Every July, I spend a week in New Orleans to produce craft distiller shows within the program of Tales of the Cocktail, the world’s largest cocktail conference. This is one of my favorite trips because each time I get to visit some of the restaurants and bars I have come to love and to discover new ones in this charming and historic city.
Additionally, the Tales of the Cocktail’s week long program is chock full of over 200 events from tastings and seminars, to ‘spirited dinners’ and large-scale parties, some of which really open my eyes to new products and services. My trip began with a visit to one of NOLA's best craft cocktail bars, Bar Tonique on Rampart Street.
And a special congratulations to Miami Beach's own Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply and founders/bartenders, John Lermayer and Dan Binkiewicz for taking home the TOTC Best New American Bar award.
When it comes to accommodations in New Orleans, there are so many hotels to choose from and really great house rentals as well. Relatively new to the city are the Old No 7 Hotel and the Ace, both of which have some great Food & Beverage establishments within.
The Old No 7 is home to Compere Lapin, the brainchild of Top Chef winner and Miami transplant Chef Nina Compton and husband and business partner, Larry Miller. I was able to visit CL twice on this visit, once for happy hour where a highlight was Abigale Gullo’s, "Andromeda", a riff on a pisco sour with bitters and a clever rabbit stencil which graced the top. Then once for dinner where, knowing Chef Nina is from St. Lucia, I could not resist ordering her delicious goat curry with sweet potato gnocchi and cashews – brilliant!
Here is a list of some Food & Beverage highlights for me this year in NOLA:
Stumptown Coffee – in the new Ace Hotel. Josephine Estelle and Seaworthy good restaurants in that hotel
Shaya – Modern Israeli fare, good wine list
Latitude 20 – Tiki bar with great snacks.
Red Gravy – nice little restaurant that has good breakfast
Green Goddess – on a cute walking street in the French Quarter, French casual
Peche – great bar and restaurant, fish-centric, James Beard awards abound
d.b.a. – bar, Frenchman St.
Dryades Public Market – indoor public market with central oyster bar
Doris – excellent steak house in the French Quarter
Loa – really great bar in the lobby of the International House Hotel. See clever rose menu photo!
Whether it’s at my own shows or attending different TOTC events, I am fortunate enough each year to try some great new spirits and revisit tasting some that I like to follow. Whether in a walk around tasting, a guided seminar or a pairing dinner, the following were some that stood out in the crowd:
Rutte Celery Gin - Dutch
Bobby’s Gin - Dutch
Firelit Coffee Liqueur – American
Corsair’s whiskies: Oatrage, Ryemageddon and Triple Smoke – American
Thumb Butte: Grain Whiskey
Pierde Almas Mezcals – Mexico
This year I had an especially interesting, ‘ah ha’ experience attending the Rutte & FoodPairing.com ‘Spirited Dinner’ at Tableau. Being not only familiar but a big fan of Rutte’s line of gins, especially their Celery Gin, I was delighted to see the cocktail portion of the evening began with an interactive, make-your-own, gin and tonic bar!
In addition I was looking forward to spending some time with their dynamic master distiller, Myriam Henrickx. However, what the evening also revealed, through a guided, multi course, cocktail-paired meal, would prove to leave an indelible mark of curiosity and possibilities on my mind thanks to the collaboration between Rutte gins, Jillian Vose, mixologist at Dead Rabbit in NYC and Chef John Martin. What was so fascinating to me was how all was tied together by the scientific pairing methods of a company FoodPairing.
FoodPairing is a Belgian company that has scientifically identified the aroma combinations of over 1700 foods and beverages to help chefs, bartenders and enthusiasts create the ultimate pairings. A pairing is defined as when two elements of a meal share at least one same aroma because 80% of our flavor experience is formed by aroma. Now, I have worked on pairings for years, whether within a dish, a meal, a cocktail and when pairing drinks with food, but this is usually an arbitrary process. FoodPairing has broken down aromas within ingredients to pinpoint which aromas are predominant and common in other ingredients. See the following image for more on this idea.
Check out their website www.FoodPairing.com and prepare to be amazed!
So until next time, I say goodbye to the wonderful architecture, food and cocktails of one of my favorite cities, New Orleans.
For more information about Tales of The Cocktail including next year's dates visit their website at https://talesofthecocktail.com/