Sake Gumi


Tales of the Cocktail Recap Part 1
Tales of the Cocktail Recap Part 2
Tales of the Cocktail Recap Part 3
Tales of the Cocktail Recap Part 4
Tales of the Cocktail Recap Part 5

Alas my friends, as all good things eventually come to an end, so did this year's Tales of the Cocktail, and so does this series of recaps. This was both my first visit to New Orleans, and my first time attending Tales, and without a doubt my time there was nothing short of a glorious bacchanal of all things cocktail.



But before it was time for me to say goodbye to Tales and head to the Louis Armstrong Airport (Kennedy's a cool name but can we change La Guardia to something cooler like Miles Davis or Coltrane International?), I had one final event to attend on that final day of Tales, and it was at 10:30am on a Sunday (you already know where this is going). I was scheduled to participate in a cocktail competition sponsored by New Amsterdam Gin.  But unlike the Catdaddy Bar Chef Challenge a few days earlier in which  the best recipes were selected to compete, this competition was more like a Top Chef quickfire challenge in which contestants had only 10 minutes to create and present a cocktail using only New Amsterdam Gin and a spread of ingredients on a table.  Up for grabs for the winner was a catered dinner for ten at their abode. Not bad I thought. I like catered dinners, and I like my abode, so I figured it'd be good to win this.

But there was one hitch: it was slated for 10:30am on a Sunday. A regular Sunday poses problems for me because it always follows Saturday night, so you know a Sunday morning at Tales would be an issue. So some time around 10:45am I wake up to a phone call from Laura Bruskin, who handles the PR for New Amsterdam Gin, asking me whether or not I still planned on attending. Although I wasn't hungover (I was still drunk, the hangover comes after the drunkenness subsides), I was more exhausted than a lone hamster in Richard Gere's apartment. But because I consider it really important for people to see me as a man of my word, I begrudgingly decided to get up, splashed some cold water on my face, put on something presentable and promised I'd be down there in ten minutes.



Short story long, I arrive just as they're preparing to start, take my position at my station, come up with some batshit crazy concoction, shake, strain (I would've preferred to double strain but somebody snatched the double strainer from the table), garnish just as time runs out, then win. Yeah. Win. Again. I was happy.



Below is the recipe for the drink I created called the Creole Market (yeah the name's kinda weak but I had to think of something, and I ain't good with names).

Creole Market
2 oz gin
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz agave nectar (actually go just under an ounce on the jigger)
1/2 oz fresh peach puree
1 barspoon Angostura
3 or 4 bell pepper slices
1 pinch sandalwood
1 pinch turmeric
1 pinch dried thyme

Glass: cocktail
Tools: shaker, strainer, double strainer if you have one, muddler, barspoon

Place the bell peppers, sandalwood, turmeric, and thyme in a shaker and muddle until the bell pepper is well smashed and its juice is extracted.  Add the remaining ingredients plus ice and shake like a catered dinner at your abode depends on it. Strain into your cocktail glass and enjoy.  Although you can't tell from the photo, I actually garnished it with a flower from the judges' table, though you can garnish it with whatever you like, or don't garnish at all.


Chief brand mixologist Alex Ott explaining the rules of the competition.



Analyzing the spices and ingredients made available.


The spread of cocktails from all the competitors.



As I explained, the main reason why early Sunday mornings aren't so easy is because of Saturday nights. The Saturday night at Tales is the opportunity to epically party for a final time before returning home. Much of the partying is fueled by celebrations from the winners of the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, which is the craft cocktail industry's equivalent of the James Beard Awards. The winners partied hard in celebration, the losers partied hard to forget their loss, and the rest of us partied because we were there and it was the final night. Below is a list of the nominees by category, with the winner listed at top in bold. As usual, it was a good night for NYC. 

World’s Best Cocktail Bar

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar

Mayahuel, World's Best New Cocktail Bar 2010

  • Mayahuel, New York City

  • Dutch Kills, Queens

  • Rickhouse , San Francisco

  • Cure, New Orleans (this place is overrated)

Best American Cocktail Bar

World’s Best Hotel Bar

World’s Best Drinks Selection

World’s Best Cocktail Menu

American Bartender of the Year

Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Cafe, Seattle

  • Murray Stenson, Zig Zag Café, Seattle

  • Eric Alperin, The Varnish, Los Angeles

  • Kenta Goto, Pegu Club, New York City

  • Sam Ross, Milk & Honey, New York City

International Bartender of the Year

  • Agostino Perrone, The Connaught Hotel, London

  • Brian Miller, formerly of  Death & Company, New York City

  • Salvatore "The Maestro" Calabrese, formerly Fifty, London

  • Sam Ross, Milk & Honey, New York City

Best International Brand Ambassador

Best American Brand Ambassador

Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book

  • Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

  • Beachbum Berry Remixed

  • Gin Compendium by Gary "Gaz" Regan

  • MudPuddle Books by Greg Boehm

Best Cocktail Writing

  • CLASS magazine

  • Gary Regan

  • Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller

  • Naren Young

Best New Product

Best Bar Mentor

  • Dale "King Cocktail" DeGroff

  • Robert Hess

  • Sasha Petraske

  • Tony Abou-Ganim

Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Brian Rea

  • Gary Regan

  • Murray Stenson

  • Tony Abou-Ganim


Although I don't have any regrets, there are a few things I'd do differently next time:

1.) Buy a case of electrolyte-enhanced water (or even better, coconut water) upon checking into the hotel room. I actually planned to do this but in the excitement of arriving I forgot and never got around to it.

2.) Stay hydrated.

3.) Stay at the Hotel Monteleone. We stayed at the Windsor Court Hotel, a first rate hotel that I got a really sweet deal on, and only a 10 minute walk to the Monteleone which is Tales homebase, but I slightly feel like I was left out of the party. I lost the advantage of being around the whole buzzing scene of it all, so undoubtedly there were last minute hotel parties and such that never made it to my ears. Not to mention how much easier it makes going back to your room between events for much needed power naps.


4.) Stay hydrated.

5.) Either bring an extra suitcase, pack less clothing, or arrange for shipping of all the swag that you'll accumulate down at Tales. As you can see below, between Vanessa and I we ended up with lots of goodies (K, I got some good stuff saved for you next time you're in NY), but I could've certainly done without the panic and stress from last minute packing and repacking to avoid the steep baggage weight fees. The swag game at tales is pretty gangsta, and if you want a good recap of the best of the best checkout Camper English's Fourth Annual Tales Swag Awards.

Tales swag

6.) Stay hydrated

7.) Make a more focused effort to remember the people who's business cards I received. I'm already very terrible at this (I told you I ain't good with names) and it's even more difficult when under an alcohol-induced haze, but if I'm to truly get the most out of the networking at Tales, then I have to remember the faces and contexts of the conversations associated with the business cards I accumulated. And believe me, I got A LOT of business cards. Jotting down instant notes, snappng a photo (as bad as I am with names, I'm a genius with faces and can recall a face more than a decade later), whatever, as long as when it comes time to write that email a week or two after Tales, that biz card is more like a flash card.

8.) Stay hydrated.

9.) Either relax the schedule a bit (which I'll probably never do) or get to New Orleans a few days before the hustle and bustle of Tales to get a chance at really enjoying the city.

10.) Did I mention stay hydrated?


Finally, a great shout out to Mr. and Mrs. Tuennerman (aka Mr. and Mrs. Cocktail), Michelle Dunnick, Christina Gaspari, Melissa Young, and the rest of the Tales of the Cocktail organizing crew that made losing my Tales virginity a memorable experience. The seamless way in which the organizers pulled of multiple seminars, events, and spirit tastings for every hour of the festival made it a feat worthy of instant admission in the Logistics Hall of Fame.


To the Tales of the Cocktail crew and the entire city of New Orleans I tip my hat.

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.
Column: Happy Hour


  • And that’s why we love you. Saving the world can wait till next week.

    Can’t wait for my schwag bag!!!

    kayoko on

  • Shit I’m not going through withrawal from these posts. I might as well have not gone to work for a week, because that’s how unproductive I was while I was writing these.

    Paystyle on

  • Yet another win— nice work, Pay! Love Creole Market, I think that’s a great name for it.

    Going through withdrawl now that these recaps are over. Until next year, that is.

    kayoko on

  • Also, Coltraine International fuck yah!

    kayoko on

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