Behind the Scenes at Tales of the Cocktail 2016

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There’s so much to see, do, and, of course, taste during Tales of the Cocktail. The annual week-long cocktail and spirits event in New Orleans attracts bartenders, distillers, writers, enthusiasts and more, eager to drink in knowledge about trends, new products, recipes and techniques.

Lustau Daiquiri at House of Lustau and Santa Teresa Lunch

Lustau Daiquiri.

Seminars and tasting rooms abound–as do other events that shine the spotlight on booze news you can use. Whether or not you made it to NOLA last month, here is a sampling of what Cheers contributor Kelly Magyarics saw during her time at Tales this year:

The House of Lustau and Santa Teresa Rum teamed up for a sherry-and-rum paired lunch at the French- and American-cuisine inspired restaurant Herbsaint. Attendees were greeted with a Solera Old Fashioned or a Lustau Daiquiri before being treated to a four-course lunch.

Louisiana Shrimp with Brabant potatoes, saffron aioli and basil were paired with Lustau Almacenista Fino del Puerto Gonzalez Obregon, cheese cannelloni was a match with Lustau Amontillado Escuadrilla, and roasted ribeye stood up nicely to Lustau Oloroso Emperatriz Eugenia. The meal ended with bread pudding with rum sauce and a glass of Santa Teresa 1796 Rum.

Cocktails at Elyx House

Absolut Elyx, the brand’s luxury vodka that’s handcrafted in bespoke copper stills, hosted the Elyx House over several afternoons.

Tucked away down an alleyway in a striking private event space, Absolut Elyx, the brand’s luxury vodka that’s handcrafted in bespoke copper stills, hosted the Elyx House over several afternoons. A DIY Martini bar, and a variety of Tiki tipples—some with popsicles floating in them—gave guests lots of liquid opportunities to sample the high end white spirit.

All Elyx cocktails were served in copper glassware, naturally, including hat-adorned gnomes and pineapple bowls with copper straws. A velvet roped upper room added to the exclusive vibe.

Select Moscow Mule fans headed to the Ritz Carlton, where Moscow Copper Co. founder JJ Resnick was on hand to talk about the history of the drink—and its iconic mug. The copper mug was brought to the U.S. in 1941 by Russian immigrant Sophie Berezinski.

Today, Moscow Copper Co. recreates the mugs to Berezinski’s standards (and also sells larger format and shot glass-sized versions.) The company is also launching a card-carrying program to prevent theft of the coveted mugs at bars.

After procuring a mug at the event, the bartenders at the Ritz Carlton bar were happy to fill it with an icy cold Moscow Mule to stay, or to go—New Orleans’ nonexistent open-container laws, and all.

Chill Out Chilcano

Chill Out Chilcano, an ode to the South American cocktail.

Pisco fans and newbies wanting to learn about the Peruvian grape-based spirit headed to the Royal Sonesta Hotel for Chill Out Chilcano, an ode to the South American cocktail made with pisco, lime and ginger ale. Bartenders and brands whipped up their own riffs of the cooling libation, including Macchu Pisco and Pisco Porton, as well as Ivy Mix of Leyenda in New York and Nathan Dalton of NOLA’s new Catahoula Hotel.

Earlier in the week at the rooftop bar of the Catahoula Hotel, Melanie Asher, cofounder of Macchu Pisco, debuted her Chicarron Pisco. The experimental spirit made by immersing pork ribs into the distillate. Using a technique that’s a little bit different than pechuga-style mezcal, the pisco boasted an amazing body and mouthfeel. It may actually hit the U.S. market next year–stay tuned.

Low ABV cocktail at Banks Rum dinner

Low ABV cocktail at Banks Rum dinner.

As part of the Spirited Dinner series, the Banks Rum’s Spirited Dinner was held at the recently opened Cafe Henri, a stylish new eatery in the Bywater area of the New Orleans. Bartender, writer and author Jim Meehan, formerly of the award-winning PDT in New York, mixed up cocktails paired with Jason Klutts’ cuisine.

Guests arrived to find a bowl of rum punch on a communal table, before sitting down to the multi-course meal. Knowing that guests would be headed out afterwards to brand parties and after parties, Meehan told the crowd he would be serving low-ABV cocktails that would keep everyone fresh, not fuzzy. To that end, he enlisted Henrietta Lovell, founder and director of Rare Tea Co., who explained how to use tea in cocktails. For instance, you should steep the leaves in cold water for a longer time, rather than hot, to avoid oxidation and odd flavors. Her teas added multilayered flavor to the low-proof tipples.

Simon Ford and Dan Warner of The 86 Co. hosted an invite-only event at Seaworthy, the restaurant at the new Ace Hotel. Ford’s Gin Oysters and Martinis (pictured atop) started with a perfectly mixed Gin & Tonic served with an orange peel.

Afterward, three different Martinis were poured tableside, and ice-cold, tri-coastal bivalves (one each from the East, West and Gulf Coasts) were served with appropriate mignonettes. Briny and savory, the East Coast Martini stirred in manzanilla sherry; heady and delicate, the West Coast version used Lillet Blanc and muscadet wine. And in a true departure from the classic recipe, the Gulf Coast drink (Ford’s favorite), had a Guinness-based syrup and Cocchi Americano, garnished with a radish slice.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.

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