Each summer in New Orleans, there’s a cool gathering called Tales of the Cocktail. It is considered the most spirited event of the year, and I have to agree. Many people that live in Louisiana don’t even know about Tales, but mixologists and cocktail writers from all over the world consider this the best event of the year.
My digs this time around was a super-swanky room at the W Hotel New Orleans, conveniently located right next door to Mother’s. For those who don’t know, Mother’s is not my mom’s house, it is a cafeteria style food joint that dishes up the messiest and tasty po-boys (The Debris, The Ferdie Special) and bread pudding.
I really enjoyed The W, not just for the location on Poydras, but for the overall feel of the place. The staff was friendly and helpful, all the way from the valets to my W Insider (like a Guy Friday). The room passed the ShannonLane.com inspection with flying colors. No bugs. No grungy stuff. My only complaint was that the room was just a tad humid, but let’s be real here, it was New Orleans in July, a time where the air in Louisiana is so thick you can lean on it. My air conditioner at home has a hard time keeping up this time of year.
The hotel was fantastic, but what about Tales of the Cocktail, you say? Let’s just say it was everything I could imagine…and more. Here’s a breakdown of just one day:
Register and pick up schwag in the Speakeasy Swag Room – I felt like someone who had shoplifted a liquor store and had to take a cab back to The W to drop off the loot. My desk looked like I hit an airline beverage cart and a chocolate shop with all the bags of The Cholive and the little nip bottles I discovered in my bag.
Check out the tasting rooms – All I did was take a little sip here and there but by lunchtime I already had a buzz. I did meet some bloggers, chefs, tweeters, and new libations. I also discovered that I really like a Gin Gin Mule made by Martin Miller’s Gin.
Sit at The Carousel Bar – This is a must do anytime you visit New Orleans. I sat down for an eye-opener (as if I needed another drink) and made friends with a couple who had just participated in the Running of the Bulls. (follow @CarouselBar on Twitter)
Attend a few sessions – There are so many little sessions going on, including talks on cocktail history, pairings for entertaining, and even social media for bars.
Eat – Yeah. I like to eat. That’s a no-brainer. I even ventured past Harrah’s on my way back to my hotel and stopped in Besh Steak for the Lobster Risotto. No it isn’t on the menu, but if you ask for it, you’ll be served one of the best risotto dishes on the planet. No need to sit at a table if you are solo or just a couple. The bartender will set a place for you at the bar and you’ll be treated in style.
Explore – The French Quarter, Jackson Square, and Bourbon Street have a different atmosphere during the day than at night. I have no qualms about walking around alone during the day. It was actually kind of nice. I did sit down at my favorite place, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which is the oldest bar in the US. I walked in to a group of pantsless participants of the Running of the Bulls that took place earlier in the day. By the time I crossed their path, they were pretty well into their cups. One guy even exclaimed that he had been waiting for me his entire life. The only thing I could reply was “Um. Please put your pants back on.” And then I ventured to the coolest spot in the entire place, the back corner.
Drink some more – My buddy @nolagirl70 and I met up at The W for The Seven Deadly Sins. Seven brands all serving up their concoctions under the guise of a particular sin. I will admit, my favorite sin for the night was Gluttony and Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.
If you’d like a visual experience of the entire event, then watch A Taste of Tales of the Cocktail 2009 and make plans to attend next year. Maybe I’ll run into you and we can enjoy a drink together.