Prior to the last five or six years, when I began to write about wine and spirits, I spent most of my energies covering the New York theatre world. Two very disparate universes, I've always thought. But while observing this year's Tales of the Cocktail tobaggon ride, it dawned on me that thespians and cocktailians have one in common (beside a certain exhibitionism and tendency toward hyperbole): as much as they love what they do for a living, they're less interested in the actual work than they are in getting to the after party.
It's a humorous maxim in the theatre that putting on plays is nothing more than an excuse to throw a cast party. Similarly, there's no better way to connive going to a slew of cocktail soirees than to stage a cocktail convention. Every day of this past week, I watched with wonder as libation pros and amateurs alike reached the end of a heavy day of seminars and activities, and then repaired to go out to a party! Time and again I met people in the lobby who, while somehow standing upright, blithely told me tales of having been out the previous night until well past midnight. 3 AM was the hour most commonly cited. It seemed to be the honorable time by which one could hold his head up high and say that he had partied with sufficient heartiness.
Such bashes usually began at 10 PM at the earliest. The Audrey Saunders-Simon Ford bash Saturday night began at midnight. I saw rye authority Allen Katz the morning after. He said he had been up until 3 AM. (Of course.) Mixologist Charlotte Voisey told me 6 AM was the hour she retired. She told me this at 11 AM. (Your truly went to bed at 1 AM. Laugh at will.)
All in all, I took a novel approach to this year's convention: I drank less. I discussed this approach the first day with Jeff "Beach Bum" Berry, who said it had taken him years to wise up and come up with this radical program. Of the drinks passed out at every seminar (usually three to four), I took one sip to get the idea and then put it down. I did the same thing with the drinks offered at the various product-sponsored parties. The main exception was the party at International House Hotel for B.A.R. grads, where the drinks were so good I had five and finished each one.
The plan worked out well. No morning fell on me like thunder. I was certainly tired quite a bit, but never in need of antidote. I learned well the lesson of my first day at my first Tales of the Cocktail, in 2006. At the end of the day, I wrote down all the drinks I had downed in full, just for memory's sake. The next morning was not friendly to me. I felt as though I had been run over by the St. Charles Street streetcar. I look at the list I had recorded. It read:
2 Pimm's Cups
1 Bayou Bash
Plus about five other drinks I can't recall at this moment. They had tasted great at the time. And I never felt ill the hours of daylight, right up until the very end; quite the contrary. What can I say? I was not used to event in which people handed me drinks wherever I went, and made them so delectably.