By the time you read this I’ll be gone—to the 11th annual Tales of the Cocktail, the world’s premier cocktail festival. And judging by the way my inbox has been flooded with events, competitions and tasting invites, I’d say it’s shaping up to be the biggest year yet. I’m looking forward to seminars on the concept of “simplexity” and on the Dark Ages of mixology (shudder). The Las Vegas chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild will meet up with other chapters for the annual midnight toast. I’ll lose personal belongings and all sense of time. And it’s not Tales till someone is fully clothed in the Hotel Monteleone pool. (I just hope it’s not me.)
I’m especially looking forward to the annual Spirited Awards, which honor the World’s Best Cocktail Bar and American Bartender of the Year, among other such biggies. Las Vegas’ own Tony Abou-Ganim is up for Best Cocktail Book for his sophomore tome, Vodka Distilled, and Francesco Lafranconi, who has educated hundreds of Las Vegas bartenders through his academy at Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, is up for Best Bar Mentor. I’ll be there to cover the ceremony, which this year is themed—surprise, surprise—after The Great Gatsby.
In preparation, I took my flapper dress for a test-run July 9, to the grand opening of Velveteen Rabbit and then to the Gatsby Gamble at One Queensridge Place, a benefit for Three Square that featured a poker tournament, live performance by Frankie Marino, and cocktails by Absolut Elyx, Hendrick’s gin, Sailor Jerry rum and Lillet.
Regarding that book’s most recent film adaptation—was it the greatest Gatsby? My two cents: no. But face in palm, tongue in cheek and eyes rolled back so far into my head that I can see yesterday, I will admit (and only under such circumstances would I) that Baz Lurhman’s whimsical whack at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Roaring ’20s novella The Great Gatsby from earlier this summer is a confirmed commercial success.
And boy was it ever commercial! Whatever Downton Abbey didn’t do to affect the way today’s “bright young things” are dressing, decorating and drinking, this most recent Gatsby has finished off. Even as I write this, I have the film’s soundtrack (a Jay-Z joint) on repeat, especially the contributions of chanteuses Lana del Rey, Florence + the Machine and Sia. They sing me right back to the movie theater, where I tried in vain to count the not-so-subliminal and often outright branded beverage suggestions tucked into the film. I lost count in just the first linen-suit-clad moments.
Oh, there’s plenty of boozing in the book, too: whiskey, highballs and enough Champagne for both West and East Egg to do the backstroke in the stuff. But the movie takes product placement to a whole other zip code. Watch it anyway, or better yet, just mix a cocktail and read the book.