Friday, July 23, 2010

TotC 2010, Part 2

While this is not officially an event for bloggers who are left handed, bloggers who are redheads, bloggers who own uteri, or bloggers who only drive hybrids -- or, for that matter an event for bloggers, per se -- it is, by all indications, an event geared almost exclusively for people whose unexpressed motto runs along the lines of "Nothing is more fun than fun."

There is, of course, the merest veneer of seriousness. Seminars aimed, ostensibly, at For Real Working Bartenders and other industry professionals. But even those relatively few symposia are more than a little leavened by the fun. Most of the time, it's a few souls making glorious cocktails, and multitudes of other souls absorbing them.

Let other events try to lure you with near-pornographic enticements such as "Utilizing Social Media To Market Your Writing." The utterly earnest folks here must make do with dry and dispassionate fodder such as "Art of the Aperitif: Exploring Pre-Prandial Spirits, Wines and Cocktails" or "Civilization Begins with Distillation." Also, strictly in the name of science, there is serious tippling going on well before noon, to say nothing of 5pm. (In fact, if you make it a serious point of going out to drink, you will probably collapse into an ethanolic coma. The smart thing to do is just sample a little bit, and you may escape with but a mere intoxication.)

Me, being the high-minded and terribly serious individual, will be reporting on one the events most closely approaching seriousness. Such as that is.

The first one I bring you is the recentky concluded, if rather unfortunately named, "Bartending Fun-da-mentals."

Here is a recap, based on my notes:

The premise of this one is "To put the fun back into bartending." (Because we all knew what a meaningless nightmare of despair it is?)

The two presenters (hosts? guys in the front?) are "Jacob" and "Angus." Never heard of 'em before today. Jacob dons a horse head, Angus makes a couple of insider-ish wisecracks. They suggest bartenders are in it for sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Then! Actual content!

I Make the guest smile
II "Optimize the Guest Sale" which, unless it has to do with how the Royal Navy used to recruit with the aid of unscrupulous pub owners, I have NFI what that is.
III Give people reason to come back, by making them feel
a) comfortable
b) important
c) welcome, and
d) understood

They talk about how "customer time is 5x normal time." Also have NFI what that is, but it sounds completely true. "Always smile," is another.

Aha! Some real wisdom for schleps like me: Ask your guests questions about how they want their drinks." That is, don't just make a "Manhattan" but try to get guidance from your guests to see if they want it with rye or bourbon; dry, sweet or perfect...that sort of thing.

More "interesting" than strictly informative, Angus (or possibly Jacob) starts rattling off the "ages" of bartenders. Currently, says them, we're in the 2nd Golden Age (I'm waiting to hear the 1st.) The 1990s started the Age of Ingredients (fresh lemons and limes, say, or herbs, spices, aged spirits) followed by the Age of Technique ("molecular mixology" for example).

That, in turn is followed by what they call "The Age of Scrutiny and Authenticity." The hallmark of this is going back to cocktail history, old cocktail books, bartenders who look like "Winky" from Disney's Wind In The Willows. We also see ingredients that are resurrected (eau celeste, anyone?). The problem says Jacob (althought it might have been Angus) is that all of these Ages are "serious." Not a whole bloody lot of fun.

Oh, look, a lovely beverage...a Corpse Reviver #2 but made with blue curacao. Not bad, although I'm not so fond of blue drinks.

And then...the rules! What's good and what's bad. (I'm more the sort who focuses on the drink in hand. I'm a baaaaad boy.)

I- Small is good: big is evil. (No, GOOD is good, bad is evil. Sheesh.)
II- Vodka is evil. We drink vodka wrong, we don’t drink it like the Poles or the Russians.
III- Commercial is evil.
IV- Not obeying rules is evil.

Another good bit of advice: You can’t truly resurrect ancient recipes. Everything is different now. (Spirits are different, mixers and modifiers are different, etc.) No harm trying, though.

(Hey! Another drink came and went! I didn't get to taste it! I'm sure another will be by soon. Aha. A drink here with rosemary in it. Interesting, but I'm not REALLY convinced by it.)

Some examples of serious-with-a-side-of-fun drinks are mentioned, including one served with some sort of S&M accessory.

The next one I bring you, is the most-talked about one thus far: "The Smooth and Creamy History of The Fern Bar."

For those of you who have NFI what a Fern Bar is, just think back to the hit show Three's Company. In that show, set and produced during the woefully lamentable ghetto-of-a-decade 1970s, the characters' watering hole of choice was a place called "The Regal Beagle." Men in polyester suits with condor-wing lapels, Qiana, disco, Farrah Fawcett hairdos. THAT kind of bar.

The panelists, Martin Cate & Jeff "Beachbum" Berry are two of the funnest and most charming guys around. It's impossible to not be when your careers are devoted towards a fanatical pursuit of perfection in the realm of tropical drinks, and when you make a detour into the slushy ones of the 1970s, it's even more delightful. This was, by everyone's estimation, the one nobody should have missed. I hope against hope some or all of it finds its way on YouTube. It was that fun.

Then of course, there was the Spirited Dinner mentioned yesterday.

And here I am.

I'll try to post photos, after I look for some kind of detox beverage.


P.S. [This is a recovered section, some stuff I originally wrote is now lost to history. Probably the funniest stuff.]

The lovely and gracious bb, in the previously asked (regarding Tales of the Cocktail) "How is this different from BlogHer? We move from room to room drinking." This is not materially different than what my car blogger pals, making their pilgrimage to Monterey, CA for "Monterey Week" have asked me. The impolite analogy is to compare these other events to a torrid tryst, and TotC to a Roman orgy. But that is imprecise and not really, y'know, informative.

Anyway, I started to issue a comment in reply, but it soon spiraled (volume-wise) into something worthy of its own spotlight.

Not being among the target market for BlogHer, I can only offer surmise and conjecture. But, as far as I can tell here are the main differences:

1- There are significant numbers of people (I'd say not quite 60%) officially part of this august event who have prostates.

2- If one is so inclined, the drinking is free. The assiduous can find venues where one may pay for ones tipples. (I consider them demented.)

3- The goody bags seem to have a singularly boozy theme. (There are TONS of goody bags.)

4- Nobody has yet said "website metrics." (To be utterly fair, a lot of perfectly aggravating mixological jargon has been uttered.)

5- All of the sponsors are spirituous liquors, liqueurs, assorted mixers or otherwise unclassified ardent spirits.

6- Nobody moves from anywhere to anywhere to drink. (Good heavens that sounds like effort.) You sit down pretending to take notes and strange new libations are practically given to you intravenously.

7- There is very little blogging going on. And that's the bloggers.

8- Come to think of it, there is very "motor-skillswise" going on.

9- It's in New Orleans.

10- The giga-deluxe hotels are going for a fraction of what they would in any other city.

11- The food. Oh, dear me, the food. And not just the "New Orleans" food.

12- There are not only a lot of prostates around (cf. #1) but there are a LOT of men with vests and "creative" facial hair. (Not I.) I'll try to take a census of the number of goatees and handlebar moustaches.

13- Seminars and events generally involve giving the attendees at least three drinks. Yes, even at 8:30am.

14- The lunches! The dinners! (cf. #11) These are also paired with, on average, between five (!) and eight (!!) cocktails.

15- Issues related to interpersonal relationships haven't yet come up.

16- This probably has a LOT more unexpected mopping at 3am.

17- There sure seem to be a lot of free t-shirts one gets along with one's complementary drinks. (If Donald Duck were a dipsomaniac, he'd be in Heaven.)

18- The Mayor showed up. (Possibly it was some state legislator. Or some official functionary. Either way, it was someone supposedly important and official and there seems to have been a proclamation. But. There were some lovely beverages within my orbit and as a result I temporarily lost interest in the proceedings.)

19- There are a lot of expensive, pseudo-vintage, silk bowling shirts being worn. And those little Rat Pack straw mini-fedoras.

20- There are very heated discussions on the correct way to make, say, a Sazerac.

21- Vodka is scorned by a lot -- not most, but a lot -- of people at this event. I mean they are really hatin' on it. (Badger would have no option but to resort to physical violence.)

22- It's eerily quiet here early in the morning. (I just finished breakfast and I am the ONLY person here.)

23- The main bar is a carrousel. Yes, it spins (slowly). No, it's not you. No, they don't go out of their way to point this out to newbies.

24- If you ask your bantender how s/he made your, say, Old Fashioned you will start an argument between the bartender and someone who overheard the bartender.

25- I'm guessing the word "digestif" gets a bit less airplay at BH.

26- "Dude, dude. What's your name? Think you're sober enough to be on a podcast?" is likely said more frequently at TotC than at BH.

27- I have to put up with a lot of First Name "Crazy Cocktail Nickname" Last Name. (Such as Larry "Dr. Digestif" Johnson, to invent an example.)

28- There are a LOT of people photographing little plastic cups, close up.

29- There are people who have fully set up bars in their (standard!) hotel room. Stop and ponder that.

30- No, seriously, EVERY SINGLE OFFICIAL EVENT involves at least three cocktails. Except breakfast, which only has one.

For fun, while it would not truly capture, y'know, the whole zeitgeist of the thing to compare the schedule at the former with the one of the latter, feel free to see if you can spot any general thematic differences between Day One at BlogHer and A Typical Day at TotC:

8:30am - 10:30am
Breakfast at Kahlua Coffee Bar

10:30am - 12:30pm
There and Back Again: Dos Maderas Rum, The World’s only Dual-aged Rum. Come sample and experience Dos Maderas, while sipping cocktail creations from the award-winning team at Alambiq Mixology.

Scotch Mixability - William Grant & Sons
12:30pm - 2:00pm

Spirited Luncheon - Antoine's
2:00pm - 4:00pm

Team Spirits Imports and Friends Tasting - Professionals and aficionados can sample spirits from some of their favorite boutique importers currently or soon to be available the market.

Wodka Polska - Come enjoy Poland’s national drink with us while learning more about the history of Vodka. Mixologists will be pouring creative libations, authentic Polish food will be served and live music will make for a carnival atmosphere. Sponsored by: Sobieski Vodka

Suntory Presents... “Blending” Harmony with Nature - A full HIBIKI blending apothecary lab where Shinji will invite select guests to “Blend” harmony with nature while making their own personal HIBIKI 12 year old blend.

4:00pm - 6:00pm
Brugal Rum - Go on a Caribbean holiday featuring food, drinks and entertainment of the Dominican Republic.

The History of Bar Tools and Bar Ware from the 1800's to Today. At the Museum of the American Cocktail.

The Dalmore Tasting - Learn from The Nose! This tasting, hosted by Richard Paterson, master blender for Whyte & Mackay, will introduce participants to one of the most awarded single malt scotch whiskeys, the Dalmore.

The Official hum® Lab will allow you to create your own unique libations using hum®, specialty liqueurs, and an assortment of fresh ingredients.

6:00pm - 7:30pm
Aperitif Bar With Martini & Rossi, Sponsored by: Martini & Rossi

7:30pm - 10:00pm
Spirited Dinner – Arnaud’s