I Drank Everything Offered to Me at the Oscars of Booze. This Is My Story.

One man. Four days. Sixty-two drinks.

August 10, 2016 9:00 am

I would like to state for the record that I did not go to Tales of the Cocktail for the express purpose of getting blotto. And, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary herewith, I believe I kept my powder largely dry, so to speak.

But I also knew that if I wanted this diary to be an accurate reflection of what it’s really like to attend TOTC — New Orleans’ annual festival of booze that’s one part convention, one part awards show and all parts over the legal limit — there should be no pussyfooting around.

Thus I decided to Just Say Yes to everything. Every time someone handed me a drink, I smiled, said thank you and drank it. Had I been aware of how often someone hands you a drink at the event, I might have rethought my strategy. But in the words of a very wise man, “Pandora doesn’t go back in the box; he only comes out.”

So, without further ado, here is every drink I drank at TOTC’s 2016 edition, jotted down in real time but cleaned up later to remove the embarrassing amount of misspellings, grammar snafus and at-large gibberish.

Annotations are of this writing.

Wednesday, July 20th


5:15 P.M.
My Airbnb, 1309 Dauphine St., French Quarter*

Drink: Glass of Krug Champagne

Notes: What a nice gesture from our host to leave this bottle and flutes to welcome us. Hope she doesn’t think we’re from Wine Spectator. If anything, we’d be from a magazine called Wine Participant.

*This apartment was awesome and you should totally stay there.


 6:15 P.M.
Port of Call, French Quarter

 Drink: Neptune’s Monsoon

Notes: Pretty much a bucket of grain alcohol and sugar juice. I watched the bartender pour it and she kept four liquor bottles turned upside down over the cup for a solid Six Mississippi.



 7:00 P.M.
Stoli party at The Rusty Nail, Warehouse District

Drink: Stoli Peach Negroni (Stoli Peachik, Campari, vermouth)

Notes: A frozen negroni with the Rebirth Brass Band casually tearing it up on the patio? Ok NOW I’m in New Orleans.


 7:30 P.M.

 Drink: The Ripple (Stoli strawberry, lemon shrub, ginger beer)

Notes: I’m just now noticing how hot it is here. 8:00 P.M. feels like high noon. I don’t care if it’s strawberry vodka, this cup is saving my life right now.


 9:00 P.M.
Absolut Welcome party at the ACE Hotel, Lafayette Square

Drink: NOLA Mule (Absolut, Sazerac Co, Praline Pecan Liqueur, lime, Bitter Truth Creole Bitters, ginger beer)

Notes: Do you like alcohol? Do you like pecan pie? Well have I got a drink for you!


 9:28 P.M.

Drink: Bitter Lemon Mule (Absolut, lemon, Cocktail and Sons Lemongrass Oleo, Sanbitter Soda)

Notes: There are so many different drinks here. Three different mules alone. I am in trouble.



 9:50 P.M.

Drink: Peaseblossom Punch (Absolut, Cocchi Americano Pursuit of Tea Jasmine Pearl Tea, lemon, Giffard Apricot, Peychaud’s Bitters)

Notes:  Digging the decor in here. It’s like a boozy Midsummer Night’s Dream — or Midsummer Night’s DRAM. Man, they really should have called this party that.


 10:12 P.M.

Drink: Musings of an Afternoon Delight (Absolut, Rare Tea Cellars Hibiscus Tea, grapefruit, dried lavender simple syrup, Byrrh)

Notes: Byrrh is an aperitif made of red wine, mistelle and quinine that used to be sold as a health tonic. Thanks, Wikipedia.



 10:33 P.M.

Drink: Musings of an Afternoon Delight no. 2

Notes: Went back for a second one because it was delicious and also teacups are classy AF.


 11:01 P.M.
Lobby Bar at the ACE Hotel, Lafayette Square

Drink: Aviation

Notes: The best part about hanging out with a dude like Kevin Denton* is he constantly hands you drinks you’d never order for yourself.

*It is at this point in the evening that I run into Kevin Denton, a good friend and Head Mixologist at Pernod Ricard. Kevin will prove to be a terrifically bad influence for the remainder of my time in New Orleans.


 11:48 P.M.
The Spotted Cat Music Club, Frenchmen Street

Drink: Gin and tonic

Notes: This is one of my favorite bars in America. Blown away by the live music every single time. This gin, however, tastes like Pine-Sol.


 12:47 A.M.
The back of a pedi cab

Drink: Abita (plastic cup)

Notes: Why yes, I will take this beer to go and ride around in a pedi cab drinking it.


 1:16 A.M.
The Spotted Cat Music Club, Frenchmen Street

Drink: Jameson rocks

Notes: I suddenly feel like I could sleep on this bench outside the bar right now.


 1:42 A.M.

Drink: Abita

Notes: I should really go home.*

*And I did! Hooray for me!


Thursday, July 21st

Status: Rough around the edges, but still able to muster a scenic run along the river during which I sweat out a distillery.


10:30 A.M.
Stanley, French Quarter

Drink: Bloody Mary

Notes: Let it be known that from now on if anyone brings me a Bloody Mary without pickled green beans in it, I will pour it directly onto the floor.


3:05 P.M.
Café de L’apertif, Bourbon Street

Drink: “Fluffy orange juice” with Bombay Sapphire

Notes: Linden Pride, owner of NYC cocktail haunt Dante (and the man behind this TOTC pop-up) tells me the OJ is fluffy due to a high-speed Breville juicer. It’s Snoop Dogg goes to Orange Julius. 


 3:15 P.M.

Drink: “Fluffy orange juice” with Bombay sapphire and St. Germain

Notes: This time Snoop goes to Orange Julius with his pinkies out.



4:08 P.M.
Altos Tequila house party, Bourbon Street

Drink: Altos Tequila (natch) Frozen Paloma

Notes: It’s everything I love about a frozen margarita, but grapefruit flavored. Plus it comes with beads to throw down to passersby on Bourbon from the balcony, which makes me feel lordly.


4:31 P.M.

Drink: Shot of Altos tequila

Notes: It’s not fear, exactly, but staring down the barrel of eight more hours of this is … disconcerting?


 3:48 P.M.

Drink: Another shot of Altos …

Notes: … But this time it was the Añejo so I feel like that’s better for you?  Also realized my watch was off by an hour and it’s not even 4:00pm yet. I am now terrified.


 4:15 P.M.

Drink: Altos Reposado and Topo Chico

Notes: Had someone told me that Topo Chico was mineral water bottled in Mexico before handing me this roadie I might have balked, but I guess that horse is out of the barn.


 4:23 P.M.
Absolut Elyx House, off Bourbon Street 

Drink: Quiet Storm (Popsicle made of Absolut Elyx, hibiscus, crushed raspberry and fresh lime in a coupe of champagne)

Notes: So I was trying to pump the brakes, but when a little person in a gnome costume hands you a drink like this, you take that shit.


 4:38 P.M.
Back of an Uber. A PICKUP TRUCK Uber. 

Drink: Absolut Elyx slushie (millet, lemon, jasmine tea & orange blossom honey)

Notes: This is the kind of stuff they hand you to-go here: a booze slushie that tastes like what it must feel like to be a bee.


 5:10 P.M.
Meaux Bar, Louis Armstrong Park

Drink: Bols Genever Old Fashioned

Notes: This drink is terrific, but I’d more like to focus on the fact that I just stared at a guy with a lazy eye and and wondered to myself, “How many more drinks until I look like that guy” and then realized he was watching me stare at him.



 6:02 P.M.
Compère Lapin, Lafayette Square

Drink: Frozen Miami Vice (half strawberry/honeysuckle vodka mixed w/ Mississippi gin, strawberry puree, lemon and lime juice, elderflower tonic, St Germain and hibiscus lemongrass syrup, half Butcher Town brandy, absinthe, coconut puree, Coco Lopez, basil syrup, pineapple and grapefruit juice)

Notes: Writing down all those ingredients may have been a pain in the ass, but I would punch a nun square in the face for trying to take this drink out of my hand right now.


 8:07 P.M.
Don Julio “Farm to Shaker” dinner at the St. Roch Market, St. Roch

Drink: Don Julio Dill Rickey

Notes: 1) I had a nap. 2) Had someone said “Hey, try this pickle margarita” I would not have been into it, so I’m really glad bartender/chanteuse Angela Laino gave it a cool name.


 8:25 P.M.

Drink: Don Julio Dill Rickey no. 2

Notes: I like pickles, man, back off.


 9:00 P.M.

Drink: Don Julio Dill Rickey no. 3

Notes: I have just informed everyone within earshot that I would like to be referred to as “Dill Ricky” for the rest of the evening.


 9:30 P.M.

Drink: Don Julio Dill Rickey no. 4

Notes: “Damn, Daniel! Back at it again with the Dill Rickey!”*

*At the time, I thought exclaiming this was the absolute pinnacle of hilarity. I now feel moderately ashamed.


 10:08 P.M.

Drink: Don Julio 1942 Reserva

Notes: Do I need it? No. But what kind of man turns down liquid gold?


 10:16 P.M.

Drink: Don Julio 1942 Reserva no. 2

Notes: Nobody was watching so I just refilled my glass. I think I may be invisible.*

*Not actually true. Turns out the Don Julio folks were just really generous.



 11:22 P.M.
Glenlivet party at Preservation Hall, French Quarter

Drink: Twenty First Century (Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, Lillet Rose, lemon juice, creme de cacao)

Note: Because a Scotch party is EXACTLY what I need right now.


 11:30 P.M.

Drink: Glenlivet 18 Year

Notes: The problem with TOTC is that the brands have no problem whatsoever with breaking out the good stuff. And it is nigh impossible to turn down the good stuff.


 11:40 P.M.

Drink: Glenlivet 18 Year no. 2

Notes: I’d like to say I spilled the other one or something, but that would just … not be true.


 12:24 A.M.

Drink: Twenty First Century (Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, Lillet Rose, lemon juice, creme de cacao)

Notes: Ok fine I am drunk. Still feel like I look ok though.*

*This hypothesis was unsubstantiated by anyone else, however


 1:01 A.M.

Drink: Miller High Life

Notes: Champagne of beers, yo!


 1:52 A.M.
Coyote Ugly, French Quarter

Drink: Shot of Jameson

Notes: This place is packed with drunk bartenders. Everyone is dancing on the bar. The wheels are off. I blame Denton, who dragged me here.


 1:53 A.M.

Drink: PBR

Notes: #butwhytho*

*This note was written exactly like that, as a hashtag. Looking back, I’d wager that the answer was “because it came with the shot of Jameson.”


Friday, July 22nd

Status: Woke up, damn near fell from my bunk bed, managed to get a handful of Advil down and passed back out for another hour. Re-awoke to shaky but hopeful sea legs.


11:30 A.M.
Elizabeth’s, Bywater

Drink: Salty Dog

Notes: Pretty standard, but so, so necessary.



12:08 P.M.

Drink: Bloody Mary

Notes:  Ok so the first drink was just to get back to zero. Now I’m into the black again. Bonus: the food here is absolutely next level. They have praline bacon, aka pig candy.


 3:30 P.M.
Tequila Avion party at ACE Hotel rooftop, Lafayette Square

Drink: Cheap Thrills (Avion Silver, Perrier-Jouet, cucumber water, apple juice, lemon juice, orange blossom honey syrup, cucumber peel)

Notes: Just learned that pouring Champagne down a bar spoon into a cocktail prevents excess fizzing and also looks cool as f*ck.



3:50 P.M.

Drink:Wayward Sun (Avion Reposado, Amaro Meletti, lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, club soda)

Notes: Thank God this thing is so refreshing, because this roof feels like the surface of the f*cking sun.


4:10 P.M.

Drink: Avion Reserva 44

Notes: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if I were on death row and they offered me one drink before sending me to the chair, it would be Avion Reserva 44. I’m a Scotch man by nature, but this is the Lord of the Drams.


 4:28 P.M.

Drink: Avion Reserva 44 no. 2

NotesI mean, I’m just gonna keep doing this until someone stops me.*

*While no one technically “stopped” me, my colleagues politely steered me to the other side of the party around this point


 5:20 P.M.

Drink: Cheap Thrills

Notes: I mean, I need something to hold during this Facebook Live broadcast, right?*

*Did I, though?


 5:40 P.M.

Drink: Cheap Thrills no. 2

Notes: No lie, I just whispered “dig deep” to myself before starting this drink.


 6:30 P.M.
Pernod Absinth “Yacht Rock” party at
The Country Club, Bywater

Drink: Purple People Eater (Pernod Absinthe, lime, grape soda)



 6:55 P.M.

Drink: Daiquiri Banane (Pernod Absinthe, banana, coconut, lime)

Notes: Who knew absinthe could be mixed with so much stuff? Absinthe is the new vodka, y’all.


 7:15 P.M.

Drink: Casamigos tequila on the rocks

Notes: Bartender made it a double because he heard me say “I fucking love George Clooney” and agreed.



 7:40 P.M.
Grey Goose party at the Maison Dupuy Hotel, French Quarter

Drink: Negative Calypso (Grey Goose, celery, lime, honey)

Notes: This guy Remy Savage from Paris has the craziest shaker game I’ve ever seen.


 8:20 P.M.
St. Roch Market

Drink: Cantaloupe Even* (Aged tequila, La Guta sherry, lemon, cantaloupe syrup, pinch of salt)

Notes: I really love places where you can say “Bartender’s Choice!” and wind up with something this tasty. Also they have dope sandwiches made with fried plantains instead of bread.

*Just got this joke. Went completely over my head at the time. Shocker.


 8:50 P.M.

Drink: Don Julio Reposado Paloma

Notes: Something to hold while Ramy tries to eat all of these sandwiches on Facebook Live. Let’s see how it goes.*

*Clarification: My colleague Ramy claimed he could eat ten of the aforementioned plantain sandwiches. We decided to broadcast. He made a valiant effort, but ultimately tapped out at eight sandwiches.


 10:01 P.M.
Diageo Summer Games at the Contemporary Arts Center, Downtown New Orleans

Drink: National Holiday (Bulleit Bourbon, Silver Cachaca, pineapple juice, lime juice, Giffard Abricot, simple syrup)

Notes: This place is insane, it’s like a giant liquor carnival with all of Diageo’s brands represented. Many, many brands. This does not bode well for me.



 10:25 P.M.

Drink: Golden Slam (Tanqueray London Dry Gin, demerara syrup, lemon juice, orange juice, passion fruit puree, Angostura bitter, Campari float)

Notes: Killer drink with booze I’d never normally think to order in a bar. Nice job, Tanqueray.


 10:41 P.M.

Drink: Shot of Don Julio, variety unclear

Notes: Pam Wiznitzer gave this to me, thus fulfilling a longtime InsideHook fantasy to get “Wiznitzered,” aka served the drink that puts me over the edge by the tastefully named — and extraordinarily talented — NY barkeep.


 11:23 P.M.

Drink:The White Key (Blade and Bow Kentucky Bourbon, Suze Liqueur, Dolin Blanc Liqueur, Pinch of salt)

Notes: Suze Liqueur would be a great name for Dill Ricky’s girlfriend.



 11:38 P.M.

Drink: Johnnie Walker Blue neat

Note: WWRB*

*Took me forever to figure this note out. Finally realized it meant “What Would Ron Burgundy Do?”


 11:50 P.M.

Drink: Unspecified Johnnie Walker concotion 

Notes: Is there root beer in this? Am I drinking root beer and Scotch?


 12:20 P.M.

Drink: Links Sour (Oban, lemon, honey syrup, Nonino Amaro)

Notes: Because Amaro is an after-dinner drink!


 1:36 A.M.
The ACE Hotel, Lafayette Square

Drink: Unclear

Notes: Where is everybody?*

*My compatriots found me outside leaning against a wall and were kind enough to place me in an Uber home.


Saturday, July 23rd

Status: Was mentally prepping for this to be absolutely apocalyptic, but I feel surprisingly OK. Definitely need a drink, but what else is new?


11:30 A.M.
The Country Club, Bywater

Drink: Skinny Colada (Castillo Coconut Rum, yogurt liqueur, pineapple)

Notes: Came back here because lying on a pool chair doing nothing seemed commensurate with my current faculties. I’m counting the yogurt as breakfast.


11:30 A.M.

Drink: Ginger Carrot (Canton Ginger Liqueur and carrot juice)

Notes: Last ditch attempt at health before heading to the airport. Also my final drink in New Orleans is served by a bartender with one of the funniest T-shirts I have ever seen.



Slept through both flights home twitching like I had recently been struck by lightning. It took three full days for me to start feeling normal again, and the mere act of compiling these notes brings back shivers. But I met a ton of great folks, learned a pantload about cocktail culture, and saw some killer live music to boot.

Can’t wait for next year.

My liver — less so.