Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Storming the Gates; Stories of a Party Crasher

I suppose this post is not so much a 'how to', but more of a 'well, that happened' sort of thing. I don't neccessarily recommend this approach but it worked out well in our case. The following chronicle of my Tales of the Cocktail is that of an ill planned trip with debauchery as its goal. It should be said that I greatly appreciate the hospitality and kindness of the places and people that made my trip such an amazing experience, and in no way do I take for granted the entree we experienced. I know that next year will be markedly different in how I approach the festivities, but this year was pretty epic. Keep in mind this is written well after the fact and may or may not be a factual account of what actually went down. I know, I'm a terrible blogger; I'm working on it so BACK OFF! :)

K, so I booked the trip maybe a week or so prior after much hemming and hawing from Mary and Fox as to whether or not we could or should go. Once booked our primary concern was lodging. Fortunately @tallerjen had a great in with Mariott and found us rooms a couple blocks away from the Monteleone Hotel, where all the Tales shenanegins were taking place, for something like $40 per night. Once we had secured a place to crash we did nothing, except pack frantically the day we were to depart. We met up at Fox's place where she was sewing Lewis bags to peddle at the whathaveyou and somehow were sold into indentured serventry an hour before our flight left-mind you I've sewn maybe A ripped pair of jeans or two, and poorly, in my entire life-and proceeded to help her knock out a dozen or so bags before our ride to PDX arrived.

Right, so after a double Woodford Reserve and a pint of Rogue Dead Guy in the airport we made the plane. I spent the layover in Houston typing for Imbibe a bitters recipe that should appear on their website soon, all the while feeling a little creeped out that I was in 'George Bush Airport'. Upon arrival in NOLA we hopped a cab to the wrong hotel, which fortunately was close to where we were actually staying. Since Jen had to check us in, and she didn't arrive until later that day, we decide that beniets and coffee with Tommy Klus was the best plan from there. Which led to a sweaty jaunt around the quarter that ended with giant Hurricane cocktails in souvenier plastic cups by the river, and a failed attempt to reply with the attached word document to Imbibe featuring the aforementioned bitters recipe. We walked back towards the hotel, where we had our first proper drink if you can call it that. Fox had a Sazerac, Mary a White Russian, and I believe I had a Vieux Caree at the Monteleone. It was kind of a drag at that bar; a brilliant rotating bar but the barman was so frantically making brandy milk punches that he evidently forgot how to make good drinks across the board. Ah well, I'm sure by that point he was sick of annoying bartenders criticizing his every move so I enjoyed my libation with some commiseration. It was super cool to run into Paul McGee, another Chicagoan, of the Whistler (my absolute favorite bar in Chi) while signing up for the only sanctioned seminar we were to attend during our stay (Gin & Prohibition featuring David Wondrich and two Simons). From there we ran across not one but two of my former Chicago compatriots, Mr. Matty J Seiter (now of Santuraria in St. Louis) and the venerable Danny Shapiro of Perennial Chicago(my former barback turned 'next big thing' as subtly decreed by my boy Dan D'Oliviera). Drinks at Absinthe House were called for, and though Mary was unsuccessful in her attempts to purchase the (I think) 1985 Old Overholt on the shelf we did have some nice cold beers to quench the heat with chasers of Matt's Sweedish Punsch from apothocary bottles. After running into a few other familiar faces on the street we were welcomed to air conditioning at our new home for the week.

We proceeded to hear from Matty J about a party later that night at some mansion that he was sure to get us in to, seeing as he allegedly had two extra tickets. We were famished so we decided to meet Quinn for a bite beforehand, and since Matty was positive that the mansion party was formal I donned a suit sans tie. As we ran across Quinn, an absolute gentleman and one of the true masters I had the pleasure of meeting, the Beefeater double decker bus was parked and waiting in front of the Monteleone. As people, including Dan D and Matty J, boarded the bus we bumped into LivetheLushLife who insisted we join her camera crew and attend the Beefeater event. Fucking cool, we were totally on board with that although without the Rold Golds Quinn brought with Mary most likely would've thought otherwise. It was hot and humid as you may expect at that point.

The Beefeater party was as indulgent a party as I've ever been to, very Alice in Wonderland style with opulance at every turn. We happened to, after a short ride with some super chill videographers (who turned us on to the Green Goddess), be some of the first arrivals at the party. Conveniently enough we were first in line for Audrey Saunders to mix us a cocktail with Aperol and Beefeater Summer. After some awkward sociality, brilliant punch and cocktillian jikantery from Robert Hess, and running into Tommy and a host of other peeps we bounced out to get a decent bite to eat before the mansion shindig. Green Goddess seemed to be the right place to go, as the local reco is always the right one to follow. Once there Mary was texting back and forth with Daniel of TDL regarding joining up before the party. Unfortunately, or fortunately maybe, dinner at the Goddess is not like that of a drive thru. We were treated with the most personal of service from the chef/owner and had one an incredible meal. The drink list showed traces of brilliance without refinement and the the food was made with heart with incredible components in the sweaty limited space. Go there, it will be worth it I assure you.

From there we found our way to the party; I can say without a single doubt that this was the best party I have ever been to. Picture a party with some incredible bar folk crafting brilliant cocktails, punch, scotch, cigars, killer food, live music in an acropolis-like gazebo, and shooting the breeze with the most accomplished folks in the industry. We walked to the front of the line under the assumption that we were on the list with Matt, which we weren't, and proceeded to somehow grease our way into the gig. Having intimate conversations with PDXers like Daniel, Adam Robinson, Ricky Gomez, Neil Kopplin, many Chicagoans, SFers, Seattleans and NYers was the essence of what Tales is about. Talking through the ins and outs of opeinging up your own bar with folks that have not only done it but succeeded valiantly is the ultimate in terms of networking, and smoking cigarettes with a NY Sour in hand with Rocky Yeh by the only oscillating fan outdoors is the ultimate in terms of socializing. My only lament was the suit, f u Matty but barmen shouldn't put on airs. Result: Best. party. ever. Thank you Hendricks Gin!

We retired late that night, with swag bottles Mary had lifted now depleted and most likely in Rocky's room 'o swag. Pretty confident we did Absinthe House till late that night, and pretty sure DrinksWithMindy was rocking her "Party in Morgenthaler's Room" tank top that night. They sort of blend together now, each night being a remonsterization of the night before. I can tell you that unlike Portland the drinking crowd pushed the excess, not surprisingly given the context, to the point of combustion. The next couple days followed suit with trips to Cure/Iris/Tonique and more great food and drink. We did have the pleasure of joining Mr. Benjamin Schiller and Dejorn Huffman for dinner at Arnaud's(which took place as the Swag-off went down), which may have been the highlight of my trip. After a Saz at the bar Benjamin ordered a nice Sancerre to go with our first course, and I followed suit with an '05 Haut Beauseujeur Bordeax which went nicely with my bacon wrapped, fois stuffed, quail. From there Dejorn, one of my favorite people in the world, had to sprint to the Bols Genever event which we sauntered to after dessert. Mr. Jacob Grier had arrived that day, and what better place to meet up than over a 'little headbutt' at Grapevine in NOLA. Such a great representation from Portland at Tales, I was and still am so proud to have been a part of it. Unfortunately Mr. David Shenaut was unable to make it down, and I believe upon leaving the Bols event Quinn and I wistfully albeit drunkenly bromanticized Dave, who I consider to be the most talented barman in the northwest (I'll let you know after I sit at Murray's bar in Seattle, but I'm pretty confident in this one-I had the pleasure of witnessing a spectacle of flair on one of his last nights at Teardrop-Obie Wan Shenobi, the return of Neon). Ben took D home and met up briefly at Absinthe House where the debauchery had reached a creshendo. We saw everyone that night, and unfortunately there was too much booze in the air to make any real connections. Suffice it to say that drinks at Cure and Iris that eve were incredible and restored faith in the national drink scene after a meh experience everywhere else.

We needed to recover a bit after that and courtesy of Bols Genever we had that opportunity by way of free cruiser bikes with which to tour the city. We sweatily and awkwardly at first pedalled our way out of the quarter into the real corridors of the city of N'Awlans. Coffee and junk store shopping highlighted our ride, along with a creepy trip to a voodoo shop and some haunting photos taken by Fox. We grabbed cocktails 'to go' from a dicey place in the quarter, a harrowing experience from where I sat. I was so thirsty, and had been craving a well made Hemmingway Daiquiri all day- so I order one from the barkeep, and he looks at me like I'm an alien. I see there are no Luxardo products on the backbar, so I ask him to make me a standard daiquiri. He reaches for the, thank you, just a shaken daiquiri please...nope, not like that just 2 oz rum 1 oz "fresh" lime juice and a half ounce simple please...he proceeds to free pour around 4 oz Mohawk rum, and tells me that he has some fresh lime juice *ah, here it is* in this little lime shaped bottle of RealLime, finished with some stock sour mix and lazily shaken and dumped into a souvenier cup. amazingly, and you can imagine how crushed and horrified I am at this point, I drank it down without as much disdain as one might expect from a snob such as myself. It's like multiplying negatives I guess, so many bad things equal one halfway decent thing if the math is right. At least that's how I've come to terms with that experience. It did provide the fuel neccessary to get us back to the hotel in one piece with minimal damage to the bikes. For the record, the bike rental people were ah-mazing, I think Mary still stays in touch with them and shares family photos, they made us feel so welcome and were super close to inviting us over for dinner. I totally would have accepted.

I think the last night we did Cure with Daniel, whom I respect so much not only as an amazing barman and entrepreneur but as a gentleman. His awareness of social situations is something I've yet to encounter elsewhere, and his humble yet commanding presence is the penultimate representation of Portland beverage culture past and present. I'll most likely regret this gushing post later, but today I stand enamored with Portland and its personalities.

So after a few more ridiculous excursions we boarded our respective planes and groggily returned home to our loving northwest. As Neil said, "give me a big green hug Portland"...So glad to be home, and equally grateful to have had the experience of Tales with the people I did. So in closing, one can simply buy a ticket and show up at Tales of the Cocktail with no agenda and have a comprehensive experience simply by working in the industry for 10 or so years and busting one's ass thus forming lasting relationships that will get you into all the parties...

I know I left a few things out, like the Super Dope Diageo tasting (best cocktails of the entire trip) that we snuck into twice (once before it started and once with Holliss Bulliet), but that is a not so brief snapshot of one man's Tales of the Cocktail experience. Hopefully next year will be less haphazard. Prost!!!!

Vieux Caree Cocktail

3/4 oz Brandy
3/4 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Benedictine
dash Peychaud's Bitters
dash Angostura Bitters
stir with ice
strain into glass
garnish: lemon twist

glass: old fashioned

tools: strainer, bar spoon, channel knife