Before this past summer I didn’t know much about cocktails. I wasn’t really a cocktail drinker. A cold Shiner Bock has always been more my style or maybe red wine at a nice dinner. But not cocktails. I didn’t know enough about them to even know what to order, and I certainly hadn’t ventured to attempt making them at home.
Then a few months ago as we were looking for summer camps for our children, we learned about cocktail classes at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits. Finally, we thought, a summer camp for grownups!
There were three classes this summer, and we attended all of them. (There may be plans for future classes, though they haven’t been announced yet.) Dichotomy’s bar manager, Andrew Anderson, conducted the classes, and he had near-sellout crowds each time. There were a few other folks who were at all three classes, and other chairs were filled by those who took just one or two classes.
“It’s something people had been asking me about for a long time,” Anderson said. “I don’t like being front and center. I just want to work and do my craft. I wanted to make sure I was at a point where I understood my craft enough to teach it to others. That way, they were able to understand the full respect and heritage [of the drink].”
Anderson knew his stuff. During his first class he talked about the first cocktail, which was created in 1806, and it was a pretty basic mixture of sugar, bitters, water and spirit. That first class concentrated on the Old Fashioned, a drink that came into being in 1888 in Chicago, Anderson said.
The Old Fashioned “is what every other cocktail that we know today is based on,” Anderson said. “That’s what birthed what we consider the classic drinks, like the martini and the Manhattan. We would have never gotten to this point if we hadn’t started with the Old Fashioned.”
In another class Anderson talked about the Moscow mule, and the final class of the summer dealt with the pisco sour.
In each class Anderson explained the history of the drink and went through the mixing process, step by patient step, as patrons measured and mixed and poured their own drinks.
This month we included recipes for the Old Fashioned, Moscow mule and pisco sour. During the class the mule was served in a copper mug, which is the traditional serving method. Anderson said the drink is a popular one at Dichotomy, as are the copper mugs, as they tend to disappear. (Those who attended the classes — prices ranged from about $30 to $45 a class — not only got to drink the cocktail they made but also were welcome to take home that night’s serving glass … or copper mug.)
We also have included recipes for a few bar snacks as well as instructions for other tasty cocktails, including two from Dr. Michael Foley’s book “Drinking With the Saints,” profiled in this month’s issue. Heart Warmer No. 2 honors St. Philip Neri, and Taste of Mercy is a cocktail that Foley created in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last month. While most cocktail recipes include an instruction to shake the mixture until it’s cold, Foley’s recipes recommend a specific number of shakes.
Foley writes, “In ‘Drinking with the Saints,’ we recommend shaking a drink 40 times — a nice biblical and penitential number. It’s easy to keep track by counting in five sets of eight; for the last set, we shake even more vigorously to get those magical tiny shards of ice that float on the drink.”
Taste of Mercy is a bourbon-based drink, and Foley said that particular spirit is America’s great contribution to cocktails. And, maybe with a nod toward the religious roots of Baylor University, where he teaches, Foley noted that “bourbon is believed to have been invented by a Baptist preacher, Elijah Craig.”
“Believed to have been invented” is the key phrase there. The Rev. Craig definitely started a distillery in the late 1700s in Fayette County, Kentucky, but it seems a lot of other folks were also in the distilling business around that same time and location. Regardless of the distillery legend, Craig did found the first classical school in Kentucky, along with several successful businesses as well as Georgetown College, the first Baptist college west of the Allegheny Mountains. It’s still in operation today.
If, like me, you haven’t been a cocktail drinker, consider this month’s recipes an introduction to a different flavor of happy hour.
- Half a lemon, cut into wedges
- 4 mint leaves, divided
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces bourbon
In a shaker, muddle the lemon wedges and 2 mint leaves. Add the simple syrup and bourbon; fill shaker with ice. Shake well, then double-strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice or one large cube or chunk. Garnish with remaining mint leaves.
Taste of Mercy
- 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
- 1/2 ounce pomegranate syrup
- 1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca
Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake 40 times. Strain into a cocktail glass.
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce gin
- 3 ounces Champagne
Add all ingredients except Champagne to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into a Champagne flute. Top with Champagne and a lemon twist.
- 2 dashes bitters
- 1 teaspoon simple syrup
- 2 ounces bourbon
- Slice of orange peel
Place all ingredients in a shaker filled about half full of ice. Gently stir the mixture, then strain into an Old Fashioned glass that contains one large ice cube, if available. Squeeze a piece of orange peel over the glass, twist the peel, give it a couple of tugs to release the oil and drop the peel into the glass.
Heart Warmer No. 2
- 1 1/2 ounces Kahlua
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 ounces milk
Pour all ingredients into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice and stir until very cold.
- Half of 1 lime
- 2 ounces vodka
- 4-6 ounces ginger beer
Squeeze lime into a Collins glass or, to be authentic, a copper mug, and drop in the lime half. Add 2 or 3 large ice cubes, then pour in the vodka and fill with ginger beer. Stir gently and serve.
- 3 ounces pisco
- 1 ounce lime juice, fresh-squeezed
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1 egg white
- 1 or 2 dashes bitters
Combine pisco, lime, simple syrup and egg white in a cocktail shaker without ice; seal. Shake vigorously until egg white is foamy, for about 10 seconds. Add ice to shaker and shake again very hard until well-chilled, for about 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add the bitters atop the egg-white foam, making a design if so desired.
Sweet and Spicy Pecans
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 cups pecan halves
Heat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, measure sugar, salt and cayenne. Add 4 teaspoons water and mix well. Add pecans and mix until coated well.
Pour onto a sheet pan that has been lightly sprayed with nonstick spray or covered with parchment. Spread the pecans into a single layer, with the nuts not touching each other. Bake until golden brown, for about 15 minutes. Cool on a large piece of wax paper. Makes 2 cups.
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- Flour, for rolling
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce box), thawed
Heat oven to 400 F. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water; set aside. In another small bowl, combine Parmesan, mustard powder, salt and cayenne; set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough (still folded in thirds) to a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, cut in half crosswise. Brush one side of both halves with egg wash. Sprinkle one egg-washed half with the cheese mixture. Sandwich the halves together, with the egg-washed sides facing in, and press lightly to adhere. Run a rolling pin over the dough to seal.
With the short side facing you, cut dough crosswise into 24 strips, each 8 inches long and 1/2-inch wide. Place strips, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets. Twist the strips, pressing down on ends to stick them to sheets and prevent them from untwisting during baking. Bake until straws are puffed and golden, for about 8-10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Makes 24 straws.
- 1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- Dash cayenne
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 cup dark beer, such as Shiner, that has gone flat
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until very smooth.
Put mixture in a couple of small bowls and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving. Serve with crackers, pretzels or anything else typically served with cheese. Makes about 1 cup.