It’s Tales of the Cocktail week, which for a community like New Orleans is akin to an annual visit from a wealthy Aunt and Uncle, or having a good friend pick up a dinner check, or receiving a prize envelope from Publisher’s Clearing House.

I have personally never experienced 2 of those 3 choices, and I leave it to your keen powers of observation to determine which one.

But Tales is a special case – a time when 25,000 of your nearest and dearest drinking buddies from all over the world descend on a town that can handle the madness, and pretty much does so every day – no biggie on that count for The Crescent City. I think our town’s motto should be: Putting College Parties to Shame Every Day.

If you listen carefully, you won’t be far out of earshot of ice being crushed, mint being muddled, shakers going about their business, glassware being filled and a din of usually discourteous slurping noises as delightful liquid refreshments reach many lips. The cacophony will go on for about a week.

What always comes out of the Tales experience is something new and something old. Each year, a suddenly-chic spirit or liqueur captures the group’s attention and then everyone has to use XXX in every cocktail, whether it truly fits or not. In reality, there is really not much totally new that comes out each year – despite the convoluted explanations and breathless entreaties of Brand Ambassadors, sent here especially to convince every attendee that their product is cutting-edge, can be used in a wide variety of applications and adds immeasurably to the consumer’s enjoyment. Sort of a liquid Swiss Army Knife. Sort of.

The more understandable direction is for this group of distillery sales professionals to re-position their product line, expanding the use of whatever it is they are extolling with real passion. And it is here where there is some validity to the pitch. The lesson is that while you usually use one spirit for a particular drink, there might be just as much enjoyment from using another. At least it’s a welcome change of pace, aromas and flavors.

You may still drink Old Faithful on most occasions, but now you have another familiar and proven choice, maybe of your creation, for those times when you are in a different mood or social location. Freedom and Variety – is this a great country, or what?

For instance, this time of year, Sangria seems like a particularly happy response to drinking seasonal – full of fresh fruit, cool and easy, a most quaffable answer to “what do I want to drink?”

And here is a pretty good Sangria recipe, which makes use of vodka:


Red Berry Sangria


·         1 bottle Moscato Wine

·         15-18 ounces Berry Juice (Naked Berry Blast or V8 Splash Berry Blend work well)

·         1 liter lemon lime soda

·         ½ cup (or more if you're feisty) Pearl Red Berry Vodka

·         1 cup sliced strawberries

·         1 cups raspberries

·         Raspberries and sliced strawberries as garnish



  • Place fruit, wine, vodka and berry juice in a pitcher and stir.
  • Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • Right before serving, add the lemon lime soda and stir to combine.
  • Pour over ice and garnish with more fruit.


Now, let’s have a bit of fun, and with some apologies to the folks who make Pearl Red Berry Vodka and were kind enough to send me the recipe (I’ll bet they never make that mistake again).

Right off, I am not a fan of really sweet drinks, so I would delete the Moscato and insert a very dry Pinot Grigio at the same quantity, then cut the Berry juice in half and insert Tonic Water. The ½ cup of vodka is not going to make it for New Orleanians. Double the amount of vodka, delete the lemon-lime soda, or at the most use only 25% of the noted quantity, and put no sugar on the fruit.

That’s how you play around with these things. Other variables could be using only a half amount of white wine and add like quantity of inexpensive Spanish red wine. Consider another spirit, like spiced dark rum to take some of the place of the vodka.

The only way you are going to know the success of your work is if you start making the drink and then along the way, while you taste during construction, start your best impression of Morgus. – dfo crazy lab stuff. Would mint make a difference? Orange slices? Peaches? Or whatever enters your mind that you like. If you are fearful of “ruining” the batch, pour a glass of what you have made up to a point and then add small amounts of outside-the-recipe ingredients.

I am also a big fan of New Orleans’ favorite way to work through a hangover, the Brandy Milk Punch.


Brandy Milk Punch

As served at Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street


Serving: 1


2 ounces brandy (preferably Napoleon)

4 ounces half & half

1 ounce simple syrup (1:1, sugar:water)

1/4 ounce vanilla extract

Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
Glassware: rocks



  • Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
  • Add ice and shake until chilled.
  • Strain into a rocks glass over ice.
  • Sprinkle the nutmeg onto the drink, not in it


Lately, even Brennan’s has been playing with their recipe, substituting Rye Whiskey for the Brandy. I’ve even had Tequila instead of either one. And I’m thinking that Rum or Pisco would also do very well in this drink.

Maybe a few dabs of Crème de Menthe at the end would work well. Or a bit of cinnamon.

See? Now you have the idea. The original recipe for any drink is fine. Usually a real classic, but you are not bound by somebody else’s approach. Think about what you like and what turns you on. Actually, I was speaking about the ingredients that go into a drink, but thanks for the additional information.