Bonnie Wilson had a busy week in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. The bartender from The Ranch at Las Colinas in Irving arrived last Monday, prepped for the Texas Tailgate on Tuesday, competed in the 21 Cocktail Salute on Thursday and served up drinks with a healthy twist (think spinach, beets, cucumber and booze) at the VeeV Fresh Market outside Hotel Monteleone in the hot sun on Saturday.
With such seminars as Agave Amigos at the festival this year, the three-time Tales veteran backed up the idea that agave is having its moment. As a spirit, it’s blown up in the past couple of years.
“The number of brands has exponentially grown,” she says of agave’s rise, from big brands to craft brands jumping on the bandwagon.
“Two years ago craft whiskey was big” at Tales, Wilson says. “Now it’s extended to other spirits. 86 Co. is a great example,” she said, giving a shout out to Jason Kosmas’ craft company, which was up for best new product for gin at the signature event the Spirited Awards on Saturday night.
Another trend, Wilson noted, is carbonated drinks, both bottled and non-bottled.
Keeping things simple, which quite a few bartenders kept saying throughout the week, is also huge in the industry now, but taking the basics and twisting it. An example Wilson gave is the classic gin and tonic but making the tonic from scratch.
A Tales takeaway for Wilson was a seminar she attended on the business of running a bar that emphasized building a family as opposed to simply having employees.
“It’s more about the emotional connection,” she said, which is what people enjoy about bars and why they come back to a particular bar.
Here are a few of Wilson’s fave bars in New Orleans:Sylvain Bar Tonique French 75