Aug 3, 200912:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

What is that back there?

No, not that. The other pretty bottle behind the gin.

St. Germain

We noted last week in this regularly scheduled diatribe that New Orleans, thanks to young energetic mixologists and to the annual, recently staged Tales of the Cocktail Festival, had taken her place in the forefront of the renaissance of the American cocktail.

That sort of reputation is important as we are dependent on our hospitality talents to show our guests a good time and to provide them with experiences that they just can’t duplicate in other locales. We have justifiably built a reputation with our cuisine, which is absolutely not replicated anywhere else. 

I don’t’ care what your best friend from Denver says about a New Orleans-style restaurant in that picturesque community that is just like ----------(fill in the blank with any local restaurant’s name).  It isn’t. It is probably good, but it is not New Orleans.

So, too, the cocktail scene is vibrant, creative and alive here in the Crescent City. We are the better for it because it is our version of what is going on in other places.

What has happened on the national and international scene is that a plethora of new processes and ingredients has made the end result, i.e. an appealing beverage in that glass right in front of you, that much more satisfying. Infusions of all manner of herbs and fruits into liquor have changed the complexion of many drinks, and opened up new worlds of bouquets and flavors, which has encouraged experimentation.

We have a number of local mixologists, like Alan Walter at Iris, who are actually mad scientists disguised as friendly bartenders. Alan gathers his own ingredients and pounds them or cooks them or allows them to steep, and then he adds small quantities of the end result into cocktails which he creates. Do you know of anyone else out there doing anything with the pine needles from Lakeview, other than raking them off the driveway and putting them in a garbage bag out by the curb twice a week? Alan built a drink around them.

Along those lines, but then again not really, may I bring to your attention a liqueur known as St. Germain? I’ll bet you’ve seen it. Maybe even had a drop or two in a cocktail.

St. Germain is packaged in a tall, striking, fluted bottle, which just by itself looks pretty darn good at the back of any bar. Looks like the person in charge of this bar has it all going on.

St. Germain is made from elderflowers, but not just any old elderflowers. These elderflowers are gathered only once each year, in the spring. And these elderflowers are from the foothill regions of the Alps.

After they are gathered, they are placed in sacks and then the elderflower-picker rides these starry-white flowers on his bike to the distillery. How many folks are there to do this? About 40 or 50, no more. There are not that many elderflowers so more pickers does not translate into more crop.

The resulting liqueur is a curious blend of honey, fruit, and cleanliness, reminiscent of a clear spring day in the Alps. Okay, so I’ve never been there at that time, but I imagine this is what it is. Give me a break here.

The logical drink to make with St. Germain is the St. Germain Cocktail (clever people, those French). This drink is 2 shots each of dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc, or you can use sparkling wine or Prosecco, and soda, to which you add 1 ½ shots of St. Germain.  Garnish with lemon twist.

That’s how St. Germain is used in a number of recipes. Not much, but just enough so it’s presence is felt. The cocktail becomes something softer, more elegant, even more refreshing.

It is quite a versatile addition to a drink. You can use it in a Mojito, a cosmopolitan, with champagne in a variation on the French 75, and as an added flavor to drinks that are built around gin, tequila or pisco.

The really great thing about St. Germain is that it begs for experimentation. And that is exactly where the whole cocktail culture is heading.

There are a lot of young bartenders here, working in cutting-edge bars, who are proudly working with St. Germain and other cocktail small-dose adjuncts to tradition.

Remember that old advertising phrase, “Try it. You’ll like it.” It should not have been used to hype some ersatz fast-preparation food product. It actually could be about the many opportunities now available to improve upon old-style cocktails, making them seem fresh and new.
 

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

about

In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

 

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.

 

Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

 

Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

 

They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.

 

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

 

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

 

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

 

It’s a good gig. 

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