The Spirited Dinner Series has been part of the annual drinks extravaganza Tales of the Cocktail from its very first edition in 2002. These events are modeled after wine dinners, but at the start the idea of pairing multiple cocktails and courses was a novel and sometimes hard sell.
"I'd approach people about it and they just thought I was crazy," says Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman.
Times have changed, and this year the dinners will be held July 18 with greater numbers and diversity than ever before. Many dinners will sell out ahead of time, and some are already completely booked.
This year's lineup has more than 30 events, and it includes a few unconventional venues. The riverboat Creole Queen hosts a dinner cruise featuring a buffet, jazz band and multiple bars on its decks. Those partaking in a dinner dubbed "Dive Bar Russian Style" will be directed to the backstreet bar 12 Mile Limit for Slavic-themed dishes and drinks made with samogon, a clear Russian spirit similar to grappa. The French Quarter music club One Eyed Jacks will hold a tacos and tequila dinner.
Distillers, brand ambassadors and other experts participate in the dinners, and chefs and bartenders collaborate on the menus. Some of the pairings of beverage brands and restaurants seem intuitive. At the Irish House, Dublin-born chef Matt Murphy will serve a menu he's calling "the Creole Celtic Courtship" paired with drinks made with Bushmills Irish whiskey, and the menu at RioMar centers on Latin American-style seafood dishes with an array of tequila drinks and South American wines.
Most dinners are in the $80 to $100 price range. Reservations are required. Find menus, reservations instructions and other details at www.talesofthecocktail.com under "events."