This year has been the year of appreciating a good craft cocktail. The lady got me a bar set for my birthday and we purchased and have been working on stock a bar cart. Simply putting together the pieces does not guarantee that tasty drinks will result, however. My first few tries for drinks with more than 3 ingredients were… well, not the best. I eventually got the hang of it, and successfully made a decent mojito (the secret was a decent muddler), but I knew I could use some help. Most bartending classes in this city are really f’in expensive. I’ve looked into them, I’ve thought about it… but I never did anything about it.
But then, I learned about Bookalokal from this post on DC Minute. I have really been into rum lately, so Tiki drinks have been my jam this summer. But I poked around a bit more and saw that Marshall also offered a home bartending class. Sold! I suggested some dates, we went back and forth through the Bookalokal concierge, and settled on a date about a month away. We paid up our $50 per person (which also covered a set of basic bar tools that you get to keep), and we were on our way to learning how to make delicious beverages.
I mostly took the class to learn exactly how to use the tools that I already owned. I know there’s a reason for stirring vs. shaking, a method for shaking, even a way to keep the Boston Shaker (that’s the type of shaker with two tumblers, rather than the one the the lid) sealed while you’re shaking. I was correct, there is a method, and Marshall taught it to us! I’ve also had trouble with muddling in the past (I know, ridiculous huh?) Well, it turns out that the flavor sacks in mint are on the outside of the leaf, so it doesn’t need to be muddled to pieces. Brilliant. We learned all about the tools that he was giving us, as well as other tools that might be useful. Strainers, muddlers, jiggers, stirring spoons, juicers, citrus tools, ice shavers, ice bags, etc.
With basic mixing and shaking skills came an awesome dose of cocktail history. Like the fact that the name “cocktail” was actually the name of a drink that included spirit, sugar, bitters, and water. What does that make you think of? An Old Fashioned! Well, the name Old Fashioned came from a time when cocktails were evolving, but in order to get an actual cocktail at a bar, it would have to be ordered as a “cocktail, the old fashioned way” Hence, Old Fashioned.
Once we had the lay of the land, the drink-making began! We started with a shaken drink, the Classic Daiquiri. None of that frozen mix business. Just rum, simple syrup, and lime juice in 3-2-1 ratios. Measure the ingredients into your shaker, starting with the least expensive, fill the shaker with ice, shake vigorously for a slow 10-count, and then strain into your glass (double-strain if you’d like as there are tiny ice crystals in the drink if you don’t. I didn’t. I love ice), and enjoy. I had never actually had this beverage, but it was friggin’ fantastic. And so easy! I’ll definitely be making that one at home.
Next up was the classic Martini, as it’s meant to be made, with gin and vermouth. I’ll admit, I’ve always been sort of afraid of vermouth, just because I’ve never liked the martini and had never bothered to try it on its own. Well, vermouth is actually very tasty! But it’s like wine, and it goes bad very quickly. So, if a bar doesn’t know what they’re doing- there’s a chance their vermouth is bad. I’m glad I’ve never bought a bottle of it. I didn’t know that and we probably never would have used it in time.
So, for the martini, we started with a 1-1 ratio of (I used sweet) vermouth to gin. Fill the mixing container with ice, and stir for a 20-count, strain, and garnish with lemon peel. I’m not usually one for drinking beverages so strong, but it was actually really excellent. I wish I had used more like 2/3rds vermouth and 1/3rd gin, but I still enjoyed my drink!
For the third and final drink, Marshall showed off for us. He made us whatever we requested! Well, I originally wanted a Suffering Bastard, but he didn’t have any ginger beer. So, I just asked him to make me any Tiki drink of his choosing. He chose a classic Mai Tai for me. And it was incredible and it made me wish I had orgeat syrup at home so I could make my own.
The lady requested an Old Fashioned. He changed it up a little bit by adding coffee bitters. It was also delicious and really made me want to increase our bitter selection.
Speaking of bitters, he had an incredible collection of his own. It’s too bad they’re so pricey!
The class was so fun, educational, and just a little bit different than the other sort of stuff we usually get into on weekends. I only wish our apt wasn’t so tiny so I could host a pizza-making class or something! So, I’m thinking the Tiki class next? Maybe Whiskey 101? How about Intro to Bitters?? I can’t decide!