Craft & Cocktails is devoted to the art of making & shaking focusing on original, seasonal & approachable cocktails to make at home.I'm Ashley Rose Conway, a cocktail shaker and piñata maker. I am always in the pursuit of fun and the perfect drink. I work developing recipes, styling, and photographing cocktails as well as creating stories around libations, celebrations, and entertaining.
Tales of the Cocktail is this week! I won’t be attending this year because of a project I am working on (more on that soon!), but for those of you who are going for the first time or who need a little refresher I compiled a little survival guide to help you make it through the week. It’s a marathon, not a sprint! They are tips I put together based on my personal experience and those of veteran Tales attendees. Although a cocktail conference seems like all fun and games, there are strategies to get the most out of the week and not ending up tanked by 2pm.
It would be a disservice to call Tales of the Cocktail just a conference, it is so much more then that. Bartenders, cocktail enthusiasts, writers, spirits brands, distillers, and creatives in the spirits industry from all over the world converge on NOLA for one magical week. What ensues is pure gold, with some fresh shenanigans thrown in for good measure. New spirits get launched, lots of spirits get tasted, Education and the the seminars are a main focus of Tales for educational purposes, but there is parties, pop-up bars and experiences all over the city, and you’ll likely to rub elbows with you some of the cocktail worlds most notable figures. I put together this Tales of The Cocktail Tips and Survival Guide that hopefully gives you some guidance on making it to the end of the week coming out more knowledgable, hydrated and unscathed.
Tales of The Cocktail Survival Guide
You don’t have to finish every drink. Trust me, there will be more! There is booze where ever you look. I only did small sips of tastings during the day and early afternoon. If I had a brand dinner or event in the evening, this might be the first time I have a full cocktail. The nights can be long. There are multiple events each evening. My favorite things is swinging by the Erin Rose at 2 or 3 am and finding lots of friends getting Frozen Irish Coffees and chatting about the day. You will not make it there if you’ve been treating the day like a sprint and downing cocktails left and right.
Hydrate! Take the water bottles at the seminars, fill up at water stations and bring a reusable water bottle. I have a water pouch that can be rolled up and shoved in a purse or clipped to a wait band or bag. A camel bag is also a smart option. NOLA is hot as Hades in the summer. You’ll sweat a lot, compile that with frequent drinking and you’ll find yourself dehydrated very quickly.
Write numbers down. Have the numbers of medical, police, cab and close friends in the city written down a piece of paper on your pocket just in case you loose your phone.
Networking and meeting brands, distillers and fellow cocktail lovers face to face is one of the best parts of Tales. Reach out to people, strike up conversations in the elevator or in line for seminars or parties, and don’t be shy to say hi to people you may recognize from social media. We are all there for the love of cocktails so we have at least one thing in common! In this same note, although it is a drinking conference, it’s best not to get too toasted, you never know who you could be making a fool of yourself in front of.
Pack an umbrella and light water proof jacket. It’s the rainy season in the south during this time. Clear skies giveaway to torrential down pours in a matter of minutes. If you plan to leave the Hotel Monteleone at all, bring one of these so that you can get to the other fun activities around town.
Bring a full change of clothes in your backpack or bag everyday. I left my hotel room one morning and didn’t return until 3 am the next morning. That’s a good a lot of sweat and possible spilled drinks on you. Having a pair of back up clothes to change into might make or break your night/day, what time is it anyway?! Also, a small spray bottle of rose water helps keep the face fresh and hydrated. I keep this in the fridge at night and take it with me for a cooling face spray.
Buddy system. Plan to go places at night with at least one other person if walking. Although the locals are friendly in NOLA, there are people who will try to take advantage of drunk people from the conference and there has been reports of robbery in the past. Just stay aware and buddy system.
Prep your room. Go to a convenience store and pick up snacks like bars and fruit if possible as well as water for the hotel room each night on the first day before you get caught up in all the action. These will be good for the morning or for a quick snack throughout the day.
Be sure to take a break to eat. Not only will it help create a foundation for drinks, NOLA is know for it’s delicious food. There are great places to grab food near the conference. My favorite for a quick bites are:
Killer Po’ Boys. They have a bigger location now that’s a few blocks from Hotel Monteleone, but the original is still great in the back of the Erin Rose, plus you can get an Frozen Irish Coffee while your there.
9 Roses Vietnamese. They have great spring rolls which is a nice contrast to all the fried food of NOLA.
For a fancier lunch, Brennan’s is a classic NOLA spot and a must.
Cafe Beignet, the best beignets in town and other lunch options can be found here.
Sylvain (open for dinner only except weekend brunch)
For late night food: Cane & Table, Verti Mart Grocery has amazing sandwiches, Compere Lapen (10pm), Cleo’s Mediterranean, Dat Dog, Bar Redeux, Bacchanal Wine Bar, Killer Po’ Boy, Peche (11pm), Sylvain
Rest when you can. Sleep is a luxury at Tales and 100 degree heat is exhausting. If you can, take a break before dinner and the parties to snack, regroup and possibly take a nap!
Wear a zipped cross body bag or ever popular fanny pack that holds all of your essentials for the parties and closed toed shoes. They are large parties and some spaces can be packed. Have a zipped bag close to your body will prevent anything falling out or bumping into people with a large bag.
Pack an empty bag. Brand swag is everywhere and you’ll likely find bottles and tools at the shops you’ll want to bring home so be sure to bring an empty bag or suitcase to lug all of your new stuff home in.
Keep organized. Use the Tales App the keep your schedule organized. Add seminars (so you don’t miss them) and parties along with other brand events.
I hope this Tales of The Cocktail Survival Guide and Tips and helps make your week at Tales smooth sailing!
A cocktail featuring green grapes that add a tart sweet flavor to this summer time cocktail. Fresh juiced lime and muddled grapes are the most complicated steps in this simple cocktail.
Summer Days Drifting Away
10-12 green grapes
4 slices cucumber
2 oz Gin, I used Death’s Door Gin
1/2 oz lime juice pinch salt.
6 mint leaves
1 oz tonic water
Garnish: cucumber ribbon, green grapes, edible flower
Add grapes, cucumber, gin, salt and lime juice to a shaker and muddle. Add mint leaves and ice to the shaker. Shake. Double strain into a highball glass with ice. Top with tonic water and stir. Garnish.
A vibrant summery sipper, this Rose Melon Rosé Sangria features common tasting notes of rosé in a sangria. Rosé is such an easily quaffable wine and thanks to it’s acidity, it can pair with just about any dish. The tasting notes of rosé often include watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, orange and rose (only some of the best notes in wine!) In this rosé sangria, I included these fruit an floral tasting notes to amplify rosés’ character. Chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, rose water and slices of plump strawberries are infused in this unique pink hued sangria.
The key with this Rose Melon Rosé sangria and any sangria is making it in advanced. The fruit infuses the sangria with is flavor over time, while the spirits give the fruit a boozy kick. It’s a beautiful thing. If you are pressed for time make this 2-4 hours before the party, otherwise, leave the sangria over night to really let the magic happen. Just top with the sparkling water and pour yourself a glass before guests arrive and you’ll be sipping pretty.
Rose Melon Rosé Sangria
1 bottle rosé, make sure it is dry
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1 cup watermelon balls
1 cup cantaloupe balls
4 strawberries, sliced
2 limes, sliced
1 cup sparkling water
1/4 cup simple syrup
1 tsp rose water, more if you like floral flavors
garnish: *organic rose ice cubes
Freeze organic roses in ice cubes (this is optional but makes a great presentation) for serving. Add all of the ingredients except sparkling water into a pitcher and let infuse for 4 hours or preferable overnight in the fridge. Add sparkling water. To serve, pour into glasses with rose ice or regular ice.
*use organic roses only so they do not have pesticides on them. Simply add water to square ice cube trays and float rose on top, slightly submerges and let freeze.
Mover and Shaker Co. makes the best pins and flair around. Their new tiki mug pin set I.am.obsessed with! The colors are stunning and there is even a spinning detail on the Fangtooth mug! If you are into collecting spirited flair, you’ll want to add these ones to your collection!
The Mover & Shaker Co. tiki pins are based off of famous tiki drinks, both classic and modern. I chose the Lost Lake Fog Cutter bowl to whip up! Although the recipe is s bit secretive, I whipped up a classic Fog Cutter with a few adjustments of my own (adding in some lime and adjusting the proportions) including a jazzed up garnish. And the rad shell punch bowl? It had a former life as an old lady’s planter. One person’s planter is another person’s punch bowl is how that old saying goes, I am sure of it! You can get the recipe below.
With the signed copy of my book The Art of the Bar Cart.I will personalize the book to the winner to add to their cocktail book collection! The giveaway is being held on Instagram, but you can get the recipe for the Fog Cutter bowl below!
A classic Fog Cutter updated for modern imbibing!
FOG CUTTER serves 1
Tools: shaker tin
Glass: tiki mug
1 1/2 oz. aged rum
1 oz lemon
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz orange juice
1 oz. orgeat
1 oz. brandy
1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz cream sherry
garnish: dragon fruit, kiwi, edible flowers, paper straws
Combine all ingredients in a shaker along with 1 1/2 cups of crushed ice. Shake hard. Pour with out straining into a tiki mug or vessel with crushed ice. Garnish with tiki accoutrements.
Always on the hunt for outstanding and fresh flavor combinations, I have been slightly underwhelmed with new or intriguing cocktails as of late. I haven’t really been scrolling through IG a lot lately so I am sure there is some fantastic ones I am missing, but I am talking about my own personal imbibing experiences. Aside from my favorites Pacific Cocktail Haven and True Laurel (ok, and Trick Dogs Pico de Gayo bitters in a drink on their recent menu are mind blowing), I haven’t had anything wow me. So I took it into my own hands to sate my curious palate. After a cocktail friend get together where Hannah of Spirited LA combined bell pepper and chamomile together, I knew I had to combine these two unusual cocktail bedfellows! I whipped up this Daisy Chain, a chamomile bell pepper infused gin. The earthy, floral chamomile works swimmingly with the vegetal bell pepper, in this case the yellow variety.
The Daisy Chain cocktail is a classic sour reimagined with spring and summer ingredients that often crosspaths on your tongue. Their harmonious dance in your mouth is equal parts savory and floral backed up with earthy honey and herbal chartreuse. The gin I used for the bell pepper infusion is a local gin called Benham’s. Produced by new comer to the distilling scene, Graton Distillery located in Graton, CA in Sonoma, it stands strongly on it’s own and deserves a place on any back bar. Considered a hybrid of juniper heavy London Dry and new world style (more citrus heavy and juniper light), Benham’s has a lovely, citrus base note with bursts of peppery galangal and hints of camomile that bounces around the palate before giving way to the warm spices. It was a natural fit for the Daisy Chain with the chamomile.
1 1/2 oz yellow bell pepper infused gin I used Benham’s Gin with chamomile, recipe here
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz chamomile infused honey syrup, recipe below
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1 large egg white
garnish: organic chamomile flowers, aromatic bitters ( these are optional as I
found the cocktail great with and without so this is a personal preference for more bitter or not)
Add all liquid ingredients and egg white into a shaker without ice. Dry shake hard for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with chamomile flowers and optional bitters on top, running tooth pick through the bitters to create hearts.
Chamomile Infused Honey
4 chamomile tea bags 1 cup water
1 cup honey
Heat water to just before boiling. Add tea bags and steep for 15 mins. Remove tea bags and add honey and stir until incorporated.
Although untraditional, bell peppers are a great addition to cocktails. They lend a bright vegetal note to drinks and work well paired with citrus and tropical fruits like pineapple and passion fruit. Peppers of all kinds beyond the humble jalapeño have been popping up in cocktails as of late.Ancho Reyessteady place on many back bars should be an indicator of pepper staying power in the cocktails world. Mix up thisDaisy Chain Cocktail with this bell pepper infused gin or add a jigger or two into your own tipple to add a savory component to you next cocktail.
Yellow was my bell pepper of choice here, but experiment with other pepper if you wish. I want to try roasting or grilling the peppers next time and see how the this bell pepper infused gin works into cocktails.
This Strawberry Watermelon Pink Peppercorn Tequila Fizz is a refreshing tipple to drink for spring and summer! Pink peppercorn (actually a dried berry) adds some spice to the nectarouse strawberry and watermelon juice. The pink peppercorn are soft compared to black peppcorns so they are perfect to garnish whole and will give pops of spice as you eat them.
3/4 cup strawberry watermelon pink peppercorn juice (recipe below)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 egg white from a large egg
1 oz soda water
garnish: watermelon slice, pink peppercorns
Make the pink peppercorn juice, recipe below. Add the first 4 ingredients into a shaker without ice to dry shake for a minute. Add ice and shake. Strain into the glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with watermelon slice (I attached mine with a mini clothes pin) and pink peppercorn.
Strawberry Watermelon Pink Peppercorn Juice
4 oz strawberries, hauled
4 oz watermelon, rims removed
4 tsps honey
50 pink peppercorn
Directions: Blend all in a blender for 30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Use in the cocktail above.
A rhubarb tiki drink?! Preposterous! I have yet to come across a tropical drink utilizing rhubarb and excited to use this vegetable in a fresh, new way. I have whipped up Rhubarb cocktails in the past (abrown butterone and arosé spiked rhubarb lemonade), but I wanted a new flavor profile to go alongside the rhubarb. Strawberry is a natural, if not cliché, pairing because of their natural sweetness. Pineapple has such a delicious acidity with a balanced sugar content that I found to pair beautifully with rhubarb. And thus the To Rue and Pine cocktail was born, ready to grace our mouths with it’s delicious, boozy nectar.
Although the pink hue is alluring, rhubarb can be hard to work with. A vegetable, more accurately a petiole which connects the leaf to the stem much like celery, it needs to be cooked to tame it’s fibrous texture and sugar added to balance the bitterness. But the effort is worth is most certainly worth the reward. The sweet tart flavor of rhubarb is of course great for pies and desserts, but it is wonderful for cocktails as well. I made a syrup with the rhubarb to do just this and it makes it prime for mixing into cocktails.
Along with the fresh pineapple juice, I added in coconut cream, Barbados rum, lime, and a easy hand of Sfumato Amaro to pair with the rhubarb syrup to make the tiki-esque tipple. The addition of Sfumato Amaro was for two reasons. I wanted to lean into the bitter notes of the rhubarb and really draw them out throughout each sip and Sfumato (more about it here) is also a rhubarb root based Amaro that works perfectly here alongside the rhubarb syrup. The To Rue and Pine rhubarb tiki cocktail will having you coming back for another sip and another until you’ll just have to make another round because you drink the whole thing in 5 seconds. Opps!
TO RUE AND PINE
tools needed: juicer or blender, shaker, jigger, vegetable peeler
Make the rhubarb syrup. Juice fresh pineapple and lime. Peel two ribbons of rhubarb with a vegetable peeler. Spiral one of the ribbons up the side of the glass and add crushed ice. Add the first 6 ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the glass. Garnish with pineapple leaves, pineapple flower chip, edible flower, and rhubarb ribbon.
A delicious sweet-tart ruby red rhubarb syrup to use when mixing up cocktail, sodas, or for desserts.
Although the pink hue is alluring, rhubarb can be hard to work with. A vegetable, more accurately a petiole which connects the leaf to the stem much like celery, it needs to be cooked to tame it’s fibrous texture and sugar added to balance the bitterness. But the effort is worth is most certainly worth the reward. The sweet tart flavor of rhubarb is of course great for pies and desserts, but it is wonderful for cocktails as well. Mix up this syrup to use this ruby hued sweetener in your next cocktail.
Rhubarb Syrup for Cocktails
4 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
Chop rhubarb into small pieces. Add sugar and water to a saucepan on medium-high heat and stir in the sugar, cook until the sugar dissolves. Add in the rhubarb and bring to just before boiling. Turn to medium low and let simmer, covered for 15-20 mins and take off the heat. Let cool. Add a fine mesh strainer over a jar with a funnel. Pour syrup into the jar and press lightly to release juices to strain. Reserve sweetened rhubarb solids to put over toast or ice ream. Store in the fridge for up to a month.
I’ll be judging my second cocktail competition this weekend with Griffo Distillery! Their second annual cocktail competition is on Sunday April 16th from 3pm-6pm. It comes a day before tax day so I am sure we could all use a drink then! Griffo is a local distillery located in Petaluma. They have a variety of delicious spirits ranging from gin, aged gin, whiskey, and coffee liqueur. I will be judging along with other rad females Virginia Miller of A Perfect Spot and Phaedra Achor of Monarch Bitters. In order to get to know their spirits more ahead of the competition this weekend, I mixed up this Flora and Juniper cocktail using Griffo Gin.
Their Scott Street gin is distilled with almost all local and organic botanicals in pot still and distilled in a single run. They do get their juniper from Italy, giving it a spicer notes then local California juniper that lends more floral notes. The meyer lemon really comes through on the nose while coming in subtle on the palate rounded out by the coriander and punch of juniper. I made a sour by adding spicy, sweet cardamom syrup, tart hibiscus tea, lemon, rose water and egg white to the Griffo Gin. Topped with a display of edible flowers from rose petals to lilacs, this cocktail is a a showstopper!
Make hibiscus tea by stepping 1/3 cup hibiscus flowers in one cup boiling water and straining once cool. Add all liquid ingredients into a shaker without ice. Dry shake for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with edible flowers