Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yes, I am writing this on Thursday night, but let's call it my Friday Five anyway

One of the very cool benefits of living in a relatively large metropolitan area is the veritable plethora of activities I can partake in during any given evening. I can go to the theater. I can see an orchestra. I can go roller-skating. I can take tap-dancing lessons. I can learn to cook*. I can slide a stone with a handle on it down an alley of ice and call it a sport. Really, the opportunities are endless. I rarely take advantage of most of these, however. So when I got an e-mail from the Guthrie Theater announcing various adult classes on their schedule, I thought, "I should really do something like that sometime."

Hence, tonight I attended Mixology 101, a "hands-on exploration of the elements and techniques that help create the perfect cocktail." The description for this 90-minute class was as follows:


Preparing the perfect cocktail requires not only the perfect spirits and ratios, but also the proper build technique and the finest quality ingredients. We'll show you how to dazzle your guests with innovative and flavorful cocktails, and teach you basics of the culinary art that is mixology.

The class will provide a brief overview of each of the world's spirits, including production methods, origin, and flavor profiles. We'll discuss how to heighten these basic flavor components into complex and explosively flavorful cocktails. Yes! You can drink your homework.

A hands-on exploration of the elements and techniques that help create the perfect cocktail.

Thursday, April 12, 7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Instructor: [Name deleted because I decided I don't really want him Googling his way here]. General Manager of Cue at the Guthrie; Experience: General Manager and Sommelier for restaurants in Colorado and California (Monterey Peninsula) earning numerous "best of" awards; Education: Sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Wine Guild.

Well, I wouldn't say I got a particularly detailed education on the production methods, origin, and flavor profiles of various spirits, but I did indeed drink my homework (and I did take home a rather detailed multi-page handout containing plenty of information on said production methods, origins, and flavor profiles should I decide to learn more about these things at my leisure). I also had a fine time chatting with the diverse group of fellow students seated at adjacent barstools. Even if I hadn't learned much about liquor, I did at least learn that I can still converse relatively comfortably with strangers when forced (even strangers with "mom-hair," wearing corduroy appliqu├ęd jackets and little wooden reindeer decorative pins), something I find myself generally rather averse to these days (even when I do have alcohol as a social lubricant).

So. I am not socially incompetent after all. That is one thing I learned tonight. Here are five other things I learned as well.

  1. What bitters and simple syrup are! I have seen these ingredients in many a drink recipe before but never had any idea what either was. Bitters are made from the pith of an orange or other fruit and provide a bittersweet flavor to a drink (particularly useful in a before-dinner drink or apertif, to kick the salivary glands into action and make you hungrier for your meal). Simple syrup is, simply enough, one part sugar dissolved in one part water. Let it simmer for about five minutes to completely dissolve; store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a month.

  2. The guy at the Guthrie whose job it is to be an expert about liquor buys the same vodka as I do for my own home. In other words, Absolut, Grey Goose, and the like have simply spent more money on marketing than the cheaper guys have. In our Sommelier's opinion, the $10 Smirnoff I have in my freezer is just fine. "Vodka is meant to be neutral, tasteless, and flavorless," he said. It's meant to enhance the flavors of the things with which it's mixed. "If you need a vodka you can drink straight," our expert said, "then ask yourself why you're drinking vodka at all."

  3. If you want the worst hangover you can get, Scotch is the drink for you. It isn't distilled as many times as other liquors, which means it still has more of the impurities that make you sick. Also, 20-year Scotch apparently isn't any better than newer Scotch; it just costs more because the makers have to pay for storage space for 20 years and because 20% of it evaporates through the porous wood barrels it's aged in over time.

  4. Grenadine is named for the French word for pomegranate. Hence, Grenadine should taste like pomegranate, not like cherry or like high-fructose corn syrup mixed with artificial fruit flavors and colorings. To make the best Grenadine you have ever tasted, mix four cups pure pomegranate juice with a half cup of sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Then use that for a blood orange Tequila Sunrise. I am telling you, that drink was damn tasty. This is good advice.

  5. If there is a balding, middle-aged man in the house, he is going to ask me out. Actually, this I already knew, so I shouldn't include it in a list of things I learned. Still, I can't help feeling surprised that this particular balding, middle-aged man heard me tell the Sommelier, "I go on lots of bad dates," and he subsequently took that as an opportunity to slide me his card with the comment, "Well, if you ever want to go on another one..." Way to sell yourself, buddy. Way to set the bar entirely low.**

One more thing I learned at this class? You really can make a career out of a love of alcohol. I actually have a few friends in mind who I think would love our instructor's job. Let this be a lesson to all of you out there still searching for your path in life.


* Ha. Obviously I am not partaking in this opportunity.

** I actually feel a little bad writing this, because in truth, Mr. Low-Bar seemed perfectly nice, and maybe I'll email him after all, because, hell, you never know. I go on plenty of dates, after all; really, what is the risk with one more?


steve said...

Dang - I'm a member of the Guthrie and I didn't even know they offered cool things like this. I need to pay more attention.

I think you should give Mr. Low Bar a chance. Be sure to take notes, so you can properly recall the hilarity that ensued.

Darren McLikeshimself said...

I'm home schooled, and I drink my homework nearly every night of the week.

Disagree with #2. Vodka's like anything else: Some are good, and some are really bad.

Never been hungover on #3.

I'm surprised you didn't comment on your "setting the bar entirely low" pun, so I will. Nice job.

-R- said...

What the heck is the "pith" of a fruit? The peel?

That sounds like fun. I need to learn how to make something other than beergaritas and screwdrivers one of these days.

Noelle said...

One of my besties lives in Minneapolis (he originally moved there to work at the Guthrie) and always tells me there's so much to do. Now, I kinda see what he means. I really want to go home now and mix my vodka with something and drink it. Alas, it's only 9:28 AM and I still have seven and a half hours of "work."

stefanie said...

Steve--Are you on the Guthrie's email list? That's how I heard about the classes. They have all sorts of different topics. Mr. Low Bar said he took the stage combat one and said it was really fun.

Darren--Heh. Home schooled. Nice. And I knew you would likely have words against #2 and #3, but I'm just passing along what he told me in class. Also, it was actually you I was thinking of when I realized, "You can specialize in alcohol? And make a career out of it? Cool!" Perhaps this could be your true calling! :-)

R--I think it's the rind (rhind? rine? how do you spell that, anyway??), but in the case of a peach or other fruit (which apparently can also be used in bitters), maybe it's the peel, since those don't really have a rind, right? (Clearly I'm still no expert on this. I should really consult Wikipedia before I imply that I know what I'm talking about!)

Noelle--Cool. Yes, there is plenty to do here; we just forget about it sometimes since we're locked up in our houses hiding from the cold five months out of the year. :-)

Paisley said...

Mixology 101 - sounds like fun and full of knowledge I need. I think I know how to make two drinks.

That is hilarious about the guy with his card. Perhaps he should have prefaced his offer a bit better.

I saw a show at the Guthrie when I was in high school. My grandparents took me. It was fabulous.

NancyPearlWannabe said...

You should totally give the bald guy a shot- I mean, c'mon. He's already introduced himself as your next bad date so you don't even need to worry about how it's going to go!

L Sass said...

I have to come out in favor of balding guys. I love them! (Well, one of them.)

Please send us all some homemade grenadine. Thank you.

Married Jen said...

Please share the name of your vodka of choice! I must know!

Blitz Krieg said...

If there is a balding, middle-aged man in the house, he is going to ask me out.

Hey! I resemble that remark.

stefanie said...

Paisley--That's what I was thinking (that I need that sort of knowledge). Now I can't wait to make cucumber mojitos and white sangria this summer! :-)

NPW--Good point. There is something to be said, I suppose, for keeping expectations low. Anything better than bad is then a pleasant surprise, right?

L Sass--Hah. I will have to make some for myself first!

MJ--I generally buy Smirnoff, because it's got a mid-level price tag, so I figured it's not so crappy as to get me laughed at but not so expensive as to be ridiculous. When the guy teaching the class held up a bottle of Smirnoff and said, "This is what I use to mix my own drinks," I blurted out, "Hey; that's what I use!" Yeah, I'm well-behaved and obviously have stellar social skills. Oh well.

BK--What? You're saying you would ask me out, too?? OK, no, that's not what you're saying. And I meant no disrespect to bald guys, really. I went out with one earlier this week, actually.

Simone said...

mmmm real grenadine sounds yummy!

Oh and according to the Encarta dictionary, "pith" is: 1. tissue under rind of citrus fruits: the soft whitish fibrous tissue that lies under the outer rind of a citrus fruit

Yes I'm really bored at work. (and they're probably spying on me!)

stefanie said...

It was yummy! I don't think I would ever drink regular grenadine straight, but the little bit he gave each of us in a glass last night was more than palatable on its own.

Also, thank you for your handy research skills. "Rind" is correct then, huh? Thanks. :-)

Single Jen said...

Vodka, sweet vodka. What would I do w/out thee? I talk about booze (I just love that word. It just sounds so alcoholic-ish) in alot of my posts. I will certainly have to link to this post of yours the next time.

I think I'll write a post about some "homemade" concoctions of mine and MJ's. I may even date back to the highschool days of Sunny Delight and Peach Schnopps. Ewwww. That just made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

Anonymous said...

You just cracked the seal on so many bar secrets! Thanks for the Cliff Notes version, as the commute to class would have sucked, although I'll be there at the end of the month.

Let us know how the date goes.

Anniina said...

As a Finn, I have to come out strong in favor of Finlandia - even if I weren't a Finn, it would still be the best one, and it won't break your bank.

I vote "no" on dating middle-aged guys, balding or no.

stefanie said...

SJ--Sunny D and Schnapps? Ew. I'd be interested to hear about your newer concoctions, though! :-)

Hollowsquirrel--At the end of the month the same place is having a wine class. I tried to sign up, though, and it's already full. Next time, I guess.

Anniina--I'm not sure if I've had Finlandia. That's not one of the uber-expensive ones?? Also, I really don't know for sure how old Mr. Low-Bar is. He may actually be only late-30s, which, at 33, I'd have a hard time saying is too old.

metalia said...

Drooling. I am drooling. Also, this is amazingly useful information; thanks so much, Stefanie!

stefanie said...

You're welcome, Metalia. I aim to be helpful. :-)

lizgwiz said...

That grenadine does sound tasty. I might try making a bit of that myself.

I think bald guy should get points for self-deprecation. I like that in a guy. ;)

stefanie said...

Liz--If you're going to try it yourself, I should tell you that I left out the part where you're supposed to simmer that mixture for about 50 minutes until it's reduced 2/3. Also, the pom. juice has to be pure, not from concentrate. Or so our master mixer told us. ;-)

guinness girl said...

Oh my GOD, I want that job!