Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sazerac Ambassador and Secret Sippers

Mr. and Mrs. Cocktail flank the Sazerac Ambassador
Ann Tuennerman likes to be called Mrs. Cocktail and no one in New Orleans deserves the title more than she. As the titular head of the annual international Tales of the Cocktail conference that honors mixology industry members, movers and shakers and all things associated with potent potables during this time each year in New Orleans, she has become the most recognized official with the New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society that puts the event on. It goes to say that if there is a Mrs. Cocktail, then a Mr. Cocktail must be by her side. Husband Paul is more than happy to fill that bill as both a supporting figure and a hard working member of the NOCCP. If there is one drink that identifies New Orleans as a city, much like the Singapore Sling identifies Singapore City or the Cuba Libre identifies Havana, then that drink must be the Sazerac, the official cocktail of the city as recognized by no less than the Louisiana State Legislature. The Sazerac was invented here early in the Nineteenth Century and by many peoples' accounts it is the first cocktail of note in America. Although a few researchers have unearthed other references to drinks in newspapers of the day that predate pharmacist Antoine Am├ędee Peychaud's famous concoction (made with his family's secret bitters formula), it certainly was the foremost drink of its time. So-called coffee houses sprang up in what is now the French Quarter well before the Civil War to offer their own versions of the cocktail in an environment where they were offered strictly for medicinal purposes. The Sazerac brand today is controlled by Republic Distillery, but the history of the name is as New Orleans as a poboy or a beignet. Throughout the past year, the Tales of the Cocktail staff assembled a group of Secret Sippers to ascertain in their opinion who offered the most consistent and tasty Sazerac cocktail in New Orleans. Like any product that identifies a particular venue, it was important to Ann, Paul and her NOCCP staff that those that carried the tradition of making a very good Sazerac be honored. In all the Secret Sippers visited numerous locations around town making their assessments. In the end at least three Secret Sippers visited the several top locations on three occasions before decrying them worthy of the title of the Sazerac Seal of Approval. In the end Bar Tonique, the Carousel Bar (in the Monteleone Hotel), Irvin Maybield's Jazz Playhouse, the Sazerac Bar (in the Roosevelt Hotel), DBA, French 75, Cure and Bar Uncommon were all selected to receive recognition as the very first Sazerac Seal of Approval Award winners. Each received an impressive glass trophy emblazoned with their name and the title of the award. Also in the previous years of the Tales of the Cocktail, a Sazerac Ambassador has been named from within the mixology industry as a mover and shaker or as a celebrity bartender. This year the title of Sazerac Ambassador went to Wendy Waren, the vice-president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, a longtime supporter of the NOCCP and its very important work promoting the cocktail and liquid living in general. All awards took place at the steps of the Monteleone Hotel, which has served as the headquarters for this very interesting series of lectures and tastings each year.

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