Cover art for the novel "Funnel Vision" by Chris Kridler. Artwork courtesy of Chris Kridler.

Friday drinks special: Tales of the Cocktail

Happy Friday! I’m excited to introduce a special guest blogger to you this week. Award-winning journalist, photographer, and documentary filmmaker Chris Kridler has kindly agreed to write about her recent experience at Tales of the Cocktail, an amazing convention for drinks connoisseurs.

Drinks flow at the Tales of the Cocktail welcoming party at New Orleans’ Contemporary Art Center on July 25, 2012. Absolut sponsored the event. Photo by Chris Kridler.

As a journalist, Chris has covered everything from hard science to pop culture. Chris’ photographs have appeared in magazines and books, including the covers of “The Journal of Meteorology,” the book “Winderful,” and Wallace and Hobbs’ “Atmospheric Science” textbook. Beyond her passion for the perfect cocktail, Chris chases storms through tornado alley. Her short film, “Chasing Reality,” won the 2011 best documentary award at the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival in Florida.

Earlier this year, she published an adventure novel about storm chasers titled “Funnel Vision.” I’m happy to have her share her considerable talents with “Glass half-full in Hollywood.”

Writer, photographer and storm chaser Chris Kridler, author of the novel “Funnel Vision.”
Photo by Amanda Stratford.

Tales of the Cocktail

by Chris Kridler

New Orleans is known for drinking, but there are two versions of the city for visitors. One involves sots staggering about on Bourbon Street with foot-long fluorescent cups formed in “fun” shapes like hand grenades. The other is found in clever new bars, such as Cure, and in classic watering holes, like the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, home to Tales of the Cocktail.

At the World’s Greatest Spirits 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge at Tales of the Cocktail on July 26, 2012, Paul Pacult and Sean Ludford challenge tasters with a dozen delicious spirits. Photo by Chris Kridler.

Tales is the ultimate convention for people who are into the latter (and, yes, better) drinking culture. It marked its tenth year this year, and my third visit. It can be overwhelming at first, especially if you’re under the impression you should drink everything that’s put in front of you. You shouldn’t. From the Absolut Bloody Mary Bar in the morning to the constant din of tasting rooms to seminars that present you with 14 excellent spirits to try (as I encountered at a session on rum) to Spirited Dinners that pair drinks with fine food, there is more than enough alcohol to go around.

Quantity isn’t the point. Tales is about quality, with a few commercial exceptions, and while there’s always a contingent that seems more intent on getting smashed and grabbing swag than learning anything, there’s a lot to learn. The convention is about respect for history and craftsmanship in cocktails, and some of the world’s most famous drink experts and mixologists share their knowledge there.

I always come away with more ideas and recipes than we can possibly try at our home bar in Florida, The Storm Shelter. This year, I picked up recipe books for honey cocktails, ginger cocktails, gin cocktails, port cocktails. I became enthusiastic for the gin and tonic and the fabulous things the Spanish are doing with this classic drink: using gourmet tonics as well as gins, adding a variety of botanicals and garnishes, and sometimes topping the drink with exotic foams. I was also turned on to a whole world of Italian liqueurs, some bitter, some sweet.

Italian wild strawberry liqueur Fragoli has real strawberries in it. It is one of the liqueurs used in cocktails at the Taste of Italy media lunch at Tales of the Cocktail. Photo by Chris Kridler.

In fact, I was dying to share a complex recipe using one of them right here on “Glass half-full in Hollywood.” The liqueur in question is Fragoli, a wild strawberry elixir from Italy with hand-picked strawberries right in the bottle. It’s beautiful and intensely sweet, so it’s wonderful to mix in a cocktail or simply top with champagne. Only problem: I couldn’t find it anywhere in our little backwater. This is a common frustration when returning from Tales; not all of the excellent spirits one tries are easily available.

The G’inyard cocktail made from a recipe from G’vine gin. Photo by Chris Kridler.

So instead, I’d like to share a refreshing, balanced, perfect-for-summer beverage from the G’vine recipe book. G’vine, which sponsored the gin and tonic seminar, is a French gin that uses a grape spirit (a neutral spirit distilled from wine) as a base. The Floraison version is flavored by the essence of the grape flower and other botanicals; the Nouaison version incorporates the tiny green berry formed when the flower is fertilized.

The ingredients for the G’inyard cocktail from G’vine gin include grapes, basil, and lime juice. Photo by Chris Kridler.

It seems especially appropriate, then, that this cocktail, the G’inyard, requires grapes, which are mashed up in the shaker. While the G’vine version suggests garnishing with an edible flower, I used basil to extend that wonderful, herbal scent so evocative of the garden, and I dropped a whole grape in, too, for the drinker to discover at the bottom of this pearly green-gold potion. Think you’re not into gin? You’ll find it blends so delicately with the fresh lime and accompaniments that you may not even know it’s there — but it will depend on your gin.

Here’s the recipe.

1.5 oz. G’Vine Floraison gin, or your favorite gin
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
5 white grapes, plus one for garnish
2 fresh basil leaves, plus basil sprig for garnish
1/2 oz, fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup*

Muddle the five grapes, basil leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup. Add gin, vermouth, and ice. Shake well and strain through a fine mesh strainer or Hawthorn strainer into a martini glass or vintage glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and a grape.

Cover art for the novel “Funnel Vision” by Chris Kridler. Artwork courtesy of Chris Kridler.

* New to simple syrup? It’s … simple! Combine one cup sugar and one cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it cool, and store the extra in the refrigerator. It’s a classic cocktail staple.

That’s it for this week – thanks again to Chris! Keep your glass half-full. Drink responsibly.

Want to see more of Chris’ photography or watch her chase F5 category tornados? Check out her sites: chriskridler.com and skydiary.com

You can also find her novel, “Funnel Vision,” on Amazon.