Now you, too, can be a craft bartender. Well, sort of. You can definitely learn the ins and outs while enjoying the ambience of my favorite bar.
They’re calling it the Tonic On Fourth Cocktails and Spirits Club, but basically it’s a set of classes. (You can sign up for each class individually.) It includes a hands‐on class curriculum, all taught by my favorite mixologist (ok, excluding Molly) Josh Durr. The first class, Bartending 101, looks to be similar to the excellent class I took from Josh back in December. The classes will prove to be both educational and fun, and will be geared for both the novice and advanced.
Why are they offering these? Basically they want everyone to enjoy a classic cocktail – whether at their bar or in your own home. The way I see it, the more people who understand a good cocktail, the more bartenders will have to start making an excellent Manhattan.
The Tonic on Fourth Cocktails and Spirits Club will offer courses twice a month beginning February 25, 2010 from 5:30‐8:00pm. The first class of each month will be part of the Bartending Series, rotating series levels each month. The second class of the month will focus on more specific topics, drilling down into things like those homemade tinctures and bitters with which I’m so taken.
The upcoming classes, all of which run from 5:30 – 8:30 pm, include
You can purchase your spot through TicketDerby.com under the heading “Tonic Cocktail School.”
Thanks to Bob for some of the photos!
In the class we took from Josh Durr, he made us each a Manhattan. Now, the Manhattan is my favorite cocktail, but I’ve had a lot of horrible versions, both locally and when we travel. In Vancouver, I ordered a Manhattan and had the worst drink of my life – and I’m still not sure what all he put in it. At several local bars, the bourbon and vermouth are often low-end, the drink is filled with floating ice chips, and bitters aren’t even added. Sigh.
So Josh’s Manhattan was a breath of fresh air for me – it was something out of the stylized Mad Men. Because of this class, I’m now very specific with my Manhattan order: “Four Roses or Woodford Manhattan, up, and stirred please.”
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Sounds easy, right? Josh commented that you should always use high-quality bourbon, vermouth, and bitters. He goes so far as to make his own tinctures, including bitters, but we aren’t all so dedicated. An interesting tip is that you can replace the vermouth with Elderflower liqueur for a twist on the classic Manhattan.
When you stir the Manhattan, consistently and quietly stir to chill down the drink. Josh recommended making the drink in a pint glass and pouring it out through a double-strainer.
It was good folks. Really really good.
Photo from Flickr user ginsnob
via Creative Commons
Hello all. This is Kevin is filling in for Michelle who is in Las Vegas this week for CES.
Back in September, Michelle and I were invited (as a member of the Friends of Laphroaig) to a preview of the distillery live tasting that happened down in Loretto, KY at the Beautiful Maker’s Mark distillery. John Campbell (Distillery Manager from Laphroaig), Kevin Smith (Master Distiller of Maker’s Mark), and Simon Brooking (Master Ambassador for Laphroaig) were all there to help answer questions. Laphroaig is located on the isle of Islay (pronounced eye-luh) and is part of the Beam Global family. John also taught everyone a trick to remember the spelling by using Laphr-o-aig, with the last part standing for Oh Ain’t It Great.
The reason for the visit to Loretto is Laphroaig uses old Maker’s barrels for aging their scotches. Since, by rule, bourbon must be aged in a new charred oak barrel, bourbon distillers look for places to send the used barrels. As John mentioned, the Scotch have no problems putting those barrels to use for a few more decades. Maker’s also uses char level 3 (on a scale of 1-4) and air dried to remove the tannins that make red wines great, but cause difficulty in the creation of Maker’s Mark.
I’ve made no secret that my two favorite online programs are Marker’s Mark Ambassadors and the Friends of Laphroaig. Both offer great opportunities for their members and this was a great example of that. The Friends sent out an email inviting anyone close to the Louisville area out for a night with the Scots the day before the Distillery Live presentation was to be recorded.
We were met by John and Simon in Louisville at The Pub for appetizers and unsurprisingly a bottle of Laphroaig 10 and Laphroaig 18 year old scotches. Michelle, who is not a Scotch drinker, chose a bourbon selection from the bar instead. After a drink, we were off on a chartered bus (somehow a bottle of Makers and a bottle or 10 year Laphroaig ended up joining us as well) down to the distillery for dinner bites (fantastic bourbon BBQ meatballs, finger sandwiches and chocolate) and a few more drinks.
Then, after a quick tour of Maker’s Mark and a group signing of a barrel headed to Scotland, the main event started. John walked us through a very similar tasting to what can be seem on the final video as they adjusted for time and ran through the presentation with all the equipment to make it smooth the next day.
We were able to taste:
Laphroaig White Dog (63.6% Alcohol by volume (AbV) – This was a treat for me as trying an unaged Scotch from Islay as the sweetness from the barrel is absent and the flavor of the peat smoke and iodine of the water come through. Michelle was not a fan, but I was impressed as an excercise and I’m not sure if I could finish a full pour.
Laphroaig 10 year old (63.5% AbV) – This is the #1 selling Islay single malt and was what I have tried in the past. The time in the barrel gives this a sweeter flavor, but there still is a large amount of iodine, band-aid-ish, medicinal aromas from the moss that is part of the bog. Plenty of smoke on the finish to help cut through the early bitterness and you have a very well made item.
Laphroaig 18 year old (38% AbV) – Time has started to help add a sweetness that Michelle started to enjoy. There is still a hasrh burn on the finish, but the wood has added a lot of citrus notes as water is added. An interesting point, for anyone who has read this far, is that distillers will add almost 50% water into the scotch or bourbon before tasting in order to lower the alcohol and detect any flaws that exist. Overall this is an non-chill filtered whiskey with a great nose and balanced taste.
Laphroaig 25 year old (50.9% AbV) – This bottle runs about $275 to $300 and is bottled at cask strength. This one is an absolute beauty. It is made up of a mix of Laphroaig aged in the Maker’s barrels (about 60%) and Laphroaig aged in Oloroso sherry casks. The color ends up about as bright as Maker’s Mark and the long finish switches to a sweet fruit character from the influence of the Sherry. This one impressed both Michelle and myself.
We also got to taste some Maker’s Mark. We often drink Maker’s at home, but the context of seeing what the barrels did before the Scotch was introduced provided a nice component that was too sweet for the pure Scotch drinkers in the crowd, but I thought it was a very nice choice to have on the table. Aside from the Laphroaig 25-year old, this was Michelle’s favorite.
After we finished the tasting, it was back on the bus for the ride back to Louisville and our car, but somehow another bottle of 25 year old joined us back on the bus. A very enjoyable drive back to our cars ended up a little later than planned, but well worth the lack of sleep that evening.
A few weeks ago, Michelle and I had a chance to have a bourbon-inspired dinner by Woodford Reserve’s chef David Larson. He offered a tasting demo at the Party Source and we were treated to
Course 1: Woodford Reserve with Gravlax
Course 2: Woodford Reserve Lemonade with Tomato Watermelon Salad
Course 3: Woodford Reserve Corn Pudding and the Best Roast Chicken
Course 4: Cold Lemon Souffle and Bourbon Flavored Coffee
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