Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kindred Jewish Spirits

I am delighted that the Tales of the Cocktail, a festival comprised of a series of several events throughout the city at various venues and dedicated to celebrating spirits kicks off today. Headed up by the dynamic Ann Tuennerman, the Tales of the Cocktail's first major event launches this afternoon honoring the nation's first official cocktail of any city: the Sazerac. The history of the fabled Sazerac is in a way the history of New Orleans. Tuennerman has often called the Sazerac "history in a glass" and homage is being paid to the distinctive mixture that is made with Peychaud's Bitters (sometimes with Angostura Bitters too), rye whiskey, sugar (or simple syrup) and served in an Herbsaint coated rock glass with a lemon twist. The afternoon seminar on the Sazerac at the Monteleone Hotel will have a few politicians on hand from the Louisiana Legislature. Those stalwart ladies and gentlemen and our peerless governor who didn't sign the legislation but allowed it to become law by not vetoing it, were responsible for the recent bill that recognized the Sazerac as the official cocktail of the city of New Orleans. It went into effect a week ago. There are two rye whiskies bottled under the name Sazerac by the Buffalo Trace Distillery (the former Ancient Age Distillery) and distributed by Republic Distributors. The first is their regular 90 proof Sazerac Rye Whiskey, used by many to make traditional Sazerac cocktails. The second more pricey cousin is their 18-year-old version with an even higher alcohol content. I find that one more in the category of a sipping whiskey rather than one that would be used for a mixed drink. At the price that the 18-year-old commands and because it is exceedingly rare to find it available at a bar or hotel, it makes sense to savor its smooth and subtle flavors on the tongue in the confines of one's home. Among the local media people covering the Tales of the Cocktail festival will be Lorin Gaudin, a food and drink writer, who originally hails from Chicago. Lorin has lived in the Crescent City long enough to be considered a New Orleanian and surprised me when she let me know that she was of Jewish extraction. I suppose she was charmed by yet another suave and sophisticated New Orleanian gentleman. In addition I have become acquainted with another Jewish lady, Elyse Glickman, a writer (and fellow blogger) from Los Angeles who will also be covering many of the Tales of the Cocktail events for several national publications. We will all be looking forward to finding Jewish connections to the festival for each other for the various readership we serve. Republic Distributors and Buffalo Trace Distillery, for example, is owned by a well-known Jewish family from New Orleans. But I believe there's more to this story than that. I'm determined to find out more interesting tidbits and reveal other historical connections to the Sazerac and other famous libations. It doesn't matter how many bottles or glasses I have to empty in search of my story. In this way Lorin, Elyse and I are all kindred Jewish "spirits" on a quest. To which I have one thing to say: "L'Chaim!"

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