Omnivore - Tales of the Cocktail, dispatch 1: ATL hold it down

TOTC: Where you have sherry before you have breakfast


  • Debbie Michaud
  • ATL->NOLA: Hey look, I found a guy from Atlanta with this shirt.

Look at you, at work. Look at me, in New Orleans at the annual booze fest Tales of the Cocktail. Clearly, I've got the better thing happening right now, so let me tell you some stories and show you some pictures so that life doesn't feel so cruel.

I drove in from Atlanta yesterday and went straight into the panel "Midnight in Paris: Cocktails of the Lost Generation," led by Phillip Greene, historian, lawyer, and author of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. The seminars here can get pretty nerdy in a science and math kind of way (I just finished a sherry seminar with lots of math, more on that in a sec), but this was nerdy in my kind of way - the book way. Greene structured the entire talk as basically a tour through Lost Generation -era literature, pulling drink-referencing passages from classics such as Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Fitzgerald's Tender is The Night, and more, to put drinks such as absinthe, martinis, and side cars in very interesting, very romantic cultural context.

A THING I LEARNED: The rye-based sazerac that we all know and love so much, came about after an aphid called Phylloxera devastated France's Cognac supply. So, when some folks in NOLA started running low on Cognac, they started switching it out in drinks with rye, a cheaper, more readily available booze, eventually leading to the birth of the sazerac.

Next came a tour-de-gin and tonics in a jam-packed gin tasting room, dinner at the Mid-City meatery Toup's, sazeracs at the famed sazerac bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, and terrible drinks and an even worse cover band at a so-called "film festival" that wasn't actually a film festival.

This morning (12:30 p.m.), I attended "Advanced Sherry: Secrets, Lies, and Solera." For those of you like me who are less "advanced" in knowledge than you are just fans of drinking wine, solera is a blended aging system where younger wines are blended with older wines in order to make them taste older without having to wait so long. The mathematic details of how solera works involve some kind of complex reverse carbon dating-type calculations. Don't worry about it. Suffice it to say, sherry is delicious and has pretty low alcohol so you can drink lots of it. We made a Manhattan-like sherry cocktail today that was (basically) one part rum, one part Oloroso sherry, and Angostura Bitters. So good. Make it. Drink it.

Afterward, some friends and I went in search of food and ended up in a magical place with air conditioning (it's hot here) that was literally lined with bottles of Bulleit.

I was going to try and do a daily drink tally, but there's just too many.

Check out more photos and a video below. Tomorrow I'll be back with more tales of cocktails.