Robert Simonson is a Brooklyn-based wine and spirits journalist. He further documents his interest in these topics at Off the Presses.
This past week, I felt as if I was already at Tales of the Cocktail. Or a miniature version of it, anyway. From Monday, April 28, to Friday, May 2, I was the prisoner—uh, I mean, guest of the Beverage Alcohol Resource, the New York-based spirits institute founded by the mighty fivesome of Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steve Olsen, F. Paul Pacult and David Wondrich. All five will be manning one panel or another at this year’s Tales.
Once every fall and once every spring, B.A.R. holds a week-long intensive Intermediate Certificate Program. It is manned by the above five, who trade off demonstrations, tastings and lectures like some sort of tough-love tag team. One samples roughly 150 different spirits, mixes up a raft of cocktails, reads and memorizes a thick manual, absorbs another manual’s worth of material in class, creates tinctures and somehow invents a new cocktail, and every now and then takes a half-hour break to breathe into a paper bag. One does not count on doing anything else during this week, other than sleep. They had me for 50 hours during those five days, culminated in five separate tests. And I’m not even counting the hours of outside study and at-home cocktail mixing and experimentation. The whole thing went down at the beautifully appointed Astor Center—the nicest, best equipped desk I’ve ever sat at.