The Dog Days Of Drinking

Greetings, fellow tipplers. It's damn good to be back following a week off spent recuperating from the epic annual nonstop grog-a-thon that is Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

Survival down there was challenging, per usual, though I must say that unlike years past, I walked away from Tales '11 with my vital organs and professional reputation relatively intact. Hell, my girlfriend even picked me up at the airport as planned when I got home... and she was smiling... a first!

I might attribute my self-restraint in the Big Easy to some newfound maturity, but in truth it was due mostly to the fact I was working – really working, not just drinking and calling it work on my tax returns. Although there was a hell of a lot of deductable drinking involved, too, in the event any IRS agents happen to be reading this.

As emcee for the United States Bartenders Guild/Bacardi Piña Colada competition, it was incumbent upon me to sample no fewer than 17 different variations of the storied Puerto Rican cocktail, prepared by bartenders of all stripes representing USBG chapters across America.

By the time a dynamite drink-slinger named Debbi Peek of Chicago was crowned winner — earning her a check for $1,500 and a spot at the World Cocktail Competition in Warsaw, Poland — I'd quaffed more piña coladas than a pack of horny Midwest divorcees on a singles cruise.

You'd think taking part in an hours-long orgy of rum, pineapple and coconut cream in sweltering New Orleans would have turned me off tropical drinks for awhile, but on the contrary, I returned home to Southern California with a fire burning in my belly. A fire that could only be brought under control by copious amounts of the frou-frou.

So I ventured beachward to get my bamboo-umbrella-ed sip on at Gladstones, a 33-year-old LA institution famously located where Sunset Blvd. meets the Pacific Coast Highway. The venerable old seafood joint recently got a facelift courtesy of the sbe group, and I'd heard they're doing very cool things with the new beverage program there.

"We're doing some very cool things here with the beverage program," confirmed Gladstones GM Tony Sher, as he handed me a Dragon Berry Mojito that was, well, very cool.

I also sampled a Sunset Beach Tea, a Blackberry Margarita and some Moët Ice Imperial, a champagne specially designed to be enjoyed over ice. And enjoy it I did. All $500 a bottle of it. On the hizzy. Boy, did I ever feel like the world's biggest freeloading fancy-pants!

I didn't go to Gladstones solo, mind you. (With all due to respect to George Thorogood, drinking alone at 11:30 am on a Monday seems like too big a step in the direction of the 12 Steps.) My companions were contributing editor Jessica Borges, and Michael "Stretch" Roberts, co-host of the Internet's most booze-tastic podcast, The Imbiber Show.

I could go on and on, but why bother when we've made an audio recording of everything that went down that afternoon at Gladstones. In addition to being entertaining and informative, studies show that listening to the sound of my voice helps lower cholesterol (though not necessarily your own cholesterol). So click here to download or stream the podcast. You can also subscribe on iTunes.

Until next time, this is your spirits-swilling scribe reminding you that it's not the color of a man's tropical drink that matters, but the content of his character. Unless he happens to be drinking something blue or pink... in which case, he's clearly a big pussy.

Dan's book "Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour" is available at Amazon, Borders Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold. Follow Dan on Twitter and Facebook.