8/01/2012 11:02:00 AM

NOLA Gets Tipsy as Tales of the Cocktail Turns 10


Tales of the Cocktail celebrated its 10th anniversary in style in New Orleans this past weekend. It's always an over-the-top booze fest of the highest order, but this year the bar was raised, so to speak. We did some trend spotting at the festival and heard a controversial statement from the cocktail world: vodka is back. Some argue that it never really went away, but maybe now the cocktail industry is listening more closely to what the consumer wants. And that appears to be vodka. There was a ton of buzz around Nick Strangeway's new Absolut Craft products that are about to be introduced. This will be flavored vodka like you've never seen before - except maybe if it's gin - with the labels like verbena and jasmine.

A lot of people were talking about going deeper than the classic cocktails, in one of two directions - either even more classic or completely wild. Shrubs and smashes and punches are making a comeback because of the re-introduction of over-proof spirits - higher proof brandies and cognacs had fallen out of fashion over the last several decades but they are back so pick some up and get to "smashing."

Also, we're sensing an end to a certain type of cocktail pretension - fun drinks are coming back! You'll be seeing a lot more blenders and slushie machines in bars, and that's A-OK with us, and with "Isaac the Bartender" (aka the lovely, Ted Lange) from "The Love Boat."  Of course the debate over mixology vs. bartending continues to rage without resolution, and despite the strong feelings on both sides the sense of hospitality that pervades the industry reigns supreme. And when the person behind the bar is mixing you another round of delicious stiff ones, do you really care what it's called? Didn't think so.

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