Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tales of the Cocktail - Day 4

So Day 4 was finally upon me! This was it! Four months of preparation, endless mails, heartaches, thankful gestures to outright neglect and to a very annoying and highly painful logistics company (you might want to avoid) called FedEx, my seminar on native Indian spirits was about an hour away!  I joined Keebler and Julia Bell, my seminar coordinators to prepare the batch of the feni cocktail for tasting and it turned out very well, thankfully! So we were tasting a grand total of three spirits – A Feni from Madame Rosa and Kazkar (available in the US) for the Cocktails and two herbs & spice liqueurs from Royal Heritage Liqueurs (Rajasthan) – Kesar Kasturi & Royal Mawalin.

Set up for the seminar

I had about 60 people for my spiel on our native brews and surprisingly they had more than just a  few questions. While everybody ‘said’ that the feni was ‘interesting’ & ‘different’ (I know what that one meant!) the cocktail with feni – The Goan Antidote – was actually very well received. But I guess every one was looking forward to the Royal Heritage Liqueurs and the Royal Mawalin was by far the hands down winner and the response to both the liqueurs was superb! Now I wish that I had smaller versions of these to hand out as gifts because people were filling up hip flasks with left overs from unused glasses as they wanted some to carry back for an after dinner digestif! Now any one who has tried these liqueurs would know that they are actually quite dry and the addition of sugar is just to offset the bitterness from the herbs, I feel. End of it all I was humbled by the response for the session and the products. Later I got Steven Olson, partner at Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) one of the USA’s most exclusive and premier beverage training program providers and one of the experts on the panel of Bar Smarts USA , try the Royal Mawalin and in his opinion this is what might have NYC bartenders excited as they are always looking for new stuff! The same thought was echoed by Drink historians and authorities Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller who felt the flavours were brilliant with excellent mixing potential. And infact a few enterprising folks from my session had already tried a couple of recipes with exciting results! All of this obviously had me excited – My only hope was that the guys behind these brands would do something to address this potential. Sigh!

Saturday evening saw the entire fraternity come together for the Spirited Awards Ceremony at the Hyatt for this years awards in various categories ranging from best new bar to the best cocktail list to the best cocktail book. And these awards have become some the most sought after in the beverage world because for a change brand affinity doesn’t get you the returns here. Rather it’s your peer set that votes for you. If you’ve been good J

Took out time to hop across to MOTAC, Museum of the American Cocktail.

Pre 1900 exhibits on display. I wonder if any Indian bars would even have the essential modern day equivalent of these…

So this was my last evening in New Orleans before I headed off to Bourbon Country for an adventure to America’s distilling heartland. And tales is not surprisingly damn addictive. And all the mind wants is a re run! I am sure there are many who feel the same way and have kept coming back for the past 10 years.

With Ann Tuennerman, Founder of the Tales of the Cocktail

Untill next time then!



Tales of the Cocktail - Day 3

The liver, truly is, man’s best friend! And if you don’t agree, well what can I say, you obviously are a bartenders nightmare!

Day three continued with the brilliant selection of seminars like the two previous days and the tasting rooms across all the days ran full. Any one who held a ticket to any one of the seminars at tales was given a tasting room pass to try the plethora of products that were available for tasting. These were the only places that had a bit of brand spiel doing the rounds, else Tales, as I pointed out earlier is saved of any hard selling of brands. But the good thing about the tasting rooms was that you were at a place where you had the best of the cocktail world trying your products and you wouldn’t want to be caught with crap stuff here! In short, a massive platform!

King Cocktail, Dale De Groff, doing what he does best!

I had the opportunity to catch up Tony Conigliaro who runs the famed 69 Colebrooke Row and is considered a pioneer for his ground breaking work in molecular mixology and understanding of flavours. And that was exactly what Tony C was presenting on. How could I miss this one?

People lining up for a seminar and this case , Tony C’s!    

One of the many back end offices with team working round the clock to ensure the success of every seminar, tasting room and the works!

And to end the day, Bar Smarts USA presented the Battle of the Bar Smarters that pitted the skills of bartenders from the East Coast Vs. the West Coast while Bacardi Rums and the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) presented the Bacardi 150th Anniversary Hand Shaken Daiquiri competition.

David Wondrich and Gary Regan get ready to host the Battle of the Bar Smarters.
House of Blues, A popular New Orleans Bar and venue for the Battle of the Bar Smarters.

And with my presentation round the corner, I needed all the booze I could find! The days just keep getting better…and P.S. I in no way promote responsible drinking ;)



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tales of the Cocktail - Day 2

Cocktail lovers sure do start early! Where else would you see people with excitement writ large on their faces and a glass in hand? And that was evident when invitees turned up at 9 in the morning (including your’s truly ;)) for an Irish Breakfast hosted by Kilbeggan.

The second day of Tales saw the organised chaos just spilling over every nook an corner of the French Quarter of New Orleans. The seminars as usual rolled by and by my guesstimate, all of them ran housefull! One of them that I attended saw Cocktail Historian Dave Wondrich and Alexandre Gabriel of Cognac Ferrand pitted alongside the witty Philip Duff as they made their presentation on the ultimate Curacao Master Class and if that was not enough, David did a demo of freshly distilled curacao! Later in the afternoon I was joined by my friend Hemant Pathak who’s just shifted to New York from Delhi and now runs his own bar called the Island Stake House and Bar in Lassau County, Long Island. You should hit him up if you are ever in NY! Hemant was the first bartender from India to crack Diageo’s World Class and went on to represent India at the Global world class finals. Life surely has changed for this lucky bum and deservedly so!

NOLA is also home to the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) and at a fund raiser yesterday sponsored by Macallan, TOTCites were invited to take the plunge into the Macallan Ice pool! And with the smug kind of weather here, there were more than a hundred happy plungers! The evening also saw people gathering at the One Eyed Jack for the bar room bash thrown by NYC’s celebrated bar, the Employees Only along with all the big boys from the booze business.

And I did take out time to go down to two very well known and historic bars in the city – The Napoleon House (set up in 1797!) and Arnaud’s French 75. And drink there as well…but that’s a story that I’ll leave for another day! 

- Rohan Jelkie


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans - report 1

Tulleeho's Rohan Jelkie reports from the frontline at Tales of The Cocktail, New Orleans 

There is something about cocktails that have had an eternal appeal since the first time the drink was described way back in 1806…and the world has never been the same! (…if you thought that they came about right when you were born…think again!).  Generation of bartenders, bar owners, spirit producers have in their unique and individual ways have contributed to enhancing the craft of the cocktail…and if there is one place under the sun that you head to and celebrate this art like no other, then you’ve got to be in the city of jazz, New Orleans and raise a toast to the ‘Tales of the Cocktail’. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, Tales is at its biggest best! And the line up of events this year is impressive. There are very few places in the world where you get the best minds in the bar & beverage business to come together on a common platform and celebrate cocktailspeak! And no, there aren’t any suited marketeer’s hard selling their vodka’s over the other or another one telling you that God himself planted vines in his backyard and waters his barley fields ;)

Too many options make for a happy drunk!

Day one saw a flurry of programs kicking off in all corners of the Monteleone & Royal Sonesta Hotels respectively. BarSmarts & Pernod Ricard USA ran a certified program for a fortunate few while cocktail historian’s Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown regaled us with the stories of the two great Harry’s – Harry Johnson and Harry Craddock – along with Erik Lorincz of the American Bar at the Savoy, who served up some of the legendary drinks that were created at the bar that he heads now. You had Jacob Briars along with an elite panel of bar world heavy weights opening up the secrets of running a successful cocktail bar at their sold out seminar. And did I say birthday? What’s a birthday without a party? To celebrate this very day, you had ‘King Cocktail’ Dale de Groff, Gary Regan, Hidetsugu Ueno, Toby Cecchini, Dave Arnold and Mad Pomeroy (err…Matt Pomeroy!) amongst others who tended to bars churning out cocktails at the Absolut Welcome Reception. And the after party to this was a huge birthday bash hosted by William Grants & Sons that saw more than 2000 people drink up all the lovely booze you could find!

Gary Regan shakes a leg at the Absolut Ball!

Dave Arnold, the magician, creates his signature Absolut, Caraway & Mint Shot    

Jared Brown makes a point during his presentation

The King Cocktail at work!

Ueno San carving fresh Ice Diamonds!  

Writing after drinking on the job is an arduous task and so I’m calling it quits for the day…I shall keep you posted on more tales of the cocktail, live from New Orleans!

Happy Birthday Tales!

P.S. : President Barack Obama was in town and dropped by at the House of Blues, just behind the Monteleone hotel where TOTC is in full swing…Now was it cocktails or music that was on his agenda…one would never know!