July 17, 2008 10:59
The Three Amigos. The Magnificent Seven. Those action heros shot back their whiskey neat. So what do Hollywood Westerns have to do with cocktail mixology? An international panel of mixologists will be parsing the provenance of punch, sift through stories about the sling and hightail after the history of highballs on Friday afternoon at a program that is part of the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans.

One of the panelists, brit Wayne Collins, poured out his theories of evolution of the deluge of drinks to Times Picayune food editor Judy Walker . While trying to classify types of drinks into families, he came up with a list of seven--punch, milk punch, sling, cocktail, sour, cobbler and highball--which he was later able to distill down to three--punch, slings and cocktails. Just as cooks have to learn the mother sauces--bechamel, hollandaise, mayonaise and espagnole--from which all other sauces emerge, so bartenders can classify drinks into family lines, a logical progression on how to get from say a Tom Collins to a vodka rickey, just by switching out the fruit. The cocktail panel takes place Friday, July 18, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the Hotel Monteleone. Seminars, sipping and spirited dinners will take place in various locations in New Orleans through July 20. For more information and tickets, click here .