Our day one, was spent checking out the Vieux Carre room for media at the top of the Monteleone Hotel, while enjoying a luncheon hosted by Bulleit Whiskey. It was there that I discovered the all important concept of “pacing”. No, not pacing the floor, but regulating the ever present temptation to finish every cocktail offered to me. After all, when you start drinking at 10am and plan on going until midnight or later, do you really need to empty every glass? So, as much as it pained me, I set my first cocktail down after three sips and vowed that this would be my credo this week. It turned out to be a great decision.
Shortly after lunch, I wended my way to the Royal Sonesta Hotel, where my wife and I joined a Second Line which traveled right back to the front of the Monteleone. Now, I love New Orleans for a lot of reasons, but music is always in the top three. If you have any kind of rhythm in your bones, you can’t help but groove to the beats and horns of a Second Line band. So it was that the shop owners and tourists came out with their cell phones and cameras and filmed us as we traveled down Royal Street to hear Mr. & Mrs. Cocktail kick off Tales with an official pronouncement.
Immediately afterward, we along with several hundred others lined the street in front of tables filled with tulip shaped glasses of Bols Genever. Although there was no mad rush to find a place at a table, it did remind me a bit of a Who concert in terms of the human crush. My wife had found two spots for us, but a few seconds before I got there, some jerk stood at my hoped for place and refused to give it up in spite of our requests. Thank God for alcohol to calm our spirits and get a laissez-faire attitude. Anyway, you can see the picture of what it looked like as we set a new record for the world’s largest Genever slurp.
After that, we took the 10th anniversary cocktail tour with Joe Gendusa around the quarter and learned the history behind Antoine Peychaud’s bitters, Antoine’s (not the same Antoine) restaurant (where the collection of antique spirits and liqueurs includes unopened vintage bottles of Amer Picon, Creme Yvette and bottled-in-bond Bourbons), The Court of Two Sisters bar and the Olde Absinthe House. Tastings included a Sazerac and an Absinthe Suisse. Looking at our watches, we realized we had just enough time to change into our evening wear for the Beefeater Black & White Masked Ball at Gallier Hall.
Upon arriving, we were given the red carpet treatment and a choice of masks to wear. Inside was an eye-popping mix of King Louis style decor and modern dance music, all served with an array of Beefeater based cocktails served by the likes of Kimberly Patton-Bragg, Chris Patino and Audrey Saunders among others. It was great to catch up with several cocktail friends as well as have our picture taken while posing in French garb by a professional photographer from NYC. One of the highlights of the evening was a string quartet of ladies wearing French Louis 14th apparel playing modern arrangements of rock songs to a beatbox.
It seemed as soon as the party started, it began winding down and most everyone walked the five blocks up to the World War II museum for another world class party. This one was 1940’s themed and featured an Andrews Sisters sound-alike group performing live music. Cocktails were served by a bar manned by Rosie the Riveters, Sad Sacks, sailors and up on the third floor in an a little grass hut was Julie Reiner ladling out some of her tropical punch. We availed ourselves of another photography opportunity, this one with models sporting Sailor Jerry style tattoos.
Midnight seemed like the magic hour to head back to our hotel and catch some sleep before day two really began, so we bid farewell to everyone and caught a cab back to the quarter. On the way, we told our driver about Tales and he seemed a bit bewildered by the idea of people drinking and learning about cocktails for five whole days, but honestly when you stop to think about it, it really is a bizarre interest we all share, isn’t it? May God have mercy on our livers.