Tales from Tales of the Cocktail 2008
Written by Debra C. Argen and Edward F. Nesta   

Tales of the Cocktail Sazerac PartyTales of the Cocktail 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana took the cocktail world to new levels with an exciting line-up of over 130 culinary and cocktail events including seminars with some of the top industry professionals including Dale DeGroff, Tony Abou-Ganin, and Audrey Saunders.


Where do we begin to tell the 2008 tales? Perhaps it is best to start at the beginning. For those not familiar with the Tales of the Cocktail, perish the thought, let us enlighten you dear readers on what it is all about. Ann R. Tuennerman founded Tales of the Cocktail in 2003 to bring together consumers and trade to educate about new spirits to hit the market, where attendees could learn about new cocktail trends around the world from domestic and international mixologists, experience cocktail pairing dinners, meet new friends, and to preserve the culture of the cocktail in New Orleans. Through educational seminars, spirited lunches and dinners, and parties with some of the top mixologists working behind the bars shaking and stirring cocktails, Tales of the Cocktail has grown from attracting a local audience to an international one.

This was our 6th year of attending and participating in the Tales of the Cocktails, and the number of interesting events and the volume of people in attendance were astonishing. Word has definitely spread that this is "the" spirits event to attend.

We had barely arrived in New Orleans on Tuesday, July 15, 2008, and we were off to Arnaud's where we were judges for Ed Hamilton's Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition. Over the course of four sessions over two days, we tasted an impressive number of 60 rums; talk about hitting the ground and running. (Read about the Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition in the Liquor Cabinet section)

Ed Hamitlong - The Minister of Rum at TOC 2008
Ed Hamilton at Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition

Debra in the kitchen at Ralph's on the ParkNo rest for the weary, next on our agenda was a trip to Ralph's on the Park in City Park to meet with Corporate Executive Chef Haley Gabel Bittermann and Executive Sous Chef Chip Flanagan, as well as bar chefs Laurie and Mike to discuss the Spirited Dinner on July 17, 2008 where we would be the Guest Bar Chefs.

In addition to the five cocktail recipes that we had created for the cocktail and food pairing Spirited Dinner, we had also created a spirited sorbet recipe as a palate cleanser. With guidance from Executive Sous Chef Chip Flanagan and the team as to the layout of the kitchen, we went to work grating and juicing the limes, and making the candied ginger the sorbet.

Cocktails served at Sazerac Party TOC 08Wednesday, July 16, 2008, was the first official day of the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail, and with our morning rum judging duties over, it was time to partake of the Tasting Rooms beginning with learning about Hendrick's Gin. Next on our schedule was the Toast to Tales of the Cocktail to "get the party started" and to celebrate the Sazerac being named the official cocktail of New Orleans, in large part due to the hard work and dedicated persistence of Ann R. Tuennerman.


Paul & Ann Tuennerman and Kevin Baruch
Paul & Ann Tuennerman and Kevin Baruch

It was great seeing old friends at the Toast to the Tales of the Cocktail including Ann and Paul Tuennerman, mixologists Gary Regan and Charlotte Voissey, Kevin Baruch, Joe Fee of Fee Brothers, Diego and Elisse Loret de Mola of BevMax, Daniel, Oksana, and Natasha Watson of Temptryst Au' Natural Rum, and Luxury Experience Magazine readers Julie and David Weiss.

Edward, Oksana and Natasha Watson at TOC 08 Joe Fee and Guests at TOC 08David and Julie Weiss and Edward at TOC 08

Charlotte Voissey and Gary Regan at TOC 08 Diego and Elisse Loret de Mola at TOC 08
Enjoying Tales of the Cocktail 2008

After a quick stop to say hello at the Sagatiba Tasting Room, it was back to Arnaud's for our final rum judging duties, then a quick stop at Ralph's on the Park to make sure we had everything we needed for our Spirited Dinner for the next night.

Jimbo Walker with shaker during Shaker Collectors session at TOC 08We returned to the Hotel Monteleone just in time to attend the First International Symposium of Cocktail Shaker Collectors led by Stephen Visakay, with panelists Jimbo Martini Walker, Mark Bigler, and The Fabulous Shaker Boys of Amsterdam. As avid collectors of cocktail paraphernalia, we thoroughly enjoyed the seminar learning about the origin of the cocktail shaker, which made its appearance during the golden cocktail age in the 1920s, and seeing a few of the many designs. When cocktail hour began to replace afternoon tea, shakers came to resemble teapots and had side spouts.  One of the interesting tidbits that we learned about the history of the cocktail swizzle stick, which had its golden age from the 1940s to the 1960s, was that Queen Victoria and ladies of that period used swizzle sticks to remove the bubbles out of champagne, which they believed caused indigestion.

Cocktails Shakers & Stirrers Vintage Cocktail Shakers
Vintage Cocktail Shakers and Stirrers

Apropos to the name of the seminar, there were great cocktails, shaken of course, by The Fabulous Shaker Boys, including the Dutch Aviation and Dutch Dutchess, and Jimbo Martini Walker's recipe for the cocktail, The Crimson Clover Club. (Read the article in the Liquor Cabinet for the recipes.)

The group brought an impressive collection of gorgeous cocktail shakers for their display, and at the end of the seminar, they held a raffle where a few lucky attendees (including Debra) went home with a cocktail shaker to add to their collections.

Debra and the Beefeaters Guards at TOC 08 Event
Debra and the Beefeater Guards

On Wednesday evening, Dickie Brennan's Palace Café was transformed into a miniature London, England for the night as Beefeater Gin hosted the Welcome Reception complete with Beefeater Guards who welcomed each of the guests.

Dale DeGroff and Debra C. Argen
Dale DeGroff and Debra C. Argen

Audrey Saunders, the Libation Goddess herself, and a talented team of mixologists kept the innovative cocktails coming, while the attendees got into the spirit of the event by posing in a variety of costumes next to the traditional UK red telephone booth and under the Covent Garden sign.

Elizabeth Staino and Guests at Save the Daiquiri Party at Arnauds TOC 08
Elizabeth Staino and Guests at Save the Daiquiri Party

Following the Welcome Reception was the Save the Daiquiri Party presented by Ben Jones of Rhum Clément at Arnaud's where guests had the opportunity to sample the Classic Daiquiri (Clément Première Canne, fresh lime, and sugar), The Hemingway (Rhum J.M. Gold Rum, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, fresh grapefruit, and lime), Creole Daiquiri (Clément Première Canne, Clément Creole Shrubb, fresh lime, and a dash of West Indies Orange Bitters), and signature cocktails by Duggan McDonnell (Viceroy Daiquiri), Jackie Patterson (Martinique Gold Daiquiri), Tad Carducci (The Wise Old Sage), and Jonathan Pogash (Rattlesnake Daiquiri). By the time we left Arnaud's, we knew why Ben is so dedicated to saving this delectable cocktail.

This being New Orleans, and Tales of the Cocktail, there was one more party that we had to attend before we could call it a night, and that was The Bartenders of the World Suite presented by St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Delice de Sureau. This was a great opportunity to sample cocktails from a team of international bartenders that put the night into the nightcap.

Debra in the Kitchen at Hotel MonteleoneWe began Thursday morning, July 17, 2008 with a trip to the Hotel Monteleone kitchen were we worked alongside some talented and fantastic bartenders of the Cocktail Apprentice Program, who were pre-batching cocktails for the seminars, while we prepared the dark chocolate to dip black mission figs that we had been soaking in Hine Cognac for one month for our Cognac and Armagnac: Understanding the Nuances of the Spirits seminar. The Cocktail Apprentice Program was new this year and this group of bartenders really worked hard pre-batching all of the cocktails for the seminars. Huge kudos to all of the team, especially Phil Ward, Don Lee, Ryan Fitzgerald, Rebecca, and Cassie Fellet for their assistance.

Cocktail Apprentice Program Participants
The Cocktail Apprentice Program Team

Eric Asher of AM 690 WIST and Debra and EdwardNext on our agenda, was a radio interview with Eric Asher on AM 690 WIST for his Inside New Orleans Live talk radio show which was broadcast from the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, where we discussed our experiences at the Tales of the Cocktail, our upcoming Cognac and Armagnac Seminar, and the cocktail recipes for our Spirited Dinner at Ralph's on the Park. Eric has a dynamic personality and engaging radio voice that keeps his listeners coming back for his weekday show from 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm, and his Saturday show from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, so to say that we had a blast with Eric on his show, would be an understatement.

We have long been aficionados and collectors of Cognac (Debra) and Armagnac (Edward), and for our seminar Cognac and Armagnac: Understanding the Nuances of the Spirits, attendees had the opportunity to add to their knowledge base not only through a slide presentation, but also by tasting flights and cocktails made with Spanish Brandy (Gran Duque de Alba), Cognac (Hine and B&B Liqueur), and Armagnac (Castarède). (Read about Cognac and Armagnac: Understanding the Nuances of the Spirits in the Liquor Cabinet section where we share our cocktail recipes).

Edward and Debra at Cognac and Armagna Seminar
Edward and Debra at Cognac and Armagnac Seminar

After months of working at perfecting our cocktail recipes for our guest Bar Chefs appearance for the Spirited Dinner at Ralph's on the Park, it was finally show time. The restaurant is gorgeous and is located across from City Park where Spanish moss drips romantically from the trees. With Ralph's on the Park bar chefs Laurie and Mike mixing our cocktails, all we had to do was welcome the guests and host the evening.

Mike, Debra, and Laurie at Ralph's on the Park Spirited Dinner
Mike, Debra, and Laurie at Spirited Dinner at Ralph's on the Park

It was a wonderful night where we had the opportunity to meet many local New Orleanians who had heard about the Spirited Dinner where each course was paired with a cocktail, as well as guests who had traveled a great distance to New Orleans to attend the Tales of the Cocktail. (Read about the Spirited Dinner at Ralph's on the Park in the Restaurants section as well as in Chefs'Recipes and the Liquor Cabinet sections where we share recipes from the Spirited Dinner.)

Edward Nesta and Guests Eric, Jan, Pat, and Kay at Spirited Dinner at Ralph's on the Park
Edward, Eric, Jan, Pat, and Kay at Spirited Dinner

We returned to the Hotel Monteleone where we continued our late night partying in The Bartenders of the World Suite, before moving on to the Sonnema VodkaHerb's Suite featuring The Fabulous Shaker Boys of Amsterdam.

Now that our hectic first three days that included our radio show appearance, Cognac and Armagnac seminar, Rum Judging, and Spirited Dinner at Ralph's on the Park were behind us, we were ready to relax and attend some seminars and Tasting Rooms.

Crepes at Pernod Tasting RoomOoh la-la, Friday, July 18, 2008, we visited the Absinthe Drip at Pernod Tasting Room Tasting Room of Domaine de Canton, and continued our French tasting experience at the Vive La France: The Green Hour co-sponsored by Pernod Absinthe, which brought out the Francophiles with an assortment of delectable crêpes made on-site to pair with creative absinthe cocktails. Since absinthe is now legal in the United States, attendees were clamoring to get a taste of the alcohol that once tempted the artists Vincent Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Gauguin.

Royal Street Strut Sign

DJ's playing at Royal Street Strut TOC 08 Event We also stopped at the Partida Tequila Tasting Room to sample flights of tequila before venturing outside for the Royal Street Strut, which was the ultimate street party with people dancing to the sounds of DJ music, sampling the food from the many restaurants, and stopping in the galleries and antique shops along Royal Street who were serving lovely cocktails to "pair" with art and antiques.

The street party was well attended, however, one of the youngest and most adorable to strut on Royal Street was beautifully dressed baby Elle, who drew plenty of attention in her zebra print lined perambulator complete with disco ball, who was out with for the evening with her parents Marco and Anaise.

Marco, Baby Elle, and Anaise enjoying the Royal Street Strut event TOC 08
Marco and Anaise with Baby Elle enjoying Royal Street Strut

Ben Jaffe on Tuba at Rum and All That Jazz event TOC 08Historic Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street was the setting for an evening of Rum and All that Jazz presented by Old New Orleans Rum where the Jazz could not have been hotter. There is something about traditional New Orleans Jazz that crosses all ages that had us and the appreciative audience swaying, tapping feet, and when the band played "When the Saints Go Marching In" not a soul was seated as the audience paraded around the hall.

On Saturday, July 19, 2008, we visited the Cocktail Marketplace at the Hotel Monteleone sponsored by Boca Loca Cachaça, and while we were browsing the items in the Silent Auction we met actor Christopher McDonald.

Renee Valeton, Christopher McDonald, Gabby Grass, and Rob Clemenz at French Market TOC 08
Renee Valeton, Christopher McDonald, Gabby Grass, Rob Clemenz

Rob Clemenz of Saints for Sinners in French Market at TOC 08We also spent a bit of time looking at the many vendor booths selling a variety of gifts and spoke with Rob Clemenz, Founder of SaintsforSinners.com, about his attractive imported from Italian medals that are hand-painted in Orleans, whose vast collection now includes more than 250 medals. Among the many interesting medals, including those for actors, athletes, and attorneys, there were medals for mixologists and chefs, which this being Tales of the Cocktail, were purchased as quickly as Rob's assistants Renee Valeton and Gabby Grass could set them out on display. SaintsforSinners.com counts Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Paul Deen, and Robbie Williams, among its many fans wearing the famous medals.

We also made a stop to the Gran Duque de Alba Tasting Room and the Grand Marnier and Navan Vanilla Liqueur Tasting Room to sample some of their new products. The Tasting Rooms allow attendees to meet one-on-one with the sponsors and sample their products, many of which are new to the market, so we tried to visit as many as time would allow.

Saturday evening was the Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Awards 2008 hosted by Ann R. Tuennerman, Founder of Tales of the Cocktail, Paul Tuennerman, actor Christopher McDonald, and entertainer Billy Harris, was held at Harrah's Theatre, and talk about an exciting and memorable evening!

Paul and Ann Tuennerman at Spirit Awards TOC 08
Ann and Paul at Spirit Awards

"The Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Awards provides recognition to those individuals and establishments that have shown an outstanding talent for advancing the craft of the cocktail. To embody the ideals with which Tales of the Cocktail was originally founded, these awards provide recognition to both national, and as well as local New Orleanians."

Award categories included: Best Drinks Selection, Best Classic Cocktail Bar, World's Best Cocktail Bar, Best NEW Cocktail Bar, Mixologist/Bartender of the Year, Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book, Best Cocktail Writing, Best New Product, Best Cocktail Menu, Best Drinks Brand Representative/Brand Ambassador, and Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award.

Christopher McDonald and Billy Harris at Spirit Awards TOC 08
Christopher McDonald and Billy Harris at Spirit Awards

Nominees were from all parts of the world, and we were especially excited as we (Edward F. Nesta and Debra C. Argen) were nominated for Best Cocktail Writing! (Read about the Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Awards 2008 in the Awards section.)

On Sunday, July 20, 2008, after making a few more rounds, it was time to head back home with wonderful new "tales" to tell. There were over 130 events, seminars, and Tasting Rooms to experience over five days. Tales of the Cocktail 2008 had something for everyone, and we did our best to learn about and experience as many of the products as possible. We hope that our "tales" will have you clamoring to buy your tickets for Tales of the Cocktail 2009!

Although Tales of the Cocktail takes place in July each year, there are several pre-events that place throughout the year, so be sure to check the Tales of the Cocktail website for updates at: www.TalesoftheCocktail.com.

If you are in New Orleans during the month of October 2008, be sure to stop at the W Hotel New Orleans on Poydras Street for the "Behind the Bar Photo Exhibit" where photographers captured the restaurants and bars that convey the "spirit" behind the cocktail culture in New Orleans.

We are pleased to announce that (Debra) has a series of photographs in the exhibition, "Spirits of New Orleans I, Spirits of New Orleans II, and Spirits of New Orleans III." All of the photographs in the exhibition are available for purchase with 50% of the proceeds benefiting the New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society. As they say in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Read other articles on the Tales of the Cocktail and New Orleans in the Destinations, Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, Liquor Cabinet, Awards, and Luxury Products: Gifts sections.

Tales of the Cocktail For information on the Tales of the Cocktail, please visit the website: www.TalesoftheCocktail.com. For information on New Orleans, please visit the website: www.NewOrleansCVB.com.

© October 2008. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.