Any long time readers of this blog know I'm a huge fan of Tales of the Cocktail, the annual celebration-cum-conference of all things drink that usually happens late July in New Orleans. (Go search all the posts from our past visits in 2016 and 2012--which means, damn, we were due to go this year too.) Of course nothing is usual this year, but TOTC refuses to give in, even if people can't travel, or sit in rooms together for seminars, or crowd into bars. So it's happening now, online, and it's free for all! You still have time to "attend" the last three days if you want.
So, today I "participated" (this is going to be the land of air quotes, zipping about like the hummingbirds fighting above our nectar feeder) in five events and it's not even 5 pm yet my time and I'm writing this drinking one of those two Vespers you see at the top of the entry in honor of the last event I watched, "The Man Behind James Bond: Ian Fleming presented by Ford's Gin."
In a usual TOTC write up, I'd go on and on about New Orleans, which, to be honest, is a daily tales of the cocktail all by itself, of course, and talk a lot about great meals, large and small, and much sipping of many things. When I've told people I'm going to a cocktail conference, they always assume I spend my days one o-sized mouth shy of being blott-o, but it's rarely that, as there's just so much you sip and taste and dump and skip. And eat. And in New Orleans in July, walk and sweat.
But to do five TOTC events and have no liquor.... Well, that was weird. But as I watched a very informative Amaro session this morning, I didn't go to my liquor cabinet and pour a shot. I mean, who drinks Amaro pre-noon? If your lunch needs a digestif, you're going to end up like Mr. Creosote. So while this Tales is plenty informative, it seems like a sensory cheat, especially since you don't get to hit brands doing their thing in the lobby of the Monteleone for quick tastes of things between sessions.
Many of the sessions are also pre-Zoom-recorded, too, so there's no chance for interaction, questions, etc. I only did one live session today, "Marie Brizard Low ABV Cocktails," and it was good to have Jonathan Pogash (aka The Cocktail Guru), the session host, reading our comments and responding in real time. But this session also made clear one of the usual red flags for TOTC--on some level it exists for sponsors to flog product. Of course, that means when you're there they buy you things--from drinks to Day of the Dead face paintings to lavish parties the like you only thought you'd read about in Vanity Fair. But when you're just watching someone on your computer, it's not quite the same.
All that said, I got to watch presenters like Chris Blackwell (yep, the founder of Island Records, who currently owns Ian Flemings' Jamaica estate, Golden Eye, and has turned it into a resort) and a host of brilliant writers on liquor, to learn how to make low ABV cocktails, to relish in a fantastic overview of Amari, to have TOTC Foundation President Caroline Rosen say "y'all" and sprinkle me in the linguistic equivalent of powdered sugar from Cafe du Monde's beignets.
I've got six pages of notes. I left out pretty much any content in this already too long write-up. The folks who took part in the "Storytelling Behind The Bar presented by William Grant & Sons" session I watched would beat me up for not having enough of a through-line here, no doubt, and one of the presenters even teaches at my alma mater Johns Hopkins. So yeah, I'm having a good time (btw, I did take the week off from my day job, like I'm really "vacationing"). But how do I taste more? I'm going to have to figure this out and not pass out.