Last Thursday night, I hurried up to the O'Briens store in the Beacon South Quarter Shopping Centre in Sandyford, to their cocktail masterclass. When I saw it listed on their newsletter about a month ago I knew that I had to attend and at €10 (which you then get knocked off any purchases), it was a bargain!
On arrival I was handed a seabreeze, already we were off to a great start! I was sitting in the front row along with 3 lovely people who made the evening even more enjoyable; Laura, Clare and Stephen. As I was on my own it was nice to be sitting with such good company with whom I could chat and share the experiences.
L - R: Stephen, Clare and Laura
After taking my seat and the introductions to my front row neighbours, things started to get under way. Our teachers for the evening were mixologists Rónán and Adam.
Adam and Rónán
First we heard from Rónán about the different types of cocktail; shaken, stirred, blended, muddled and built. Over the course of the evening we would see everything but a blended cocktail being made. He also went through what you need to make your own cocktails at home; a measure, a Boston can and glass and a Hawthorne strainer.
Rónán explains cocktails
Cocktail equipment including Boston glass & can, muddler and measure
Rónán went on to explain that ice is the most important ingredient in a cocktail as it keeps the drink chilled and melts into it, all of which is what makes cocktails taste nice. When a cocktail is shaken, that mixes the drink, chills it and starts the ice melting. Flavours in a cocktail should work together and not overpower each other.
Once we had our crash course in the theory behind making cocktails. Adam started to demonstrate to us how to make the cocktails we had received on a hand out sheet. First up was the Seabreeze that we had been greeted with. This is a built cocktail as the ingredients of vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice are layered on top of each and not mixed together.
Adam explaining Seabreezes
Adam then moved onto making a Cosmopolitan, the drink made famous by Sex and the City. This was the first shaken drink of the evening. Adam informed us that anything served in a martini glass such as a Cosmo or Martini, should be drunk carefully as it's essentially a double measure of alcohol with very little in the way of mixer added. Adam also showed us the traditional garnish for a Cosmopolitan; a flamed slice of orange peel, which adds extra aroma to the finished drink.
Adam pours the Cosmopolitan
Flaming the orange
While Adam was demonstrating the various cocktails, Rónán was making up large batches of them so that we could try each one. As we sampled the finished drink, Adam would get a member of the audience up to try their hand at making the cocktail he had just demoed.
Rónán shaking up some Cosmos
The next cocktail for demonstration was a Whiskey Sour. I was particularly interested in trying this cocktail as when I worked in a bar in college I thought they smelt lovely, but I've never had the courage to try one as I'm not a big whiskey drinker. Interestingly, Whiskey Sours predate the cocktail, being considered "cocktails" in retrospect. They also contain egg whites to produce a foam on the top of the drink.
Shaking up a Whiskey Sour
Finished Whiskey Sour
I can happily report that Whiskey Sours are a revolation! They are incredibly flavoursome without being too sweet. They're definitely going on my future ordering list in cocktail bars.
The next cocktail of the evening, a Gin Bramble, was my second favourite drink of the evening. Again it wasn't something that I had tried before but would certainly order in future. It was also relatively simple to make as it involves no shaking, only stirring. Again, this is quite a strong drink as it contains no mixer, only a dash of Creme de Mure and some lemon juice. For this reason it is served over crushed ice to dilute it slightly.
Adam using a Mexican Elbow to squeeze the lemon
Stirring up the Gin Bramble
Pouring the gin for our Bramble samples
The final two cocktails of the evening were rum based. First up was a classic Mojito, apparently made just the way it was in the Bodega Dominero, where Hemmingway used to knock them back in Cuba. This was made with a rum that had been aged for 3 years in a bourbon oak cask, so it had a pale yellow colour.
Muddling the Mojito
The final cocktail of the evening was a Cuba Libre. This was made with a 5 year aged rum. The colour on this was a lot darker than the 3 year old rum. Our interesting fact at this moment was: while spirits are ageing, they lose between 5 - 10% liquid per year in evaporation and this lost liquid is referred to as the Angels' Share.
Rum measured out for Cuba Libres.
If you're looking to learn more about cocktails I would highly recommend keeping an eye out for one of these classes from O'Briens in the future. I had a marvellous evening, met a lot of lovely people and went home with a bottle of gin for future experiments, not just g&t's.
I also learnt the importance of ice in cocktails, that you should always let the barman know if you didn't like a cocktail, and that you should never, ever shake a martini, no matter what James Bond says.
The line up of finished cocktails (the Whiskey Sour had already been pilfered!)