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Issue 74 - Attracting barfiles

Whisky Magazine Issue 74
September 2008


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Attracting barfiles

There is only one place to take the temperature of the great cocktail makers, New Orleans. Liza Weisstuch went to see what's shaking.

The past, they say, is precedent. The cocktail's Golden Age is firmly entrenched in the hallowed halls of history. After recent decades, when drinks bearing less than debonair names, like Sex on the Beach and Red Headed Slut, dominated the popular palate, then flavored vodkas did a coup d'etat on the market, it seemed like the craft of the cocktail – the advanced style practised by sporty, artful barmen at the turn of the 20th century had surely gone the way of transistor radios.

And then, inevitably, it happened: a renaissance, one that goes down easy. “New Golden Age” was a term bandied about with merry abandon at Tales of the Cocktail, an annual festival that draws cocktail aficionados, scholars and geeks and committed barflies to New Orleans for five days in July, much like the World Economic Forum in Davos unites socially conscious politicos, kingpins, and millionaires. There's as much Power Point as there is pre-dawn partying, and if you thought whiskey cocktails started and ended with Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps, smashes, flips and the occasional Rob Roy, think again. Afew hours amid the cocktail cognoscenti would have even staunch traditionalists reaching for a bar spoon.

Against a soundtrack of brassy Big Easy jazz and the jangle and clatter of ice cubes in shakers, the new direction in which modern cocktail wizards are taking the cocktail came into sharp focus.

Suffice it to say: the water of life lives large in their hands.

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