Inspired by author and photographer Kerry McCaffety’s Obituary Cocktail: The Great Saloons of New Orleans, a stunning photographic essay and history, in 2002 serial entrepreneur and idea woman Ann Tuennerman (née Rogers) founded a cocktail tour of New Orleans, whereby she led history-minded imbibers around the French Quarter and CBD to some of the city’s many places to have a drink and collected a nice coin for doing so.
This seemed like a clever idea, so I raised my glass to Ann.
A year later she announced the formation of Tales of the Cocktail, an event to be held in the dead heat of summer whereby she would invite cocktail experts to the city to serve as hosts to those who would, she predicted, travel from far and wide to sup and drink with said experts at a handful of New Orleans’ most storied restaurants.
This was back in the days when wine was still very au courant and few were consuming mixed drinks – save for the ever-present Sazerac – any more creative gin and tonics or vodka and O.J.
My response to Ann: “Sistah, you’re nuts. Who in hell wants to slog around in the heat slugging potent drinks while mopping their brows and swatting at mosquitoes?”
As it turns out, many do – many, many do. What began as a small gathering of enthusiasts has grown into a five-day international celebration of high fallutin’ boozy beverages whipped up by the demi monde of the ultra-hot cocktail world. With an annual economic impact in 2014 of $14 million, TOTC drew 18,000 imbibers from 35 countries and has become the industry’s annual not-to-be-missed gathering.
In 2008, she also cleverly founded the New Orleans Culinary & Cultural Preservation Society (NOCCS), a nonprofit organization which also serves as the producer of TOTC. NOCCS has invested more than $500,000 into much needed programs that serve our behind-the-bar brethren with services such as health care and wellness programs.
Dear Ann, I raise my glass to you: you’re doing well by doing good, sistah.
This year’s TOTC gatherings with take place July 15-19 at locations around the French Quarter and CBD.
On Monday, July 13, the Museum’s of the American Cocktail’s annual “State of the Art” will again serve as the unofficial kickoff.
Twenty-four bartenders from across the region will concoct both proper and ridiculous libations as they mix and twist the cocktail canon. The highlight of the evening will be Tanqueray’s donation of the world’s coolest cocktail-making machine to MOTAC: the Tanqueray No. TEN Imperial Shaker by Jason Crawley. Recreated from a 19th-century line drawing under the guidance of spirits impresario Jason Crawley, the six-foot-tall Imperial Shaker is crafted of cast iron, brass, copper and silver to form an elliptical shaker (as opposed to a ho-hum, pedestrian up-and-down shaker) operated by a crank. The Imperial Shaker first appeared in the 88th annual Neiman Marcus Christmas Book and will now have a permanent home with The Museum of the American Cocktail’s New Orleans Collection at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. Admission to the event includes cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
The remainder of the summer schedule:
July 10: Chef Austin Kirzner, Red Fish Grill
July 24: Chef Steven Marsella, Heritage Grill
August 7: Chef Chip Flanagan, Ralph’s on the Park
August 21: Chef Slade Rushing, Brennan’s
September 4 & 18: Chef Chris Montero, Café NOMA and Napoleon House
Looking for a fun Friday freebie? Chefs of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (Café NOMA, Ralph’s on the Park, Red Fish Grill, Brennan’s, Heritage Grill, Napoleon House and café b) are demonstrating their culinary acumen at Café NOMA’s “Artful Palate,” the annual summer cooking series featuring art-inspired demonstrations at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Samples of the chefs’ creations round out the experience.
Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group 539-5520, NewOrleans-Food.com
Tales of the Cocktail 948-0511, TalesOfTheCocktail.com
The Museum of the American Cocktail (inside the Southern Food & Beverage Museum) 1504 Oretha C. Haley Blvd., 569-0405, CocktailMuseum.org
The New Orleans Museum of Art 1 Collins Diboll Circle, 658-4100, Noma.org