For all non-service industry folks – Tales of the Cocktail is a mysterious affair. I tell people outside of the usual circles of bartender and brand ambassador folk that I’m headed to New Orleans in late July. The usual responses I receive fall into two camps – “So…you are going to New Orleans at the worst possible time during the year weather-wise” or “You are going to a cocktail conference…umm…am I missing something?”
I equate Tales to understanding the ending of a Fassbinder film (the Rainer Weiner kind – not the hot Irish-German actor) or being part of a military wing of the United States Armed Forces. Unless you’ve been “in the weeds” on a Friday night behind a bar that is four-deep or you get excited over the launch of a new Heaven Hill whiskey – it is kind of hard to explain the might and magic that goes down every last week in July in NOLA.
Back in January, I spoke to the guys behind Brooklyn Gin – Joe and Emil – about doing it proper this year with renting a townhouse for Tales 2012. For Tales 2011 – Joe, Emil and I had rented a suite at the Monteleone and threw two solid cocktail pop-up events. My lovely fiance Lauren is from NOLA and she served as our trusty guide in finding a reasonable place to rent for the week. We searched the Interwebs for a suitable spot and landed a sweet spot a few ticks from the epicenter of Tales – The Monty. Deposits were mailed and rental agreements were signed and we were set for Tales 2012 in proper fashion!
Fast forward to Sunday the 22nd as we departed from Nashville and set our sites on the big drive ahead of us. We rocked and rolled through Alabama and Mississippi via I-65 and I-59 in about 8 hours. The South is an amazing place though I was impressed by the amount of fast-food chains that litter the highway like a drunk person eating a gyro Saturday at 4AM on 14th St in Manhattan. By the time we hit Mississippi – I had lost count of the Waffle Houses we had passed over the course of six hours.
Our plan for the first night in NOLA was set to stay with Lauren’s dad and his place in the West Bank. I hadn’t met Lauren’s dad until our visit for NOLA so I was bit preoccupied with meeting the father of the daughter I planned to marry next year. To my surprise – things turn out for the best and for dinner – it was decided to hit one of NOLA’s best Vietnamese restaurants Nine Roses. The food was excellent and it felt like I was back at home with my Filipino family during one of their big dinners. On the way home – we decided against our better judgment to stop at the Drive-Through Daiquiri shop and pick up a bit of knowledge of drinking daiquiris in a car.
I went the safe route and ordered a Strawberry Daiquiri. Drew’s eyes landed on a the Pralines and Cream selection and he went giddy as a schoolgirl. Lauren’s choice was Rocket Fuel. Sweetness doesn’t even hold a candle to a daiquiri from a NOLA drive-through. Holy crap – hello diabetes! We crashed out at Lauren’s Dad’s place with an episode of “True Blood” and a few drams of Vintage 23 Year Rye. A nice start to the NOLA section of the Epic Trip!
Plus – Lauren’s dad gave us several books of photographs of Lauren and the family detailing her dad’s time at the Playboy Clubs during the 1960s, amazing photos of Mardi Gras parades during the 1970s and this drop dead fantastic photo of Lauren’s childhood.
Monday the 23rd – we were set to meet up at our townhouse with the landlord to get keys, etc BUT before we left the West Bank – we headed up to visit Ms. Anna May and her amazing Po Boys at the Cajun Daiquiri and Cafe. Hands down – the best Roast Beef Po Boy in all of NOLA – dressed and dripping with debris. I went through about 15 napkins. Ms. Anna May has known Lauren since she was a young lass and she came out from the kitchen and thanked us for stopping on by for some of her grub. We headed back to the West Bank house, packed up and we set for our trip to the French Quarter!
We hit 508 Conti Street, unpacked and settled into our new home for the week. The place was spacious and had a good sense of home and solitude in the heart of the French Quarter madness. And then – in fine Tales fashion – things got a bit more awesome.
Napoleon House is always my first stop in the Quarter. I love sitting at the bar and ordering up a Pimm’s Cup. It ranks with one of my more ridiculous customs during trips to NOLA but damnnit – I love it.
Afterwards, we decided to check out the Canal Cinemas right next to the French Quarter for a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”. And wow – the theatre has in-seat service with craft cocktail selections, beer and wine plus you select your own seat when buying a ticket! Oh damn – we need this in New York STAT! I ordered a lovely cocktail called “500 Days of Summer” – Apricot-infused Junipero Gin (WTF!), rosemary tincture, fresh citrus and simple. Lovely concoction. And the movie kicked major ass.
After the film – we hit the Quarter. Molly’s, No 13 and almost ended up at DBA but the cover charge wasn’t on our agenda for the evening. And – to my chagrin – we checked out Pat O’Brien’s and had a rocking good time in the Dueling Pianos room. A Pat-O’s Hurricane is necessary whenever you visit NOLA and the Quarter although the guys behind the pianos did not know one song by either Slayer or Metallica. No “South of Heaven” for me that night.
We retired to the house for a bit of bourbon and good night’s sleep. Tomorrow – TALES was on like Donkey Kong!