June 12, 2010 (Day 133) — Unnamed Cocktail
“I consider myself lucky to have fallen in love with the girl, the city, and the river of mud.” — Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
I’m always fascinated by New Orleans. The music, the style, the culture, the cuisine. And, after the nightmare that was Katrina, the horror, the site of humanity and it’s best and at it’s worst… New Orleans has what I feel that every large city should, any many unfortunately don’t. Personality.
Ive never been to NOLA myself. I’m hoping to make it down there soon. My grandparents used to live there. One of my friendly acquaintances from college spent a few years living down there after graduation, helping those amazing folks down there try and rebuild.
So, I’ve caught plenty of second-hand stories of the Crescent City.
And, from a cocktail angle, New Orleans plays host to one of — if not THE — largest gathering of the world’s cocktail elite.
And, for tonight’s Bar Napkin interview, I’m incredibly thrilled to be interviewing the executive director of the New Orleans Culinary & Cultural Preservation Society, Paul G. Tuennerman, or as he’s known on the Interwebs — Mr. Cocktail.
From Paul’s bio:
“A love for food also means having a deep reverence for its history and an obligation to preserve it. That’s exactly what Paul does as the executive director of the New Orleans Culinary & Cultural Preservation Society, a non-profit organization benefiting hospitality industry members. This organization seeks to preserve the rich history and culinary heritage of the bars and restaurants of New Orleans through education and celebration at events like Tales of the Cocktail. Paul also shares his passion for food and drink as a contributing writer for Nightclub & Bar Magazine and Food & Beverage Magazine and as the host of ‘The Straight Pour,’ a weekly radio show on WIST 690 AM.”
Cocktails, 365: What started your love of spirits?
Paul: That’s a tough one. For the longest time, I was a “Stoli – Up – With 3 Olives” kind of guy. It wasn’t until I moved to Louisiana, and met Ann, that I joined this journey which we are all on, exploring the wonderful world of cocktails. Not many people realize this, but I grew up in the kitchen. I’ve always been fascinated with flavors, textures and techniques, specific to the kitchen; my meals were a constant experiment. The more I learned of this movement taking place behind the rail, the more intrigued I was. There are many parallels to what transpired in the mid-1980’s and early 1990’s in the kitchen. As chefs, we began focusing of fresh, organic and locally raised ingredients. The kitchens moved out front and the experiential nature of what we were doing as Chefs was equally as important of the authenticity of our recipes and ingredients.
Cocktails, 365: What do you do as executive director of the New Orleans Culinary & Cultural Preservation Society?
Paul: My involvement with NOCCPS is limited to handling the day-to-day business affairs and participating, in a small way, with the generation of ideas and concepts, design to promote and preserve the eating and drinking culture of New Orleans.
Cocktails, 365: What’s hot on the New Orleans culinary scene these days?
Paul: There’s a lot going on in New Orleans these days. With respects to food, New Orleans has always been home to some of the best chefs and food, in the country. What’s unfortunate, is that many people who are reluctant to stray off the path miss out on some of the richest traditions in the South and some downright amazing and intriguing foods. With respects to cocktails, in all honesty, until recently, I’ve been a little envious of folks in places like New York and San Francisco. But then I began to realize that the level of interest and enthusiasm about cocktails, in New Orleans, was taking off. It is as if the level of quality, was elevating, throughout the city, not just in specific establishments. Today, we’ve got more places popping up, focusing on the craft of the Cocktail, than I can partake in. It feels as though almost weekly someone is saying, “Hey, have you checked out what’s going on at so-in-so’s.” It’s all good, in New Orleans, behind the line and the rail!
Cocktails, 365: My wife and I always like eat where the locals eat. What’s your recommendation?
Paul: Do you like Fried Chicken? I love Fried Chicken! There’s a place “in the hood” called Willie Mae’s Scotch House. It’s a small house on the corner and they’ve been serving the most amazing Fried Chicken since the dawn of time. It’s one of the places that warms the soul and reminds us all about what’s really important in life. You might say it’s “deep” Fried Chicken. Old ladies serving up unbelievable soul food in un-airconditioned dining rooms with furniture that looks like the local firehall tossed it to the curb. I love that place!
Cocktails, 365: What’s the secret to making the ‘perfect’ cocktail?
Paul: Good spirits, fresh ingredients, great ice and a measure. I can’t pick just one and personally, they’re all non-negotiables.
Cocktails, 365: Anything about this year’s Tales of the Cocktail you’re particularly excited about?
Paul: I’m excited about everything. What’s great about Tales of the Cocktail is that we insist, much like with our cocktails, in fresh content. We don’t ever want anyone to feel as though “Oh, I’ve been there.” It’s a lot of hard work; Ann and the team spend countless hours, all year long, assembling what has become THE must-attend cocktail event of the year, year after year. And as with the previous seven years, we’ve got some great stuff under wraps for this year. Come to New Orleans, it’s going to be like Christmas for cocktail enthusiasts, for five straight days this July.
Cocktails, 365: Tell us about the signature cocktail you chose. How did you come up with it? What has been the general reaction?
Paul: As you might imagine, the Tales of the Cocktail Warehouse is a pretty amazing place to hang out in. We’re constantly getting in samples of this, that and the other. On one cold and particularly nasty Saturday morning, I started playing around with the smokey notes of Mezcal. The problem I ran into was imparting those smokey notes without making something objectionable to the general drinking public. So, I incorporated a rose nectar, some Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and key limes. I’ve always been a hugh fan of key limes: I’m not particularly enthralled with the domesticated limes they offer up at the local grocery. The end result is the following, currently unnamed cocktail:
3 oz Metl 2012 Anejo Mezcal
1 oz Sence Rose Nectar
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed key lime juice
Combine, shake with ice, serve up in a coupe glass, garnish with two Luxardo Maraschino Cherries on a bamboo skewer.
(Note I have some of these items on order, so I won’t be able to review the recipe right away. Rest assured it looks quite amazing and I’m looking forward to reviewing the drink. The review will appear as a “bonus extra” post later this week).