Dave’s Tales of the Cocktail

World Biggest Negroni

In July of 2011, the boys from BartenderOne were treated to a team retreat in New Orleans for the annual Tales of the Cocktail extravaganza! The trip began at 3am on Thursday morning as the team gathered for the 6 am flight. Total hours of sleep: 2.

Once we arrived, we were met by a black stretch limo to take us to the Intercontinental hotel, which was only a five-minute stumble to Bourbon St. Each one of the guys selected different seminars to attend. My first was at 1pm. 3 hours after getting settled. As I sat in on the women behind bars seminar, I noticed that I was one of only four guys in the entire room. Great choice!

The workshop focused on the history of women in the bar scene. There were many servers passing out fantastic cocktails including Pink Ladys (Gin, Eggwhite, cream, and Grenadine), and Hanky Pankys (Gin, Fernet Branca, and Sweet Vermouth).

No rest for the wicked as I made my way to the European Bartending Perspective seminar hosted by Nicolas de Soto, and Simon Difford. This seminar was more of a question and answer forum discussing the major differences between North American and European Bartenders, focusing mainly on the use of fresh ingredients vs. manufactured product dispensed by soda guns.

At 4:30 pm, we were to meet at the World’s Largest Negroni party. There we gathered with many bartenders from Toronto. After MANY Negronis, we marched down to the Diageo party where we enjoyed cocktails served by the likes of Simon Difford, and Dale Degroff. Things kind of got blurry for a while, but then we some how ended up in the pool before dinner.

We were invited to attend the Jim Beam Devils Cut dinner where we would enjoy a five-course meal, paired with 5 Devils cut Cocktails. Devils Cut is created by drawing the Bourbon that soaks into the barrel out of the wood after the it has been emptied.

Following the dinner, we decided to hit Bourbon St. where we decided to take in some authentic New Orleans Jazz. Negronis, and the occasional beer helped us make our way to Frenchman St. where we found ourselves in the craziest reggae bar ever!

I arrived back at my hotel at 5 am and decided it was time for a nap, before my 10 am seminar. Sleep: 4 hours. Total since Tuesday=6 hours.

I arrived at the Royal Sonesta hotel Friday morning at 10 am to attend the Chainsaw Shift seminar. The focus here was how to cut your own 3×3 inch blocks of ice using a chainsaw. The seminar ended early so I decided to catch a much-needed nap before the next tasting. Sleep: 1 hour. Total since Tuesday=7 hours.

Friday afternoon we headed over to the Hotel Monteleone where local Toronto bartender Rob Montgomery (of The Miller Tavern) was showcasing cocktails for the new Marie Brizard French Liqueurs debut tasting. When dinner time rolled around we were very excited to go to the world famous Acme oyster house. We waited in line for 45 minutes (average wait time) and it was definitely worth it.

Shortly thereafter, we were whisked away to the Bacardi Pina Colada competition where we sampled dozens of Pina Coladas, and Complimentary hand shaken Daquiris. From there, it was a hop skip and a jump over to the Bartenders Brawl party, which also provided many complimentary cocktails. By this time I was wearing a cocktail umbrella in my hat.

Dave celebrating Tales of the Cocktail

Hours later, 10 of Toronto’s top bartenders crammed themselves into a 5-seat cab as we once again headed down to Frenchman St. Gavin and Elan Marks were treated to a makeshift Rickshaw ride by one of New Orleans’ finest locals. From there we made it back to Bourbon St. only to end up at the historic Absinthe House, followed by the Larry Flynt Ballet.

Once again I saw the clock turn 5am, and decided to call it a day. Since I didn’t have a seminar scheduled until 2 pm on Saturday, I was able to catch up on some sleep. Sleep: 6 hours. Total Since Tuesday= 13 hours.

I arrived at the Handcrafted Cocktail-How far is too far seminar at 2 pm. I was very excited about this one, as the hosts were Joe Fee of Fee Brothers, and Craig James of Fentimans Vancouver. This session turned into a very heated debate between the manufacturers of quality sodas and bitters, and barmen who make their own. Questions of consistency, time, and cost were at the forefront, and by the end I sided with the manufacturers mainly due to the consistency of their products.

We all met up for dinner at a local pizzeria and were looking forward to the Bartenders Breakfast party later that evening. The Bartenders Breakfast is sponsored by Plymouth Gin, and is THE event to wrap the Tales of the Cocktail week. After a long wait in line, we arrived at the biggest party of the week around 12:30am. We partied with some of the biggest names in the industry including Tony Abou –Ganim, Dale Degroff, and special guest Ron Jeremy!

It was shortly after 3am when I realized that we needed to leave for the airport at 5 am. Time to pack.
In a groggy haze, I managed to successfully pack all of my belongings into my bags and we headed out of New Orleans. Sleep: 0. Total since Tuesday = 13 hours.

I am very grateful to Gavin MacMillan of BartenderOne, for bringing us on this unbelievable experience. To the rest of the boys, thank you for making the trip what it was.Who would have thought that a bartender from Toronto would be able to travel as much as I have.

Until next time…Cheers!

David Jennings

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