July 24, 2013

First time at TOTC - first time in NOLA

New Orleans get under your skin, up you nose, into your ears and burns your eyeballs really fast.

I've never before been to a place that is felt in quite such a physical way.

Not all good, not all bad. And now that I have returned to the tranquility of my home, it has made me more aware of how this remote northeastern part of a tiny dot of an island in northern Europe tastes, smells, looks and is making itself heard.

My time was limited - only four nights connecting not quite five days. And the draw was TOTC and all the amazing events it dangled before me. But I did take time to do a few of the most touristy things in NOLA: Eating beignets at Cafe du Monde early one morning, riding the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, walking through both the French Quarter and the French Market.

And I stood and stared at the mighty Mississippi river whenever I got the chance, both on the actual bank in the blazing noonday sun like a mad dog or an Englishman and from the air-conditioned luxury of the Riverview Room at  the Hotel Monteleone - conference HQ and a truly amazing place.

Of course I drank but mostly I listened to the many wonderful tales told at the seminars I went to.

I heard about how ice changed the way we drink and without which civilization could not have moved forward with food safety and a steady supply of citrus to non-tropical areas of the world.

I saw a stunning breakdown of the cocktail bible and learned how The Savoy in London managed to serve absinthe cocktails even after the green fairy was banned.

I got an introduction to growing my own cocktail garden - vertically and indoors if that is what it takes. A very practical and informative seminar that impressed me greatly.

I heard three passionate gentlemen talk about the influence of terroir on spirits as diverse as cognac, tequila and rum. I had to nod in agreement, when Alexandre Gabriel of Pierre Ferrand Cognac coined the term terroir-ist about people, who get so hung up on one detail of something, that they diminish the whole to a fraction.

One of the best cocktail-tales is the one about the trademark wars surrounding Angostura Bitters - Amy Stewart served it perfectly and I walked away with a bottle of Abbott's Bitters.

Finally I learned that the Harvey Wallbanger is entirely made up. There is no wallbanging surfer-dude, just a clever marketing campaign that worked once, and may work again. I'll do my part wearing my HW cap and my HW sunglasses. Mr. Wondrich and Mr. Berry could have talked hours more about the dark ages of the cocktail in the 70's and 80's and the completely full Queen Anne Ballroom would gladly have stayed. But there were prizes to be given out and all good things most come to an end.

I did not go to the award show, I slowly walked back to my hotel and knew it was time to go home, when the sight of a youngish, apprehensive looking couple wearing matching, ill-fitting, fire-engine red Bourbon Street Trouble nr. 1 and Trouble nr. 2 t-shirts made me sad.
So here I sit savoring the clean salty taste and smell of fresh air blowing in from Kattegat. Enjoying the cool breeze on my skin and the occasional chirp from a bird.

Here I sit missing New Orleans and the superb event that is Tales of the Cocktail. I need a drink!

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