Capital Connoisseurs is a full service beverage company based in DC. Founded by my close friend, Scott Stein, CapConn elevates typical bartending service. Scott brings personality and fun to every event whether a custom and interactive Tiki bar or a Beer and Bacon pairing. I was excited to attend their recent Mixology 101 class to expand on my cocktail skills.
This hands-on, intimate class delves into cocktail history while teaching how to make three classic cocktails and transform them into high-end adaptations. Taught by mixology prodigy Chad Spangler, 2012 Best Bartender (Washington Post Express), 2013 Most Imaginative Bartender (GQ Magazine) and hosted at Chaplin’s, a 1920’s themed Japanese restaurant and cocktail bar in DC’s burgeoning Shaw neighborhood, Mixology 101 is an experience not to be missed.
We were greeted with Chad’s Opium Den Toddy. A Hot Toddy is one of my favorite cold-weather cocktails. Chad makes this with a blend of Hendricks Gin, Calvados, and rosemary infused honey. Garnished with dried blood orange, lemon, and rosemary, this herbal and soft blend was the perfect way to warm up.
After some initial mingling, we each joined a partner at a pre-set cocktail station. Chad began by giving us a basic ratio that can carry over to all cocktails. I think this simple point was the most important take away of the evening.
1½ ~ 2oz spirit : 1 oz sweet : ¾ oz tart
Now we were ready to make cocktails! Each of the three classics was used to show a specific aspect of mixology.
Each pair took one pre-measured gin and one tonic and poured into a shaker filled with ice. After shaking vigorously and straining into a rocks glass with a single, large, hand-cut ice cube, we topped it with a splash of soda. The other partner took the second container of gin and tonic and merely poured them both into another glass.
After tasting both, the effervescence of the shaken cocktail was vey noticeable. Chad helped us “fix” the second cocktail by filling it with additional club soda which added bubbles but lacked the lightness achieved through shaking.
Our G&T was made with Chad’s housemade apple/pear tonic and Bombay Sapphire East which adds lemongrass and black pepper to it’s classically light and subtle flavors. This was garnished with a slice of dried pear.
This simple classic can be altered in many ways. Use gin to make a Tom Collins and whiskey to make a John Collins. Each station had Tito’s Vodka that we poured into a Collins glass. We measured our lemon juice as the tart/sour element.
The alterations came with the sweeting element. Each station had either original simple syrup, a honey syrup, or a ginger infused syrup. We also had corresponding garnishes. This was a great example of how a single aspect can dramatically alter a cocktail.
We made a classic old fashioned, discussed bitters, and when and how to stir a cocktail. I figured this was a simple end to the evening until Chad pulled out a blowtorch!!!
Taking cedar boards, Chad used the blowtorch to burn the wood then placed a glass upside down to capture the smoke. We each poured half of our old fashioned into the smoked glass. It was amazing. The smoke smell hit your nose as you brought the cocktail to your mouth. It heightened the depth of flavor in the bitters and balanced the earthiness of the rye whiskey.
All in all, this was a fantastic evening. Make sure to keep an eye out for the next class or contact Capital Connoisseurs to arrange for an in-home class. Check out Book@lokal for this and other unique dining experiences. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
all images by Jennifer Heffner and David LaRosa of Vita Images