This fall, I am taking a course called the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service. Its a great class so far - each week, we're exploring a different spirit family (tequila, whisk(e)y and rum done!), and talking about bartending technique and recipe development along the way. We taste, compare & contrast, mix and discuss.
I must admit it feels slightly weird/subversive for me to be in this class, since it is held at Southern Wine & Spirits headquarters and led by an employee of Southern. For those who may not be aware, Southern is the largest wine & spirits distributor in the U.S., and they work primarily with very large brands & companies (Absolut, Patron, etc.). At our distillery, we were our own distributor initially, and now work with a small distributor, so in comparison these are the behemoths of our industry. They have been gracious about it, and it certainly helps that the Southern employee happens to be one of the best mixologists in the country (Bridget Albert).
So how did I find this course & why am I taking it? Its a prerequisite to joining the Illinois chapter of the U.S. Bartending Guild. The guild's mission is to promote and further the profession of bartending, and they provide a range of opportunities for members to challenge themselves and their skills. Everyone I've met from the guild has been phenomenal and very passionate about their craft - so of course I want to be a part of it!
This week, we started an infusion contest - we took a ball jar and filled it whatever ingredients we wanted to select from an array of things (I picked red pear, cucumber, cardamom and rosemary). We'll see how I do - we have a formal judging and comparison in 2 weeks. Stay tuned for more updates from class. In the meantime, here are a couple of recipes we've covered:
1 ½ oz Vodka
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
Splash of Cranberry Juice
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.
Why is this interesting? Its the precursor to the Cosmopolitan. This drink is from 1956, and was promoted by the Ocean Spray company (actually printed on a bottle of juice, believe it or not - just try to do that in today's world)!
2 oz Rye Whiskey (we used Wild Turkey)
¼ oz Pernod
1 raw white sugar cube
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Muddle sugar cube & bitters; add whiskey and shake with ice. Rinse rocks glass with Pernod, pour off excess. Add ice, then strain shaken mixture into glass. Garnish with a long lemon twist.
Why is this interesting? It may have been America's first cocktail - it was created in New Orleans around 1859.