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Facilitating Cocktail Workshops & Classes


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#61 Chris Amirault

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 02:26 PM

Solved the glass problem: bought out every vintage cocktail glass at the local Savers stores and am bringing my own few dozen next time.

I got to thinking about drink order at an event at Drink earlier this week. We walked in and John Gertsen's punch (arrack, rum, cognac, lemon rinds and ultimately juice, demerara, probably a bit more) filled the room with wonder. It got me thinking that a big bowl is the way to greet people. Like, you know, hosts and bartenders have been doing for a couple centuries or so. So, duh: the Daiquiri will be drink #2, not #1, so that they can settle in and make their own after a tipple. I'll wrap up with the tiki drink.
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#62 Chris Amirault

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 11:33 AM

Doing the final prep for tomorrow's class on sours and rum. I'll be greeting them with a Mississippi Punch variation, talk about the punch/sour relationship, do an overview and tasting of rums (about which, frankly, I'm intimidated), and then walk them through mixing their own Daiquiris. The last part of the class we'll be talking tiki and drinking Mai Tais.

In order to be a bit less harried during class, I'm doing a lot more prep. The base spirits for the punch and Mai Tai are bottled, so that I only have to muddle the lemon peel with demerara and add the juice for the punch and use a 3:1 base to juice ratio for the Mai Tais. I've got fist-sized chunks of ice for the punch, and I'm bagging crushed ice and cubes for the other two drinks.

The one part of the evening that I am still struggling with is dispensing rums for the tasting before the Daiquiri mixing. I think I'm going to pour a few ounces in a glass in front of the bottle and set out straws for tastes. Other ideas?
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#63 vice

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 03:53 PM

The one part of the evening that I am still struggling with is dispensing rums for the tasting before the Daiquiri mixing. I think I'm going to pour a few ounces in a glass in front of the bottle and set out straws for tastes. Other ideas?


Can you use La Laiterie's glassware? They must have plenty of wine glasses, so you could portion out samples in wine glasses (ordered left to right, say, in order of tasting) a la BarSmarts. I guess that could encourage oversampling compared to dosing with straws.
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#64 Chris Amirault

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 06:28 PM

Yes, that's one of the concerns for the LL folks. In addition, we don't have enough booze for 1 oz pours of nearly ten rums for 12 people each.
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#65 David Santucci

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 07:03 AM

I know this is blasphemy, but do they really need to taste 12 different rums? That seems like it could be a whole class to itself.

Edit: Oops, just noticed I was a little late. How did it go?

Edited by David Santucci, 27 October 2009 - 07:04 AM.


#66 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 12:21 PM

It went great! Suffice it to say that all attendees had not enjoyed a real punch, Daiquiri, or Mai Tai before.

In re the rum tasting, I wanted to provide a selection of rums that included those provided by MS Walker, the sponsors, but also some of other styles that would be new to the group: blackstrap, overproof, rhum agricole, etc. Most people only tried four or five rums.

Tomorrow night is gin night. We're starting with an Improved Holland Gin Cocktail with Bols genever (bottled prior and stirred to order), then moving to Martinezes, and finishing with Aviations. We'll have a few things to taste and smell, including a wide array of bitters, and they'll be making their own Aviations. Given that list, I just realized it's also Luxardo Maraschino night....
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#67 Chris Amirault

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 12:58 PM

I can say with confidence that I have converted at least a dozen people to the joys of genever thanks to the Improved Holland Gin Cocktail, and anyone still teetering on gin-phobia lost it after a Martinez. I decided to bring the makings for not only Aviations but also Last Words, Corpse Reviver #2s, and Barnum (Was Right) Cocktails.

Now I need a bit of help. The last session is going to feature a punch, a nog, and a champagne cocktail. I already did a Mississippi Punch variation for the rum course, so that's out. I also might sub in Tom & Jerrys for nogs... not sure. Finally, I think that "roll your own" champagne cocktails may end the evening (and course).

What do you think? Care to opine what the gang should learn?
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#68 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 02:36 PM

I'd be tempted to do two of each: a Bowl of (Fish House) Punch, and then a glass of punch--Jerry Thomas' Brandy Punch and Knickerbocker Punch are both indespensable in my book. Then do a Hot (T&J) eggnog as well as a normal cold one. Traditional Champagne cocktail can be made to show what perfection tastes like then (if I understand you right) your idea to let everyone try their own hand at making would be awesome.

That's a lot of drinks though :blink:
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#69 Chris Amirault

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 04:58 PM

Yeah -- I'm limited to three, I'm afraid. But thanks for the ideas.
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#70 haresfur

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 07:32 PM

I'd lean towards either Fish House Punch or a milk punch, *real* egg nog (contrast with some store-bought?) and kir royale (just to show it isn't all about America).
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#71 KatieLoeb

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 06:36 PM

French 75 for the Champagne cocktail. Absolutely.

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#72 Chris Amirault

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 01:35 PM

I think I'm going to let 'em make their own champagne cocktails (as I let them make their own gin cocktails last time), make a big Egg Nog together on site, and have a Fish House Punch ready to go. I found Marie Brizard peach liqueur and nabbed it; if anyone has a recipe tweaked to account for it, I'd be mighty grateful, else I'll be tinkering.
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#73 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 12:05 AM

I think I'm going to let 'em make their own champagne cocktails (as I let them make their own gin cocktails last time), make a big Egg Nog together on site, and have a Fish House Punch ready to go. I found Marie Brizard peach liqueur and nabbed it; if anyone has a recipe tweaked to account for it, I'd be mighty grateful, else I'll be tinkering.


The one in Imbibe! works quite well...read through the notes on FHP for the tweaked version. I hope I won't get kicked out of The Club for saying that the Dekuyper Peach Brandy (NOT 'schnapps') works pretty good too, in fact I may prefer it (though when using it I go with about 5 oz vs 3 of Brizzard. Some of the side effects of consuming Brizzard Peach can be...unsettling.
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#74 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 11:23 AM

Uh, side effects such as...?
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#75 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 01:30 PM

Uh, side effects such as...?


Let's just say that whatever compound imparts a peachy aroma withstands the stresses of the GI tract quite well.
Andy Arrington

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#76 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 07:27 PM

Thanks for sort of clarifying. I think. Glad it's the last class....
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#77 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 05:51 PM

I've developed a new rule: bring a ton of interesting stuff for people to try. You never know what they'll like (or hate), but if the selection is wide enough, everyone will have an utterly new experience.
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#78 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 07:07 AM

I've now done several iterations of this introductory session both at restaurants and at private homes, and I think it's got a pretty solid base structure. I don't follow it page by page; rather, I use the handout as something to fall back onto as needed (and the participants write notes all over it).

This is the outline for this Sunday's workshop and Society fundraiser at Cook & Brown Public House here in Providence, the bar at which I now work. (For more information on the event, click here.) It's idiosyncratic, responsive both to my prejudices and to the interests that customers have expressed. I'll report back on it.


what makes a cocktail classic?
  • enhance the spirit base
  • balance, layer & direct different flavors
  • technique serves the cocktail
  • treat your ingredients with respect
  • quality, not quantity
  • classics form the basis for innovation
  • recipes are guides: taste & adjust
  • about 2-3 oz booze per drink
  • ~25% dilution
  • beware the sweet

ingredients: some base spirits
  • whisk(e)y
  • rye
  • bourbon
  • Scotch
  • Canadian
  • gin/genever
  • brandy/cognac
  • rum
  • cachaça
  • tequila
  • pisco
  • vodka

ingredients: other alcohol
  • fruit liqueurs
  • herbal & floral liqueurs
  • absinthe & pastis
  • maraschino
  • velvet falernum
  • pimento dram
  • bitters & tinctures
  • amari
  • dry & sweet vermouth
  • aperitif wines
  • port/madeira
  • sherry

non-alcoholic ingredients
  • sugar syrup
  • fruit juice & oil
  • mint & other herbs
  • egg, milk & cream
  • carbonated beverages
  • grenadine
  • orgeat
  • shrubbs
and ...

ice
ice makes & keeps things cold
ice provides water for dilution
ice generates agitation for mixing & aeration

Most bad drinks are caused
by bad ice handling & use.

basic equipment
  • Boston shaker
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • julep strainer
  • fine strainer
  • barspoon
  • jiggers/measuring cups
  • knife & cutting board
  • juicers
  • ice crusher & pick
  • muddler

technique: set up
  • cold glassware
  • room temperature booze (excepting wine-based items)
  • fresh fruits, bitters & alcohol
  • clean equipment
  • lots of very cold ice

technique: stirring & shaking

stirring: for clear drinks
30-40 seconds with lots of cracked ice

shaking: for cloudy (juiced) drinks
shake 10-15 seconds with lots of whole ice

be strong but not violent
when shaking, avoid slush
when stirring, avoid bubbles

note temperature

technique: full prep in order
  • chill glassware & prep garnish (if necessary)
  • build drink in chilled glass or tin
  • add very cold ice
  • shake/stir
  • straw taste & adjust (if necessary)
  • (double) strain
  • garnish (if necessary)

technique: miscellany
building rocks drinks
muddling
other garnishes
the “dry shake”
floats
flaming rinds

recipe: improved genever cocktail
2 oz genever
1 tsp simple syrup
½ tsp Maraschino
2 dashes bitters
2 dashes absinthe

Stir well.
Strain into a coupe.
Garnish with a lemon twist.


martini & manhattan
2 oz spirit (gin or bourbon/rye)
±1 oz vermouth (dry or sweet)
bitters (1 orange or 2-3 Angostura/OF)

Stir. Strain into cocktail glass.
Garnish (lemon twist/olive/onion
or lemon twist/orange twist/cherry).


margarita, daiquiri & sidecar
2 oz spirit (tequila, rum, or brandy)
1 oz sweet (triple sec, simple, or triple sec)
¾ oz fresh lime, lime, or lemon juice

Shake well.
Fine strain into coupe.


resources: books
Craft of the Cocktail, Dale DeGroff
The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan
Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Ted Haigh
Imbibe! David Wondrich
The Art of the Bar, Hollinger & Schwartz

resources: internet
www.egullet.org Spirits & Cocktails forum
www.cocktaildb.com
www.cocktailchronicles.com
www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org
www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com
Chris Amirault
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#79 mkayahara

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:12 AM

ingredients: some base spirits

  • whisk(e)y
  • rye
  • bourbon
  • Scotch
  • Canadian
  • gin/genever
  • brandy/cognac
  • rum
  • cachaça
  • tequila
  • pisco
  • vodka


No Irish whiskey?

I have yet to see a "base spirit" typology that satisfies me. If you do it by source of fermentable sugars, you leave out vodka and gin; if you do it by distillation proof, London dry gin and genever suddenly start to look different; if you do it by post-distillation infusion, where does spiced rum fall? I guess the only way to really do it is by historical use. Personally, I would fold pisco in with brandy/cognac/other fruit eaux-de-vie, cachaça in with rum (even though it's not, really), and add mezcal in with tequila.
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#80 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:19 AM

No Irish whiskey?


Ack! Yes Irish whiskey.

I have yet to see a "base spirit" typology that satisfies me.


Me, too, but I appreciate your revisions/additions.
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#81 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 September 2012 - 06:35 PM

I've now done these workshops about ten more times and have another coming tomorrow night. The content above has changed a bit, but the basic framework is the same. In particular, I'm convinced that making an Old Fashioned or Improved when people arrive, using the Manhattan/Martini as a teaching pause, and then getting everyone to make a sour is a solid structure, stretching out the drinking but also getting people involved. Spirits tasting is also a must: watching people have their first taste of quality absinthe, in particular, is worth the many hours of prep and delivery.

I'm doing tomorrow's here at the house, so I may try to snap a few photos. Will report back either way.
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