NRN senior food editor Bret thorn breaks down what you should be watching in the industry this week. Connect with him on the latest marketing trends and news at firstname.lastname@example.org and @foodwriterdiary.
Many bartenders are likely still reeling from Tales of the Cocktail. It ended on July 21, but it’s five days of drinking with many of the world’s best drink makers shaking cocktails at parties sponsored by liquor companies large and small. And it’s in New Orleans.
“The whole experience can be a bit much,” wrote Marc Ramirez in the Dallas Morning News, “a day-to-day beat down so grueling that it’s tempting to keep score.”
An estimated 23,000 people attended the bacchanalia, a number that I find both plausible and terrifying.
There were also “cocktail-filled watermelons suspended in mini hammocks for midair imbibing through tiny spouts” by Trick Dog in San Francisco, Ramirez reported.
Bitters, tiki drinks and mezcal were among the trends that Ramirez spotted — although he also thinks he saw a camel. He was impressed by the Wednesday morning Tiki Throwdown, and he noted a seminar on baijiu, a clear Chinese spirit that to me has always tasted like rotten vegetables.
Jonathan Ammons of Mountain Xpress in Ashville, N.C., also noticed the baijiu, although he spelled it phonetically: Byejoe, which, considering its effects, might be a better way to spell it.
He also noted a sampling by Four Roses Bourbon that let attendees taste bourbons made from different strains of yeast.
Not surprising, given current trends, a number of reporters noted that even more attention was given to the history of cocktails and the spirits behind them.
But there were some cool flavor combinations, too.
Ramirez remarked on a chicory-syrup-enhanced milk punch Hurricane as various uses of mescal — in one case paired with Fernet Branca and pineapple syrup, in another with dry curacao and two kinds of sherry. At some point, shots of mezcal also were poured directly into people’s mouths by a bartender from NoMad in New York City.
Anne Berry reported in Gambit that her favorite cocktail was called the Ideal, made with equal parts gin, Italian vermouth and French vermouth, plus grapefruit juice and a little maraschino liqueur. “Elegant, with nutty undertones, it more than lives up to its name,” she wrote.
Lillet also made a splash, running out of its citrus-spiced cobbler in 30 minutes. Berry said people also enjoyed the Raspberry Beret: Lillet Rouge, raspberry syrup and club soda topped with Lillet-Blanc-infused whipped cream.
Other trends she noticed were cocktails with frozen desserts in them, including a spiced apple ice cream in a rum-and-port cocktail; and lemon sorbet in a drink of scotch and pear cider.
She also observed amaro poured over vanilla ice cream.
Back to tikis, Berry reported that the traditional combination of rum, sugar and lime juice was modified with different spirits, ranging from aquavit to rye and different acid sources, including grapefruit, lemon, pineapple and orange soda.
Other elements were added, too, including oh-so-trendy bitters, and the even more trendy Sriracha sauce.