If you’ve ever been to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, an annual cocktail conference and celebration of the art of the drink, you know that you’re in for some strange experiences. It comes with the territory while drinking for 18 hours a day in a magnificently humid, charming and debaucherous city.
While this is my third year down here, Tales (as it’s called by us repeat offenders) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Having done all the usual Tales parties in years past, this year I wanted to check out all of the more creative and one-time-only type experiences.
I was most looking forward to New York’s Employees Only bringing the EO experience to life for a “one-night-stand” last Thursday night.
EO’s owners (Billy Gilroy, Henry LaFargue, Jason Kosmas, Dushan Zaric and Igor Hadzismajlovic) along with their team transformed New Orleans bar One Eyed Jack’s into the spitting image of Manhattan’s West Village cocktail bar. While one of the owners is actually a NOLA native, any New Yorker familiar with the downtown bar would have recognized all the little details, like the full EO cocktail menu, the burlesque performances by Calamity Chang and Pearl Noir, and house specialties like Chef Julia Jaksic‘s chicken noodle soup. There was even a tattoo artist on hand, and I caught him while he was giving co-owner Gilroy his first tattoo (the EO logo, naturally).
After starting out my Tales with arguably the best cocktails around, served by some of the best bartenders, it would have been hard to kick things up a notch. But somehow, life conspired to do just that.
The co-founders of Brooklyn Gin, Joe Santos and Emil Jattne, are dear friends. The brand is still very young, but they’ve enjoyed incredible growth in their first year and because of that, they had a trio of dinners to say thanks to some of their supporters.
I joined them Friday night at their townhouse, and what made the night even more special was that Chef Daniel Burns (formerly of Noma and The Fat Duck and former head of Momofuku‘s test kitchen) was preparing our dinner.
We enjoyed a delicious spread of eggplant dip with cilantro and prime rib-wrapped asparagus. A starter of cold summer corn soup got us all chatting, while the bartenders at the table cracked cold beers and passed bottles of wine that had been paired with each course. We were served huge platters of expertly roasted beef along with a delicate salad. The food was as amazing as one would expect from a chef who’s worked at the best restaurant in the world.
Somewhere in between the EO pop-up and the thank you dinner with Brooklyn Gin, I found myself enjoying tall glasses of icy lemonade with the international crew from BULLDOG Gin. Daniel Udell, Global Brand Manager at BULLDOG Gin, is a fellow New Yorker who also loves a good supper club experience. His crew decided to have some folks over to his suite for a very low-key chat over BULLDOG Gin lemonades, poured by some of London’s best bartenders (BULLDOG is, after all, a London Dry gin).
In any event, my Tales experience is wrapping up over the next couple days. One of the best parties is the Pig & Punch party, which started a couple of years ago as an unsponsored fundraiser to support the New Orleans community. It features a pig roast (this year’s pig count? Seven.) and gigantic trash barrels filled to the brim with delicious and very boozy punches. This year marks the first time it’s an officially sponsored and “sanctioned” Tales event, but I’m hoping it doesn’t lose its homegrown charm. I’ve found that my favorite times in NOLA are always the ones where we didn’t plan to have a good time, we just let it happen.
I guess that’s what they mean when they say, “Let the good times roll.” Laissez les bons temps roulez!