I recently spent a Saturday afternoon exploring the fun and off-beat history of cocktails. Head bartender Eddie Garcia of jade bar at Sanctuary on Camelback gave me a preview of the “Genealogy of the Modern Day Cocktail” offered on weekends as part of the bar's Mixology 101 series.
The bartenders at jade bar love to share their innovative mixing skills with those who sign up for one of the weekly mixology classes. It became apparent they treat their guests well as Garcia got our “class” started by serving up a classic Negroni—Bols Genever, Nolly Pratt Sweet Vermoth, Campari and bitters. I love Garcia's philosophy that you never want to start talking without a drink in hand.
The group of 8 of us toasted Garcia and he delved into an overview of what you can expect during the upcoming classes at jade bar. Now through October, the series focuses on the tradition of the the modern day cocktail, explores the details of individual spirits and educates guests about jade bar's freshness philosophy. The schedule for the coming sessions includes:
- September 26: Punch. A history of pre-cocktail communal drinking. Learn where all modern cocktails are born from and how to make parties a hit with this old way of serving spirits which is new again. During my preview, I learned about the essential ingredients in any punch and how to mix and match spirits to create a great drink for parties. Garcia served us up a delicious Rum Punch.
- October 3: Sour Family. Probably the largest category of cocktails. Learn how to make the perfect sour, as well as history of many cocktails including the margarita. During my preview, Garcia discussed such classics as the Whiskey Sour, the Daisy and Strong Sours. He served us the “malancho” — a slightly spicy concoction with Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur, banana liqueur, reposado tequila, lime juice, bitters and grated nutmeg.
- October 10: Collins Family. With over 100 years between them, what do the Tom Collins and Long Island Iced Tea have in common? Why is there a straw in your drink? This family of refreshing cocktails is a must know for those of us who reside in the desert heat. During our class, I was thrilled to learn that a French 75 is also derived from a Tom Collins, as are most of the drinks I prefer, which feature the classic elements of strong, sweet, citrus and “weak”. Garcia served us a Bottacelli—his mix of vodka (the strong), grapefruit juice (the citrus), Aperol (the sweet) and Gruet sparkling wine (the “weak”). You begin to understand how to substitute other spirits (vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey), sweets (Aperol, St-Germaine, sweet vermouth), citrus (lemon, lime, yuzu, grapefruit) or other weak elements (champagne, seltzer water, tea) to create unique concoctions.
- October 17: Cocktail Family. Why is it called an Old Fashioned? How is a proper one made? Learn the basics of stirred cocktails and how to make the most of your favorite spirit. During our session, Garcia referred back to that first drink he served, the Negroni, as our classic cocktail, blending strong, sweet and bitter.
- October 24: Tiki Family. Tiki was at the top of American pop culture from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s. Learn how the masters of this cocktail culture took the country by storm and its very curious connection to the past. During our preview, Garcia explained the background of Tiki and how they are much more complex than most of us realize today. Very interesting how this breed of drink grew out of the black days that resulted from Prohibition when all the master bartenders of the 1920s left the US for Europe to continue their craft. Post-prohibition years, the American art of mixed drinks had to find a new voice, thus was born the Tiki drink.
This was such a fun session that I hesitate to call it a class. But I learned so much while still having a great time. While Mixology 101 is ideal for those who enjoy entertaining and experimenting with drinks, I think think they are ideal for anyone who just wants to know more about all those crazy mixed drinks on restaurant and bar menus. You'll sound like you really know what you're doing when you go out with friends. I know that I better understand how all of those varied tastes work together to create fun cocktails.
After the October classes, be sure to check the website for the next classes, which are likely to focus on specific spirits (an entire class on tequila sounds perfect for me!). You can view the menu online here. Eddie Garcia and the other jade bar bartenders are also happy to create custom classes for you and your friends or coworkers, making them ideal for bachelor or bachelorette parties, girlfriend getaways, team building exercises or a group of cocktail enthusiasts.
The classes are held on Saturdays at 12 noon in jade bar. The cost is $35 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required by calling 480.624.0105. Guests who take the class will usually get between three and four drinks during the class and can stay for lunch in the bar and get a 15% discount on food. These classes are limited to 20 guests. Check out additional special events going on at jade bar and Sanctuary on Camelback here.
Sanctuary on Camelback
5700 East McDonald Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
Mixology reservations: 480.624.0105