Every year in July a growing number of industry folk from across the globe descend on Crescent City for the Tales of the cocktail extravaganza (www.talesofthecocktail.com), a weeklong drinking fest – described by one veteran to me as “Spring break for bartenders” – which also incorporates spirited dinners, walking tours, the cocktail museum, live music, seminars and of course plenty of bar hopping and salacious hearty food for which the city is renowned. The week culminates in a gala awards night where a throng of gongs are given out to the world’s very best. For the second year running I was nominated as the World’s Best Drinks Writer, which was very cool indeed, although I lost out again this year. People are often confused as to whether I’m more a writer or a bartender and where do I see my future. Truth to be told, I love doing both and can see myself doing both forever. Or at least until I grow old, cynical and senile, which may end up making for some good copy anyway.
Perhaps the highlight for me though was presenting a seminar alongside my dear friend Jeff Morgenthaler on the new trend of barrel aging cocktails, which he has pioneered in America after learning about this from another of our friends Tony Conigliaro, who began doing this in London almost a decade ago. You can read some of Jeff’s musings on this very topic on his wonderful blog right here. I began doing this myself about a year ago and so he was kind enough to ask me onto the panel, along with our sponsor Gable Erenzo who makes the wonderful range of Hudson whiskies in upstate New York. He is also largely responsible for spreading this movement because all of his whiskies are aged in small barrels (at least for now) and so are much more accessible for the modern mixologist to buy and transport and they also age their contents at a faster rate. It was an awesome seminar if I do say so (of which Jeff did all the research and most of the talking of course), as I’ll be the first to admit I was the new kid on the block from this group, especially when, as a great surprise, Tony C sat in for some of the seminar on the panel, offering his vast insight on the topic. There were almost 200 people in the room and some really interesting questions were asked. We also tried some amazing aged cocktails such as a Hendrick’s Negroni and an Improved Tequila Cocktail, each presented against its original, unaged incarnation.