After a few hours sleep following Friday night’s Tales of the Cocktail daiquiri contest I had, surprisingly, no hangover — score one for Bacardi! So, I went to the Hotel Monteleone to begin drinking at 10am. For work. A party thrown by OffBeat and fueled by the New Orleans liqueur Legendre Herbsaint.
Outside the hotel my first vision is a gaggle of gals in bright blue bathing suits playing a beanbag game in the street. Not totally unusual for New Orleans but… The ladies tossed on behalf of Deep Eddy Vodka and were giving out big-ass samples of its all-natural, glueten-free Sweet Tea vodka. I also witnessed Deep Eddy’s V.P. of Marketing, Brandon Cason, taste Hoosier Mama bloody mary mix for the first time, homemade by Erin Edds of Indianapolis, Indiana who was also at the festival getting her indie marketing hustle on.
Inside the party was much mellower (and better lit) than the daiquiri fest. I gravitated to guitarist Mark Weliky of the Courtyard Kings who sat solo in the carpeted corner playing smooth jazz interspersed with the Super Mario Bros. theme and other pop tunes such as Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” Stationed beside Mark was local bartender Sam Kane whose Herbsaint cocktail “Lucidity” was margarita-esque but not as sweet — better for morning time. The party revolved around co-hosts Sazerac and OffBeat’s Melodic Mixology contest, which challenged local bartenders to create a daring Herbsaint cocktail named after or inspired by a New Orleans musician or song. The winning drink, “The Bell Gal,” was concocted by the Carousel Bar’s Michael Glassberg and inspired by Sweet Emma Barrett “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of This Jelly Roll.” Glassberg, however, was called away unexpectedly prior to the event and unable to present his prize to the Tales crowd.
Someone at the party told me Herbsaint was an anagram for Absinthe, which also shares Herbsaint’s menthol-ish flavor — something about prohibition and the absinthe ban blah blah blah. There was actually an Herbsaint historian on hand with a collection of vintage Herbsaint bottles that looked to have come from a pirate’s chest, but since he was not serving any drinks per say, we did not spend much time together.
I spent more time failing to acquire a sample of the Oysters Rockefeller from the cooking demonstration. While strategically placing myself where the waiters could find me, I learned that the base of oysters Rockefeller is all vegetarian. Great. Where’s mine? While drinking the oddly tart “Second Line,” by Star Hodgson of Star Cocktails, I spoke with Fran Branch who, at the age of 60 was, before my eyes, eating her very first oyster. “And I’m from Maryland. Can you believe that?” she asked me, then explianed, “They just always looked gross. This one doesn’t look gross.” She forked a bite. “I like the spinach and stuff. If they cook ‘em like this I’ll eat ‘em again.” I told her that Oysters Rockafeller – anything cooked and with cheese, really – is the gateway bivalve.