The first class in the series was a cocktail-making class with the description, "Our Quoin bartender will teach a few tricks for fun cocktails and infused spirits."
What's more fun than sitting down to as many drinks as you wanted, along with a personal step by step description of the concoction? We knew the class would be epic when we were seated at the bar and our friendly bartender/professor Brian told us that we could order any drink. "Order what you want. It's included. We'll teach you how we make it too." As Brian mixed up the cocktail, he poured little tasting glasses of some of the ingredients for me - antica, which is a sweet, rich vermouth for example and could almost work on its own over ice.
Mojito expert Jesse told us, "We asked about how much we were allowed to serve and decided we'd just let you all drink as much as we could serve you. You two were very smart to have walked here."
Legen.... wait for it.... dary.
Once class got started, we learned about infusions, which aren't a silly novelty at Quoin, but something they put an incredible amount of care into. The Quoin bartenders expressed their giddiness at the fact they had access to the Revel walk-in, which meant they had access to amazing, fresh and exotic ingredients to play with. The bartenders stepped us through the process of making syrup infusions like earl gray tea and simple syrups and how they can play a part in cocktails. Afterwards, we stepped through some of the available ingredients to make an infused syrup or soju infusion like the ones Quoin is famous for. Their best-known soju infusion was the pho infusion, which includes some pho ingredients sans beefy broth. (Although they had some extraneous ingredients - there is no lemongrass or ginger in pho!)
We decided to make soju infusions with some of the awesome ingredients and are steeping them in little mason jars. Nick's aromatic infusion has cardamom, asian pear, cloves, star anise and ginger. Mine is spicy with lemongrass, ginger, lemon zest and thai basil.
The gang stepped us through some important bar tools and techniques including notable gems such as:
- Wood muddlers are the best. If you get a heavy or fancy one, you'll end up with a glass shattering in your hand.
- You don't need a fancy shaker - a pint glass and metal shaker cup works best
- Other essential bar tools include microplanes, cocktail strainers, a micromesh strainer, a stir spoon and vegetable peelers to make twists. If the equipment is expensive or heavy-handed, it's probably not very good.
- When you add ingredients to the pint glass end of the shaker, ice is the last thing you should top it off with before shaking.
Bartender Jesse was the mojito man - although they admitted that on a busy night, the mojito is the worse drink you can order. Nothing will piss off a bartender more than one of those in the midst of a rush. Duly noted.
This was fun to make and muddle so here are the delicious results:
They make margaritas like I make mine - with a smidge of orange juice! That's definitely the secret to delicious margs. Obviously, they use fresh and so clean-clean ingredients and great reposado tequila rather than the sweet fake margarita mixes and Cuervo crap that we're used to. The bartenders also swore by real Cointreau or Grand Marnier over Triple Sec, which they said doesn't have as much intense flavor.
I'm ready to throw a margarita party and bake a margarita flan cake. It's great for your taste buds, bad for your waistline.
The cherry on the sundae was that got to play around and invent our own cocktails with full access to their collection of liquors and pantry items. The team's concoctions would be judged by the bartenders and the winning drink would be the special of the week. Inspired both by the pho infusion, the mojito and our trip to Vietnam, Nick and I decided to create a drink reminiscent of bun bo hue, a spicy beef noodle soup. It would be tangy, sweet, spicy and full of our cocktail-concocting passion!
Say hello to the Hue Jude:
The base is light rum with a ginger liqueur over muddled lemongrass, thai basil and pineapple, pineapple juice, all extremely well-shaken and topped with some soda water. We garnished it with a stick of lemongrass and a slice of pineapple dipped in chili powder for a spicy kick.
The judges tasted the cocktails although only Jesse and Brian got to have a bite of the chili dipped pineapple.
And we won by a slim margin! The Hue Jude was zippy and refreshing but not too cloyingly sweet. We were awarded with a trophy and a card for a free Hue Jude cocktail. Winning felt wonderful - or maybe it was the fact that we just had a few cocktails and a boatload of fun. Either way, we left feeling happy, extremely satisfied and ready for a little afternoon nap.