Nightlife

Pour soul

The Bartender’s Breakfast signifies the end of Tales 2009 and the end of a cocktail’s era

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The Varnish’s Eric Alperin lays out his Corpse Reviver No. 2.
Xania Woodman

Saturday, July 11, 11:35 p.m.

"Some of y’all might know the deceased. She was a Redheaded Slut!” At the center of a sweaty, hyper crowd of bartenders, mixologists, brand ambassadors and cocktail enthusiasts—not to mention confused onlookers—a young man stood at the foot of the tiny wooden coffin with its four dour pallbearers and mopped his brow with a Plymouth Gin handkerchief as he spoke. “Let me hear you say lewd and lascivious!” We responded to his call. “Amen!” we fired off at him here and there as he laid into her, poor soul.

“But she was what she was,” he sighed, looking over his shoulder at the wee coffin. He spoke of her background, and the rumors that she’d been born in LA. Or maybe in Florida at a place once called Sloppy Joe’s. “Sounds more like sloppy seconds to me!”

It was all in good fun. Inside that coffin was just the idea of the Redheaded Slut, that god-awful sweet shot of peach schnapps, Jägermeister and cranberry juice or, worse, Chambord. To commemorate the last big night of Tales of the Cocktail 2009, we were proclaiming that drink dead to us, dead as a doornail, dead like last year’s Apple Martini.

He looked up at the sky. “When one door closes, another one opens,” he said pleadingly, wrapping it up. “And since we in N’Awlins here, we gon’ celebrate all of this!” And with that, the small brass band kicked up, and the whole procession of “second liners” abandoned the steps outside Harrah’s Casino and took off in a traditional Big Easy-style jazz funeral procession of hundreds dancing in the streets with twirling hankies and even a veiled widow weeping violently. Ahead, a parade leader with his purple-feathered shield and fan stepped high, dipped low and brought us up Canal Street to Royal.

“Oh when the saints go marchin’ in/ Oh when the saint go marchin’ in …” I hummed along to the classic, upbeat dirge, heels clacking on the abused pavements. From a passerby’s point of view, the tiny coffin might have signified a more somber event, but spirits were high, and after five straight days of “learning” (read: drinking), so were we.

“So, where can a girl get a good drink around here?” I asked aloud, arriving with the procession at Latrobe’s, a historic bar in the French Quarter and now a rentable party space that was about to see the mother of all afterparties.

Not that breakfast had anything to do with it—although I did hear there was food somewhere—but the annual Plymouth Gin Bartender’s Breakfast assembled talent from Manhattan’s Pegu Club (Best American Cocktail Bar) and PDT (World’s Best New Cocktail Bar) to LA’s Edison Room.

We went straight for the kill. Milk & Honey’s Sammy Ross and Mickey McIlroy were set up in a tiny alcove, slinging their Rolls Royce and Wardays cocktails. Across a makeshift dance floor and next to a makeshift photo studio (complete with period hats, gloves and parasols), Contemporary Cocktails’ Aisha Sharpe—who also laid down the opening menu at Tao Beach—served me her fragrant Lavender Kiss. And bathed in eerie blue light, The Varnish’s Eric Alperin kept me on a steady diet of classic Corpse Reviver No. 2s all night long.

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Occasionally punctuated by breaking glass and cheers, jazz and the Charleston gave way to ’80s rock and mucho Michael Jackson. Surrounded by Las Vegas’ finest beverage professionals, too many to name here, and in seersucker and bowler hats, we partied like it was 1925. A bottle of Milagro Tequila and massive cocktail-shaker party favors began to make their way to the dance floor as, to the tune of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” we tossed the life-sized cardboard cutout of "Bartender's Manual of How to Mix Drinks" (1882) author Harry Johnson high into the air. I’m sure somewhere in the hereafter he was laughing his moustache off. In some sort of mad crescendo, the Stray Cats’ “Rock This Town” capped off the evening off as we tumbled out the doors, Bourbon Street-bound.

There was talk around the Carousel Bar later that day of a woman fitting my description seen passing through the Hotel Monteleone lobby around 9 a.m. carrying a giant shaker and an evening wrap. This prompted almost as many Corpse Reviver references as it did jokes about the return of “the deceased”—but you know how tongues wag at Tales.

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