TOTC has taken over New Orleans. Hundreds of attendees fanned out across the city for specially prepared dinners matched course for course with cocktails. Sam and I ate at the Palace Café hosted by Paul Clarke of Cocktail Chronicles Jim Meehan of PDT in NY. We took over half of the top floor of the restaurant and it was a great feeling to be part of this group. We sat at a table with Karen Foley, editor and publisher of Imbibe, John Pellaton of Hine Cognac and shared some incredibly creative food and drinks. Then it was off to Muriel’s on Jackson Square for the Beefeater Gin Ruby Jubilee. A great party in an awesome location with a wrought iron balcony overlooking the square. More wonderful cocktails and samples of mini muffalettas, crawfish beignets and other twists on New Orleans classic foods. We also met Ashley Garver of Le Tourment Vert absinthe and had an interesting conversation on where Absinthe is going in the U.S. She validated what we’ve seen: people are fascinated by the concept of it having been illegal and the mystique surrounding its alleged hallucinatory effects. Initially they’ll taste it in a ritual, then straight, and then expanding into various drinks with Red Bull, Jagermeister et al. The key issue Ashley has found, as have we, is that the taste of licorice is just not an American favorite, and that lower licorice profile brands like Le Tourment and Mata Hari will likely find a home here