I think it’s fitting that we’re posting this story one week following the William Grant & Sons party at Tales of the Cocktail. I guess I needed that much time to recover and look back at this vivid mélange of good times, which capped off night one of Tales.
Upon arriving at the newly-renovated Civic Theatre, which happens to be New Orleans’ oldest historic theatre, we were met with a hefty line. While waiting in the queue, we had some extra time to take in the scene. The type of characters a cocktail festival attracts is varied, to say the least: there’s the seersucker suit. The fedora/vest combo. The Prohibition-era barman complete with hat and mustache. And the tattoo-covered female bartender who just exudes cool.
These were the same people regaling us with stories of William Grant & Sons parties past. Stories that included live animals and burlesque dancers. So the bar was set pretty high for this year’s event. Dubbed “Cocktails in Film Festival,” the party filled the theatre with all the old Hollywood glitz you’d expect. And a gin cannon. There was a gin cannon. More on that later.
Scanning the room, there were no less than 10 bars, all cinematically themed. There was the Great Gatsby bar, decorated with silver trays and crystal decanters, serving a punch that included Stoli, rhubarb tea, Lillet Rose, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and fresh strawberries. The Snatch bar was mixing up Tullamore Dew cocktails, and there was even a mini bowling alley in the back corner of the theatre, a la The Big Lebowski, serving up Sailor Jerry rum. Sensory overload, to be sure. But really, I can’t be too sure of anything at that exact moment. Because that’s when I was served a gin-based concoction with a topping of caviar as the band started playing the first few cords of The Gin Blossoms’ “Follow You Down.” Very surreal. And very fitting.
To our left, a giant moon hung from one of the balconies that was reminiscent of the moon in Georges Méliès 1902 classic, Le Voyage dans la Lune. Except the space capsule that hit the man in the moon square in the eye in the silent film was now being used to transport drinks down to the well-dressed Earthlings below, while actors dressed as aliens from the film put on a show. Straight ahead, upon a floating platform a hundred feet above the floor, The David Higgins Band continued to dutifully crank out ‘90s hit after ‘90s hit.
After making the rounds to sample each bar’s offerings and meeting barmen, advocates and cocktail fans from around the world, I finally made it to the biggest attraction of the evening: a two story gin cannon. The long, slender weapon was filled with ice cold Hendrick’s Gin, and had been used to serve up cocktails all night. But since the evening was winding to a close, and in an effort to be more environmentally friendly, many attendees were forgoing the glassware all together, instead opting for the gin cannon layback.
There’s something quite life affirming about staring down the barrel of a gin cannon; your eyes filled with the haze of an evening well spent. So I took my position, asked the seven foot tall gentleman next to me to turn the spout and said my final words. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I’m sure it was profound. And the band begins to play Third Eye Blind’s “Semi Charmed Life.”
As the refreshing gin poured through the cannon, into my mouth and onto the front of my brand new shirt, I couldn’t help but wonder: why do we drink? We drink to celebrate, and sometimes we drink to dull the color of life. But on this night, no amount of gin was going to dull this reality. No, it was only going to enhance it.
Besides, when life hands you a gin cannon…