Tales ’11: The calm before the storm

Who would have thought that New Orleans would be cooler than most of the rest of the country this week?  It’s true!  Back in upstate New York, it’s going to hit 97 degrees, and here in Nola it will only reach a mild 92 degrees.  So, what better way to cool down than with a few cocktails?  After all, that’s why I’m here.

My Tales experience began when my wife and I checked in to the registration desk at the Hotel Monteleone Tuesday morning, and were greeted with bright and eager smiles from the Tales crew.  They breezed us through the sign in, loaded us up with some great Tales buttons (which I immediately put on my hat), and handed out a variety of well designed program materials.  After all of our hard work of the morning (joke), we headed over to visit Marvin the head barman at the Carousel Bar.  If you’ve never been there, let’s just say that the room starts spinning even before you’ve put a drop of liquor to your lips.  Literally.  My wife and I shared a few original creations of Marvin’s and chatted about the upcoming events this week at the hotel.  We had just begun talking about Fee Brother’s new Black Walnut Bitters, when Joe Fee himself walked in and joined us.  Talk about timing.  Joe mentioned that he himself had crafted these new bitters, and the rest of us agreed that they are a hit.  Make sure you try some!

The rest of the afternoon was spent taking in the sights and food of New Orleans with a stop at John Besh’s restaurant Lüke, and a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar before getting dressed for a private party for media and cocktail bloggers at Arnaud’s French 75 bar. The cocktail selections were helmed by the estimable Chris Hannah who kept the party well lubricated with dozens of Cognac Summit cocktails and his historical take on the French 75 (made with cognac, not gin).  It was a great event to catch up with Camper English, Paul Clarke, Chuck Taggart, Ann Tuennerman (Mrs. Cocktail) and several others from the spirit world.

Afterwards, my wife and I strolled around the French Quarter and ended up checking out the To Be Continued Brass Band at Canal and Bourbon.  You might even find a video or two of us on YouTube with a local guy who kept pulling people out of the crowd to dance with.  We finished our day with a trip out Jacques Imo’s for some beers and appetizers, and then walked next door to the Maple Leaf to dance to the Rebirth Brass Band for a set.  All in all, an auspicious beginning to a week that promises to be full of the best that the Big Easy has to offer.

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