The ‘Smash’ is in effect a Julep on a small plan.”
– Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930
What is a smash? It sounds fun! According to cocktail lore, it is essentially a julep. Sooo…spirit, sugar, water, mint and ice. A smash usually uses fresh, seasonal fruit. Muddled or…smashed, as it were! Some smashes have other herbs instead of mint, like basil or sage. The Chipotle Cherry Bourbon Smash uses neither fresh fruit nor green herb, buuut here’s another thing about a smash: it’s a pretty flexible drink! And as we head into the cooler seasons, I wanted to experiment with the basics of the smash cocktail using ingredients that you can find all year round, preserved fruit and hot sauce! And whiskey, of course! Plus chipotle peppers, preserved cherries and bourbon just SOUNDS like a mashup that needs to happen. Here you go!
Instead of fresh cherries, I thought it would be fun to use cocktail cherries. Not the chemical laden, neon colored kind that have given cocktail cherries a bad rap. Oh, those little sugar bombs are still everywhere (check out pretty much any chain restaurant bar’s garnish caddy), they are pretty pervasive. But now we have some beautiful options, often infused with brandy or bourbon. Mess Hall Cocktail Co. is making some lovely preserved cocktail cherries at the moment. They source their cherries from farms near their home in Chicago, Illinois and then steep them in sugar and spices and a good amount of bourbon. YES, PLEASE.
I’m not going to admit what a revelation it was when I found out that chipotle peppers are just smoked, dried jalapeño peppers. Wha?? I guess this is common knowledge?! And makes total sense. Because…look at them! I suppose I found this so surprising because they are so much less spicy than their fiery cousins. Their distinct smoky quality is treasured for packing a flavor punch to so many dishes. But ever since I tried Tabasco’s Chipotle Sauce I wanted to use it in a cocktail.
This one is far less spicy than their Original Red Sauce and is a little less acidic. It has that dark smoky flavor distinctive to chipotle peppers and just a few dashes work beautifully with Mess Hall’s sweetened cherries. It also highlights the barrel aged wood smoke in the Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon that I used. DREAM TEAM!
Another nice thing about using these preserved cherries is that you don’t need to add any additional sugar. The cocktail cherries lend just the right amount of sweetness. If you’d like it a little sweeter, you can always add a teaspoon of the syrup from the cherry jar.
Chipotle Cherry Bourbon Smash
1.5 oz Bourbon (Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon works well with this)
5-6 cocktail cherries (Mess Hall Cocktail Co)
1/4 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
Muddle cherries, lemon juice and Tabasco in a rocks glass. Add bourbon and ice. Top with seltzer and give a stir. Garnish with cocktail cherry.
Sponsored: This post was made possible by TABASCO® in conjunction with the TABASCO® Tastemakers program. This is the third cocktail in a series of posts that feature the Tabasco Family of Flavors in cocktail recipes. As always, all opinions are my own!
And just like that, it’s FALL, y’all! While I may be grieving summer just a smidge (did it go by faster than usual this year or am I just too busy to notice seasons anymore??), I do LOVE this time of year in the Northeast. Clothes get pretty cable knit-y, the early evening light through the trees gets very romantical, and everything gets super cozy around these parts. And one of the best things about this season? Halloween! As I mentioned a few months back, Fresh Direct, the local online grocer that delivers fresh and prepared food to your door, has made the game-changing move to include booze in their inventory. And they’ve been busy bees since then. They’ve since added some incredible mixers and bitters to their line-up. To celebrate some of these Bit by a Fox faves getting picked up by our fave online grocer, I created some Halloween inspired cocktails just for them! But they can be just for you too. Check it out!
Spiced Cider Margarita
Spiced Cider Margarita
2 ounces Cimarron Blanco tequila
2 ounces apple cider
1 bottle of Be Mixed Margarita
1/2-ounce ginger liqueur
Dash ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Shake all ingredients over ice until well chilled. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with apple wedge and star anise.
The Owl’s Rock & Rye Brewski
The Owl’s Rock & Rye Brewski
3-4 ounces pale ale or lager beer
2 ounces Classic Owl’s Brew
1 1/2 ounces Hotchstadter’s Slow & Low Rock & Rye
3/4-ounce lemon juice
Stir well with long spoon or straw. Serve in an ice-filled pint glass.
The Hella Spookler
The Hella Spookler
1 1/2 ounces Industry Standard Vodka
2 ounces pomegranate juice
Sparkling wine or prosecco
Citrus Hella Bitters
Place a sugar cube at the bottom of a flute glass and soak it with 4-5 dashes of bitters. Pour in the pomegranate juice and vodka and top with sparkling wine. Drop in 5-6 pomegranate seeds for garnish.
Bartender Style is a collaboration between Bit by a Fox and photographer Rose Callahan. This monthly series, exclusively on the Bit by a Fox blog, will explore and document the personal style of some of the best bartenders in New York City and beyond. This month, we are going outside of our regular formula and are featuring two superstars in the booze industry who are not attached to a bar. As cocktail specialists for their own consulting firm Ford Mixology Lab, and Brand Ambassadors to separate but equally legendary brand portfolios, this husband and wife power couple knows a thing or two about bartending AND style. Meet Kyle & Rachel Ford!
When you’re always in cocktail attire, you’re always ready for a cocktail.” – Rachel Ford aka “Lady Tanqueray”
Jay Z & Beyoncé, Thelma & Louise, these guys…Kyle & Rachel Ford = #relationshipgoals. These kids are almost too cute together.
A sort of modern-day Nick and Nora Charles (the fun-loving husband-and-wife detective team in The Thin Man), this stunning pair are often chicly coordinated (without being matchy matchy), have a tendency to finish each others sentences (in a charming way), and most enviably, they are each others biggest cheerleaders. As brand ambassadors in the highly competitive spirits industry, where long hours, frequent traveling and erratic schedules are the norm, it is pretty significant to have someone who not only understands exactly what you’re going through but has your full support. It is pretty clear the Fords truly admire one another.
High school sweethearts who met at 15 in a Sacramento, California karate studio, Rachel worked the front desk and Kyle instructed 4 year olds how to hi-yah; they’ve been inseparable ever since. They went on to attend the same college but had divergent interests. Kyle went into finance and Rachel into real estate. The Fords then, captivated by the renaissance in cocktail culture, made the life changing decision to quit their jobs and made the move to San Francisco to cut their teeth behind the stick.
In a few short years, they both made names for themselves in the San Francisco cocktail scene. It was there that they first formed their cocktail & spirits consultancy, Ford Mixology Lab. Soon after, they set their sights on New York City.
As part of the opening team for beloved bitters bar Amor Y Amargo in New York City, the Fords were soon holding court every Sunday night as they hosted a special “FML Night” together – a play on the initials of their business, and the popular social media acronym for “fuck my life”.
It was a night devoted to righting all of the wrongs from the previous week, with cocktails! It gave them an opportunity to work together and provided a platform for them to introduce themselves to the greater New York cocktail community.
Turns out, it was a great intro! They went on to design the Fall/Winter cocktail menu for city hotspot, Empellon and then continued stints at high level bars around town before landing their current brand ambassador roles, which they’ve both held for nearly 4 years.
Instead of capturing this month’s Bartender Style subjects in a bar, the Fords, a pair of dashing cocktail nomads, have kindly invited us into their lovely home, high above the city and the East River.
Breezy, sunlit and uncluttered, with pops of bright colors, their home very much reflects the two of them.
And, sprinkled throughout are pieces that nod to their involvement in the cocktail world.
Their respective brands even live side by side…
Kyle is the Cocktail & Spirits Expert for Rémy Cointreau and, since March, has been named Impresario of Collectif 1806, which means he now manages the entire brand ambassador program for Rémy Cointreau, currently expanding through the overseas market.
Kyle didn’t really get into fashion until he started bartending. And even then, self admittedly, he went in for the classic San Francisco hipster bartender look at the time – suspenders, gigantic mustache, the works! After his days in finance, it was all part of the creative outlet that he found solace in as a bartender. The move to New York had a significant effect on his style. These days, his overall look skews more towards what he dubs “dapper grandpa”.
In fact, Kyle counts Rachel’s Grandpa, Big Ed, tattooed on her forearm, as one of his biggest style inspirations. Big Ed’s motto is “having fun!” and with that attitude, you can imagine, he is not afraid of bold prints, bright colors and little details like pocket squares and tie bars. Both Kyle and Rachel seem to have adopted this cheery approach to living and dressing!
Kyle admits that since working for a premium brand like Rémy Cointreau, his signature quirky style has definitely gotten elevated, and he tends to dress up now more than ever.
In her role as National Brand Ambassador to Tanqueray Gin, Rachel has been affectionately referred to as Lady Tanqueray these last four years. She’s now leading the entire gin category as Diageo National Gin Ambassador, but Rachel assures us she’ll always be Lady Tanqueray!
Rachel has had an interest in fashion for quite some time. She went to Otis College of Art and Design for Fashion and originally thought that was what she wanted to do. Regardless, fashion has always been a creative outlet for her. When asked what her off duty look is like, she says things like “fashion doesn’t rest” and “style doesn’t have an off day!” And she means it!
For years, Rachel strictly wore Betsey Johnson. While her sartorial choices have broadened and have become more refined, there are remnants of that designer’s sense of whimsy and embellishment peppered throughout Rachel’s wardrobe. Most specifically her adorable (and vast) collection of shoes!
Rachel has enjoyed representing Tanqueray stylistically and matching the qualities the historic brand evokes – sophisticated with an edge, bold with a sense of mystique. She is classic glam, with an edgy quality, herself. Rachel isn’t afraid of being a little sexy but prefers below the knee hemlines and classic cuts, mixing up modern and retro looks.
Rachel and Kyle both contributed a cocktail recipe, both martinis…but with slight variations. While at home, whether they are relaxing or entertaining, they agree that the martini is their go-to cocktail – like Nick & Nora! However, precisely what’s inside differs from Ford to Ford…
Rachel stuck with a classic recipe of 50:50 gin and vermouth with a few dashes of bitters, staying true to her Tanqueray. And Kyle took a page from one of his favorite cocktail authors, Bernard DeVoto of The Hour, and created an “obnoxiously precise, delicious martini” with Botanist Gin. And, they happened to put these lovely drinks in Nick & Nora glasses, as if sealing their classic couple doppelgänger comparison forever. I suggest you do the same!
Ford Mixology Lab’s Classic Martini and Dry Martini:
Martini, Classic Martini, Dry (Bernard DeVoto Style)
1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin (Tanqueray) 2.5 oz Botanist Gin
1 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth 4 tsp. Dry Vermouth
2 dashes bitters
Stir well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
If you follow me on social media, you are well aware that I went to Iceland this past May with Martin Miller’s Gin. And if you talk to me on a regular basis, you know that I still can’t shut up about it. I mean…
Like many people, visiting Iceland has been on my “bucket list” for a while. And I sort of STILL can’t believe how lucky I was to be able to have had that experience. Iceland is one of those magical places that truly lives up to the hype, exceeding my expectations, in fact. The sheer natural beauty, the vastness and otherworldly quality is so hard to convey in pictures. But, oh baby, we tried!
Manned with a GoPro, a Canon S110 and an iPhone 6 (and a couple of lavalier mics for decent sound), producer Joy Barrett and I set out to document the experience.
Our home base was the stunning coastal capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.
From there, we traveled to the mystical black sand beaches…
…day tripped to the breathtaking countryside and volcanic fields…
…and hit multiple geothermal spas, including the Blue Lagoon, of course!
But, most importantly, we used our opportunity in this strange and beautiful land to really get to know the process it takes to make Martin Miller’s Gin, and see firsthand why Iceland is so important to their production. We wanted to capture the spirit of this unique product that depends on the purity of Icelandic water to produce such a superior gin.
In order to really immerse ourselves in the Martin Miller’s Gin experience, they had us caravan (in a fleet of Superjeeps!) deep into the country to see their small bottling plant.
From there we were able to check out the exact spot of the water source for every one of their bottles of gin.
Martin Miller’s Gin co-founder David Bromige leads to troops out to the gin’s water source.
Martin Miller’s Gin co-founder David Bromige
Martin Miller’s Gin was also hosting a global cocktail design competition called We Are The Tastemakers, and had flown out 6 regional winners from all over the world to compete in the Grand Final.
The bartenders Lisandro Araoz from Argentina, Markus Muller from Germany, Gorge Camorra from Australia, Allen Cheng from Taiwan…
as well as Alex Lawrence and Megs DeMeulenaure both from the UK, each presented their original Martin Miller’s Gin cocktails for journalists from the UK, USA and mainland Europe. There was so much ingenuity, and thought that went into every one of these cocktails, it was so difficult to choose! In the end, the winning cocktail was the delightful River Martini from Germany’s Markus Muller.
The entire experience was pretty spectacular. And while I was already a fan of Martin Miller’s Gin, I really came away from this visit with a new-found respect for the passion behind producing this spirit and the importance of the water that they use. Using Icelandic water because it’s the purest in the world, when your main operation is in the UK is no easy feat! That is commitment to quality gin!
In the below video that Giggle Water Productions created from our visit last May, Martin Miller’s Gin C.E.O., Jacob Ehrenkrona, stressed how important it is to actually make the kind of trek that we did to truly understand the product. I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of it. It really was the Summer of Gin!
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know that we will be launching an original web series called “Wanderlush” in the fall, that will essentially bring the blog to life. It will merge travel, style and drinking culture. And, Iceland is our first stop! We gave you a sneak peek in July and a taste of what’s to come in this post but we will finally reveal our first episode next month! Stay tuned for more Icelandic magic!
This post was made possible by Martin Miller’s Gin. All opinions are my own.
Update: Watch here until 4:30 EST 9/3/15
We’re at it again! The Boozy Babes, Emily Arden Wells from Gastronomista and myself are hitting the sauce on live Periscope TV again…later today! What could go wrong?!
This time we’re making, sipping & chatting ALL about the SPRITZ! With Labor Day looming and the warm days waning, my favorite summer aperitif gets extra attention in this special segment with the always charming Masa Urushido at downtown hot spot Saxon + Parole.
Tune in today at 4:30 pm EST either through the Periscope app on your phone or on Twitter. But you have to watch this through Roker Labs profile in either place. Just start following Roker Labs, and look out for the link when we go live! If you do watch live, please ask us questions so we can answer on air. It’s more fun if it’s a party! See you later!
As part of our week-long mutual admiration love-fest, Meg Moorhouse from Love & Victory and I have both interviewed each other for our blogs. You can read ALL about what I’m excited about working on right now, what my dream project is, and what is the most challenging part of what I do…here!
In honor of summer coming to an an end (say it isn’t soooo!) I also did an outdoor bar roundup in our home borough, Brooklyn! Hurry up and check out the article to see why these are my picks to hit before it gets too cool to imbibe al fresco!
Over these last few years, Bit by a Fox has given me the opportunity to connect with so many creative and inspiring people, many of them entrepreneurs themselves. For this new series on the blog, Foxy Friends, I’ll be profiling the dynamos (and their creations) that I think everyone else should know, if they don’t already! For my very first Foxy Friends feature, I present to you the powerhouse designer, talented artist, boss lady and, most importantly, cocktail fan Meg Moorhouse from (my new obsession) Love & Victory!
Raised in New Jersey, Meg somehow escaped without mall hair. She did, however, retain her Italian American family’s love for long, drawn out meals and plenty of drink.
Since moving to Brooklyn in 2000 (we’re nearly neighbors!), Meg has worn a LOT of creative hats through the years. From long-term collaborations with artists such as Glenn Ligon and Robert Gober at Dieu Donné Papermill to a designer gig for New York handbag label M Z WALLACE. From 2002-2006, Meg co-founded and -designed the quirky accessories label La Voleuse, known for its hand-painted ballet slippers emblazoned with tattoo designs and song lyrics from favorites like Dolly Party and The Smiths. How could you not love that?! Her designs have been featured in publications such as WWD Accessories Guide, Lucky, and The New York Times Magazine.
And then there’s Love & Victory, her one stop shop for personalized gifts that are equal parts beautiful, whimsical and classic. Like these custom designed Bit by a Fox engraved rocks glasses! I’m so in loooove. Stay tuned to see how YOU can win a pair of your very own custom designed glass set…
Meg seeks to create the perfect gift, a gift that you’re excited to give… even if it’s to yourself. She loves a great cocktail and relishes the opportunity to create beautiful, personal barware that’s both new- and old-school and encourages her favorite sport: Imbibing!
You’re so multi-talented from graphic and product design to creating jewelry, original art and web sites, what has drawn you to engraving in particular?
Thank you! I’ve done all sorts of art & design, it’s true—branding, products, web. I feel happiest when I’m solving design problems, and I enjoy doing that in all media. I don’t like feeling hemmed into one realm and think that if you think with a designer-ly brain, you can learn to design anything!
In terms of products, sometimes I start with an idea and figure out the production to support it. Other times, I know of a craftsperson or trade I want to work with and design a product to fit. For my engraved glassware, I first had an idea for the His/Hers/Ours decanter set—sort of something that I felt like you should be able to get a vintage version of, but I hadn’t seen one quite like it, so I found some folks who could do the engraving for me. I love that it’s a slightly more modern take on a vintage style. Pretty much sums up my taste to a T.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am just a voracious viewer, always looking at things, vintage and new. I grew up in New Jersey, going to thrift stores and estate sales weekly, and I’ve never lost my thirst for the hunt. I’m like a freakish competitor. It’s not pretty. Totally elbows out, trying to beat the next guy out for the good stuff.
In terms of styles that I find inspiring, I love Victorian mourning jewelry and sweetheart jewelry. Old engraved glass souvenirs. Tattoos. Vintage typography, lettering, penmanship.
You make so many beautiful pieces, I’d want to keep everything! Do you ever have a hard time letting them go?
No, it’s how I made a living, so I’m glad to sell them! Kidding, not kidding. Really I’m just happy each and every time someone makes a purchase, because it means that they like what I design which is truly the greatest compliment. Truth be told, I probably own a version of everything I design, so I do hoard plenty of the wares.
How has being a mom influenced your work? Has there been a change in your aesthetic?
When I was pregnant with Louella, I designed our custom engraved rings, which I suppose were done with myself and all of my friends who were becoming mothers in mind. I would say that it’s changed my working style more than my aesthetic. I have to squeeze things into less time, so I’m more efficient!
Do you have any favorite glassware pieces that you’ve created at the moment?
I love our Everyday & The Good Stuff Decanter Set. It started as a joke, with the Everyday one being gigantic and The Good Stuff much smaller. I love an element of humor always. But the Ours Decanter Set is still my favorite. It’s just the best gift. People literally sometimes buy them by the half-dozen to stock up for a summer of weddings. And now we have a Mine set for single folks. Or people who don’t like to share.
What’s your go-to drink right now?
This summer I’ve been drinking a hell of a lot of caipirinhas. My favorite cocktail to make for friends is probably an Aviation. I got my recipe from my friend, Kathryn Weatherup, because she makes a damn good one. Their lavender color is so gorgeous, and I feel like it pleases even the folks who think they don’t like gin. It’s just my mission to get all of my pals to be gin drinkers.
Is there any way to see your pieces in person? What stores are you currently selling out of?
Absolutely. We sell at a few dozen stores around the country. In New York City, you can find our glassware at Catbird and In God We Trust.
Any future projects you’re working on that you’re excited about?
Yes! We are working on a “deck of cards” that is a collection of 52 classic cocktails. Working our way them has been SUCH. A. TOUGH. JOB. Just kidding—best job ever! Designing them is a big job, but we’re so excited about how they’re coming together!
Meg lives and works in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn with her graphic designer husband, Willy, their 5-year-old daughter Louella, and their not-so-friendly cat, Beatrice
GIVEAWAY THROUGH INSTAGRAM! Love & Victory and Bit by a Fox are doing a giveaway exclusively through Instagram all week! Deadline is next Thursday, 8/3. You can win your very own #FoxLoveVictory Cocktail Kit: Love & Victory custom designed rocks glasses, Bit by a Fox Pink Peppercorn Cocktail Syrup and a custom designed cocktail recipe created just for you! Go to the Bit by a Fox Instagram page or the Love and Victory Instagram page this afternoon for more details!
Hey guys! You know Al Roker? Yes THAT Al Roker of “Today” show fame and highly optimistic weather updates and everyone’s favorite morning jokester uncle…well, he has a multimedia production company, Al Roker Entertainment that he’s been running for the last 20 years!!! Not just a weather man, guys!
Roker Labs is their digital media incubator of sorts and they are dipping their toes in the live streaming content game, with much success. And, guess who’s going to be doing some cocktail segments with them?!
Fellow boozy babe, Emily Arden Wells from Gastronomista and I are partnering with @RokerLabs for this exciting new cocktail series that will stream live 5pm (EST) on Periscope for the next couple of Tuesdays starting TONIGHT! For our first segment “All About That Mix”, we are heading to Polynesian oasis, Mother of Pearl in New York’s east village. Our bartender for the evening will be industry vet, bartender extraordinaire and total babe, Jane Danger, pictured below (with a shock of blue in her blonde locks) from our Bartender Style shoot at Mother of Pearl last month:
I know what you’re thinking…what is this Periscope hooha? Why do I have to get another weird app on my phone? Is that the only way I can watch it? Listen, grandma, I totally understand. I was pretty intimidated by this new technology too, until LAST NIGHT, in fact. Up until I tried a test run with Emily I really couldn’t wrap my brain around it. But it is SO easy, and pretty fun, in fact. It’s like live chatting, face timing and youtubing all at the same time, if that means anything to you! And IF you just can’t be bothered with watching us in real time, this will be saved and posted on our sites. But, just know this, Al Roker is probably more tech savvy than you. So just upload that Periscope App, follow @RokerLabs (and @BitByaFox, of course!) and prepare to get your tiki on tonight. Welcome to the future!
Hey, all you curvaceous ladiez out there! Do you know about Gwynnie Bee? It is a monthly fashion subscription service (think Netflix for designer clothes!) that is dedicated exclusively to women size 10 and above. Pretty brilliant, right? Not surprisingly, they’ve amassed a lot of fans since launching a few years back, and they totally recognize that their members’ community is a major part of their success. So, a few weeks ago, Gwynnie Bee kicked off a multi-city tour celebrating their devoted members and community influencers called GB Inspired By You Tour.
In each city on the tour, Gwynnie Bee will have people preview and try on apparel that is just about to launch, including this adorable giraffe print Leota dress that I got to wear to their Happy Hour event for their New York City kick-off – just one of the perks of designing the signature cocktail for the night – The Gwynnie Bee Spritz!
The cocktail was such a hit, that I thought I’d share it with you guys! It’s actually one of those drinks that you can batch out ahead of time for group events, so you can actually enjoy your guests and not be tending bar for them all night! It’s also major crowd pleaser. I loved looking around the room and seeing so many lovely ladies with this drink in their hands!
Gwynnie Bee Spritz – single serving
2 oz Aperol
1 oz Vodka
3 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Pink Peppercorn Syrup
3 oz of Prosecco
Directions: In a chilled, ice-filled wine glass add the Aperol, vodka, juice and syrup. Stir well, top with Prosecco.
Large Batch – makes 12
3 cups Aperol
1 1/2 cups Vodka
4 1/2 cups Grapefruit Juice
3/4 cup Pink Peppercorn Syrup
2 bottles Prosecco
Add all ingredients except Prosecco to a large canister that can hold at least 1/2 a liter. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. When serving: In a chilled, ice-filled wine glass add the spritz mixture 3/4 of the way full. Top with 2-3 oz of Prosecco.
Tales of the Cocktail is the largest cocktail conference in the world, so it makes sense that it takes place in the booziest town in the world, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Tales (as it’s affectionately referred to by those in-the-know) attracts the top bartenders, brands, industry leaders, media and influencers – a collection of who’s who of the cocktail world – as well as enthusiasts, from as far away as Spain, Australia and Peru. So, it’s basically 25,000 international booze nerds crammed into the French Quarter for 5 days straight, during the steamiest, sweatiest, and stinkiest time of year in the deep south – smack dab in the middle of July. I’ve been equally terrified and desperate to go to Tales ever since I got involved in this spirited industry. This past July marked the 13th year for the cocktail fest and it marked my lucky 1st! It was pretty special, you guys. Want to hear about it? Oh, good, because it’s been almost exactly a month and I’m DYING to tell you!
Did I mention that it was hot? Like, HOTTT. Think about the hottest you’ve ever been in the elements and then double that and then add a few more degrees of HOT, subtract half the oxygen in the air, and then add a permanent veneer of sweat over everything. Oh, and Nola just happened to be going through a heat wave during Tales week, so it was even more of a human crawfish boil than normal! Luckily, we were staying in a lovely ice box, high above the chaos of Bourbon Street!
Ok, now try to imagine driiinking in that atmosphere. There are bottles of water everywhere, branded fans are given out alongside marketing materials and whenever and wherever possible, the AC is cranking. A lot of effort goes into keeping the crowds hydrated and chilled. Despite all that, you’re still sweating 100% of the time. Luckily there are cocktails to distract you from all of this. Soooo many cocktails.
There are seminars starting at 9am that come equipped with generous samplings, brand luncheons with multiple cocktail pairings served by noon at the latest, and floor upon floor of tasting rooms occupying much of the official Tales headquarters at the Hotel Monteleone, home of the famed Carousel Bar, happening ALL DAY LONG.
Not to mention, there are huge, conceptual brand parties that cap off each day, stretching into the wee hours, and as you can imagine, drinking is encouraged!
Snapshots from the William Grant & Sons Yonderyear Party
Despite everyone’s enthusiasm to try errrrthang, it’s just not physically possible. Frequent attendees and Tales workers are fond of telling you to pace yourself. You’ll hear a variation of “Tales of the Cocktail is a marathon, not a sprint” multiple times before the week is out. But, it’s a great reminder because 1. you want to TRY to remember everything you’re tasting 2. you don’t want to be THAT PERSON and 3. you do not, repeat DO NOT want to be hungover in that heat. It’s probably the meanest thing you can do to yourself.
Despite the insane heat, the struggle to stay sober, and the constant FOMO because I couldn’t be everywhere at once, I had an amazing time! I brought some foxy friends along with me for the journey who also helped document the experience. Here are my highlights!
This band in Jackson Square.
This view over coffee every morning:
This wise ass at The Grill who was kind enough to let me have grits past noon:
This sunset taken right before our flawless backyard dinner at Bacchanal:
And, this – the magical Beam Suntory Jul(e)p Hour House…
Imagine, it’s a 95+ degree day in Nola, and you walk into the most genteel French Colonial home, where you are greeted with a cool, damp cloth for your forehead, live ragtime music coming from a dapper gentleman at the baby grand, and all the whisk(e)ys in the world served to you in ice cold julep form. Well, all the whiskys in the Beam Suntory portfolio, that is. Which is quite impressive. It is NOT a dream. You have arrived at Jul(e)p Hour and you may never want to leave. At least I didn’t!
Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky made one of my favorite juleps!
The impressive Beam Suntory whisky line-up.
With Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig
Every room in this French Quarter oasis was dedicated to a different whisky and their own signature juleps for the occasion. We also had the advantage of having the ambassadors and master experts on hand to answer any questions and taste the good stuff on its own. From sampling traditional juleps made with Maker’s Mark to sipping on a pineapple and peat version made with Laphroaig, and a top shelf julep with newly launched Japanese whisky, Hibiki Japanese Harmony, we were able to get our julep on, and then some!
The House of Suntory Whisky introduced a new expression from the Hibiki Range: Hibiki Japanese Harmony.
The very first tasting I attended when I arrived to Tales was actually one of my favorites. It was held at “Café Torino”, a beautiful, very Italian pop up installation from Martini & Rossi. The tasting was a kick off to a week of them hosting a (much appreciated) coffee shop during the day with vermouth cocktails at night. At the tasting, I was able to try two new expressions in their Martini Riserva Speciale line – Ambrato and Rubino (amber and ruby).
Martini’s Master Herbalist, Ivano Tonutti and Master Blender, Beppe Musso led the tasting
The Ambrato, made from Moscato d’Asti and golden in color is floral and aromatic, slightly bitter, with a touch of honey. In other words, totally my jam. The Rubino is true to its name and is a stunning ruby red color. The addition of full bodied Nebbiolo and Central African Red Sandalwood makes for a rich and complex vermouth that is really wonderful on its own but I could also see it making a spectacular Manhattan. At the end of the tasting Giuseppe Gallo, Martini’s Global Brand Ambassador asked us which expression was our favorite. And it was truly difficult to pick! All I know is vermouth is having a major moment right now. And it’s exciting that a classic brand like Martini & Rossi is continuing to be innovative, pushing superior products to the forefront. Speaking of which, I was also able to taste their limited edition Gran Lusso Vermouth, released for the company’s 150th anniversary a few years ago, but not yet sampled by me! Holy smokes, that’s a vermouth! A Barbera base that is then fortified with oak-aged Moscato must extract and a botanical blend based on a recipe from 1904, this is truly a sipping vermouth, meant to be appreciated neat or with a few cubes of ice.
Another highlight of the week was getting my very own TinType portrait taken by Legendary photographer Victoria Will for St–Germain Elderflower Liqueur’s French Embassy Cocktail Party. TinTypes, popular at fairs and festivals in the 19th century, are created by having the photographer shoot a picture and then develop it quickly by hand onto a thin sheet of lacquered metal. As you can imagine, it was also VERY popular at this festival! I felt extremely lucky to have been able to squeeze into this shoot!
My Victoria Will TinType portrait:
I was also excited to meet Camille Vidal, St–Germain Global Brand Ambassador, aka Madam St-Germain in person finally! This French beauty is such a perfect representation of the brand and I’ve admired everything she’s been doing to get this wonderful product out to the masses. She lives and breathes the French aperitif life!
What’s so wonderful about Tales of the Cocktail is that there are experts on hand at every tasting and event. Everywhere you look there is a legend in the spirits industry. From an intimate, exclusive sneak peek and tasting of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye (both to be released later this year!) with Jimmy and Eddie Russell, themselves…
Three generations of Wild Turkey: Jimmy Russell, Eddie Russell and Bruce Russell
…to a personal tasting and bonding sesh over all things gin related with Beefeater Master Distiller, Desmond Payne – Tales is a booze nerd’s fantasy.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to try Burrough’s Reserve Barrel Finished Gin, do yourself a favor and treat yourself. Distilled in small batches and rested in French oak Lillet aperitif wine barrels, the result is less gin-like and more…like an aperitif, actually! It’s on the slightly sweeter side, with floral hints, is incredibly smooth and the botanicals are subtle. One of my favorite products I tried at Tales.
Another fantastic thing about Tales is that you have the opportunity to connect with so many of the other writers, bloggers, influencers and cocktail geeks out there that you only really know from their work online. I’ve developed a lot of amazing virtual relationships these last couple of years and it was amazing to finally be able to put real life faces to names and websites. I had the great pleasure of meeting Greg Mays and his wife Lisa Mays, the dynamic duo behind Simple Cocktails out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not only do they run a really solid website, but they do a fun boozy podcast as well! On my fourth day into Tales, we sat next to each other at a fantastic Jägermeister luncheon and then, afterwards shared a car back to the Hotel Monteleone. In between that, I participated in one of their podcasts! I was so honored that they asked me to be a part of it and psyched to be among such top cocktail talent. Check out this special Tales Podcast that also features Camper English, Tanya Cohn, Ivy Mix (this year’s American Bartender of the Year!), Dale Degroff (King Cocktail!), and Philip Dobard.
So, these are just SOME of the highlights of Tales of the Cocktail 2015 for me. While this is an epic post, I could go even more in depth on almost ALL of these experiences, New Orleans and the incredible people I was able to meet and spend time with last month. But I will save your scrolling finger for now and wrap it up right here!
However, you will hear more from me on Tales. Some posts in particular will detail two Spirited Dinners I was lucky enough to participate in – one with Maker’s Mark at the legendary Commander’s Palace with some truly spectacular company, and the other with the founder of Tres Agave Tequila at Nola hot spot Johnny Sanchez. Look out for more Tales recaps to come!
Special thanks to my foxy friend entourage who accompanied me on this sweaty, boozy journey and helped document the amazingness along the way! In particular, the very talented Shannon Carpenter from This Aperture.