird’s, Brandies of Jerez, and Sazerac, a serious gauntlet to run through in the short time available before the next class. In a completely predictable move, the next class for me is Tiki Now!. Much tiki was talked and consumed, chatter on Twitter by attendees, bets placed on how many time Bair Reynolds would plug his own Trader Tiki products, and at one point a shoutout to yours truly for my night of completing Rumbustion Level One in a single sitting.
After class, I contemplate the Pig and Punch fundraiser but I have another class soon so instead it’s a quick run to Parkway Tavern and Bakery for po’ boys and fries covered in debris. Fries covered in debris is one of the most glorious things ever, consider this, a big heap of well executed fries, crisp and hot, then smothered in the gravy that roast beef was braised in, within that gravy is a ton of bits of that self same roast beef. The juices permeate the fries, making a big soggy, delicious mess, with cheese curds on top melting in and binding it together, poutine should die of envy. All of this attention to the fries does a disservice to the po’ boys – quite probably the best ones in New Orleans in my limited experience. After lunch it’s back to the Monteleone for more classes.
Next up today, Rum Running, the history of smuggling alcohol. There is of course an especial emphasis on rum in this class. I’m really trying not to be too predictable. With some excellent stories from Ed Hamilton and Wayne Curtis about how booze moved around in untaxed and extra legal ways. Rum running did not end with the repeal of Prohibition. From the rare to the money saving motivations, smuggling is well and alive still in the Carribean and still producing colourful characters.
After this class it’s time for another whirlwind of tasting rooms and the need to get over my jealousy at missing the great sounding time that everyone had at the Pig and Punch fundraiser for the local schools. I felt so wrong that there were whole roasted pigs and big vats of punch and I wasn’t there. It just seemed so wrong to me, but it just goes back to the one of the most important things about Tales, you can’t do everything and trying just makes you collapse.
Later on that night was the Spirited Awards, a grand gala in a Mad Men themed year where we all showed up looking as sharp as possible. I have to say, we were a well dressed bunch. There was no dearth of vests and fancy gear, ladies in fantabulous outfits, and oh those damn ice balls. It was a great party and the most important for us in Seattle was Murray Stenson winning the Best American Bartender Award.
Then we proceeded to the Bartenders’ Breakfast, with Simon Ford in the van leading the parade to the capper to the week’s festivities. The band played, the revellers marched, and more friends were made, a swan song of partying for most of us for the year, and as always it went in style.
I had opportunity to talk with new friends and old once more until we met again, and while there were still more classes tomorrow, most of us would be departing the next day, off to our homes, our jobs, and in a few cases, like yours truly, off to one more besotted gathering, because we just can’t learn. In all of this, there was a wonderful surprise, the Treme Brass Band was playing in the bar next door, in the midst of it all, I ducked into 12 Bar Local, and caught a few songs before going back to the party. As the party wound down and we went our respective ways, one last bit of memory was made for me. Jim Romdall and I went up the street to get a cab, which was a minivan, so hanging out the door like some yellow suburban version of a cable car, we cruised by those waiting for cabs, yelled out for people to jump in, and Francesco LaFranconi came diving in still full of gusto in one last burst to cap the evening.