5 Lessons Learned at Tales of the Cocktail 2012
This year marked the 10th anniversary for Tales of the Cocktail, the massive cocktail convention that takes place each July in New Orleans. It's an outrageously sweaty and boozy event that transforms the French Quarter into a sea of fedoras and waxed mustaches. Bartenders come from around the world to mix drinks, taste liquors, learn obscure history and facts, and generally drink themselves silly. It's a whirlwind of seminars, tastings and massive parties. I spent five days traipsing along with a posse of Australian barkeeps, and I thought I'd share with you, in no particular order, the things I learned.
Eamon Siggins Bartender Cammy shakes a Ramos gin fizz at Tales of the Cocktail
5. L.A. has the best cocktail bar in America. That is, according to the judges of the 2012 Spirited Awards, Tales of the Cocktails' big awards ceremony, which named downtown's the Varnish the Best Bar in America.
4. The science of the language of the aromatics of tequila is kinda confusing. It's possible to go to Tales of the Cocktail and have a crazy and intense few days without ever setting foot in one of the seminars -- there are tastings and parties and banquets galore to keep you
drunk occupied. But the seminars are by far the most interesting part of the conference -- sometimes because you actually learn something, sometimes because the self-indulgence level is so high it becomes humorous. (Last year's winner -- What Would Socrates Drink? -- a hypothetical debate about which cocktail Socrates would drink based on philosophical theories.) The most head-scratching seminar I went to this year had to do with coming up with a scientific methodology for naming the flavors and aromas detectable in tequila. Scientist Jeehyun Lee described how she is compiling data by using chemical analysis of aromatic compounds, but also by having various groups taste different tequilas and come up with descriptors for the things they taste and smell. "The wider our vocabulary," panelist leader Don Lee explained, "The easier it is to communicate. And think." Right.
If all this sounds a little convoluted, try wrapping your brain around it at 10 a.m. with 10 tequilas in front of you in a room full of 100 extremely hungover bartenders. There's an article on Nola.com that explains the seminar in some detail, but be warned -- it has quotes in it like: "What we needed to know is what we need to do (combining the hundreds of various aromatic compounds involved) to produce the sensory experiences we want."
3. Really good agricole rhum tastes like a Barbie's head that's been set on fire. Or at least that's what I wrote in my notebook at the tasting I ended up in at some point on Wednesday. Hmmm. OK.
Eamon Siggins A tasty beverage at one of the local bars
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