Everyone knows that botanically inclined folks have green thumbs, so what’s the equivalent for those who have a perfectly stocked bar cart and can whip up a delicious cocktail? White (Russian) thumbs? Whatever you want to call it, I don’t have it/them. I just have two regular old thumbs that don’t know how to make cocktails — good, bad or otherwise. That’s why I called in the experts.
In order to improve my bartending skills and share some tips with our wonderful readers (and hopefully achieve my life’s goal of serving as guest bartender in Andy Cohen’s clubhouse), I attended the mixology class at AmericasMart Atlanta. The class was taught by JP Atlanta’s lead bartender, Brendan Town, and he helped us prepare two of the restaurant’s signature cocktails: Draper Redux and Captain Ahab’s Lance (recipes below).
All of us boozer students had our work stations fully stocked with the proper equipment (the only thing I felt 100 percent confident with was the ice scooper and the “triangle cuppy thing,” which I now know is a jigger) and premeasured ingredients. First up? Draper Redux, a version of an Old Fashioned inspired by “Mad Men.”
Brendan shared with us the secret (or at least it was a secret to me) to a well-balanced drink: The golden rule … and no, it has nothing to do with treating your drink the way you would like a drink to treat you. He says go with 2 ounces of spirit with about 1 ounce of sour and about 1 ounce of sweet.
For the Draper Redux and other cocktails, remember that your “sweet” involves ingredients besides simple syrup, like sweet liqueurs. Keep that ratio in mind when attempting your own concoction at home. Once we poured, iced, shook and garnished (everyone needs to have their bars stocked with a jar of brandied Luxardo cherries), it was time to taste the first drink.
I will be honest, I’m not into super-sweet drinks; however, sometimes when I drink harder, more manly drinks, I feel like my internal organs are on fire — so I require a chaser and/or more dilution. That being said, I topped my Draper Redux with more soda water than the recipe called for. Remember, you should enjoy your drink, so if you need to slightly modify the recipe, go for it.
Our second cocktail was Captain Ahab’s Lance, which featured some cool ingredients that might be new to your bar setup, namely blackberry liqueur and egg whites (that’s right, they’re not just for losing weight). This drink was a bit lighter, tangier and had a delightful texture due to the frothy egg whites that emulsified with the acidic lime and vodka. “The egg whites give the drink texture,” explains Brendan. “Almost like a milkshake for a cocktail.”
Warning: If you’re a mixology newbie, wear an apron or Captain Ahab’s Spear will spill faster than you can say “Moby Dick.” Blackberry liqueur can stain, separating an egg white is messy, and when you shake everything together, the egg whites expand so quickly you may have an explosion if the lid isn’t on tight. No joke, during class, there were a few students who suffered major splatter from egg whites bursting out of the shaker top.
Besides the lovely texture an egg white brings to a cocktail, the really cool part is that it creates a frothy canvas where you, the mixologist, can be a bit creative. Brendan sprinkled a drop or two of Angostura bitters on our freshly poured, foamy tops, and we used toothpicks to “draw” a little abstract image. It’s a shame that your artistic expression will disappear down your throat, but hey, a girl’s gotta drink.
Overall, Brendan was an excellent teacher (and JP Atlanta has some delicious food besides their yummy signature drinks), and the AmericasMart Atlanta’s demo kitchen was a really cool classroom to learn to mix. Happy drinking!
- 2 oz. rye
- 1/2 oz. Demerera syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 Luxardo cherry
- 1 orange slice
- soda water
- Muddle and add ingredients with ice.
- Stir in a rocks glass.
- Garnish orange twist with a cherry.
- Top with a 1/4 oz. soda water.
- 1 1/2 oz. vodka
- 3/4 oz. lime
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 1/2 oz. blackberry liqueur
- 1 egg white
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Dry shake.
- Ice the tin and shake.
- Strain into a glass.
- Garnish with 1 dash of bitters.
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