Tuesday, July 14, 2009

OMG, ANOTHER Cocktail!

The day dawned clear and bright punctuated by the sound of the fire trucks hosing down the streets from the night before. One more day to go, so we started off with dessert, I mean breakfast, at Brennans with Jonas Halpren of Drink of the Week (who also happens to be a mucketymuck at Federated Media.) We also saw Jeffrey Becker and his wife Jane Scott there.

If you've never done it, Breakfast at Brennans is a NOLA must...the classic meal is an order of baked apple swimming in triple cream, then Eggs Hussar, Brennan's twist on Egg's Benedict, and then to top it all off, Banana's Foster, flaming dessert of bananas, ice cream and more cream. It's a healthy breakfast though...think of all the fruit. After that, you don't have to eat for a week. Unfortunately we had two other big meals planned that day, so we started to work off the calories with some hand to mouth exercises at the seminars.

I attended Robert Hess's seminar on the History of Alcohol which was quite stimulating (hehe) and then it was time for yet another meal, this time with Colleen Graham of About.com and her husband at Luke on St. Charles Ave. I had a light meal of soft shell crab BLT with fries. Coming from Cedar Falls IA, Colleen was interested in all the publicity about the NY Cocktail bars like PDT, Death & Co., Pegu Club et al. Another fun conversation learning about how Colleen's needs differ from many of the other bloggers...she's already figured out how to monetize her writing...she just needs the help in building traffic and click-throughs (Maybe a hyperlink to her site will help....you should visit and click through on a link).

I then attended a fascinating seminar on the history of Absinthe moderated by Simon Difford and with Ted Breaux as panelist. Simon may protest he doesn't like to speak in public, but he sure knows his stuff. He's also one of the nicest guys in the business. Good thing that he decided to shave his head...now we can tell the difference between him and Simon Ford.

But we're not done yet...off to Emeril's restaurant NOLA for dinner with Matt Robold of Rumdood and his girlfriend. Boy, I thought I talked a lot. Matt recognizes he's got a problem...you just can't get him to shut up...but he's in therapy for it (I'll tell you his dirty little secret...he ordered a Cosmo...it was pink. And I don't think it worked.) I ordered a fabulous bottle of Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner Federspiel 2007 and nobody wanted to talk about it. This was definitely a spirits gig and wine was of no interest whatsoever (hey, they're wussies...they spit!)

Pernod's Spirit Awards were held at Harrah's again and Marissa Frisina and Shawn Kelly topped their efforts from Wed. nite with an absolutely bangup show. Lots of fun, lots of awards, lots of camaraderie...and lots of liquor!

I had hoped to call it a night, but duty called. Sam and I taxi'd over to the Mixo house to say goodbye to the gang, and then it was off to the Bartender's Breakfast back in the Quarter. For the THIRD TIME Shawn and Marisa hit a home run at one of the most beautiful locations for a party I've ever been in. Everyone was there with celebrities mixing the drinks including many of the night's award winners.

I was chatting with Steve Olson of AKA Wine Geek and write Dave Wondrich two founders of BAR and we all agreed this was like a college fraternity reunion on steroids.

And so to bed.

At least for me...I had a 7AM flight out of MSY the next day and was on the same plane as Steve Olson...we exchanged some hoarse hello's and Steve told me he never even went to bed..."That's what planes are for." Too true. Sphere: Related Content

Tales Tattles Day 3: "If by Whiskey"

So now we're getting into the swing of things...I had done a little spirits training on Tues. nite at PDT in NY, and we now have two more days of drinking beginning at breakfast when it dawned on me. How come in the wine biz there are spit buckets all over the place and nobody swallows, but in the spirits bidness there are none to be found? The people I asked said because the spirits folks are more fun...I wonder if that is a cause or effect?

We attended a fun seminar run by Charlotte Voisey of Hendrick's where they did readings of cocktail references in literature, from Kafka's Metamorphosis (in full cockroach costume no less!) to my favorite, "If by Whiskey" which I'll paste at the end of this post. I had used it as an intro to some presentations I used to make in my days of legit work at Heublein.

And while I was laughing at the lit references and tidying up the ppt for my presentation in the next half hour when BOOM, my computer froze! Luckily we were able to retrieve the file through the efforts of the always reliable Anthony King back at the home office.

A Sold-Out SRO Crowd!

The session I participated in was on using Blogs.
It was moderated by the newly hirsute Paul Clarke of Cocktail Chronicles
and Serious Eats and originally planned to have Jeffrey Morgenthaler as well, but he had to bail at the last minute for some paying client responsibilities. Bobby Heugel of Drink Dogma was kind enough to fill Jeff's rather large shoes and gave us some really good insights from the other side of stick. Lindsey Johnson and Leo Borowskiy of Lush Life NY were doing live video streaming of the session.

We skipped dinner that night and moseyed on over to the W Hotel, site of the On the Fly Competition (more like the running of the bulls in Pamplona) ostensibly run by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, but it seemed to me like it was run by the inmates of the TOTC asylum. We saw Chantal, bartendress extraordinaire from Vessel in Seattle there, and then later again that night at Napolean House, and she was also at Herbsaint...was she following me?

Then off to Pat O'Brien's on the river for the Leblon affair...some 20 stations manned by the USBG superstars each with their own cocktail concept. I liked the one with candied hibiscus flowers best. Steve Luttman and Jamie Keller had the crowd well in hand aided by a bouncer at the door brandishing a giant stick of sugar cane at misbehaving revelers.

My mission on this trip was to have a Sazerac at Napolean House which for some reason was never open when I went by last year. We finally lucked out (maybe they didn't know I was planning on coming) and I chowed down on a half Muffalatta while Sam made do with soup, salad and a Pimm's Cup.

And so to bed.

If By Whiskey

Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr., to the Mississippi House, April 4, 1952.
(Don't ya just love the guy's name! Perfect for Mississippi and New Orleans in July)
I’ll take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it may be. You have asked me how I feel about whisky; well Brother, here’s where I stand:

If by whisky, you mean the Devil’s brew the Poison scourge, the bloody monster that defies innocence, dethrones reason, creates misery and poverty, yea literally takes the break out of the mouths of babes; if you mean the Evil Drink that topples men and women from the pinnacles of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of despair, degradation, shame, helplessness and hopelessness---then I am certainly against it with all my power.

But if by whisky, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine and ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts, laughter on their lips and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean that sterling drink that puts the spring in an old man’s steps on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasury untold millions of dollars which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our pitifully aged and infirm and to build our highways, hospitals and schools—then Brother, I am for it. This is my stand.
Sphere: Related Content

Tattles from Tales, Day 2

Thursday started out promising and we were sauntering off to the Royal Sonesta for breakfast with Camper English of Alcademics(who was nominated for best cocktail writer, but unfortunately didn't win)when we heard some honking and looked up to see a "honey wagon" spewing a fire-hydrant-at-full-blast volume of raw sewage onto the street and sidewalk. Luckily we didn't get hit, but when the stench hit us, Sam almost gagged, and we had serious doubts about being able to make it through the miasma to the hotel. We did persevere and so now "eau de New Orleans" is forever etched in our brainstems, right next to the smell of the first overdose of Tequila...blaawwwwwghhhhh!

We had some really good idea sharing with Camper on how we can help bloggers and particularly find ways to monetize their sites.

Lunch at Herbsaint on St. Charles was with Gabriel "Cocktail Nerd" and Joanna Szazko and Rick Stutz of Kaiser Penguin, board members of the OCSWG --they've GOT to come up with a better name--continuing the convo on how marketers and bloggers can work together for mutual benefit. (We've got lots of good ideas, but you'll have to hire us if you want me to share them.) The food was spectacular and we went on a streetcar ride
through the garden district for a real sense of the best New Orleans has to offer in terms of ambience and architecture. We were hot and sweaty, but according to the locals, only about 95, "but you should have been here last week...over 100...now THAT's hot!")

We got back too late to make the Leblon event, but I did sign the Declaration of Independence that Steve Luttman was carrying around to get the law changed to make Cachaca a legal category in the U.S.

We had dinner at Arnaud's, a sentimental site for me in N'awlins because it was my Dad's favorite and I had always hoped I'd be able to share dinner with him there, but it was not to be. Anyway, we had a fabulous time with Cheri Loughlin of Intoxicologist and her significant other Tory over crawfish and Cordon Rouge. We gave Cheri some ideas on site metrics and learned a lot about her blog.

Then it was back to the Monteleone for cocktails with Bob DeKuyper (yes, THAT DeKuyper...something like 8th generation and this pick was taken Tues of that week at PDT which went on to win the Best Cocktail Bar in America)Ivan Menting and Albert deHeer. Darcy O'Neil of Art of Drink joined us for a drink and he and I wandered back to the other theme subject of the event...is fructose (as in HFCS) pronounced "Fruck" or "Frook". The conversation was so boring that even our blogger friends turned their backs on us. Yikes, I just realized I'm a geek!

And so to bed. (and for those of you who get the reference to Samuel Pepys, you'd enjoy the comment that one of the seminar speakers was talking about "Peepies" diary. My mom kept one of those but now I'm potty trained.)

G'night y'all! Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tales of the Cocktail Day 1

Wow! TOTC is back, bigger and better. There are thousands of people in sweltering NOLA to engage, celebrate, sample and converse on a common theme...cocktails! Seemed like half the people on the plane down from NY were attending the conference. I made the mistake of consuming a bit too much alcohol at a dinner Tues. nite with some friends from Holland and it took all of yesterday to recover. Not the best way to start a week of drinking.

HQ for the event is the historic Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, and if you just stand in the lobby of the hotel long enough, you'll see EVERYONE in the business pass by. My day started with lunch with Paul Clarke, Darcy O'Neil and some of the folks from Vessel in Seattle. I'm speaking on Paul's panel on blogging on Friday and we mapped out a plan for the presentation...it's sold out and the room holds 250 people. Darcy and I sort of geeked out the geeks on cocktail arcana and ended up engaged in a fascinating conversation that bored everyone else to tears.

I'm here with our spirit SMM guru, Sam Harrigan and we spent the afternoon looking for some ingredients for a recipe contest review we were holding later in the evening.

It's great fun running into folks from all over the world who share the same interest...Tiare Olsen is in from Sweden, Jay Hepburn from London, our Dutch friends are here, the Chartreuse people are in from France, Mike Ginley was here with clients from Japan.

First official event was the Tito's Vodka tasting...Tito Beveridge (yes, that's his real name) has done an awesome job of breaking the rules and making new ones on the way to bringing his artisanal vodka onto the national stage.

We attended the TOTC opening reception sponsored by Beefeater...what a blowout. Kudos to Shawn Kelly and Marissa Frisina of Pernod Ricard...they pulled out all the stops. Then it was on to the CSOWG (Cocktail and Spirits Online Writers Guild) house on Rampart Street where many of the bloggers gathered for some break time and where we selected the winner for the OVAL vodka infusion contest. Way to go Marshall with a honey, cilantro infusion! Some 50 or so spirit bloggers were in and out including Camper English, Matt Robold, Gabriel Szasko, Darcy, Sean Mike, Marshall Frawley, Stevi Deter and...and...and. Oh, and Gabe's wife Joanna did some spectacular hostessing...those burger were fabuloso!

Lindsey Johnson and Leo Borovskiy of Lush Life NY hosted a "Tweet Up" just down the street at Bar Tonique which attracted an really interesting mix of folks. Again, all shared the same interest of connecting via Social Media to share the enjoyment of cocktails and spirits. Lindsey's doing some real groundbreaking SMM marketing stuff especially with video and Twitter, and we're looking forward to working together with her.

On the way back to the hotel I was pelted by beads from a balcony tossed by(no I didn't take my shirt off) Mike Ginley and the folks from Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt. And so to bed. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 6, 2009

Banned in Beijng?

I've been corresponding with Ding Yan, publisher of a wine magazine in China via Sino-Overseas Grapevine & Wine who I met on the Austrian wine tour. Unfortunately, we just found out he can't access this blog post...or it seems, anything hosted at blogspot. I suspect it's part of China's attempt at controlling access to the internet. I didn't realize my blog was so politically incorrect. Sphere: Related Content