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Toast to Tales


Toast by Editor B

Tales of the Cocktail kicked into full gear today. The seminars on this first day are all “professional track,” geared toward industry professionals, with topics like “Raising the Bar: Spirited Media Skills for Cocktail & Industry Professionals.” I’m anything but a professional, so I did not attend any of these, but there was still plenty to do.

For example, I got to meet my fellow attendees (Cocktailians)? I hung out with Martha Stewart’s people and the guy who brought Pabst Blue Ribbon back from the dead, while enjoying an Oxley Breakfast Martini.

I also made the rounds of the tasting rooms and sampled a wide array of spirits from around the world. There were so many I lost count, but two stand out and are worth a mention: Root and Bonal Gentiane-Quina. The former is a fairly new product from Pennsylvania which is about to get bigger distribution. I had it in a cocktail called a Root Flip which was out of this world. To compare the flavor of Root to root beer would give the wrong impression and kind of miss the point. It’s actually an attempt to recreate ye olde root tea, which is what root beer itself is based on. It really only tastes like root beer as I know it in the vaguest way; they describe it as “fairly clean on the palate with strong notes of birch, peppery herbaceousness, spices, citrus and vanilla bean.” As for the Bonal Gentiane-Quina, that’s an old aperitif from France, but I’d never even heard of it before. I gather it’s a quinquina because it contains quinine. It also has plenty of gentian and other herbs. Decidedly bitter, wonderful stuff. It’s imported by Haus Alpenz. I even got to meet the legendary Eric Seed.

And of course I was there for the toast in front of the Monteleone. The official cocktail this year is Death in the South Pacific, invented by Evan Martin. It’s a complicated drink, but it’s most notable (to me anyway) for having an even more complicated garnish. Seriously, the recipe for the garnish is longer than the recipe for the drink itself. You essentially construct a little man out of fruit pieces who is then hung over the side. Obviously they couldn’t do this for the thronging masses in front of the Monteleone, but I’d love to have the full-on version someday. I should also note that it’s delicious.

Tomorrow I start hitting the seminars. I’ll report back here.

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