Tales of the Cocktail is a high-end liquor convention in New Orleans, but it’s a lot more. While it attracts top mixologists, bar owners, vendors, writers and foodies, it also offers an opportunity to pair amazing cocktails with sublime meals. So for me, it’s as much Tales of the Food as anything, though, of course, that doesn’t rhyme.
These pairings culminate in Spirited Dinners; I went to the Rio Mar’s last night with friends, featuring food by chefs Adolfo Garcia and Frank Stitt and cocktails by historian Wayne Curtis and Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. The beautiful drinks and dishes tasted as good as they looked. The savory, slightly salty country ham wrapped around grilled figs with walnut and mint cream, for instance, contrasted wonderfully with the sweetness of a plantain daiquiri.
The simple, fresh Gulf shrimp was enhanced by the Hedgehog’s Delight (rum, fresh lemon and lime juice, Darjeeling tea, Demerara sugar and spices), named in honor of rum sponsor and film legend (of a certain kind of film, anyway) Ron Jeremy. He was one of the dinner guests, and a sponsor, because he’s offering a very nice rum these days, Ron de Jeremy, which was used in the cocktail. We got to taste the rum naked (ugh, did I really write that?) in a flight along with Ron Abuelo 7-year rum, Trigo Reserve Anejo, and Zafra 21, which was wonderful all by its lonesome and decadent in the dessert cocktail with Benedictine and spiced cream, served with chocolate flan.
Tales is a flurry of tasting rooms, fabulous meals, seminars and other events, a party where you can actually learn something. If you want to.