Sip and study: Cocktail class is in session at Art Bar and beyond
Photo: JOEL VEAK
by Luke ONeil
| February 13, 2012
that old quote? "Mix a man a cocktail, and you'll get him buzzed
for the evening; teach a man to mix his own, and you'll keep him
tippling for a lifetime." (I think it's in the Bible or
something.) That's the idea behind a slew of cocktail classes
popping up around the city this year, like the new monthly series at
the recently revamped ArtBar
(40 Edwin Land Boulevard, Cambridge, 617.806.4122). Having shifted
the bar program's focus to craft cocktails, new food and beverage
director Troy Clarke is leading $20 classes on the third Thursday of
the month. Each 6:30 p.m. session breaks down a big boozing topic for
novices (think overviews of punches, American whiskeys, bitters, and
more). Check out the full schedule of dates and topics at
artbarcambridge.com, and read on to find out why Clarke has decided
to quench thirsts for cocktail knowledge.
are some of the major skills that people need to learn? I
think that people don't know how to stir or shake. So we always
start off with the basics: which cocktails should be stirred [versus]
shaken and how to shake. . . . [Also], how to mix and balance. More
alcohol doesn't mean a better drink. It's about following the
recipe. I try to talk about it almost like baking. Make sure you're
using the proper amount of ingredients so the drink is balanced.
the setup of the class? We limit it to 14 people so it can
be interactive and more intimate. We do a blind tasting, and then
they make two drinks. As we're doing the blind tasting, we talk
about the spirit category so they're learning at the same time.
Then we go right into making the drinks so that I can be there to
assist them. We keep it really affordable so it doesn't break the
bank to come in. Two drinks are going to cost you $20 anyway. I keep
it to 45 to 60 minutes.
class on February 16 is about American whiskey. What can we learn
there? I'm going to break it down and talk about
bourbon, rye, Tennessee whiskey, corn, and maybe blended whiskey or
white whiskey. Right now I'm barrel-aging Bully Boy's white
whiskey, doing a white Manhattan with Dolin Blanc and rhubarb in new
charred American oak barrels. That would be the modern cocktail
[we'll make]. Then we'll take a classic rye Manhattan and go back
to 1874. . . . We're going to show classically what's different
if you shake and taste the flavors, how aeration with bubbles
completely changes the drink. We'll talk about how to taste liquor.
A lot of people can taste wine but not spirits. You don't want to
burn your nose hair off smelling things that are 100-proof.
are so many cocktail classes popping up? For me, I just
want to share knowledge. I may have someone in my class who has more
information than I do, but that's what I love about bartenders.
We're not pretentious. It's more, "Let me give you my recipe;
see if you can make it better. I didn't think of that." I created
this class to show we're in the know at ArtBar and that our
establishment is focusing on quality.
DRINK TANKS: A FEW MORE SPOTS TO FIND COCKTAIL CLASSES
Boston Center for Adult Education (122 Arlington Street,
Boston, 617.267.4430). The BCAE has an extensive line-up of spirit,
wine, and beer classes, from Champagne-cocktail-making tutorials to a
recent Art of the Cocktail class with Domingo-Martin Barreres of
Market. Check the regularly updated schedule at
149 (149 P Street, South Boston, 617.269.0900). At their
90-minute Mixology 101 sessions, bartenders Chris Olds and John Mayer
have been discussing cocktail history, mixing techniques, and
bar-tool tips. The next class, happening at 7 p.m. on February 28,
moves on up to Mixology 201. Tickets are $40 via ticketleap.com and
at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf (296 State Street,
Boston, 617.227.3838). On the first Thursday of every other month,
mixologist Mark Minerd hosts Imbiber 101. At 6 p.m. on March 1, the
series kickoff will get attendees working with Berkshire Mountain
Distillers' gin, vodka, and whiskey. The cost is $25 and includes
bar bites; call ahead to RSVP.
(35 Stanhope Street, Boston, 617.456.7849). On Wednesdays in February
from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., beverage manager Jennifer Harvey will feature
a tutorial on each week's highlighted cocktail. For just the price
of the drink itself, you'll learn the recipe and technique required
to make it at home.
an idea for Liquid? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.