Our cab stopped in front of a townhouse barred by a six-foot-high iron gate. We stepped out into a roaring symphony of cicadas. Adam Lantheaume hit the buzzer on the gate. A plastic banner strapped to an upper balcony read The Mixoloseum. I could hear the wailing of a clarinet off in the distance. We spent a few minutes baking in the night air before a man in faded gray livery let us in.
“Welcome to Mixo House,” he said.
A long hallway with white wainscoting led us into a room full of people. At the back wall, a man with a straw fedora and bushy mustache was buried in a thicket of bottles, stirring frantically. Next to him, chips of ice were flying out of a huddle of men flinging small hammers. It smelled strongly of bourbon.
“Bulleit is underwriting a lot of the costs of the house this year.” A man in a tan linen shirt and sandals was standing beside me. He had small, intense eyes and a glass in each hand. “And the food—there’s food out on that table, help yourself to it—the food was also underwritten by Bulleit. The shuttle that will take you back to the hotel was—”
I guessed. Underwritten by Bulleit.
“Yep,” the man said. “For them, it’s a bit of guerilla marketing. For us, it’s a way to evangelize certain brands we’re interested in that other people might not know about.”
I asked who “we” was.
“Most of the people here are members of the Cocktail and Spirits Online Writers Group,” the man said. “It’s mostly bloggers, but we have a few journalists as well.”
I told him who I was. He already knew.
“I really like what you’re doing,” he said. “If you keep it up, there could definitely be a place for you here.”
He surveyed the room as a Baron might his acreage, and drank deeply from the glass in his right hand. I asked him where “here” was.
“This is Mixo House,” he said. “Two years ago, the members of the CSOWG started renting out a bed and breakfast at Tales of the Cocktail. Most of us stay here instead of the Hotel Monteleone. There’s an appeal to being outside of the Quarter—these are not necessarily Bourbon street people. And we have events each night. Tonight some bartenders from Louisville are doing custom ice-carving.”
One of the carvers tossed a perfectly-formed ice sphere to the bartender, who capped off an Old Fashioned with it. Sugar, bitters, spirit, ice. Within the room, people mingled, lounged on couches, gestured furiously, laughed. And drank.
“Mixo House is a place for us to gather and be together once a year,” he continued. He pointed to a big man dressed in casual tiki. “Matt Robold over there—Rumdood—he’s from Southern California. The woman with the hair, that’s Tiare from A Mountain of Crushed Ice. She’s based out of Sweden. This is one of her only trips to the States each year. There’s a camaraderie that forms among us online, and one week a year, at Mixo House, we get to have that in person.”
These were my people, then. The chroniclers. The documentarians. The seekers. I recognized Paul Clarke chatting with Camper English. They’re both well-regarded drinks journalists as well as prominent bloggers. I saw myself joining the conversation, becoming a note of harmony in the larger cocktailia chorus.
Someone put an Old Fashioned in my hand. I drank it. It was sweet and strong, warm and balanced. The kind of drink you could curl up with and forget the chase. Forget the chase.
I had the sudden sensation of falling. My body jolted. I looked around, eyes throbbing. More laughter. A shaker tortured ice across the room. The acrid smell of bitters was trapped in my nose.
I was getting in too deep. I finished my drink in a swallow and left. For the moment, I’d completely forgotten the Periodista.