Sunday, March 30, 2008

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Tales of the Cocktail, I'm a-comin'

Tales of the Cocktail is an annual ho-down in New Orleans that revolves around those spiritous drops of poetry known as cocktails. It draws top-shelf bartenders, distillers, importers, drinks aficionados, historians, writers, and the ethanol laity from around the world for seminars, workshops, peeks at what's coming down the pike, and insider looks at the cocktail industry. Check out their website for past events and photos.

This year, they've invited me to talk about postmodern moonshine, especially as it's practiced by home- and nano-distillers. Woo Hoo! Don't know about nano-distillers? They are the men and woman, often in white-collar, professional careers, who distill their own liquor such as whiskey and brandy. Used to be that we called these folks moonshiners. But when they are software engineers, dentists, and writers cranking out just a few liters a year of the very best liquor they can, they sometimes bristle at "moonshiner," a word freighted with meaning.

I'll be chairing a panel session called Hausgemacht: A Look into Modern Nano-Distilling* with Mike McCaw, co-author of The Compleat Distiller and co-founder of the Amphora Society and with Ian Smiley, author of Making Pure Corn Whiskey. I'm especially excited that Mike and Ian have accepted the invitation: the cocktail and distilling crowds often talk about a lot of the same things and this is a very cool opportunity for people from both camps to meet and swap, well, tales.

I'll be talking about the history and current status of the supposedly dead craft of bespoke liquor while Mike and Ian will talk about the types of stills in use today as well as the legality of personal distilling.

*Hausgemacht is a German word for homemade. Home distillers across the US are increasingly using it (sometimes abbreviated to HG) to describe their product. Why?'ll have to come to New Orleans to find out. You might just find me at that Tales of the Cocktail schmoozerie, the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, evenings from July 16th-18. Tickets go on sale April 1st.


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