If you visited many of New York's cocktail bars last week, you might have noticed that some of your familiar faces behind the bar weren't there. They were in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail, an annual conference about all things cocktalian—complete with panels, dinners, and parties galore. Upon arrival, the ritual of the first drink in New Orleans is key. Here's where some of New York's finest mixolgists and bartenders went for their opening drink, and what they enjoyed—plus a classic Sazerac recipe.

Some opted for a classic New Orleans beer to beat the heat:

Some were getting ready to get to work making hundreds of cocktails for the upcoming seminars and parties:

  • Leo Robitschek (Eleven Madison Park): a shot of Tobala (a type of mezcal) with his fellow Cocktail Apprentice Program leaders in the kitchen of the Hotel Monteleone
  • Dave Arnold (French Culinary Institute): A shot of mezcal from John Deragon (PDT) in the kitchen of the Hotel Monteleone

Some took advantage of smoking rules outside of New York:

  • Eben Freeman (Cocktail All-Stars): a drink with port, rye, & benendictine at Arnaud's French 75, with a cigar

Some took advantage of the copious quantities of free booze floating throughout the conference:

Several visited the classic Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone for various libations:

But the most common answer I got was a Sazerac at the Carousel Bar. Raphael Reyes (Yerba Buena Perry), Jonathan Pogash (the Cocktail Guru), Nico de Soto (Dram), Elayne Duke (Diageo), and I all made a point to kick off our visit to the Crescent City with a tribute to a cocktail created in New Orleans that has since become its "official" drink. Although the original Sazerac was made with Cognac, rye whiskey became the default base spirit of the drink in the 1870's. The recipe below comes from Sazerac Rye Whiskey.




1 sugar cube
1 1/2 ounces Sazerac Rye Whiskey
1/4 ounce Herbsaint Liqueur d'Anis
3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
lemon peel


Pack an old-fashioned glass with ice. In a second old-fashioned glass, place the sugar cube, add the Peychaud's bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube. Add the rye to the second glass containing the sugar and bitters. Empty the ice from the first glass, coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the rye, sugar and bitters mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with a lemon peel.


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