Back in March – Wine Festival week, to be exact – Kevin and I took a Bartending 102 class from Josh Durr at Tonic. We learned how to make mint juleps and I ran right home and wrote up this post. (I purposely held it for Derby week. Why am I burying it on a Saturday? Long story.)
The most important thing I learned from Josh in this particular session was that, with a mint julep, the method is more important than the ingredients.
Place the mint in the bottom of the cup.
Pour in 1/2 oz of maple syrup.
We used this in place of simple syrup and I really loved the results.
Add 1 oz of Bourbon.
I believe we used Ancient Ancient Age in the classroom, but pick your favorite. Josh also suggested Old Grand-Dad and Old Weller.
Roll the muddler on the mint, rolling towards the top of the glass. Make sure to get the oils on the rim on the glass.
This takes a certain amount of technique, as I learned. Don’t pound on the mint either – you want the mint to be minty, and pounding? Well that just makes it bitter.
Next, crush your ice.
I used an old fashioned ice crusher Josh had handy. I swear my grandma had one on her bar and I loved it. Kevin pounded away on a bag of ice with the muddler. Both methods are valid.
Add crushed ice to your glass until it is filled just under the edge.
Stir, pulling up from the bottom of the glass.
Next, add another 1 oz of bourbon.
Add a second layer of ice, so that it sort of resembles the shape of a sno-cone.
Garnish with 2 short straws and a sprig of mint.
Honestly, this made one of the best mint juleps I’ve ever had. What was even more surprising was that I made it myself! I know it sounds easy in the directions, but the technique – especially with muddling – is tricky to get the hang of.
Happy Derby Day!
Photos from Business Courier article about our class, by photographer Bruce Crippen.
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!
I really didn’t want to like Tonic on 4th. In fact, I loved Twist so much, and was so mad that it was gone, that I was determined to never go to Tonic. Period. Then I met Josh Durr, the cocktail consultant for Tonic. His skill with a cocktail shaker swayed me, and later the same week I popped into Tonic. I sort of feel like I haven’t left since.
Josh trained all the bartenders (Benjamin, Maggie, Erin, and Mike), and every one of them has that vintage, craft cocktail thing down to the art that it is. Even better, they’ll explain anything to you, from how and why they make their own bitters, tinctures, and ice to the history of the cocktail on which you’re sipping.
For me, the test of any bar is the Manhattan. If you read my post earlier this week, you know that Josh made me a flawless Manhattan. I expect nothing less from the folks at Tonic, and they deliver. My request of “stirred and up” might as well be laughed at – how else would they serve it? And I love that.
The cocktail menu is large and eclectic, and the menu is divided up into several sections: Classical (e.g., Moscow Mule, Aviation), Classic Punches (e.g., Bourbon Milk Punch), Neo Classical Originals (e.g., The Liberal Liberal and the absinthe-included Lumberjack Frappe), and New Punches (e.g., Teachers Punch). The menu not only lists what is in each drink, but provides you with a history of each cocktail.
My first night there, Benjamin made me a Bluegrass Flip. It was a drink I’d never heard of, but really enjoyed. Honestly, I’m not overly sure what was in it besides some liquor mixed with a Bourbon Barrel Stout and some egg; maybe some bourbon? Trust me, it’s a lot better than it sounds, and it lives on their Specials menu.
My friends all have a range of favorites. One girlfriend swears by the Liberal Liberal, which is a slight twist on a Manhattan. The recipe calls for Wild Turkey 101, sweet vermouth, Amaro, and the house-made orange bitters. I know that a couple of the bartenders actually prefer the drink with different bourbon. I tried it with the Wild Turkey, but it wasn’t up my alley. I suspect I might enjoy it more with Four Roses. Another girlfriend is very attached to the classic Moscow Mule, which is simply Smirnoff Lime Juice and Goslings Ginger Beer. Finally, a friend of mine will always order an Old Old-Fashioned. I had to ask – what’s a New Old-Fashioned? Apparently newer Old Fashioneds have some fruit muddled in the bottom, but the older style focuses more on the bourbon.
Twice now I’ve ordered snacks. Tonic shares a kitchen with Local 127, but don’t expect to order off the Local 127 menu. Tonic offers light bites, but they’re quite tasty. Thus far I’ve tried a rather yummy plate of Stuffed Baked Potato Skins (so cute and tiny!), Ohio Kennebec Fries with Cheddar Sauce, and an order of Sliders. I’ve seen the Grass Fed Fox Hollow Burger with Cheese. It’s huge and according to a friend of mine, quite tasty. Because they share the kitchen with Local 127, Tonic adheres to the same policy of local foods from local growers and markets.
Oh the wine list? I haven’t paid much attention. Because Tonic is so focused on craft cocktails, I don’t expect them to have the world’s largest wine list. However, since they are a part of Local 127, I do expect what they offer to be top-notch. I was happy to see they still offer the Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico, which is the bottle I always ordered at Twist ($8 a glass at Tonic). They also offer a nice Montfort Chenin Blanc ($5) and a rather eclectic red selection including Chile and South Africa. It’s a short list, all by the glass. I should probably ask for a wine list next time I visit, just to see what all of the options are on the off chance I order a bottle.
As for beer, they have a nice selection of bottles, including Lindemann’s Framboise and Bells Seasonal. Their tap includes Unibroue’s Maudite, La Chouffe, Delirium, several ciders, and the Left Hand Polestar Pilsner, among many others.
The prices at Tonic aren’t cheap. On a good night, it’s easy for two people to run up a bill of around $100. At the same time, you’re not drinking well drinks either. I’ve been to Tonic three times now, although I want to go more. Of course, I’m in Las Vegas now, trying to find a decent Manhattan in Sin City. But I’m actually home the entire month of February. Do you know what that means? It means you can find me at Tonic.
My thanks to Bob 5chw4r7z for use of the photos!
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