Guest Post By Marianne Nolte
I have been looking forward to “Stocking the Home Bar” for months. The reason? I make terrible cocktails. Just terrible. They are either too sour, or too bland, or too…yuck to even bother with. I was hoping this class would cure me of my problem.
I was not disappointed. The instructor, Jim Santangelo, walked us through the basics of creating a great cocktail. The heart of a great cocktail is balance of flavors. The flavor of the liquor needs to be balanced by both sour and sweet. Jim mixed up a Bees Knees, which is a great example of this principle. The recipe calls for applejack, which is an American liquor that is a little like cider and a little like brandy, honey syrup (the sweet), and lemon juice (the sour). The result is pleasantly tangy, and perfect for a hot day on the porch. Suddenly, my previous failed attempts at cocktails made sense. I’ve been out of balance. Either I add soda, which can act as a sour or bitter flavor, or something sweet like a syrup, but now I know I need a good mixture of both.
We also talked about bar equipment. A good home bar needs a shaker and a strainer, some basic glassware, measuring devices, and a lot of ice. You also, or course, need a few basic liquors—from your clears like vodka to darks like whiskey, a few staples will help you create 80% of your cocktails.
Jim walked us through a few more cocktails, demonstrating different mixing techniques like muddling and emulsifying, and he introduced ingredients like bitters, infused syrups, and specialty liqueurs.
By the end of the class I felt confident that I could create a beautiful, simple, and above all tasty cocktail to share with friends. My cocktail disasters have been pretty memorable. I’m excited to make cocktails that are memorable for the right reasons!