The official kick off to Tales doesn’t happen until today at 2PM, but in reality, TOTC begins when you get to the airport. Flying LGA->MSY anytime between Monday and Wednesday the week of guarantees your flight will be packed with bartenders, brand ambassadors, writers and as one person diplomatically put it, “prosumers.”
We were welcomed to Louis Armstrong at 3:04PM by the Delta attendant proudly enjoining us to have fun at Tales and drink Chartreuse responsibly. Tales: check! Chartreuese: check! Responsibly: …
The first stop in New Orleans is of course the hotel, which in our case means walk straight past the check-in at the Loews and sit down at the Swizzle Stick Bar. The bar is run by Lu Brow, who is easily one of my favorite bartenders and really just an amazing person. We caught her for a few minutes after she got back from [redacted] and talked about [redacted]. I think I’ve already said too much ;) Sorry to tease, but I’ll make it up with a picture of us last year at Halloween.
We were also joined for a few rounds of Aviations, Corpse Revivers and Vieux Carres by Emily of Mouth of the Border. She’s a force that I first met at Tales last year on the last night at Bartender’s Breakfast. I was appropriately sodden at the time so the details of it are hazy, but I’m happy to count her as friend. And of course I can’t get this far without mentioning my companions on the trip: the toxicologist who introduced me to cocktails two years ago, the “local” who drank us both under the table last year while still making it to the strip club, and the controversial Rolling Stone author who scientifically proved Lady Gaga to be the Queen of Pop.
Why am I writing more about the people then the cocktails? Drinks are a lovely thing in and of themselves, used to cool you when you’re hot, to warm you when you’re cold and to take away the shame of the day. But the pleasure in them really comes from their unique power to make new friends and bring old ones together.
So anyway, it’s 6PM which means a stop by Mission Control to be just in time to miss registration. Undaunted, we moved on to Napoleon House for a Sazerac and a Pimm’s. If you’re new to New Orleans, you’ll probably notice that the Sazerac’s here are sweeter, and let’s just say better, than what’d you get from territories farther north.
Food. Yeah, food’s a necessity and one of the best places to get it is at Coop’s Place on Decatur. Yes, they sell t-shirts. Yes, it gets attacked by tourists. Yes, it’s not the cleanest looking place. But damn it if they don’t make the best Jambalaya I’ve had in my life! Filled with shrimp, rabbit, sausage and aweseome-sauce, otherwise knows as tasso, this will put your stomach at ease for a long night ahead. They also make quite a nice Sazerac.
Laden down with an appropriate supply of salt and grease, we grabbed a cab to Cure where I had a mind-blowingly good trio of cocktails. The first was the Scotch and Salt: blended scotch, Cocchi Americano, Cocchi Torino, grapefruit and smoked salt.
I only came here once last year, and sadly it was later in the week so the place was packed, but this is an absolutely incredible bar. The inside is stunning, the bartenders are seriously on point, and the drinks will genuinely surprise you. I followed this up with a Last Word made with V.E.P. Green Chartreuse, and my god, so good! I went into it expecting it to be better than the standard Last Word, but probably not worth the very expensive addition of V.E.P. I was wrong. So very very wrong. I’m not going to do justice in a description, but I’ll just say what I kept repeating that night: “like buttah.”
I closed out at Cure with a mezcal bartender’s choice. I’m not going to lie, this one stumped me. It was mezcal, punt e mes and something quinine-y. That’s the flavor in tonic water pretty much. It wasn’t Bonal (too dry), it wasn’t Varnelli (it didn’t melt my face off), it was a Sauz tincture. Seriously?? These guys are just ridiculous.
The night closed out at The Saint, a dive bar if there ever was one, with $2 High Life’s and a bevy of bartenders rocking the karaoke machine. We packed it in around 2AM, missing the traditional Chartreuese and Cigars at the Old Absinthe House, but that can wait for another night. Right now, it’s time for a Pisco tasting!