Randall Layman, a bartender at Vesta Dipping Grill, is just back from New Orleans, where he attended his first Tales of the Cocktail. We'll be printing his dispatches -- here are the first and second installments -- all week.
With the curtains closed tight over the window in my room and the A/C blasting, I squeeze in as much sleep as possible before I jump over the Hotel Monteleone to meet Kevin Burke from Colt & Gray at the Carousel Bar. I order us a couple of Vieux Carres at the bar where they were created and we quickly pour them into plastic cups for the walk to the Bar Brawl. (Have I mentioned that you can have booze anywhere in New Orleans as long as it's in a plastic container?!)
Kevin Burke, Mike Henderson (also of Colt & Gray), Matt Lanning (Telluride) and I have all managed to find work as barbacks for six of the best cocktail bars in the country, thanks to Sean Kenyon, who is working with aka wine geek and Grand Marnier mixing welcome cocktails for some 500 attendees. It's nice to have a good representation of Colorado at such an event.
Working alongside some of my favorite guys from Denver as well as some of the most talented in the country is wonderful. And the party is a who's who of the cocktail world. Rick House (San Francisco), Drink (Boston), the Drawing Room (Chicago), Dutch Kills (Long Island City, New York), the Florida Room (Miami) and the Varnish (Los Angeles) are all vying for their spot as the best cocktail bar in the country. Judged by legends like Dale DeGroff and Julie Reiner, the competition focuses not only on cocktails but general atmosphere and the hospitality of the bars and bartenders.
At the end of the night, the Varnish takes home the crowd-favorite prize and Drink wins the judges' hearts as best overall bar. My personal favorite was Dutch Kills, with Rick House a close second. But all of the bars were incredible.
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For me, the most important victory belongs to the Colorado Bartenders Guild. Although not many people in the room know who we are, we haul ice and glassware through the crowd with giant smiles on all of our faces knowing that at some point in the future, Colorado will certainly be part of this prestigious competition.
In the meantime, here's the recipe for the Vieux Carre
1 oz. Cognac 1 oz. Rye Whiskey 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica is best) 1 barspoon Benedictine 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass with a cherry garnish. Enjoy.