Tales 2012 – A Recap of Tastings and Events

As everyone who have been to the Tales of the Cocktail knows, it´s not just a ton of seminars it´s also tastings, parties and events of all kinds…and there´s so much happening that it´s impossible to do it all, you will always miss out on things but on the other hand you´ll also do a lot…

Here`s a parade of pictures from some of the tastings i passed through…some of you who were there will maybe recognize a thing or two – and all of you who were not there – i hope the pictures can be of inspiration to try to get down there the next year!

What Tales is for me mostly – is meeting all the people! AND having great drinks and learn about and try out new things.


Everyday there´s a bunch of tasting rooms open and a lot to explore, they also serve Nola style snacks because you need a little something in your belly if you gonna taste so many different spirits and liqueurs…

The tastings are like boozy mingle parties…some are held daily at the Monteleone and Sonesta and others are held at various locations – i went to a very funny tequila tasting party on Dba for example and another fun one at the Rock ‘n’ Bowl and not to forget the Blackwell Rum and Reggae pool party at the top of Monteleone!

These tastings are something not to miss because in many cases you get to taste some very rare and artisanal products that you would probably never get to try again so easily. Plus you can make great contacts and get a chance to meet the producers and ask them everything you want to know about their products. Here are some pictures from tastings:


This was the funniest of the tastings i think, and the Blackwell rum was surprisingly good…the reggae music was good too and who wouldn`t feel good when rum and reggae is combined by the pool? a little piece of Jamaica in New Orleans…





I found Blackwell Jamaican dark rum delicious and a great mixer, look out for a review of this rum later.


I went to two different tequila tastings, one at the Sonesta and one on Dba, and sometimes you get to try out some stuff you`d NEVER be able to buy Рlike this 9000 USD bottle from Dos Armadillos at the Tequila Extra A̱ejo Tasting:


The tequila was smooth…and the exquisite dark mexican chocolate that was served in the room to pair with different premium aged tequilas was one of the best chocolates i have tasted.

That was a very nice tasting room indeed. The tequila party on Dba was a funny and CROWDED event…and the tequila was flowing and i have never seen Dba this crowded before, it was totally packed.


And taste of Trinidad – that was rums from Angostura – and CANDY!!! yes you read that right! there were bowls filled with candy everywhere and little bags to fill…plus Caribbean snacks.

Angostura is a very good rum if you ask me. I had already tried out these rums before but my highlight in that room was a cocktail they served…it was soooo delicious…and here´s the recipe:

Pure Imagination - – Created by Travis Tidwell

1 oz Angostura 7 year

1 oz Black Bottle Blended Scotch

1.5 oz Benedictine

3 dashes Angostura orange bitters

Chocolate, coffee and sugar rim

Orange chocolate sticks for garnish

Stir ingredients in a Martini glass (or other)

There was also another yummy cocktail served:

The Suspense is Terrible…I Hope it Lasts! – Created by Travis Tidwell

2 oz Angostura 5 year

0.5 oz Hot tamale syrup

0.25 oz Lemon juice

2 oz Cream soda

Build ingredients in a collins glass.


Also when you walk around in the tasting rooms you sometimes find yourself discovering things you never seen before, like this glass frosting machine:

About to start up a glass frosting…

The machine at work…

And the glass is ready…frosted…how cool is this?


I wrote a post about the Dry Curacao seminar…here´s a few pics from the tasting room which was very tastefully decorated and probably the most beautiful of the tasting rooms. The pictures are courtesy Daniel Krieger with permission from Pierre Ferrand.

An inviting welcome…

Dried Laraha orange peels – when you snap them in half it’s like an orange aroma explosion.

PIG `N`PUNCH – presented by the Bon Vivants

This was the 3rd Annual Pig & Punch…which is an event to celebrate the spirit of community and friendship that has formed somehow through the bond of throwing together a good drink. Pig & Punch is NOT about making cocktails even though a large amount of rum punch and other drinks was served, its about making friends – it is about fun, memories and charity.

The event was held in Washington square park and was a giant free barbeque party filled with food and drink…and of course, since it´s in New Orleans – brass band musc and dancing.

The event was free – but it´s a charity event  – so all the money raised through the selling of the Pig `n`Punch t-shirt was donated back to the local charity that a massive group of bartenders  volunteered their time at earlier in the week.





Pictures from Pig n Punch courtesy of Ken Stock.

So there you have it – a little taste of what you can do at the Tales of the Cocktail apart from going to the seminars and all the numerous parties, events and dinners that are taking place around town during the Tales week.

It`s great fun – every year!

Tales 2012 – Exploring the Bar World Myths

Here´s a seminar exploring the bar world myths – what is true and what is not? it was a seminar with some interesting experiments.


Does that two-year-old bottle of vermouth really ruin a martini? Does it truly make a difference if you use sour mix rather than fresh limes in your margarita? There’s no shortage of “common knowledge” circulating throughout the cocktail world.

But how true are these beliefs? Join cocktail writers Wayne Curtis and David Wondrich as they put to the test several common myths that underlie cocktail making. The audience will be dragooned into a blind taste test to help sort of fact from fiction. Be conscripted into the sodden Army of Truth!

That´s how the description writes…well – the first thing we did was the vermouth test. We were served 2 manhattans – one containing vermouth that was opened 6 months ago and left in a warm room with the cap half on – and one with vermouth that was all fresh. Then we voted how many preferred drink number one or drink number two without knowing which one was what.

Of course the one containing the fresh vermouth tasted way better than the other one which tasted sour and sort of off…but not everyone in the room voted for the fresh one though…even though the majority did…..here´s for some vermouth education of the palates…..

Next thing up to explore was the dry shake, is it bullshit or not?

Well…the conclusion is that with dry shake – shake without ice to let egg white emulsify better and then again with ice – is better.


– It gives a higher head of foam.

– The ingredients gets better mixed because they get more integrated.

– Eggs that are cracked before service and not all fresh develops a “wet-dog” smell in the drink, so crack one egg at a time directly before shaking the drink.

Several tests were made and the conclusion is that dry shake is the best for those drinks requiring it.

Next up – Does ice size matters when it comes to aeriation in mixed drinks?

The conclusion is:

–  When you shake a drink you chill not only the drink but also the ice cubes, bigger ice cubes gives a bigger “head”

Fresh versus 2 day old lime juice – Margaritas were served containing fresh versus not fresh lime juice (2 days old) in a blind tasting and here again…believe it or not but not everyone in the room voted for the fresh one….education education…we got to educate the palates! that´s one reason it´s good to go to the Tales – you learn a lot of things from new beginner´s to advanced, there´s something for all.

To me it´s common sense to always use fresh ingredients when possible because they always taste better…

Gunpowder rum

And here´s another about sailors and how they used to drink crazy things. The supposed tradition among British sailors was to make a gun powder test – that was to to determine whether or not their daily tot had been watered down by the purser.

It was widely assumed that the pursers took a portion of official rum supplies for personal use, and topped up the casks with water. It was believed that liquor containing more than 50 % ABV would cause the powder to flare while less wouldn’t combust.

If it did flare, the liquor was “proved” – that`s where the term proof  originates. And if it didn’t, the purser had apparenty been watering it down.

Now it´s believed that there existed a wide maritime tradition of mixing gunpowder with liqueur and here´s where the myth about Blackbird comes into the picture.

Edward “Blackbeard” Teach was a pirate known for mixing gunpowder with rum and drinking it while set on fire at the taverns to impress the others – and question here was can you drink that? so gunpowder was set alight and mixed with rum and served in the room..


So apparently you can drink rum with freshly lit gunpowder in it….i did:-) it tasted um…like cannon-rum…


And last the most interesting part of this seminar - Exploring the secret of the Ramos gin fizz.

The main secret to a good Ramos gin fizz was all the shakes using airtight shakers and shake until not a bubble was left and you got a snow white drink with a consistency of milk.

An old style Ramos shake was performed…with 10 bartenders from the audience lining up beside each other to let the shaker go from one shaker to the next during exact ten minutes. At the same time another gin fizz was shaken in a shaker machine…the goal was to see if there was any difference.

So they shook and shook and the machine went on shaking too…i expected the hand shaken Ramos gin fizz to be the better one…but it turned out that both were quite equally good…surpise surprise…:-)

That was the last of the seminars…next post will talk a little about some of the tastings and other events during Tales that i went to.

Tales 2012 – The World´s World Class Spirit – RUM!

Rum is my favorite spirit and this seminar took us through the history of rum in general and also it´s role in the tiki bars and how it is made – and they also let us taste 14 different rums and among them were some real gems.

 Tracing Rum’s pedigree from the earliest beginnings of sugarcane in New Guinea thousands of years ago through the discovery of distillation in southern Asia to Columbus’s planting of sugarcane in the New World in 1493, Rum maestros F. Paul Pacult and Sean Ludford will lead this seminar like a safari through time.

As Co-Directors of RUM FOR ALL, Pacult and Ludford are the ideal guides to sugarcane’s fascinating history and Rum’s rise as a world-class adult beverage, one that easily rivals Scotch, Cognac, Bourbon and Tequila.

Seminar includes a blind tasting of fourteen of the world’s most highly acclaimed Rums, from exotic tropical places like the West Indies, Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Panama, Martinique and more. All For Rum and Rum For All!

I`m not gonna go into how rum is made and it´s history here, it´s been written already both here and on other great websites – so i move straight forward to the rums we tasted and how i found them.


1 - Shellback Silver – Now this is a good rum i never tried before! It´s a blend of lighter and heavier rums from a distillery on Barbados. I found it to be a flavorful rum with notes of tropical fruit and sweet sugarcane. It picked my interest…

2 - 10 Cane – no further explanation is needed..this is a well known rum and it´s a good one with lots of vanilla and sugarcane in the flavor.

3 - Denizen Rum – here´s another interesting and flavorful rum that was new to me – i liked this one a LOT! and it´s VERY interesting…

Here`s what the Rum For All website says:

Hidden away in Amsterdam, exist the last practitioners of alchemy in the world. With the power to transform the common into something…magical. And they’ve been doing it secretly since the 1700s, these master blenders of rum.

We asked them to free the flavor of rum long distilled out by mass producers. So they went to Trinidad and hand-selected barrels of white rum to be aged for five achingly long years. Then to Jamaica, to choose 15 types of the finest pot still rum.

Finally, back to Amsterdam, where they drew on centuries of experience, and their liberated spirit, to create the one rum without the blandness of most white rums or the overpowering taste of dark rums. A soulful rum without boundaries. For cocktails with integrity. For the denizens of the world.

To me it tasted fruity with lots of fruit, wood, dry  & sweet, well aged with layered flavors, complex.

I want to get my hands on a bottle of this…

4 – Brugal Especial extra Dry – On the nose this didn´t smell much to me, it was quite faint and sweet and it tasted delicate, like filtered – designed for modern delicate cocktails. It didn`t speak so much to me – but that said is not the same as saying it´s not good, it surely suits those palates that prefer delicate spirits but that´s just not me – i more like full bodied and bold flavors and that´s why i´m so fond of jamaican pot still and demerara and navy rums..

5 – Banks 7 Golden Age Rum – Another well known rum producer to me but this one i had never tried before. As the name suggests it uses 7 rums from 7 different countries, much like they did when they made the 5 island Rum.

To the original Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and Java, is here added Guatemalan and Panamian rums to the mix. But there´s actually 23 rums used in the blend…and  as we can understand it´s not an easy thing to balance that out. it`s a blend of both pot and column still molasses-based rums and aged between one and seven years in bourbon barrels.

This rum is quite light and has tropical fruit flavors, but it still has some spice and that is coming from the Batavia arrak in the mix i`m sure…and it´s actually lighter and sweeter than the 5 Island to me. To me this is just like the 5 Island very much a good daiquiri rum.

6 – Bacardi 8 – This is one of the good one´s from Bacardi, the nose is deep and sweet, fruity and complex and the taste the same with the addition of oak. To me this is a good mixer and floater in cocktails.

7 – Don Q Gran Anejo – Another classic good aged rum – with a sweet, crisp freshness paired with spices and oak. A warm and inviting rum!

8 – Depaz Blue Cane – A rum i know already and it´s a good rhum agricole with the typical fresh grassy nose and flavor you find in agricole rums. It`s smooth and complex, a good one.

9 – Ron Abuelo 12 – In the nose i find fruity oak and caramel, it´s a complex blend and the flavor develops richly in the mouth. It´s dark, rich, molasses and dried fruits, smooth and complex.

10 – Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva – Sweet, rich, caramel, toffee, molasses in a blend of 80% heavy pot still and 20% light rum. It´s indeed a very fine rum and one of the classic premium aged rums.

11 – Appleton Estate Reserve – One of the amazing rums from Appleton, it´s rich with sugarcane and oak, deep, vanilla, dark roast and complex – expertly blended of 8 to 12 year old rums.

12 – Mount Gay Extra Old – We keep tasting the real premiums now…this classic rum is very rich, fruits, molasses and wood, smoky, earthy and complex. One of my old favorite rums.

13 – Flor de Cana 18 Centenario Gold – It´s a bit woody and dryish, dried tropical fruits – it´s rich and complex, a real sipper.

14 – Zacapa Rum 23 – The classic…Smooth, toffee, sweet, complex, caramel, spices…aged in oak from 6 to 23 years in high mountain warehouses, it´s a favorite…

So there you have it – all 14 rums we tasted and i really did enjoy this seminar…

The best rum is always the one in my glass…

Tasting glasses…

Photography Ken Stock

Tales 2012 – Bottle Alley – Drinking The Panama Canal

This seminar took us through the history of drinking at the Panama Canal during the time the canal was built – something i didn´t know anything about – until David Wondrich and Jeff Berry with their usual engaging way of great story-telling took us there.

The scandalous, murderous, delicious history of Panamanian alcohology. From 1502 to 1945, the Isthmus of Panama took an epic journey from native Indian spit-beer to pirate punch, and from yellow fever to cocktail fever.

The cast of characters includes Captain Morgan (the real one, not the spiced one), Teddy Roosevelt, cocktail pioneer Jerry Thomas, and cocktail chronicler Charles Baker. Vintage Panamanian recipes will be served.

The conditions during that time was not the best to put it mildly and the two killers were disease and then liqueur –  whereof there was but one cure – liquor….a little was medecine and excess was suicide. The smell of guano permeated the air and houses and mold quickly covered their furniture…

In fact an excess of 20 000 workers died from diseases like yellow fever, malaria and black-water fever during the bulding of the canal – so life was short on the Panama canal….and therefore they lived like there was no tomorrow – drinking, whoring and gambling. There even was a street called the bottle alley” because it was litterally paved with bottles.

That street was covered in deep mud, daily rains, old garbage, dead horses, live rats and of course bottles to no end and the workers kept drinking because there wasn´t anything else to do…and they imported french liqueur for the workers.

Sounds like hell on earth to me…not the french liqueur but the place…

Interesting to hear about some obscure history like this and during the session Jeff and David showed us plenty of pictures from the time and my conclusion of the story is that they drank a lot in Panama canal…the water was unsafe to drink unless you wanted to get sick so what was left was liqueur.

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry

David Wondrich

What Captain Morgan did (he was actually not a pirate but a privateer - a sort of legal pirate (there´s a a thin line here) who had permission from the Brittish government to attack Spanish ships and ports when England and Spain were at war) was raiding Spanish towns and ships in the 1660’s and 1670’s and eventually capturing and sacking of the rich city of Panama.

He inadvertently burned the town to the ground in violation of a treaty between Britain and Spain. Capt Morgan was eventually forgiven by King Charles II for his carelessness and sent to Jamaica where he became Lieutenant-Governor.

During the seminar we were served appropriate cocktails of course..

Here`s two cocktails from the time:


2 oz dry gin

1 oz cognac

0.5 oz white creme de cacao

0.5 oz liquor 43

0.5 oz heavy cream

pinch clove and cinnamon

This cocktail was so YUMMY! try it!


This was another drink they used to drink, no measures were given here but make it as you would a julep.

Jungle mint

Dark and light rums

Apricot brandy – a dash only

Crushed ice

Julep cup – proceed as you would a normal mint julep

And here are a couple more interesting cocktails from the time:

Champagne Cocktail

Pirate Punch

San Blas Debutant

We learn some interesting history at the Tales of the Cocktail and we drink some great cocktails…come down there next year!

 Photography Ken Stock

Tales 2012 – Curacao – The ultimate guide to the world´s favorite liqueur flavor

Who doesn´t like curacao? and who doesn`t use it? – but WHO has seen it being distilled live on stage? and been able to try it out after? – well…all the attendees of this seminar did..

“From the Bare Bellybutton Liqueur of 1500s Amsterdam to the very first orange liqueurs on Curacao, and from the Martinez to the Mai Tai to the Cosmopolitan, award-winning writer and raconteur David Wondrich spars with Amsterdam resident, researcher and presenter Philip Duff and the Cognac-based artisanal distiller Alexandre Gabriel to reveal the real history of every bar’s most important cocktail liqueur flavour – curacao.

SWOON! As Philip Duff lets you sample pre-liqueur liqueurs from 1500s Dutch recipes like the Bare Bellybutton, Kandeel and Quarter After Five! GASP! as you taste 80 and 90 year old versions of well-known orange liqueurs that have changed their flavour profiles over time!

WEEP! with joy as you get to deconstruct an authentic 1800s curacao made by Professor Wondrich himself, the closest you’ll ever come to making a cocktail like Jerry Thomas did.

Well there you have it…it was a very interesting seminar indeed and the live-distilled curacao tasted very good!

During the seminar we got to taste six different and interesting things:

1 – Dutch occasional liqueur – it was drunk at different occasions and it tasted somewhat perfumy…

2 – A la minute Curacao – was very strong, almost made my throat crumble.

3 – Vegetal infusion – tasted aromatic

4 – Toasted aged cane sugar – sweet, dark with a THICK mouthfeel, was very sweeet, deep and soothing…

5 – Standard Triple Sec – well…tasted Triple Sec..

6 – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao – Very balanced, not too sweet and full bodied in taste.


Broken dried Laraha orange.

# Citrus medica, reticulata and pomelo are the citrus that once started it…In tropical climates citrus fruits doesn´t change color but stay green, only citrus fruits growing in temperate climates with cold winters change color.

# Citrus fruits does have so called umami and they also have medical properties.

# The first curacao was made in the Caribbean in 1802 – on the island of Curacoa – now Curacao – and was called Curacoa.

# The citrus fruit used was the Laraha orange, which when broken smells quite awesome. it wasn´t eaten by anyone else but the goats.

# Curacao started to be used in cocktails around 1862.

After we tasted these we were also served three cocktails containing Ferrand´s Dry Curacao:

BRANDY CRUSTA – Source: Julie Reiner, proprietor and beverage director at Lana Kai and Clover Club, NYC

2 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac, 0.5 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, 0.5 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, 0.5 oz fresh lemon juice, Dash Angostura bitters

Rim a snifter with sugar. Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into the snifter filled with ice cubes. Garnish with a horse´s neck of orange peel – aka the entire peel of an orange.

THE WHITE LADY – Source: Phillp Duff

2 oz Citadelle gin, 1 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, 1 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice ansd strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

BRANDY SHRUB – Source: David Wondrich

Peels from 2 seville (bitter) oranges and 2 valencia (sweet) oranges, 1 cup (240ml) demerara sugar, 1 cup boiling water, 1 – 750 ml bottle Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac.

In a 2 quart bowl, muddle orange peels with the sugar. Let sit for 4-5 hours. Pour boiling water into a bowl and dissolve the sugar. Add the entire bottle of Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac and let sit for 2 hours.

Strain out peels and put the liquid in a bottle. Store upright in a cool place for 2 weeks until the liquid have clarified considerably and can be siphoned off from the (harmless) sediment that will have settled to the bottom of the bottle.

Last thing that happened was that curacao was distilled live on stage and after that we got to taste it too…and it was good…




Sugarcane bar


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Tales 2012 – Tiki Host to the Stars Stephen Crane

When i went to this seminar i didn´t know that very much about Stephen Crane but Martin Cate did enlighten us and he did it very well including serving a Tiki Bowl with long straws garnished with fresh colorful pansies.

Much has been written about the two founding fathers of the tiki drink craze Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, but little discussed is the third man in the great historic tiki trifecta: Joseph Stephen Crane- Steve to his friends, and “High Talking Chief Stefooma” to the thousands of customers who walked through the door of his legendary Beverly Hills nightspot, The Luau.

Crane came from humble beginnings to climb his way up the social ladder in pre-war Hollywood through a mixture of good looks, street smarts, and undeniable charm.

So…..who was Stephen Crane?

Well, he is a man who went to Hollywood in 1940 to reinvent himself…

His original name was Joe Crane but he changed the name to Stephen Crane INCLUDING getting a plastic surgery – which was no small thing at the time and his surgery was actually payed for by a woman…

He went out with actresses and lived the good life and his favorite hangout was a place called Mocombo. At that club he asked a girl for a dance and that girl happened to be none other than Lana Turner and only a week later they were married. She was only 22 and this was her second marriage…yeah it happened fast in Hollywood…

But to make the story more complicated – in 1942 he admitted to her that he already had another wife… and from that the marriage started to go downhill…hm…no wonder – but to avoid scandal they still stayed formally married for a while and on top of that she was also pregnant…Well, that must have been a juicy story at the time! and well….they finally divorced in 1943.

Then Stephen left Hollywood for Paris in 1948 and as Lana Turner´s ex husband he had a famous name and hanged out in Paris with the rich and famous but he returned to Hollywood in 1950 and started to hang out at “The Tropics” until he – in 1953 he opened his own place and called it “The Luau” and this place was to become very famous…

He was a good friend with Don the Beachcomber but not so much with Trader Vic. The Luau had a very beautiful decor, both interior and exterior and was a quintessential Tiki place.

Luau Grog

He expanded and joined forces with the Sheraton helping them to compete against Hilton and Trader Vic’s Outrigger chain, and he opened restaurants in Montreal, Chicago, and Portland. He invented a bunch of famous Tiki drinks – the Coffee Grog, Lei, Luau Grog, Stephen Crane´s Scorpion Bowl which was a take on Trader Vic`s…to name a few.

During this seminar we were served the Luau Grog and then the Tiki Bowl…yeah no seminar is without cocktails!

Here is his version of the Scorpion Bowl:

Scorpion from Steve Crane™s Luau, 1958  (recipe courtesy Rick Stutz and Jeff Berry)

  • 1oz Lime juice
  • 2oz Orange juice
  • 2oz Gold Puerto Rican rum
  • 2oz Gin
  • 1oz Brandy
  • 3/4oz Simple syrup
  • 1oz Orgeat
  • 8oz Crushed ice

Donate everything to a blender and spin up for 3 seconds. Pour, unstrained, into a wisely sized bowl. Drink by yourself or with friends.

The secret to success at the Luau was romantic and evocative drinks and beautiful women and decor. His philosophy was – to get the girls in because if you get the girls in the guys will follow…

As a Tiki Bar should be – the place was dark and mysterious – with cool decor – like for example “man eating clam shells”……….

He became even bigger and more successful and opened the Exotic South Seas Dining chain called Kon Tiki. He lived until he was 69 years old and is one of the unsung Tiki heroes…

Apparently he wasn`t the best husband…but a damned good drink-maker, entertainer and business man.

Mahalo and hats off to Martin Cate for a very interesting seminar! make sure to go to Tales of the Cocktail next year folks..

Photography Ken Stock