Greetings from New Orleans! CraveDFW is bellying up to the bar Tales of the Cocktail, which officially kicks off today.
Texas is well-represented at the world’s premier cocktail festival, says Brian McCullough of the Standard Pour and president of the North Texas chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild, with about 25 Texans repping the Lone Star State, such as Mate Hartai of the Libertine, Josh Hendricks and Charlie Pap.
Texas already got the party started Tuesday with a Texas Tailgate on Royal Street, which was packed with a couple hundred people, McCullough says. Among the familiar faces: Bonnie Wilson of The Ranch, Julian Pagan from Cedars Social, Mate Hartai from Libertine Bar, Jason Kosmas of the 86 Company, Michael Martensen of The Cedar Social, David Alan of The Tipsy Texan and Sean Conner of Whiskey Cake, who mixed up craft spirits in Texas fashion. And what tailgate would be complete without some authentic eats? The theme was “Head to Tail” street food with – of course – brisket.
One of the big ticket parties, McCullough says, is the Bare Knuckles event on Friday at Jackson Brewery Bistro Bar, with Jason Kosmas among the hosts and judges. Seven cocktail bars from across the U.S. will be bartending for 1,000 thirsty attendees while being judged on their team work and their ability to churn out tasty cocktails. Team Bar Smyth led by Mike Martensen is among the contestants.
This year, a big trend, which is apparent in the official guide, is a back to basics approach to cocktails. For example, Why Rye? today explores the spirit in all its glory, from the first public tasting of New York Distilling’s aging rye complete with a live distilling of rye whiskey and rye vodka for analysis.
“Everyone was super uber geeking out the past few years” over craft cocktails, McCullough says. Mezcal and sherry are huge this year, he says. Some of the spirits back in a big way are scotch, whiskey, bourbon, rye, rum (it’s back in a big way, McCullough says) and cognac.
Cognac makes quite a few appearances in events and seminars at this year’s TOTC, including a lunch today with cocktail guru David Wondrich. Fun fact: While having drinks with McCullough at a previous TOTC, Wondrich divulged his punk band days in the 80s when he played in Dallas a few times. Wondrich, who is one of New York’s highly regarded authorities on all things cocktail, led a fun talk on the history of rum punch, which then gave way to whiskey punch after the American Revolution. Then Wondrich went behind the bar to whip up the crowd some Prescription Juleps, an extremely potent mint julep.
From seminars that range from climate change to menu design to tasting rooms with large and small brands to big galas, such as tonight’s William Grant party, this year’s TOTC, which marks 10 years of cocktails and good times, celebrates the latest and greatest in the cocktail world.
Cheers to a great four days cocktailing in the Crescent City!
Some of Brian McCullough’s picks in the Big Easy
Food: Cochon, which is one of his favorite spots in town, as well as the sister eatery Cochon Butcher Also, Port of Call, which is a must for burger lovers he says, adding that there are only 6 things on the menu and 50 percent of it entails burgers.
Drinks: Old Absinthe House. Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Alibi (late night hot spot). Erin Rose (another late night hot spot, make sure to get the frozen Irish coffee). DBA