Ginning it Up at Tales of the Cocktail


Images provided by Kelly Magyarics unless otherwise noted.

At the annual cocktail conference in July, fans gleaned intel about the botanical booze at seminars, tastings, dinners and more.

At Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this past July, gin fans were giddy with delight at all of the opportunities to compare, learn about and, of course, taste offerings from around the world. Here are a few of the most gin-worthy happenings from this summer.

Ford's Gin Martinis and Oysters - 2016 Tales of the Cocktail gin events

Ford’s Gin Martinis and Oysters

Lucky guests who nabbed a reservation for this invite-only event on Friday afternoon at Seaworthy restaurant at the Ace Hotel were treated to a very civilized respite complete with beverages and bi-valves. For it, Dan Warner of The 86 Co. created three very different gin Martinis, and worked in tandem with Seaworthy executive chef Kerry Heffernan to pair them with a flight of tri-coastal oysters: East, West and Gulf. Guests began with a perfectly crafted Gin & Tonic garnished with an orange twist before the tableside Martini service began.

Each drink – presented from a beverage cart that also housed jars of the botanicals used in the gin – started with Ford’s Gin as its base, but the addition of other ingredients made for three unique cocktails, the perfect way to showcase the differences among oysters harvested from waters in different parts of the country. The East Coast Martini used Manzanilla Sherry and dry vermouth, and was garnished with an olive; its briny and savory notes were downright synergistic with the salty tang of an East Coast oyster. Delicate and floral, the West Coast Martini stirred in Muscadet wine from France’s Loire Valley and Lillet Blanc, perfect with a creamy and sweet West Coast oyster. And for the Gulf Coast drink, the duo looked to Ford’s Gin founder Simon Ford himself, who loves to throw back Guinness with oysters. Warner’s interpretation added in a Guinness reduction and Cocchi Americano, garnished with a radish slice.

Big Gin, Small Gin - 2016 Tales of the Cocktail gin events

Big Gin, Small Gin Seminar

Is it better to have the vast amount of resources available to a large distiller? Or does staying smaller and more artisanal translate to higher quality, craftier gin? That was the question posed at this seminar held on the Wednesday afternoon of Tales. On hand were gin pros from both sides of the coin: Bombay master of botanicals Ivano Tonutti; New York Distilling Company founder Allen Katz; Jake Burger, director of Portobello Road Gin and The Ginstitute; and Mike Enright, owner of The Barber Shop. “Gin is versatile and delicious. You can be original and show your passion,” declared Katz.

Attendees were able to sample six gins: Dorothy Parker, a lower proof floral gin from New York Distilling that uses 8 botanicals; Perry’s Tot, Katz’s navy strength-like gin; Bombay Dry, a powerful spirit with eight botanicals; Bombay Sapphire, the company’s lighter and sweeter offering; Bombay East, an Asian-style gin with lemongrass and black pepper notes; and Portobello Road, a London dry gin with nine botanicals, including cassia bark for depth and complexity. Producers questioned the use of too few or too many botanicals in a gin, citing Monkey 47 Gin’s staggering amount of ingredients. When tasting gin, the panelists agreed that mixing it into a Martini, Gin Sour, and Gin & Tonic will give a good indication of its aromas, flavors, character and versatility.

And as for the verdict about big vs. small? Truth is, the jury is still out and may always be. There are well-made large scale gins made by passionate distillers, as well as mediocre ones made by hands-on craft producers, and vice versa. The big takeaway? “It’s the coolest spirit,” said Tonutti. “We have the f***ing Martini for f***’s sake.” Enough said.

Martin Miller's Gin Explorer's Lounge - 2016 Tales of the Cocktail gin events

Martin Miller’s Gin Explorer’s Lounge

In Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, spirit lovers interested in learning more about the English / Icelandic gin sipped cocktails while listening to co-founder David Bromige talk about how the spirit is crafted, including the importance of the pure, crisp spring water and how it affects the final product, and news about the company’s latest release, a barrel aged gin called 9 Moons. [The seminar was facilitated by the author of this article, Kelly Magyarics. For more info about Martin Miller’s Gin, read this article on Nightclub & Bar.] Bartenders from around the country mixed up gin cocktails, including this recipe from TJ Palmieri from Madrina’s in Gainesville, Florida, who also serves as a brand ambassador for the spirit.

Coconut Key Lime Gimlet cocktail recipe - 2016 Tales of the Cocktail gin events

Coconut Key Lime Gimlet

Recipe courtesy of TJ Palmieri, bartender and brand ambassador

This luscious libation is creamy and decadent, but also manages to be tart, tangy and refreshing. It would also be great blended with ice, or served over crushed ice.

  • 1 ½ oz. Martin Miller’s Gin
  • 1 oz. Boiron Coconut Puree
  • ¾ oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ oz lime juice
  • Lime wheel, for garnish

Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain it into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lime wheel.

Purple Rain Cocktail at Spirited Dinner

As part of the annual Spirited Dinner series, where cocktail- and spirit-themed dinners are held at restaurants all over the city, William Grant & Sons presented A Meal for a Prince and David Bowie. Held at Coquette, the dinner honored the musical legends, both of whom passed away this year. Each of the five courses included a dish from chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus that was named for a Bowie song, and a drink from mixtress Gina Chersevani of Buffalo & Bergen in Washington, DC, and William Grant & Sons brand ambassador Charlotte Voisey, named for a Prince song. The fourth course featured Golden Years, dry-aged duck with sunflower and gribiche, and Purple Rain, Chersevani’s drink with toasted sunflower-washed Hendrick’s Gin, Crème de Violette and lemon, and topped with bubbles.

Purple Rain cocktail recipe - 2016 Tales of the Cocktail gin events

Purple Rain

Recipe courtesy of Gina Chersevani, mixtress, Buffalo & Bergen, Washington, DC. Image courtesy of William Grant & Sons.

Crème de Violette gives this drink its gorgeous purple-blue hue. Chersevani infused the gin with toasted sunflowers to pair with the sunflower in the duck course.

  • 2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin washed with toasted sunflowers
  • 1 oz Crème de Violette
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • 3 oz. Champagne
  • Purple potato leaf, for garnish

In a shaker tin, combine the gin, Crème de Violette and lemon. Add ice, shake, and strain into a chilled wine glass. Lay the leaf across the top of the glass, and with an eyedropper place a few drops of the cocktail on the leaf so that the drops rain into the glass as it’s being served.

Duck Bath Punch at The Spirited Awards

Capping off the week, the Spirited Awards on Saturday evening recognized the best of the best in bars, bartenders, distillers, products and writers. Ross Simon from Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour in Phoenix, Arizona, created a Hendrick’s Gin-based punch with a cucumber air (and garnished with a rubber ducky, naturally.)

Duck Bath Punch cocktail recipe - 2016 Tales of the Cocktail gin events

Duck Bath Punch

Recipe courtesy of Ross Simon, Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, Phoenix, Arizona. Image courtesy of William Grant & Sons.

  • 1 ½ oz. Hendricks Gin
  • ½ oz. Sibona Amaro
  • 1 tsp. Grand Poppy Liqueur
  • ½ oz. pineapple syrup
  • 5 tsp. lemon juice
  • 4 oz. Earl Grey tea (cold brew)
  • Cucumber air (see Note)

Mix first six ingredients in a teacup. Top with cucumber air and garnish with a rubber ducky.

For the cucumber air:

Combine ½ liter cucumber water and ⅓ liter Monin Cucumber Syrup in an iSi siphon. Chill, charge, and dispense.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on  Twitter  and  Instagram  @kmagyarics.