Appetite: Tales from Tales

Highlights from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans

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Green gorillas descend on the Pelican Club
ALL PHOTOS BY VIRGINIA MILLER

In 100 percent humidity at nearly 100 degrees (and no relief at night), spending a week drinking and eating doesn't sound like the best idea, but for eight years running, it happens every July in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail. For cocktail lovers and industry, this is THE drink event of the year.

My first, or virgin, year at Tales, was as sleepless and packed as everyone said it would be, but moderation is the name of my game (at least outside of the sleep arena), and I managed to indulge and enjoy without so much as one hangover from anything other than sleep deprivation. Of course, it meant merely tasting most drinks, eating a lot (NO problem in New Orleans!) and promptly turning around upon surveying nightly after crowds at Old Absinthe House, heading to quieter bars or the Monteleone lobby for civilized conversation instead.

Opening party at Elms Mansion -- a truly magical setting

I already feel completely alive in my skin when I'm in New Orleans. Any reason to be in that queen of cities is a good reason for me. Tales itself grew progressively better as the week went on, despite awful heat and waning sleep... mainly because I continued to meet great people which led to further excursions, tastings, dinners, parties, and as the cumulative effect added up to a host of memories and experiences.  Let me try to summarize a mere few highlights for you - read more about the 2010 Tales and New Orleans in my upcoming 8/15 issue of The Perfect Spot:

LIFE-ALTERING TASTING of 1865 & 1805 COGNAC!
7/25 The Mysteries & Secrets of Distilling in Cognac
Cognac masters, Olivier Paultes and Alain Royer, moderator Dale DeGroff, and spirited bartender extraordinaire, Salvatore Calabrese, were keepers of the surprise that awaited at the end of a fascinating, seemingly routine seminar on the methods of distilling cognac, along with a token five cognac side-by-side tasting.

The seminar suddenly escalated to once-in-a-lifetime experience when Calabrese informed our small group that he had brought not only a bottle of 1865 Rouyer Guillet & Co. cognac to share together, but also an 1805 Maison De L'Emprereur cognac he was going to make a Sazerac with! The room erupted in applause as we stood on chairs to take photos and watch him mix what he called a "$10,000 cocktail". We passed the Sazerac around, each savoring a profound sip.

Dale DeGroff pours us an 1865 cognac

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