Making Cocktails 101 at the JakeWalk
It’s amazing how many cocktail enthusiasts don’t know how to make their own drinks, but always wanted to. Perhaps mastering the tools and ingredients, knowing when to stir, when to shake, and then how to do it without wearing said beverage, seems too daunting or complicated. For those in the Internet and app age who do pursue the skills, the information about preparing cocktails is processed through so many so-called “expert” sources, that often the recipes and instruction resemble the last rounds of a game of telephone. So if you want to mix your own cocktail, how do you go about learning it the right way?
Well, as everyone knows, the best way to learn is to do.
The JakeWalk, a neighborhood saloon for wine and cocktails in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is known for its inventive drinks, which rotate seasonally. On a wintry Saturday afternoon, head bartenders Tim Miner and Bryan Teoh generously closed the bar to the public to devote their time to Cocktails 101. This is the first of what will hopefully be a series, designed to instruct novices on how to properly stir, shake, strain, crack ice and twist, using the necessary basic bar tools. A small group of eager students learned by completing one each of what most would consider the Adam and the Eve foundations of all cocktails – a sour and a stirred drink – in this case, the Bees Knees and an Old Fashioned.
What they taught was the perfect paradigm for anyone with a desire to learn how to mix drinks. Once mastered, these fundamental skills can then be used as a stepping stone for fancier aspirations (vest optional.)
The class began with a tour of the barware:
-Cocktail shakers (all tin, no pint glass to reduce the risk of injury) – 18 and 28 oz.
-Mixing Glass (where the pint is safely the best option)
-Jiggers 1 oz/2/oz and .5oz/.75oz
-Vegetable Peeler (for twists)
Students were immediately encouraged to begin practicing with water and ice, getting the hang of the jiggers, and the correct methods for stirring and shaking. How to stir powered primarily with the middle three fingers, and very little wrist action. How to assemble the shaker and move it around for the most consistent ice distribution. How to gauge whether the ice did its job by both look and feel of the stirring and shaking vessels (an important detail often left out of most cocktail instruction.) How to make three basic syrups (Simple, Demerara and Honey) - all of which can then be transposed to other combinations of ingredients for flavor experimentation.
Practice over, the really fun part came when each student had the opportunity to go behind the bar and make each cocktail, using a professional mis en place. This is the drinks equivalent of learning to drive stick instead of an automatic - once it kicks in, you know how to drive almost anything. Each student received one on one instruction with each step till they got it right, happily sipping their handiwork.
The cocktail recipes:
¼ oz Demerara or Simple Syrup (equal parts Demerara or granulated sugar, dissolved)
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Combine ingredients except peels in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir to chill. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Twist a thin slice of lemon peel over the glass to express the oils and place in the drink. Repeat with the orange peel, swiping around the rim of the glass before placing in the drink.
The Bee’s Knees
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and hot water, dissolved)
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously until cold. Double strain by pouring through the Hawthorne strainer through a mesh strainer held over a chilled cocktail glass.