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:
SPIRITS OF CUE!
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 appliquéd 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?