It looks like Isaac's heading through the Gulf, bearing down on Louisiana. I just talked with my pal GJ Charlet (aka "The Internet's Undertaker"), who lives in Zachary, LA, not far from Isaac's projected path. He says they're expecting a lot of rain, but that the storm doesn't seem to be shaping up to have nearly the destructive power of Katrina or even Gustav. Good thing! They are prepared and ready. Stay safe, y'all.
Anyway, a slightly-different Isaac already rolled through New Orleans -- at Tales of the Cocktail last month, DiSaronno and Tia Maria brought TV's most iconic bartender, Ted Lange, to their "Guilty Pleasures" tasting room at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Amaretto is a crowd-pleaser and, truth be told, kind of a punch line among cocktail geeks -- see Jeffrey Morgenthaler's "I Make The Best Amaretto Sour In The World" post, in which he amps it up with cask-strength bourbon -- and conjures up mental images of fern bars populated with aggressive hair, shoulder pads, and little black dresses.
DiSaronno had fun with it, though, and turned their tasting room into a real party, saying that their mission is to "bring fun back into bartending." And it really was a great time -- '80s music (good '80s music!) was pumping, people were dancing and grinding, bicycle-powered blenders were whipping up drinks, and flair bartending ace Tobin Ellis was mixing up Amaretto Sours. (Good ones, too, and I say that as someone who's generally not into nut-flavored liqueurs.) As far as Tia Maria goes, I have no idea why it doesn't have a higher profile. It's one of the big two coffee liqueurs, of course, and while both Kahlúa and Tia Maria contain vanilla, I feel that Tia Maria's vanilla note is more pronounced.
Ted Lange himself was working the room, posing for pictures and talking up the sponsor's products. He was incredibly nice and friendly to your reporter, and took a moment to chat. He filled me in on his long and interesting career: his first screen appearance was in the Wattstax documentary in 1973, he made his Broadway debut in "Hair", and yes, he's still close friends with Gavin MacLeod. Lange wrote and directed several episodes while working on "The Love Boat", and has been a screenwriter, playwright, and director since. His latest play, "Lady Patriot", premieres September 7 at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles.
He told me that one of his earliest acting lessons, at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, was to be wholly present in the moment, and to serve those around you -- which isn't too far from the philosophy underlying the work of any good bartender, he observed. (He told Robert Simonson of the New York Times that he'd gone to bartending school after the first season of "The Love Boat", so he could brush up on some of the basics.) He works in the drama field, but Lange disdains personal drama, mentioning that he's fired more well-known actors from projects he's helmed in favor of less-well-known actors who could get the job done and not create negative energy on the set. He mentioned that everyone's on the same side in a play or a movie/TV set, and that if people aren't willing to work together for the common goal, there's no reason to put up with their drama. "Life's better when everyone has fun", he noted, and drew the comparison with bartending, where the goal is to please the guest and make sure everyone has a good time.