Disaster? What disaster? New Orleans is back in extreme partying
mode. The best evidence may be the upcoming fourth annual Tales of
the Cocktail weekend, a four-day celebration of spirits scheduled
for July 19-23. Never a town to turn down a smartly mixed libation,
only in New Orleans could an entire weekend be devoted to
mixologists, cocktail-book authors, festival-obsessed locals and
curious tourists who prefer a respectable shot of bourbon over a
Nouveau Beaujolais. Compared to last year’s about 10,000 attendees,
this year’s numbers promise to swell to something closer to 15,000,
according to the creative force behind this gathering, Ann
Rogers, whose daily Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour reveals the
hidden history of old New Orleans through its famous watering holes
and taverns, conceived this culturally intoxicating weekend as a
way to draw visitors to New Orleans, in spite of the mid-summer
“It all started as a smaller event just to celebrate the first
anniversary of the tour,” Rogers said, “and before I knew it,
things just took off.”
The event kicks off Thursday afternoon with a “Toast to the
Tales of the Cocktail” at the Hotel Monteleone, the grande dame of
luxury French Quarter hotels and the event’s headquarters.
Attendees are then invited to take the Southern Comfort Cocktail
Tour through the French Quarter, where they will hear legendary
stories about renowned and notorious historical figures and even
see the birthplace of the cocktail.
Friday’s schedule is jam-packed with provocative seminars during
the day, including a session on setting up a home bar, one on
entertaining using spirits and another called “Bourbon Academy,”
where a master distiller will explore the art of making whiskey.
Early evening is taken up with “Sippin With 7,” a tour of specially
designed, cocktail-themed suites at the Monteleone, one of which
was created by “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” star Carson
Kressley. A special showing of “The Tale of the Cocktail,” a
documentary about the history and the evolution of cocktails,
Saturday is filled with more seminars, most notably one on
creating dessert cocktails and another called “Martinis and
Makeovers,” held at an upscale day spa and offering just what the
title says. “Mix it up on Magazine” is a no-holds-barred block
party on historic Magazine Street that takes up most of the
evening. In between there is a tequila-tasting event, a cooking
class that features only recipes made with Southern Comfort and a
six-hour bartender certification course.
Among the dozens of scheduled events, the Spirited Dinners on
Thursday night may be the most in demand. Cocktail book authors and
chefs from some of the best area restaurants combine their
resources to create smart dinner pairings. Among the high-profile
eateries participating this year are Brennan’s (just reopened after
major post-Katrina renovations), Cafe Giovanni, Arnaud’s and Dickie
Brennan’s Bourbon House.
Look for a diverse group of interesting personalities, including
New Orleans own “food goddess,” Lorin Gaudin, as well as the
Kitchen Sisters from NPR and Jennifer English from the Food and
Wine Radio Network.
Things wind down (sort of) on Sunday with a Bubbly Brunch at
Arnaud’s, and a late-night Bartenders Bash at the House of Blues,
giving the hardcore partiers a reason to stay until Monday or
Tales of the Cocktail is a truly “forget your troubles” event.
After all, as the saying goes, “Let’s have a drink. It’s 5 o’clock
Pricing: Events are priced separately, but
packages are available.