I’ve been in other classes that Jim Santangelo has taught, and this one was no exception to the rule that he knows his stuff! I was pretty comfortable making basic mixed drinks – gin & tonics, rum and Cokes, screwdrivers and that, but this sounded like a good way to learn how to take my rudimentary skills to the next level.
As students entered the room, they were met with a table full of ingredients – some expected (bottles of spirits, bar tools, lemons and limes) and some surprising ingredients. Honey? Maple syrup? Marmelade? MARMELADE?? This should be interesting!
Jim began by making everyone an Old Cuban. It’s made with Jamaican rum, simple syrup, lime juice and champagne, with mint muddled in. He explained that when one wants to “muddle” something into a drink, one shouldn’t take the muddling tool and mash the dickens out of the ingredients (usually mint or other herbs etc.). We all received a small taste of the cocktail and pronounced it delicious – an excellent preface to the remainder of the class.
We were walked through the basics of stocking a home bar – why we should have both clear and amber/brown liquors in our cabinet (along with a brief explanation as to how a clear alcohol becomes brown in color), what mixers should we have on hand, and then on to bar tools. He also taught us that a proper drink should have a combination of sweet, sour or tart, and the base liquor. Additional flavorings can then be added as desired. A drink can be categorized as “sweet” or “sour/tart/aromatic” depending on the proportions used.
The next drink we sampled was a Broken Mast. During the making of this, Jim talked about the making of simple syrups, and how he often flavors them in the process. Of course this can dramatically change how the final cocktail tastes, but that is part of the fun of learning how to mix drinks – start with the basic recipe, then start adding your variations to it! The Broken Mast incorporates maple syrup into it as the sweet component – I never would have thought to add maple syrup to a cocktail! Again, quite yummy.
Along with an explanation of the various bar tools, Jim talked about the different types of glassware found in a well-stocked bar. In many cases, the shape of the glass is dictated by the ingredients. In most cases, it won’t affect the drink if you don’t happen to have the historically “correct” glass to serve it in.
Jim also talked about the shaker, and the 2 basic types: the traditional 3 piece model (base, cap and strainer), called the cobbler shaker, and the Boston shaker which uses the metal base and a pint glass to make up the shaker. This one may require the use of a strainer, depending on the drink being mixed and the ingredients it has in it. We watched him demonstrate various methods of shaking, but the main instruction was that when shaking, you’re also diluting to some degree, so be careful about how hard you shake!
The last drink on the list was the Orange Hue. This is the one with the marmalade in it – along with bourbon, vermouth and bitters. Many students didn’t have any experience with bitters, so Jim poured out a bit of both types on hand, to pass around for students to smell.
Everyone enjoyed (or seemed to!) their samples of each mixed drink, and had questions along the way, which Jim graciously answered as he worked. As a bonus, he made us an extra drink, just for Halloween – the Zombie. Looking at the ingredients, you can become a zombie after a couple of these!
Jim is very good at knowing what he’s doing, and loves to share his knowledge – it’s a real treat to be part of his classes.