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Jan 10, 201309:45 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Finding Balance and Presence in New Orleans' Cocktails and Bars

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Individual taste is just that: yours. What you like is what you like. Which is a similar sentiment to that “new” expression, “It is what it is.” Huh?


Still, no one else but you can be a judge of what goes on with your nose and your mouth. Only you are the final arbiter of those senses. Hate to state the obvious but here’s where we are going with that:


Besides the ingredients, there are other aspects to cocktails and wines that are definitive, even in terms of your tastes.


Most significantly to both senses is that no single aspect of the beverage “sticks out,” causing other pieces to be overshadowed. For instance, in a cocktail, does any single ingredient, like alcohol, completely sublimate the other flavors that comprise the drink’s character, like herbs?       


In a cocktail if all you are getting is the kick of a mule in your mouth, yes, even for a drink called Moscow Mule, the drink is all wrong. Sure, you are right in that we are drinking cocktails and not soft drinks for the alcohol. But if that is the overwhelming aspect of the cocktail, then it is either made incorrectly or is designed in error.


It is most important to achieve balance. Every ingredient has to play a role in the drink. Not necessarily an equal role. Some items are simply more important than others. A squeeze of lemon is not equal to a jigger of gin. Yet, it all has to be in balance, blended to make the entire drink pleasurable.


Same is true in wine. If there is a strong alcohol finish, or if the wine has too much oak component, it is not in balance, and, at the end of the tasting experience, makes the wine not good. You may say it’s not so bad. But you are being kind, making excuses for bad winemaking.


Every ingredient, every process plays a role. That role is not to dominate but rather to support the weight of the entire structure. Too much of any one thing overshadowing other things is a sign of weakness in the preparation or in the concept.


Hey, this is all supposed to be good and fun. And balanced.




With all the hoopla surrounding the New Orleans restaurant scene, and it has to be one of the most dynamic restaurant scenes in America, a bit overlooked in the celebration has been the parallel expansion of the bar scene in this city.


Consider: with all the restaurants opening, there are bars prominent in just about every one. And most of them have installed special bar-bite programs and menus to encourage patrons to stay at the bar, eating and drinking their way through the evening.


Newbies such as R’evolution, Annunciation, Rene’s Bistrot, SoBou, Maurepas, Booty’s Street Food, Café B’s, Serendipity, La Fin du Monde, Sylvain, and Root all boast craft cocktails and most have a bar area on their list of most pleasurable offerings. Astounding cuisine coupled with well-made cocktails seems to be the wonderful direction.


But then, not to be forgotten, are the new places where food is secondary, if it is present at all, and cocktails and wine take center stage.


The newly renovated Carousel in the Monteleone is part of a restaurant, Criolla, but you never see the dining facility, and the new bar stretches on, covering a lot of real estate, dwarfing the beloved area where the rotating bar is located.


There’s also Bellocq, Patrick’s Bar Vin, Publiq House, Perestroika in place of the old Pravda, Victory, Vitascope Hall, and a soon-to-open Tiki Bar on the second floor of Felipe’s French Quarter location.


Looks like the old storied joints of the three-beer-taps-six-bar-glasses-dirty-bar-rag are no longer the standard-bearers of the bar scene.  Of course in New Orleans, if that is what you seek, those places are not hard to find in any neighborhood.


Some towns have gas stations on every corner. Then again, what do they know about life?



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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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