Saturday, April 02, 2005

The toast of New Orleans...

CNN reports, in its TRAVEL column:

Liquor exhibits and bartender history capture spirit of city

This city's liquid assets, from absinthe to iced tea, are getting a lot of attention these days.

The Louisiana State Museum has an exhibit of New Orleans beverages from bourbon to Barq's. A cocktail museum opened recently. A Southern Comfort Museum is in the works. And a group dedicated to the many cultures of Southern food is looking to collect oral histories from the city's bartenders.

What does it all mean?

"We make everything an art form," says Beverly Gianna, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I think the fact that we can take our food and beverage and have museums centered around that just emphasizes and underscores the joie de vivre of New Orleans. Our great spirit. Or spirits."

But then, you might expect liquor exhibits and bartender history in a city where a top attraction is Bourbon Street. OK, it's named after some old French rulers. But they're not around any more. Bars are. The 13 blocks of Bourbon Street include at least 20 bars and cocktail lounges.

"There's a lot of interesting scholarship about cocktails and New Orleans," says Amy Evans, who is working on the bartenders' oral history project.

"Bartenders are the keepers of history and tradition and gossip and lore that is really a mother lode," Evans says.

This is the latest of several oral history projects she's done for the Southern Foodways Alliance, an affiliate of the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

She's also done oral histories on barbecue in Memphis and in rural Tennessee; on Greek-owned restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama; and on defunct restaurants in Oxford and Greenwood, Mississippi.

The bartenders' oral history is sponsored by Southern Comfort, which hasn't been made here for more than a century. But its label shows a mansion only an hour or so from the French Quarter, where the recipe was created 130 years ago -- by a New Orleans bartender.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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