Tales of the Cocktail – Part 3

Day Three of Tales of the Cocktail began for us with a seminar entitled “Enter the Distologist.” The featured panelists came from widely varied backgrounds, but their stories converged with the desire to make the transition from ‘mixologist’ to ‘distologist.’ That basically means they went from mixing cocktails with other people’s spirits to distilling spirits of their own.

The ‘distologist’ who interested me the most was cocktailian chemist, Ted Breaux. Those familiar Periquewith the industry probably recognize his name, but it was new to me. Turns out he’s an actual scientist, presumably with Bunsen burners, test tubes, a laboratory – the whole nine. He spoke about the path he trod toward better cocktails through chemistry, culminating with a sampling of his latest creation, Perique, a tobacco liqueur. It’s named for the Louisiana tobacco from which it’s made, the most rare and precious tobacco in the world.

As the sample cup made its way down the aisle to me I imagined a flavor akin to drinking cheap liquor out of an old ashtray, complete with old cigarette butts floating in it. Such a description couldn’t be further from the truth. Think: grandpa’s aromatic pipe tobacco before he lights it, only in 62-proof liquid form. It was rich, distinctive and quite delicious. If not my favorite sample of the week, it was definitely in the top three.

The next session we attended, “South American Spirits,” highlighted the history, production and usage of its two native spirits, Pisco and Cachaça. Cachaça shares some qualities with rum and is the most popular spirit in Brazil. I had never tried either spirit before, but the opportunity arose when ‘Master Mixologist’, Junior Merino, guided us through the process of making a Caipirinha. It is the most popular Cachaça-based cocktail and is strikingly similar to a Mojito, sans the mint. I enjoyed the drink and would recommend it. If you’d like to try it, here’s the recipe:

2 oz Cachaça
1 tbsp sugar
½ of a fresh lime, cut into small cubes

In a mixing glass, add limes and sugar. Muddle to dissolve sugar in the lime juice. Add Cachaça and stir well. Add ice, shake until can is frosty to finish dissolving the sugar. Pour into rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

My first time using a muddler went fairly well, though I didn’t muddle quite as vigorously as some others at our table. I did, however, overhear an amusing exchange that included one guy, obviously a pro bartender, exhorting a fellow attendee to “Muddle it, don’t cuddle it!” Apparently that qualifies as bartender humor.

Our final seminar for the day was called “Aromatics and Their Uses in Cocktails.” Honestly, most of the discussion of tinctures, extracts and aromatics was over my head, but I did pick up a few fascinating revelations involving olfaction, taste and the human subconscious. Check it out, it’s really interesting.

That seminar concluded Day Three of the conference. Only one more day to go, so be sure to check back for the thrilling conclusion to our time at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

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