Sunday, March 25, 2012

I’m Old Fashioned

I’ve never seen the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail” and that’s probably a good thing because I’m an old fashioned kind of guy. That’s why the course “Classic Cocktails,” taught by Anthony Caporale at The Institute of Culinary Education had immediate appeal for me.

Imagine a Saturday night “getting wet.” Don’t worry – it’s a bartending term that aptly describes the action behind the bar. As Caporale says, when you’re mixing cocktails it’s inevitable that things are going to get wet and sticky. Caporale has been in the spirits business for years. He’s a high-energy instructor with a high proof mix of tips, tricks and fascinating anecdotes about the classic cocktail. I’ve already taken his excellent course on Whiskey, Bourbon and Scotch. You can get a taste of his approach at his Art of the Drink website.

Did you know the art of the cocktail emerged during Prohibition? Yes, folks started drinking more because alcohol was illegal, and they started adding things like fruit juice and bitters to mask the taste of some pretty poor quality booze. Fortunately, our tastes and techniques have evolved and mixing cocktails has become an art. Within minutes, Caporale provides the basics on colorless and brown spirits along with a couple of dashes of history and economics, and then gets us started on pouring techniques. Skilled bartenders don’t measure – they count and pour. With a proper pour spout and the right technique, you pour a ½ ounce of liquor per second.

Our source material for the course is six basic cocktail recipes found in David Embury’s “The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks,” a bartending Bible first published in 1948. Embury was a pioneer in the field of cocktail culture. Caporale adds a modern twist. He’s got a degree in engineering so he’s very good at breaking recipes down into components so you understand the formula, technique and the approach instead of obsessing over a specific recipe. As he explains it, every cocktail starts with a base spirit, and then a combination of mixers, sweetened liquors, fortified wines, or sweet and bitter ingredients are added. The key, he says, is balance. He’s not a fan of the super sweet cocktails popularized in recent time in the United States.

We are each positioned at a station equipped with a tin shaker, an array of bar tools and easy access to a lot of ice. Once we get through a few warm up rounds of pouring, mixing and shaking we get to work and shake up a Dry Gin Martini (the only way to go with a Martini):

A Manhattan with Bourbon and Sweet Vermouth:

An Old Fashioned made with Dewers White Label whiskey on the rocks:

A Rum Daiquiri, which is much simpler and tastier than the super sweet blender concoction we often think of:

A Side Car made with Cognac, Triple Sec and lemon:

And, a Jack Rose made with apple “jack” brandy and rosy-colored Grenadine:

The mixing and shaking gets fast and furious at times. So how do I fare? Well, I’ve already hinted that I’m not Tom Cruise. My pouring aim is off at times (you need to get the spirits into the cocktail shaker, not all over your sleeve) and my Manhattan Cocktail, which I’m pretty experienced at preparing, comes out a bit watered down. But, my Dry Gin Martini is sublime, and I think I’ve discovered a new favorite in the Side Car.

Cheers to Anthony Caporale for shaking up a spirited evening of insider techniques and classic cocktail lore!

©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

17 comments:

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm not a cocktail drinker, but I'd love to be able to shake up some of those drinks for my guests. Looks like a fun class!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a great selection of cocktails T.W. We enjoy our happy hour and my husband is a martini drinker. We were at a party the other night and someone was having a Manhattan. It looked so good we came home and made one.

It's interesting how during Prohibition they started adding things to cocktails to improve the flavor. I'm not certain I knew that, but it makes a lot of sense.

It's 5 o'clock somewhere....
Sam

Barbara said...

Manhattan...my sister's favorite drink. What a fun class, TW. I'm a gin drinker. Would love to taste your martini! :)

~~louise~~ said...

Cheers to you, T.W. I'd happily sample one of each:) Who cares if it's just breaking daylight in my neck of the woods. Although, that Sidecar may need to be tasted first. How does it mix with coffee I wonder?

Thanks for sharing. It sure sounds like you had FUN!

patti c said...

Glad to see you are perfecting those special drinks! The family tradition lives on!

Kathy said...

Interesting class, T.W. - thanks for sharing it with us!

Devaki said...

I know I've some to the right place for this. I plan on going to the Jack Rose Saloon in DC next month. They are known to have a wide selection of bourbons.

Is there a favorite with you that you can recommend?

Thank you so much!

Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

Fresh Local and Best said...

How did you survive that class? :) I would have gotten totally wasted taking a sip here and there. What a fun class this must have been. These all look like fun drinks with its own devilish personalities. I would have loved to try the Manhattan.

Catherine said...

Dear T.W., It sounds like you are experiencing lots of fun things to do. I am glad. That certainly was an interesting class. You do realize you will now have a special place at the next party, being the experienced mixer.
I am glad that you are enjoying each new day with an interesting and happy time. Blessings, Catherine

Julia said...

Is it just me, or are the photos getting more and more blurry.

What a fun class! I definitely prefer the classic cocktails too. I've recently been drinking a lot of Aviations.

Mary said...

It is 5 o'clock somewhere:-)Your selection is wonderful and several of them bring back lots of good memories. I'm off to see the site you recommended. I hope you have a great day.Blessings...Mary

Gloria said...

aaah I love how they look!!

Mad Me-Shell said...

Just when I thought I knew all there was to know about cocktails, you teach me something new! I'm a big fan of old fashions, and reading this has just made me thirsty...

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

The classic cocktails are making a comeback. While on our road trip we had a cocktail at a restaurant/bar where they even hand cut one large ice cube for each glass.

veron said...

very interesting history of how cocktails became popular. Can't believe there was such a time as the prohibition! the side car looks refreshing. :)

Sophiesfoodiefiles said...

I am not at all a cocktail drinker but love to make them for my guests!

What a lovely eveing you must have had & fun, fun, fun! :)

tasteofbeirut said...

I don't drink much and maybe wine if that; but I was finding myself strongly attracted to all these cocktails you are describing...their name alone is worth a try. Take it back i love margaritas and mojitos.