Tales of the Cocktail Wrap-Up

We’re back in our happy gnome house in central PA, and all I can think about is how I wish we were still in New Orleans. Tales of the Cocktail was an enchanting experience. To anyone who couldn’t make it this year or wasn’t sure whether it was worth it, I hope my posting over the past few days has convinced you to start planning your trip for next year.

I have a few more quick stories to finish up, but first I wanted to share what’s next and ask you some questions.

Things to Take Home from Tales

I’m so overjoyed with my experience at Tales. Getting to meet fellow bloggers, bartenders, and book authors was ten times more extraordinary than I could have ever imagined. The whole trip was a blast. But what now?

  • I’ve obtained Coruba dark Jamaican rum. Added to my Appleton Extra, Gosling’s, and Myer’s, I think it’s time for a dark Jamaican rum comparison. Any other ones I should track down before I begin my experiments?
  • I will begin making pimento dram tomorrow. For recipes, pick up the latest issue of Imbibe or buy Sippin’ Safari. Who’s with me? (it looks like Dean has already embarked on the voyage)
  • Tracking down the ingredients for the Amer Picon recipe (also in the latest issue of Imbibe) will be tough, but I plan to undertake the quest.
  • After meeting the founder of The Wormwood Society and getting to taste a sample of his own creation, I have been sufficiently motivated to attempt to acquire some real absinthe.
  • I must find tiki-inspired toothpicks for stabbing fruit and garnishing exotic cocktails. Anyone know of some good sources?

Cocktails and the Blogosphere – Our Panel!

Natalie from the Liquid Muse did a fine write-up on our panel. I hope it was good enough for us to do one next year!


I mentioned on Friday how we broke our fast at Cafe Du Monde with beignets and cafe au lait. We couldn’t resist returning for another deep-fried experience coated with profuse quantities of powdered sugar. I got a chance to take a shot this time, too.

beignets covered in a snowfall of powdered sugar

Preservation Hall

On the recommendation from the guitar player in Gretchen’s Irish band, we decided to make a visit to Preservation Hall, where a trombone summit was scheduled to play. We almost walked past the small sign and narrow gated entrance. After paying $8, we were escorted to a small room filled only with wooden benches. We arrived between sets, so I got a good look of the place. The cement walls were adorned with dark paintings and the woodwork looked like it had been installed in the 1800s. If you walked in there during the day, you’d think the place was abandoned. A white cat was lounging on the bench in front of us (why is it that cats always gravitate toward people they know have allergies?), the tip of its tailing flicking up and down.

The band came in: three trombones, a drummer, pianist, and a sousaphone player. The small room was packed with people sitting in the front row and standing in the back. When the music began, I was instantly transformed to the 1930s. Trombones shifted from mellow choirs to blasts of big band fury while the drummer and pianist drew a picture of speed and finesse. The highlight came every song when the solo shifted to the tuba player. He was a big man, but his fingers moved those valves to create blazing runs of notes so fast I thought I was hearing a trumpet. It didn’t matter that the room was dank and dilapidated… all that mattered was the music.


Our last night in New Orleans, we decided to take advantage of the $150 Tales of the Cocktail credit for Todd English’s restaurant, Riche. It was simply wonderful. Our servers were a treat and we had a great time. We stuffed our gobs with:

  • Truffled Steak Tartare
  • Mixed Greens with fines herbs and shallot balsamic vinaigrette
  • Cassoulet with merguez sausage, duck confit, and a braised lamb shank
  • Truffle macaroni and cheese and haricot vert
  • An assortment of ice creams and sorbets

Kaiser Penguin goes to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans - a map in the background shows the city

22 Responses to “Tales of the Cocktail Wrap-Up”

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22 Comments to “ Tales of the Cocktail Wrap-Up”
  1. Tiki picks? As in, pick some cocktails? See the beachbum.

    That Coruba is going to start you off nice. A friend of mine got me started a few months ago. It’s great to mix with, but can be, in my experience, easily lost with too many strong flavors. Makes for a smooth mix when you do, as opposed to Myers very… well, very Myers flavor.

    I’ve got 28 days to wait ’til my Pimento Dram is just aged enough to use, and I am excited like a kid before Christmas.

    Got here via Cocktail Chronicles via the last issue of Imbibe. Nice site!

  2. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the kind words Blair. When I said tiki picks, I meant toothpicks! And I’m glad I can add you to the list of cocktailians who are trying their hand at homemade pimento liqueur.

  3. Hello Rick!
    So wonderful to meet you – and you were great on the panel. Cocktail blogging is only growing so I imagine that seminar is here to stay!

    I can’t wait to read about your pimento dram experiments… maybe I’ll give it a whirl, too…

    (Love your shot of the beignet!)
    xo Natalie

  4. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    Well, if you’re willing to step outside Jamaica (and I think Gosling’s is Bermuda, no?) I wholeheartedly endorse Cruzan’s Blackstrap rum. It’s not an all-purpose dark rum, but the molasses flavor is perfect in some drinks.

    Blair, which recipe called for you to wait 28 days? I think Beachbum’s is only two weeks. (I’m nine days in at this point.)

  5. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Natalie, it was fun to meet you as well! I’m so glad you enjoyed the blogging panel; we all had a great time. Give the pimento dram a try – the effort involved is quite minimal … it’s the waiting a whole month to taste it that is going to be the hard part.

    Adam, unsurprisingly Cruzan Black Strap is an SLO. You are correct that Gosling’s is a Bermudan rum; I don’t mind straying from the actual island if the properties of the spirit are similar. See above as to waiting on the pimento dram. After mixing your two week solution with demerara syrup, you have to wait nearly a month for the flavors to develop (not that I won’t be using it from day 1).

  6. For Tiki-style Picks, I usually use swords or paper parasols from Cash ‘n Carry/Smart&Final. Alternately, if you’ve got the cash and storage you can get them by the bucketload from Dynasty Wholesale.

    Adam, I’m using the recipe from Paul Clarke’s article in the latest Imbibe. I don’t recall seeing the Beachbum’s recipe in any of the books, but would love to hear it.

  7. RickNo Gravatar says:

    There is a recipe by the Bum in Sippin’ Safari. The differences are in the rum (he uses white) and in the sugar, he uses demerara instead of brown. Since demerara 151 is extremely hard to come by for me, I plan on using the white rum recipe.

  8. PhilNo Gravatar says:

    I’m with you on the pimento dram. I concerned about being able to find 151 Demerara, since it’s not on the Oregon liquor control stock list. I may just use standard (Lemon Hart is the only one on the list) without the water dilution, and just adjust the proof of the standard with neutral spirits or water.

  9. RickNo Gravatar says:


    I’m no expert, but don’t add water (except with the demerara syrup)! I think it’s ok to use regular proof spirit; Berry does in his recipe.

  10. Phil,

    there’s plenty of Lemon Hart 151 in my neck of the woods (north portland). Just make sure to look for the pink on the upper left corner if you can see that far behind the counter. Most stores seem to carry one or the other, but don’t seem to know the difference. The Gresham liquor store on Burnside always seems to have it. The OLCC doesn’t restrict mail order, and there are plenty of online vendors. http://www.internetwines.com/ is my personal fave, but they seem out of stock for now.

    This weekend I’ll be helping host the NW Tiki Kon, touring the Alibi, Thatch, and various other homebars if you’re looking to talk cocktail.

    Rick, Haven’t gotten Sippin’ Safari yet, but a friend brought it over and I sat, and drooled, then went to Powell’s and found the Trader Vic’s Bartending Guide… but no Safari.

  11. RickNo Gravatar says:

    I finally sucked it up and order a case (12 bottles is the minimum order) of Lemon Hart Demerara 151.

    Blair, I’ll be interested in what you think of Thatch; I was disappointed in the cocktails, but I won’t bias you further.

  12. Rick,

    Robert, the owner of Thatch, is an acquaintance from the Tiki Central message boards.

    It’s got its ups (authentic decor) and downs (price, selection, blatant copying of the Trader Vic’s drink illustrations), but we (NWTiki) are doing our best to advise, and in turn Robert assisting us in our endeavors with the Tiki Kon. Thatch is still fairly new, and constantly improving. Great thing about tight knit communities, lots of help from every which way.

    Next time you’re there, well, first drop me a line, and second, try the NW Tiki Mai Tai. Really, it’s just the actual Vic’s Mai Tai recipe. Last I was there, I tried the Donkey Punch (the bartender’s own), and actually found it surprisingly well balanced, for all the Lemon Hart 151 in it.

  13. RickNo Gravatar says:


    It’s awesome to hear about the great tiki community building up in Portland. The next time I’m there, I’ll definitely check out Thatch again (and drop you a line before doing so). Do they focus exclusively on Trader’s recipes or dip into Donn Beach’s as well?

  14. Thatch Menu.

    Mostly borrowed from Vic’s, but the recipes and flavors tend to be slightly less than authentic, but the bartenders are always willing to mix according to recipe if you bring it in and they’ve got the stuff.

  15. DeanNo Gravatar says:

    Rick – I used Chuck Taggart’s Pimento Dram #3 recipe from the July/August issue of Imbibe, but I halved the amounts. I still made almost a full fifth, which is probably a lifetime supply of Pimento Dram.

    It tastes really good, shockingly good, like an actual liqueur you’d drink out of one of those tiny glasses after dinner. Folks on Tiki Central agree with TikiMonkey – gotta let it age for a month for it to really taste great – but no one says whether to leave it at room temperature or refrigerate. With all that 151 rum, it’s probably stable at room temperature, but I put mine in the fridge.

    Filtering the allspice-infused rum is a pretty messy operation, but your kitchen, hands, and even trash can smell great after you’re done.

  16. RickNo Gravatar says:


    When is the earliest you tried it during the month that it was tasty enough to use? It will continue to age indefinitely until you finish the bottle, no?

  17. Hey Mr. TikiMonkey… Looks like I will be in Portland the weekend of the 6th. Thatch sounds intriguing. I’m looking for other interesting bar and restaurant recommendations. Drop me a note at ellestad(at)gmail.com, if you get a chance. ~Erik

  18. I’m still recovering from my trip, oddly enough not because we all drank a lot and stayed up too late but because I started getting sick on the last day, and spent all day Monday and today with a rotten cold. I blame a Jack-and-Diet-Coke-drinking Billy Bob (that was actually his name) who coughed on me on Saturday.

    Rick, it was fantastic to meet you and be on a panel with you. I hope we get to do it again next year! And thanks again for your inspirational food photography, which makes me want to improve my own even more.

    I also can’t wait to hear more about your and everyone else’s experiments with pimento dram, which has been tons of fun for me so far. Who knew all this could come from some guy snapping into Veruca Salt mode (“I want it NOW!!”) and messing around in his bar and kitchen? If you need some help drinking all that Lemon Hart, let us know — maybe we can come visit. :-)

  19. ThayerNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, how I wish I could have been there! So much to learn. I’m getting misty-eyed.

  20. By the way Dean, I’ve never refrigerated my pimento dram. Seemed to me that with all that hooch in it it’ll keep indefinitely, and I’ll bet that one bottle isn’t going to be nearly as much of a lifetime supply as you might think. We use it a fair bit, and I’m trying to think of different things to add it to, including going with Dr. Cocktail’s idea of using it to spice up other drinks. Try a few dashes to taste in a Manhattan with a big, spicy rye like Rittenhouse 100 … that was good.

  21. DeanNo Gravatar says:

    Chuck – thanks for making that Pimento Dram recipe so widely available – you inspired me to stop lamenting that I couldn’t find Pimento Dram and just make it myself. I look forward to trying so many Tiki drinks that I’ve had to pass over until now.

    Rick – here’s a shocking surprise, I tasted it right after I mixed the allspice-infused rum with the syrup. I tasted it again today (Day +3), and didn’t like it as much – it seemed harsher and too spicy. As per Chuck’s recommendation, it’s coming out of the fridge tomorrow, and hopefully will mellow.

    Just damn good fun. As I said in another post, I’m trying the same recipe with three cinammon sticks instead of allspice berries. Let’s see if that makes a good cinammon liqueur/syrup for the Nui Nui.

  22. A couple of notes:
    When you get closer to making the Amer Picon, drop me a line, for there are some minor revisions that will make it much closer to the real deal (the old version that is).
    I’ve found that the longer the Pimento Dram ages, the better it gets. I wasn’t happy with mine until about 4 months in, and now that it is 8 months old, I’m real pleased with it.
    Great meeting you, and good luck!

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

Why on Earth did you name your blog “Kaiser Penguin?”

It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

Contact: rick@kaiserpenguin.com