Highlights from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans
We all had a pour of the silky 1865. I exhaled and placed my head down on the table after first taste. It was remarkably full, refined with raisin and floral notes initially, a finely balanced burn, evolving into chocolate and nutty notes. I could barely begin to fathom the history wrapped up in each sip. As Calabrese exclaimed, "This was made when Abraham Lincoln was alive!"
Worth far more than the $40 price of admission, the lucky few who happened to be in this seminar got an education beyond what we could have ever expected. We lived a moment that, for drink lovers, will remain a marker of earth-shattering tastes for the rest of our lives.
GREEN GORILLAS DESCENDING on the PELICAN CLUB
7/22 at The Pelican Club Spirited Dinner, French Quarter
Thursday night there were Spirited Dinners across town. I chose the one at Pelican Club mainly because of the all-star line-up of bartenders from across the country pairing cocktails with a six-course dinner: Marcos Tello - The Varnish, LA; Jim Meehan - PDT, NY; Misty Kalkofen - Drink, Boston; Peter Vestinos - Wirtz Beverage Group, Chicago; and our own rockstar, Neyah White, formerly of Nopa.
The food was not as fine as I'd hoped, but the atmosphere was convivial, festive, a warmly welcoming party. The cocktails all featured the night's spirit: Bols Genever. Neyah clearly had fun creating the dessert cocktail, Drum Shag: Bols, sarsaparilla, PX sherry, infused with smoke.
But the highlight of the night? A foursome of green gorillas descended on the bar during aperitif hour before we were seated at our tables. I'd seen them at the pool of the Monteleone before, or roaming the streets, surely hot and sweaty in their cheap, neon green garb. The site of these guys at the elegant Pelican bar while some of our country's best bartenders poured them shots was a memorable image, one that somehow typifies the wacky exuberance that is Tales.
DEL MAGUEY - RON COOPER - MEZCAL
7/25 La Verdad (The Truth) about Mezcal Seminar
Everyone who knows anything about mezcal knows Ron Cooper of Del Maguey is the master, having done more to further the mezcal gospel than anyone, even being called the "mezcal missionary". As my friend whispered to me during the seminar, describing the panel of mezcal distillers: "They've all drunk the kool-aid, haven't they?" Despite the fact that I've already been a mezcal fan for years, so did I... so did we all... by the end of the session.
I'm must be honest and say, much as I appreciated every distiller there (Illegal Mezcal, Los Amantes, and Sombra), as has been my common experience in previously tasting these and other mezcals, none hold a candle to Ron's entire product line. This was sorely highlighted in a side-by-side tasting of all the above next to five Del Maguey mezcals. But all these guys were heartfelt and inspiring, while Ron himself is a small, peace-filled powerhouse of a man... the Yoda of the mezcal world.
Every single Del Maguey mezcal is a revelation, whether the creamy, smoky sweet of Crema de Mezcal, or the chocolate earthiness of other-worldly Chichicapa. More to come soon in my Guardian column and here about his mezcals. Thanks to Neyah White, try Del Maguey by the shot at Nopalito, in cocktails throughout SF, or order some bottles. Once you dig further into mezcal, particularly through the Del Maguey lens, you, too, will "drink the kool-aid".