When it comes to making a cocktail, to quote my favorite line in the movie Mr. Mom, “You’re doing it wrong.”
Here’s how I can be sure. I just got back from Bartender Bootcamp at St. Charles Exchange, where I had an in-depth, hands-on course on making a cocktail the right way. And I mean a course, complete with bartender books, a power-point presentation and a drink making station.
So this post is going to serve two purposes for you. First, I’ll relay to you in a Cliff’s Notes version how to make a cocktail. It’s easy, and it sure does make a big difference when you do it correctly. Second, I’ll preview some of the food at St. Charles Exchange, which is wonderful.
For starters, St. Charles Exchange is a beautiful restaurant with a great bar and great private room.
I’d love to stay and peruse the place a little, but the bell is ringing, so it’s time to get to class. Our teacher is Josh Durr, proprietor of Hawthorn Beverage Group, a bar and brand consulting firm.
This night, we stuck to the Kentucky basics: The Old Fashioned, The Manhattan and The Mint Julep.
Here is the major point of the night:
Method is more important than ingredients.
Here is the basic bar set-up that you need.
All cocktails begin the same way.
In a large glass tumbler, measure out your shots of alcohol in the jigger and pour them into the glass.
Add other liquid components (ie. simple syrup, vermouth, bitters).
Then add ice, all the way to the top of the glass. Stir with long spoon.
Using a strainer, pour into another appropriate cup. Add ice if needed. Add garnish (ie. peel, mint).
Notice that the ice was added after the alcohol was measured and poured, not the other way around. That is why I have been making a drink wrong.
Here are the recipes we made.
The Old Fashioned
- 2 Ounces 100-proof Bourbon–we used Old Forester Signature
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 Tsp Demerara Syrup (this is a simple syrup made with Demerara sugar, similar to Sugar in the Raw)
- Lemon and orange peel
- 2 ounces Rye or Bourbon–we used Rittenhouse Rye
- 1 ounce Vermouth–we used Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
- Orange peel
The Mint Julep:
- 2 ounces Bourbon–we used Old Forester Signature
- 1/2 ounce Demerara Syrup (this is a simple syrup made with Demerara sugar, similar to Sugar in the Raw)
- 4 Sprigs of fresh mint
So now you have three great drinks in your arsenal. We needed some serious food after this lesson.
The St. Charles Exchange menu is top notch. They are known for their St. Chuck Burger, made from lamb and served on an English Muffin with sharp cheddar, crisp curried onions, mint and sweet pea mayo. Not to mention the fries cooked in lamb fat.
I had the Scottish Salmon and it was wonderful. This was served on a bed of spinach mousse with potato pancake and lump crab.
All in all, a great place to eat and drink (and learn to drink). You will never look at a cocktail the same again. And, you will most certainly not put the ice into the glass first before you pour your alcohol. Or measure it by your fingers like I’ve been doing for 20 years.