If the long line of cabs that ran down New Orleans’ Royal Street right up to the door of the Hotel Monteleone was not a telltale sign Tales of the Cocktail had ended on Sunday, July 20, then surely the processional of clearly hungover hipsters loading into them was.
More than 20,000 bartenders flock to New Orleans every year for the country’s largest craft cocktail conference to learn from the masters, try new and soon-to-be-released products, as well as to imbibe heavily with like-minded people who also enjoy a good cocktail. Or two. Or 10.
This year, a small crew representing many of Asheville’s best cocktail joints attended the conference to expand their horizons as well, including Kyle Beach, Andrew Stack and Erin Hawley of M.G. Road; Donnie Pratt of Cucina 24 and Jasper Adams of Imperial Life, as well as Jacob and Alicia Sessoms, the owners of Table.
Seminar offerings ranged from a lecture by legendary cocktail historians Jeff Berry and David Wondrich about the Floridita, Cuba’s “cradle of the tiki drink,” to a seminar on the Physiology of the Shake, a techniques-driven course taught by star bartenders like Eric Alperin of Varnish in Los Angeles and Simon Ford, the brand ambassador of Pernod-Ricard.
Between seminars, liquor brands hosted tasting rooms, allowing attendees to try spirits as well as samples of suggested uses. One tasting featured Byejoe, famous for being the most-consumed liquor in the world but blocked for years from import to the U.S. as it is almost entirely manufactured in China. Byejoe was just approved in 2013 for distribution.
Also notable was a sampling hosted by Four Roses Bourbon that displayed the Kentucky distillery’s range of three bourbons crafted from six varying yeast strains. Attendees were allowed to try the spirits at barrel proof and unaged or three years in the barrel.