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Prohibition closed the popular Ramos bar in New Orleans, but the cocktails served there lived on in the hearts of New Orleanians — and cocktail lovers everywhere.
The proprietor, Henry Charles Ramos, took pride in his creations, reportedly never allowing clientele to reach a drunken state for fear that they would not fully appreciate his cocktails. One drink in particular took the city by storm, the Ramos Gin Fizz.
Ramos’ cocktail is one of many hailing from the Crescent City, which has also spawned the Sazarec and the Hurricane, to name a few. This summer the ninth annual Tales of the Cocktail will honor the famous Ramos drink — and many others — in addition to offering seminars, events, competitions, tastings, dinner pairings, workshops and special events from July 20-24 in New Orleans.
Every year, Tales of the Cocktail sponsors a cocktail-making competition and the challenge for 2011 was to give a modern interpretation to the gin fizz, said Ann Tuennerman, event founder. Atlanta bartender Eric Simpkins won with his Rangoon Gin Fizz, which will be served throughout the festivities.
The New Orleans Tales of the Cocktail is run by the nonprofit New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society, whose goal is to preserve “the unique culture of dining and drinking in New Orleans and the storied bars and restaurants that have contributed to the city’s worldwide culinary acclaim.” Since its founding in 2006, the society has awarded scholarships to the hospitality industry.
The Tales of the Cocktail festival has become immensely popular, boasting an attendance of 17,000 in 2010, according to tourism statistics. This year’s schedule includes 53 seminars on topics such as bitters, the history of cocktail glasses, making house sodas and more.
On July 22, a “spirited lunch” hosted by Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails will celebrate the female side of mixology. The fun takes place at Cafe Adelaide with “creative luncheon attire” (fabulous hats, gloves, vintage dresses, etc.) encouraged.
The Spirited Dinner Series, which pairs 26 of the city’s restaurants with mixologists for unique combinations of cocktail and cuisine, will be on July 21 with prices ranging from $70 to $120.
The annual Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award Ceremony concludes the event July 23 at the nearby Mahalia Jackson Theatre. Most events, however, happen at the historic Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year and features its own history of cocktails, many of which were imbibed by the city’s notable literati. A seminar on the Monteleone and its spirited past will be offered.
In addition, two events have been added on Sunday, July 24. First, a Walking the Spirits Cemetery Excursion will call on the city’s deceased, including the grave of Henry Ramos. Next, a trip up-river to the historic Laura Plantation will allow participants to learn about the state’s unique Creole heritage, based on 5,000 pages of documents discovered in a Paris archive along with former owner Laura Locoul Gore’s diaries. Naturally, the diaries include vintage cocktail recipes as well.
No two years of Tales of the Cocktail are alike, Tuennerman explained, so each year’s festival features new speakers, workshops and competition.
“We never repeat content,” she said. “Every year is a new experience for guests.”
In addition to individual ticket sales, Tales of the Cocktail offers several ticket packages. The Founders Day Package runs $599 (a savings of $215) and it includes 12 seminars and access to evening events and competitions, plus other perks. The Native Spirits Package costs $155 (a savings of $99) and it offers passes to parties and other events.