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Holiday Potpourri: A Celebration, Two Recipes and a Benefit

igrebelson, stock.xchng, 2007

I like to smell and taste fine adult beverages. If you have not picked that up by now, you have not been a regular reader of these weekly missives, nor have you seen me around town.

You are forgiven if you have been remiss in following our Tales of Drink. However, you now know the errors of your wanton ways and hopefully you are prepared to journey with your fellow appreciators of all manner of adult beverages who have a bit of a head start on you.

Anyway, when I am enjoying the charms of fermentation or distillation, I do not lightly accept at any time the odious results of burning tobacco, perfumes, after-shave lotions, candles, air fresheners or any other heavy odor, desired or unintentional, that pervades the space where we are focused on every sensuous aspect of the liquid at hand.

Except during holiday season. Right now.

Who would ever kick up a fuss over the fresh smell of a Christmas tree? What Grinch would demand that the heavy scent of spices be banned from the celebration? Who could be so callous to head out to the porch to enjoy a fine glass of sparkling wine because the aroma of cookies fresh from the oven was interfering with the ability to pick up subtle nuances in the bouquet of the wine?

Come, let us gather in the peaceful spirit of the season and enjoy all manner of joyous circumstances from our non-understanding friends. Let us not castigate our host and hostess for their desire to create a holiday atmosphere, even though their enthusiasm interferes with our quest for knowledge and basic truths.

Embrace the holiday potpourri of sensations and keep peace on the land.

Here are few random thoughts in that spirit:


Coming Out…Finally

Now there’s a headline that can go in a lot of different directions. Anyway, our congratulations to Atelier Vie, a new distillery located within the city limits of the city of New Orleans, only the second one to open since Prohibition, that has just received federal approval to release their absinthe, Toulouse Red.

Interestingly, the release of the absinthe coincided with the anniversary of the day Prohibition was repealed Dec. 5, 1933. Nice way to celebrate.

It’s really a delicious spirit, smooth and quite well-crafted with delightful floral notes on the bouquet, perfect for that Holiday Sazerac or maybe using it in a few recipes, like cake. Plus it is pretty. That’s not usually an important attribute of spirits but this one looks festive.

Atelier Vie has further plans to release a clear and a green absinthe, to accompany their in-the-market vodka, Buck 25. The name reflects the vodka’s high proof, 125. Before you make that gosh-that-seems-pretty-high face, the purpose of the spirit is to get the most, quicker, out of infusing fruits and some vegetables.

If you can’t find Atelier Vie in the market, the distillery, located under the South Broad Street overpass at I-10, near The Times-Picayune, will be having a couple of bottle sale weekends. The next one is from 10 a.m. until noon this Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 15-16), .

Toulouse Red is $60 per 750 ml. package and Buck 25 is $30.

Regulations prohibit sales to retail operations or restaurants. If you are in the “trade,” then contact the distillery’s distributor, Vino Wholesale, 504-952-2832.

With the addition of Atelier Vie, New Orleans now has two distilleries in the city, the other being Celebration Distillation, creators and makers of Old New Orleans Rum. 

For those of you still confused about the legal status of absinthe, it was “banned” by the U.S. and most of Europe prior to 1915, mostly due to its reputation as a spirit that affected the mind, causing psychological impairment and hallucinations.

That was most certainly never true, and the stories of depravity and mental imbalance were spread by influential wine and spirits manufacturers in order to remove from the marketplace a very popular drink that was in competition with their products.

Thanks in large measure to a New Orleanian, Ted Breaux, among others, absinthe was again licensed to be sold in the US in the mid-1990’s. Ted’s absinthe, Lucid, is one of the most popular labels in this category.


Do You Need Another Reminder It’s the Holiday Season?

My money is on the fact that you don’t. But this time of year also is prime for big movies. So let’s go in that direction.

"The Hobbit" from Director Peter Jackson is on its way to theatres worldwide. Let’s get in the mood by allowing Purity Vodka to suggest a couple of cocktails that are somehow meant to evoke the “spirit” of the movie.

The Hobbitual

2 oz. Purity Vodka

2 oz. Fresh apple juice

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch of sage

Build vodka, apple juice, cinnamon and sage in a shaker with ice; shake and pour into a chilled martini glass. Float a thin horizontal apple slice as garnish.

Shire Flower

3 oz. Purity Vodka

3/8 oz. Elderflower liqueur

3/8 oz. lemon juice

1 bar spoon apricot preserves

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until ice cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with small, white flowers.


You Should Do This

Quan Tran is quite a talented young man. For years he has been a prime contributor to Dominique Macquet’s cuisine. Quan would quietly go about his business, not seeking glory.

Then Dominique accepted responsibility for Tamarind, a new project in the Hotel Modern, and the plan was for Quan to oversee this restaurant while Dominique focused on opening a new restaurant with his name on the door.

Quan Tran has been diagnosed with cancer, specifically stomach cancer. Cruel irony. Quan has a wife and three children and is undergoing treatments, which as you can imagine are expensive and painful. Needless to say, the benefits of medical insurance are running out.

The New Orleans hospitality community is always ready to assist any important cause, and now they have banded together to support a member of their own industry.

On Monday, Dec. 17, Le Foret Restaurant, 129 Camp Street in the Central Business District, will be the scene of a large gathering of culinary and mixology talent, all coming together to raise funds for Quan and his struggles.

This will be an all-star line-up in every sense. Brian Landry from Borgne, Tony MacPhail of Commander’s Palace, Matt Murphy from Irish House, Chuck Subra from J.W.Marriott, Alon Shaya from Domenica, Rene Bajeaux of Rene’s Bistrot, and on and on and on.

On the beverage side, Steve Yamata from Hotel Modern, Neal Bodenheimer and Nick Dietrich from Cure, Abigail Gullo of SoBou, Michael Glassburg from Hotel Monteleone, and many more.

The cost is $125 per person. There will be a silent auction. And you should be there. Call 504-553-6738 for further details and to register.

You are, no doubt, doing a lot of activities in the spirit of this season. I can think of nothing nobler than helping this talented young man who has so much life ahead of him, if he can get over this terrible situation.



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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


Tim learned to appreciate wine from his wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, and it has been a fascinating 35-year journey for the couple. Tim graduated from Jesuit College Prep in Dallas, then earned a journalism degree from the University of North Texas. He came to Louisiana because of his love of New Orleans, then fell in love with Brenda and simultaneously fell in love with all things wine.

Tim and Brenda travel the world with the grape and have made many friends because of wine. Tim is a past board member and two-term president of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience; former officer in the New Orleans chapter of Chaine des Rotisseurs; past president of the American Wine Society in New Orleans; and, with Brenda, currently serves on the board of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Tim lectures on wine and wine history twice each year at the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, as well as judging professional wine competitions in California and Florida.

Tim writes a monthly feature about wine and spirits for New Orleans Magazine, and is a weekly contributor, writing about wine and spirits, to MyNewOrleans.com. He is also executive editor of Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Magazine, and hosts "The Wine and Spirits Show with Tim McNally" from noon to 3 p.m. every Friday on 1350AM. The show is also streamed live on espn1350.net.

Click HERE to listen to "The Wine Show."




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