Welcome! Vilkommen! Bienvenue!

Jun 29, 2011 by

Round two of the 2011 Tales of the Cocktail Must-Do events! For Tales, W stands for Wednesday and Welcome and attendees have their pick of two welcome receptions at different venues to kick off the convention! Beefeater Gin opens the night at 7pm while Wm Grant & Sons polishes off the evening at 9:30pm…

Last year, the Beefeater welcome reception left me somewhat chilled. While it was certainly a crowd pleaser, it came off both over- and underdone, if that’s possible. (Trust me, it is!) On the over- side, the music, while pleasingly thumping, was loud and non-stop, sections of the event were flooded in red –which believe me is not the tone you want for a night of libation regardless of your brand’s color scheme– and the CAC lobby, where the event was held, has a high ceiling which only served to echo everything to a greater magnitude of discomfort.

On the under- side, there were actors portraying characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, (or something similar,) milling amongst the crowd, trapeze and aerial acts overhead in the fore-lobby at tasteful intervals, and real(?) Beefeaters guarding the entrance. The “hedge maze” which “guests would be able to navigate” according to the invitation, was in fact a three-sided hedge that afforded attendees a nice photo-op of their visit. Straddling the hedgerow of enjoyability were projections of hedgerows themselves under blue skies where, from time to time, a rabbit would hop through or a face would appear from behind the foliage, but not often enough to entertain.

Crowded was the word of the evening. While the CAC lobby is fairly large, the attendees filled it to capacity. There were some pockets of space, but mostly in corners removed from anywhere you might have wanted to be, but even there the music boxed you in. I kept expecting Charlton Heston to call in the people movers! As to the cocktails served, the two bars I managed to belly up to were so crowded that service suffered greatly. I did get one drink which I promptly dis-remembered. Ah, well, gin and I have never had a friendly relationship. I keep trying, but it remains distant and aloof…

This year Beefeater plans what could be an amazing reception, but I go in with wary expectations. On Wednesday night at Gallier Hall, there will be a  Masquerade Reception. “Wear black and white and we’ll give you a mask to disguise yourself!” Sounds good to me! Drinks will be served by world-class bartenders Audrey Saunders, Nick Strangeway, Dan Warner, Nick Van Tiel, Erick Castro and “a host of other greats.” Hopefully this event will echo the charm and grace of last year’s Wm Grant & Son reception, speaking of which…

While the Beefeater reception aimed for one spirit and something for everyone, Wm Grant & Sons’ Promenade of Jubilation offered a multitude of libations under one umbrella of pure amusement and delight. Held both inside and out at The Elms on St Charles, I was sorely unprepared for this event. If it weren’t for my schedule, my stamina and my lack of sustenance, I could have danced all night, as they say.

Bolstered by Hendrick’s Gin, Milagro Tequila, Sailor Jerry Rum, Solerno, Lillet, Art in the Age Root, the Balvenie, Hudson Whiskeys, Glenfiddich and more, the Promenade of Jubilation was indeed just that! Small jiggers of cocktailians gathered around numerous brand bars without crowding –seersuckers and flappers were everywhere– and the entire to-do was wrapped in a warm blanket of ease and comfort. From the gazebo at the center of the grounds, the Palmetto Bug Stompers played chamber music –the kind true jazz hounds like– while on the perimeter Hendrick’s gin offered a small croquet field and lessons including a complimentary croquet manual.

Inside Captain van Benthuysen II’s magnificent former 19th century home the music was subdued and complimentary to the event and almost every room on the ground floor was occupied by a different brand. The only thing missing from this event was a few bottles of Chartreuse and every one of my cohorts in tippling, but brand connectivity and personal schedules being what they are, I soldiered on! This was a relaxed and casual garden party on a grand scale which I’m certain belied the effort it took to bring together. Cheers to Wm Grant & Sons for what was probably the single best gathering of the 2010 TotC!

This year WG&S offers a Swingin’ 40’s Shore Leave Ball at the National WWII Museum, which if last year is any yardstick, promises to be another seamless jaunt through time that no self respecting cocktailian would dare to miss. Sailor hats and neckties will be provided for the guys and polka dots for the gals! I’ll most definitely see you there!

-M Styborski

(For the full series of TotC 2010, click here! The Beefeater and WG&S reception shots are about  6 rows down depending on the size of your browser window.)

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