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Mixology Classes at Filini
Free booze and education? I’m in! Just like college, without those pesky student loans or major time commitment, Filini hosts mixology classes on the second Tuesday of every month (except November, which is on the first Tuesday).
Filini, the elegant Italian restaurant and bar at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in the gorgeous Aqua Tower, offers two sessions – each a half-hour lesson making a single cocktail – at 5:45 pm and 6:30 pm. Reservations are required, but the classes, which of course end with imbibing the cocktail you just learned how to make, are completely free.
A friend and I took the June class on the whiskey smash. I absolutely love the whiskey smashes at the Barrelhouse Flat and thought it a good idea to learn how to make them myself. But since I am lazy and prefer to order my drinks rather than make them, I brought the friend who will heretofore also be my personal whiskey smash maker.
We arrived early for our 5:45pm class so we sat in the bar and ordered drinks and a pizza. Filini carries only Italian wines and the cocktails lean toward Italy as well, with liberal use of spirits such as Campari, amaretto, and lemoncello. I had a Novara Fizz (Campari, lemon juice, honey, prosecco) that had just the right amount of that yummy Campari bitterness. The pizza, which we saw made in the bar’s open kitchen, had a nice thin and chewy crust.
We finished the pizza as the whiskey smash class was being set up. Each table accommodated four students. The middle of the table held an ice bucket with crushed ice. My only other experience with whiskey smashes – at Barrelhouse Flat – had larger-than-average ice cubes rather than crushed ice, so right away I was learning that there are many different ways to smash a whiskey.
In front of each student was a place mat with historical information on the cocktail, the drink’s recipe, places for each of the drink’s ingredients – whiskey, simple syrup, mint leaves, lemon wedges – and the drink’s final vessel, a bucket glass. Each student also had access to a cocktail shaker, a muddler, a jigger, and a strainer.
Lest anyone be overwhelmed with all the equipment and ingredients in front of her, the class’s instructor, Eric Hay, explained everything as we assembled our drinks. We learned how to muddle mint leaves and lemon wedges to release the mint’s oils and lemon’s juices. Some of us didn’t learn until our cocktails were strained over crushed ice into our bucket glasses that muddling needn’t be a violent act; the point is to bruise the mint, not render it into bits that get through the strainer and threaten to clog the straws.
After muddling, we measured whiskey with the jigger and added it along with simple syrup. Then we shook the cocktails with large ice cubes. Mr. Hay explained that an integral part of every cocktail is water, so the ice serves to not only chill the drink but also to dilute it to a degree. Large cubes are used because they have little surface area relative to crushed ice, and therefore do not dilute the drink too much.
We opened the shaker – a feat easier for some to accomplish than others – and strained the drink into the crushed ice-filled bucket glass. A garnish of a lime wedge, the addition of a couple of straws, and it was time to drink.
I make a mighty fine whiskey smash, but I drink one even better. The class was fun, and I may hit one or two more before the end of the year.
Classes are scheduled for the second Tuesday of the month (except November, which is on the first Tuesday) through December. July 10’s class features vodka punch, a great accompaniment for your grill party or, packed into a proper vessel, carted to a picnic. Continuing the theme of cooling summer drinks, the August 14 class is all about the last word, a gin cocktail.
When the weather begins to cool, warming cocktails are more appropriate. The September 11 class features the cognac cocktail side car. On October 9 students will have a chance to work with bourbon when they learn to make an aged manhattan. Hot spiced mulled wine will be the focus of the November 6 class. Will they have braziers on the tables so students can heat their wine? Finally, non December 11 students will have a chance to make egg nog from scratch. Yum.
Be sure to reserve now for any classes you may want to take since they're limited to an intimate 20 students.