This was the 10th anniversary edition of the Tales of the Cocktail conference, held this year in New Orleans, and it was a lively affair as usual. Awards were presented for cocktail bar of the year and bartender of the year, among other honors. We’ll get into those later.
The five-day event featured much to be enjoyed by the cocktail connoisseur, with plenty of sampling opportunities.
Among the attendees was Laine Doss, the “Booze Hound” blogger for the Miami New Times. Doss identified five key trends to watch for in the coming year. Here’s an abridged version of what rose to the top for the Booze Hound.
Bitters. These forgotten bottles of brown stuff have been elevated to a must-have for the bar, Doss says. They now come in a wide array of flavors including celery, cinnamon, ginger, coffee, orange, cardamom, cocoa, and black truffle. They’re essential in a Sazarac or Manhattan, but also fun to experiment with in bourbon, Scotch or other types of hootch.
Herbals, Florals, and Veggies. Fruit cocktails have been done to death. Now making the scene are martinis with a touch of violet, a Tom Collins with a cucumber essence, or a Margarita with a kick of jalapeño. Or how about a bourbon drink dressed up with a sprig of rosemary?
Experimentation and Substitution. Bartenders at the conference were big on twisting traditional cocktails into new combinations. Using Pisco in a Bloody Mary instead of vodka, or rum in an Old Fashioned.
Absinthe. Banned since 1912 in most of the U.S., you can get it in New Orleans these days. And the absinthe lounge at Tales of the Cocktail drew big crowds every day. Absinthe can be found here and there today (such as at The Corner in Miami) but Doss predicts it will become more available in the years ahead.
Made in the USA. Awesome, handcrafted spirits are being made all over the country today. Think quality rum only comes from the Caribbean? Nope. And vodka doesn’t have to be imported from Russia or Scandinavia. They make good vodka in Austin, Texas, fine gin in Milwaukee, and excellent rum in Breckenridge, Colo.
The envelope, please
Here’s a rundown of some of the award winners at Tales of the Cocktail.
World’s Best Cocktail Bar – The Connaught Bar, London, UK
World’s Best Hotel Bar – Artesian Bar at The Langham, London, UK
Best American Cocktail Bar – The Varnish, Los Angeles
Best Restaurant Bar – Slanted Door, San Francisco
American Bartender of the Year – Joaquin Simó, Death & Co., New York*
Best New Product – Cognac Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula
Best Cocktail Writing (non-book) – Liquor.com
*Fresh off his win as American bartender of the year, Simó (photo, right) has left Death & Company to start up his own place, called Pouring Ribbons, in New York’s East Village, opening this fall.
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