1. It was the best of times, it was the—yep, that pretty much sums it up! And Vegas doesn’t do Tales without bringing home some hardware. Bellagio assistant beverage manager/mixologist Matt Myers won the People’s Choice award at the United States Bartenders Guild’s piña colada competition, sponsored by Bacardi. (Find the recipe for his delicious Thai Piña Colada, pictured, below.)
2. Tales has already killed off the Appletini, Red Headed Slut and Sex on the Beach with a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral. This year, we bid a tearless farewell to that liquor-loaded nightmare from the ’70s, the Long Island Iced Tea. “This year,” says Pernod Ricard USA’s Simon Ford, creator of the beloved annual Cocktail Burial, “one of the world’s most popular cocktails will join the exclusive club of drinks that bartenders wish were gone forever.” R.I.P., L.I.I.T.
3. Executive mixologist Anthony Alba of Las Vegas’ Liquidity Global astounded crowds in the Koerner tasting room by preparing an edible molecular cocktail of Ultimat vodka cream “pillars,” a Patrón XO Café aircrisp, Pyrat XO sabayon and what were essentially chocolate Pop Rocks. He calls the masterpiece “Xs and Ohhhs.”
4. We tasted so many incredible new products, but here’s one that struck us dumb: Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro. That’s right—clear añejo tequila! After 18 months of aging, the tequila is filtered to restore some of the honey, black peppercorn, lemon and smoked agave flavors of a blanco while preserving the mark of aging in the wood-influenced vanilla, toasted almonds and tobacco of an añejo. Definitely worth exploring at $70. DonJulio.com.
5. Octavia Books (OctaviaBooks.com)—purveyors of exceptional cocktail reading—set up a pop-up shop at Tales’ home base, Hotel Monteleone, where we picked up Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine (Simon & Schuster, $25) by Max Watman and book one of Spirituous Journey: A History of Drink (Jared Brown, $19) by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown, both of whom signed their book and shared with us some of Brown’s micro-distilled Sipsmith London Dry Gin.
6. Milagro Tequila’s Gaston Martinez teamed up with BarMagic of Las Vegas’ Tobin Ellis to close out Tales 2011 with a Big Easy-style Social Mixology party featuring Milagro’s newest creation, Unico (Unique). The limited-production joven (blend) of micro-distilled blanco, and reserve reposado and añejo officially debuts in October, and comes in one of just 1,500 hand-blown glass bottles nestled in an oak box. It will retail for about $300. Moreover, the blend will change yearly! MilagroTequila.com.
7. Meanwhile, back home, Max Solano recently launched the third edition of Delmonico Steakhouse’s Book of Whiskey, a comprehensive compendium enumerating the venue’s impressive whiskey collection and a welcome return to Vegas excess. It features 346 selections, 100 of them new additions. A new all-whiskey cocktail menu debuts in September for Bourbon Heritage Month. A secret “Master’s List” is rumored to be in the works, too, for those in the know …
Thai Piña Colada
Created by Matt Myers
In an Old Fashioned glass, gently muddle 6 mint leaves and 2 kaffir lime leaves with 1½ ounces Bacardi 8 Rum. Strain into a blender with 1½ ounces Thai syrup (recipe below), 2 ounces piña colada mix and 1 scoop of ice. (Reserve glass with bruised leaves). Blend until smooth. Pour reserved bruised leaves and blended drink into an empty young coconut. Stir and garnish with 1 lemongrass shoot, 1 kaffir lime leaf and a slapped mint sprig. Serve with a straw.
Thai Syrup (Yields 12 portions)
- ½ bunch lemongrass, washed and chopped
- ½ pint fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- ½ pint kaffir lime leaves
- 1 liter rock candy syrup
Piña Colada Mix
- ½ ounce Coco Lopez
- 1½ ounces pineapple juice
- ½ ounce heavy cream