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Issue 92 - Stiring times in the Big Easy

Whisky Magazine Issue 92
December 2010

 

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Stiring times in the Big Easy

Liza Weisstuch reports from this year's Tales of the Cocktails event

There are moments that seem carved out from the steady clip of time, existing for no reason other than to brood over a dram. New Orleans in the middle of July – a thick, humid blur of comings and goings – is host to none of them.

Walk down any street in the French Quarter at any hour, and you encounter taxi drivers huddling on the curb in mid-belly laugh, a voodoo practitioner ready to sell you a glimpse of your future, food fried with such precision that you could keep a beat with the crunch, four dive bars (that's an unscientific estimate) that jangle and howl with snarling, panting, don't-even-dream-ofleaving- soon, brassy funk. It's a setting for gonzo-style ingestion of all sorts.

Amid that backdrop, 25,000 youth of the Lutheran faith, all wearing turquoise T-shirts declaring “I Believe” looked on with bewilderment as 15,000 bartenders, brand ambassadors, distillers, and drink enthusiasts from around the world descended on the Big Easy. The youths' convention was finishing as the liquor industry's Biennale was commencing. Tales of the Cocktail, now in its eighth year, is a noholds- barred geekfest meets bacchinalia meets five day endurance test. Where else can you find bartenders from San Francisco, London, Amsterdam and Washington DC debating the virtues and shortcomings of various brands of bitters – at 4.45AM?

At an event that encompasses all of cocktails, it's possible to tackle the densely packed schedule broadly, or to keep narrowly focused on one spir...

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