Tales of the Cocktail shows latest trends might be old trends

Classic cocktails haven’t been forgotten, but today they are getting a fresh look with upbeat touches, participants learned during the Tales of the Cocktail held July 16-20 at Hotel Monteleone and Royal Sonesta in New Orleans.

Mixologists and distillers led discussions on such topics as the history of gin, the use of cocktails in popular literature, the history of distilling rum, and the changing tastes of contemporary drinkers and gourmands. Programs even focused on such topics as honey used in liqueurs and cocktails, how to write a bar’s menu and the philosophy of presentation.

Among special events was the luncheon announcing the “New Fashioned,” developed in honor of the 50th anniversary of Ruth’s Chris Steak House and inspired by founder Ruth Fertel’s favorite drink, the Old Fashioned.

The new drink, made with Bulleit rye whiskey, Cherry Heering liqueur, Fee Brothers black walnut and orange bitters, orange rind and a Filthy Food’s Wild Italian Amarena Stemless Cherry garnish, was introduced by Tom Bulleit who said he admired Fertel’s entrepreneurial spirit in developing her famed restaurant.

Seminars included “A London Tale of Gin and Sin — Gin Palace to Cocktail Chalice, 2014,” in which panelists Wayne Collins, John Clay, Amanda Humphrey and David Miles looked at the journey of gin, genever and drinks that came from gin palaces and forgotten gin distilleries.

Originally, imported genever, an herb-infused spirit, was enjoyed by the wealthy class. But after William of Orange became king in 1688, he banned the import of spirits and encouraged the local production of genever, beer and spirits and removed taxes and licenses for making it. “The gin being made in England was famously awful,” and so much was being made, the general public could have access to it.

“It sent London on a massive booze bender and debauchery,” Collins said. “Gin was the opium of the poor people. Even babies had it in their milk.”

The panelists showed a list written by Henry Morland in 1806 of his daily routine which started with rum and milk for breakfast. His intake throughout the day included porter, rum, port wine with ginger, opium plus water after dinner, followed by port wine. He ended his day with gin and water.

During the Victorian Era, opulently designed gin palaces became acceptable places for imbibing. Gin shops were public places with lots of socializing for the working people and brought about the birth of the modern pub when beer makers decided to make attractive pubs to attract business.

“No other city in the world has such a deep-rooted connection with a spirit category as London does,” Humphrey said.

In the seminar “Bottled in Bond: Ian Fleming & 007,” panelists Philip Greene and Simon Ford said that despite his famous fictional British spy James Bond’s reputation as a sophisticated drinker and diner, the author Fleming was a curmudgeon, loner and heavy drinker who smoked 70 cigarettes a day.

Although the James Bond novels created the fad for drinking dry martinis “shaken, not stirred,” Fleming himself often created other cocktails for his books that were badly designed and not very good, the panelists said.

They also credited Fleming’s fictional character with helping to make vodka the top alcohol of today.