This months Editorial Message is provided by Robert Hess, who operates the website www.DrinkBoy.com, and is the secretary for The Museum of the American Cocktail.The big news this last month of course was the opening of our exhibit down in New Orleans.
We had a wonderful turnout, as well as a wonderful time. It of course is a little hectic trying to arrange for a big event like this, much less an entire exhibit. It was only through the dedicated efforts of people like Ted Haigh, Phil Greene, Jill DeGroff, Chris McMillian, and many others, that we were able to pull this off.
It was also in great part because the wonderful catering and coordination assistance that we obtained from Cafe Adelaide, Hot on the Spot Caterers, and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, that we were able to keep our attention focused on the event, and allow them to worry about the party details.
The New Orleans Marriott provided rooms for our staff so that they could spend the necessary time getting the exhibit set up, and the Omni Hotel gave us access to their loading dock and cold storage so that we could easily stage the catering safely and efficiently. And of course the sponsors for this event were wonderful at supplying us with the products we needed in order to present classic cocktails with the best possible ingredients. Our product sponsors were Bacardi Superior, Gran Centenario Tequila, Remy Cointreau, Finlandia Vodka, Pernod Ricard, Plymouth Gin, The Sazerac Company, Skyy Vodka, and the Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour. We also had a great selection of prizes that we raffled off from Albert Trummer Home, Jacque-Imo's New York, Antoine's Restaurant, Omni Royal Orleans Hotel's Rib Room Restaurant, Fairmont Hotel and Sazerac Bar, Hotel Monteleone and Carousel Bar, Napoleon House, and Tujague's.
And lastly, but by no means least, we need to give a very big thank-you to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. They will be presenting our exhibit on to September, and they have been wonderful at assisting us with the necessary details and information that we needed in order to get this exhibit specifically designed for their facility.
We are extremely excited about the potential that our Museum holds, and the wonderful opportunities that it is going to provide for exposing a wide variety of people to the rich and robust history of the cocktail. If you haven't yet had a chance to make it down to see the exhibit, then you owe it to yourself to check it out.
With the Museum exhibit forming such a large focus for us this last month, it only makes sense that we would want to spend most of our time discussing this event. So the bulk of this newsletter will be given over to Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh. He has been diligently working these past few months carefully pulling together the various collected artifacts and building a cohesive exhibit around them. What follows, is his report on the final stages of pulling this exhibit together, and how our opening unfolded.
And if you'd like, you can take a look at a shared photo album that I've set up over on Shutterfly.com. It will use a popup window to display the slideshow, so you may need to temporarily turn off any popup blocker you may be using.
-Robert B. Hess
The Curators Report
It would be redundant to report to subscribers of the Cocktailian Gazette that the Grand Opening of the Museum of the American Cocktail’s inaugural exhibit (under the kind auspices of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum) has occurred. Whether able to attend or not, we have all positioned ourselves, through our interests, to be the first to know of it. Also, one has come to expect little from museum newsletters… glowing reports from even the most vapid and banal events, to be read with a half smile and a shaker of salt. Not so here!
I’m Ted Haigh, designer and curator of the exhibit, and I’d like to report the preparations and events to you stripped of all sugarcoating. You can be the judge.
I had my first tour of the Pharmacy Museum late on Monday January 3rd. I was one day late due to airline glitches, but reasonably sure of my abilities to mount the exhibit on time nonetheless.
Now, however, I was just seeing the empty room for the first time. My nitpicking and Liz and Jen’s forbearance had paid off. There were no surprises. As we were readying to leave, our display graphics, (printed, cut to shape, mounted on Gatorfome, and laminated,) arrived. Excellent. January 4th: we started hauling cases into the room adjacent to our future display and I began unpacking. Had I really requested all these treasures? I was awash in peanuts and bubble wrap. The next day, Wednesday the 5th, I continued the unpacking and categorizing. Right on schedule, Steve Lemoine our diligent carpenter arrived with the four prefabricated sections of the central display partition I designed for the space. Hauling them up 3 flights of stairs, it was evident he had built them to withstand a nuclear attack. Thursday January 6th: Would this infernal unpacking ever end? Steve and I screwed the partitions together in place. After some nudging and rejiggering they worked perfectly. Steve would return Friday the 7th to install Plexiglas over the built-in shelves at noon, so I should have my displays up along that section by then.
The wall shelf displays had just been begun. I removed every other shelf to allow for captioning and maximum graphic presentation room and began the process. I still had not entirely finished unpacking. On top of my perfectionist tendencies, I found that we were missing display graphics and section captions. Our steadfast graphics house, Crystal Clear Imaging, got back to me and reported that yes, they had, in fact, missed printing, mounting and laminating one of my files – fully a 5th of our graphics. They pledged to rush them through. It was evident by Friday morning that I would not be done in time for Steve. He generously agreed to come back the following day, Saturday the 8th, to complete the plex installation, but I really HAD to be ready. Friday was the glorious night I worked until midnight. Crystal Clear arrived with the additional graphics by 6pm that evening and I got it done – 1/3rd of the entire exhibit, but all of it that required the Plexiglas faces. I was to fly back to Los Angeles the next evening. Now I was worried. I put it a final call to the film project I was to begin in Hollywood. Had they pushed? Could I stay? Well…in fact they had pushed and I could stay.
Saturday, January 8th: Steve arrived to find a much more amiable and relaxed Dr. Cocktail. We got the plex up which, between the two of us, ended up being easier than we could’ve imagined. Fine. Jill DeGroff had arrived on the 6th and by Saturday I was able to harness her estimable graphic design talents and she began the process of mounting the Gatorfome graphics to the central display partitions by way of plans I’d generated back in Burbank. Robert Hess arrived on Saturday and by Sunday the 9th he also was helping Jill meticulously mount the graphics. I was painstakingly arranging artifacts to match the graphics’ positions and, since I was working on the center exhibit cases (which would be moved into final position against display partitions after the treasures had been arranged) each item had to be secured with museum wax to avoid potentially tragic wobbles and tips. This work continued into Monday the 10th. Phil Greene arrived the same day as Robert and was immediately commandeered as our Teamster. Sunday and Monday we’d sent him scouting for extra lighting, spray glue, and other items imperative to our whirlwind project. Nothing could be moved into final position until the extra lights were installed in the display case, which was finally done on the morning of the 11th. I then carefully pushed the display cases into place against the center partition and a feeling of resplendent completion swept over me. It looked good – really good. Two very important section captions were still missing in action (my fault), but with the efforts of Phil, Robert, and myself they were reproduced, thanks to Liz, Jen, and the Pharmacy Museum computer, printer, and laminator. I applied Velcro to the last laminated print and as the first strains of music and revelry filtered up from the courtyard, 2-1/2 stories below, I sauntered into the exhibit room and, with a glimmer in my eye, secured the captions into position and announced to the curious journalists there that the exhibit was now complete! The rest of my job was to lead personalized tours through the exhibit, talk nonstop about historic cocktails, and generally enjoy myself. For two days it was not an obligation I shirked.
All attendees were thoroughly impressed, and why would they not have been? For the exhibit, we utilized riches and accumulated knowledge from the most respected cocktail shaker and implement collections on earth, those of the Gang of Four: Mark Bigler, Kathie Crabtree, Stephen Visakay, and Jim Walker. The items shown by these four were among the most beautiful in the display. The greatest Tiki culture authority alive, Sven Kirsten, author of “The Book of Tiki,” lent unsparingly of his world-class collection which virtually comprised the entire Tiki display, and tropical drinks authority Jeff Berry author of “Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log,” and “Intoxica,” advised, matching mugs to dates and libations. Dale DeGroff donated an early (1797) book on distillation, a copy of the first cocktail guide ever, and an 1811 Cognac bottle. Via Dale, Salvatore Calabrese, the most celebrated bartender in Europe, lent an original labeled Sazerac de Forge et Fils Cognac bottle to the New Orleans exhibit. Robert Hess lent us an additional copy of that first cocktail guide, “The Bon Vivant’s Companion,” (so I was able to show the book open and closed) and a deceptive loving cup which, when taken apart and reconstructed another way, turned into an excellent cocktail shaker! Noted New Orleans authorities Chuck Taggart and Wesly Moore provided, for that same exhibit, a 1940s Roosevelt Hotel Sazerac glass and an exceedingly rare original sealed pre-Prohibition bottle of Sazerac Cocktail from the Thos. Handy Company. Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown supplied us with a full-and-sealed Prohibition-era bottle of Canadian Club Whisky, and Phil Greene’s thoughtful research and advice on the New Orleans Heritage display was indispensable. Moreover, the Pharmacy Museum itself lent us several of its rarified artifacts for our absinthe display.
Every type of artifact imaginable was represented in the exhibit, all lovingly presented in a narrative timeline context. Yet this entire display only began to address why all, journalists and public alike, were so impressed.
Below in the courtyard, in spite of personal tribulations and tragedies along the way, museum founders and members Jill, Anistatia, Jared, Phil, Robert, Dale, Kathie, Chris McMillian, David Wondrich, Bryan Cabrera, and Bob “Magoo” McCarthy had, while I was otherwise involved, created an amazingly seamless and well-synchronized series of events: seminars, information, live and recorded music, sumptuous cocktail and food service – generally a sophisticatedly festive atmosphere to delight everyone – for two days.
Financing, donations, advice, publicity, and support for the entire extravaganza were thanks to our generous sponsors, Pernod-Ricard, Sazerac, Plymouth Gin, Finlandia Vodka, Skyy Vodka, Bacardi, José Cuervo/Gran Centenario, Cointreau/Remy Martin, Ti Martin, Deussen Global Communications, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Adelaide’s Restaurant, Marriot Hotels, Ann Rogers, and last but not least, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Between all of us, we made this opening something that will not be soon surpassed, something devoid of the sorts of problems that notoriously plague newborn entities like ours. Why? Because everyone really cared. We were all passionate enough to yell, scream, and tear our hair out to make the actual moment of birth like a boat ride on Swan Lake.
I end my Curator’s Report with the simple observation that I have developed a magnified respect for all involved in the exhibit and opening – and a priceless feeling of warmth and kinship. We, none of us, will ever forget these days.
-- Ted Haigh
Cocktail Seminar: ST. PADDY'S DAY EYE OPENER!
$35 per person (discounts for members)
Begin your St. Paddy's celebration with a Bushmills Irish Coffee at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans Library Lounge. Your host, Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff, will trace the birth of the Irish Coffee from Foynes Flying Boat Terminal in Ireland during the Second World War to its present day shrine at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco. Chris McMillian and Phil Greene will introduce you to breakfast cocktails like the Pernod French Kiss, as well as some famous New Orleans eye-openers like the Ramos Gin Fizz and other great classics while you sample delicious breakfast hors d'oeuvres. Or you can join us the day after for The Hangover Eye Opener!
In 1942, weary travelers arriving at the Foynes Flying Boat Terminal in Ireland were treated to hot coffee laced with Irish whiskey, topped with whipped Irish cream. Much has changed since then, but thankfully there are a few practitioners who are making sure that these classics and traditions endure. Chris and Phil will introduce you to the famous eye-opener, the Ramos Gin Fizz, and several other great New Orleans classic cocktails. Invented in the 1880s by Henry Ramos, it was so popular during Mardi Gras of 1915 that Ramos had to hire 35 shaker boys at The Stag saloon to keep up with demand. Each drink was to be shaken for several minutes, until you could no longer hear the rattle of the ice cubes. It was Huey Long’s favorite libation, so much so that he took his favorite bartender with him to New York to ensure that the drink was up to snuff.
The presentation will be held on March 17th from 10:30 am to noon in the Library Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton at 921 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70112. Fee for each seminar is $35 (plus a 15% to 25% discount for members) and includes a free admission to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum including the Museum of the American Cocktail exhibit, and a drink at Café Adelaide. Register online at www.MuseumoftheAmericanCocktail.org/news/Events.html or by mail: Include your name, address, phone & email and send check to:
Museum of the American Cocktail
Southern Food and Beverage Museum
Rum Fest USA 2005
Travel to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil…all in one evening. Treat your taste buds to a tour of the world’s finest rums and cane spirits at RumFestUSA in San Diego (March 4th), Chicago (TBD), and tasting festivals in both New York City and Tarrytown, NY.For more information, click here
As a non-profit organization, The Museum of the American Cocktail would like to thank our members for making our existance possible. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge the support and donations provided by the following sponsors and patrons: