With so many bars turning their attention to the craft of the quality cocktail, it can be easy to assume that the concept has saturated the bar market. That's not true, sadly, and — depending on where you live — it can be hard to track down a well-made cocktail in your neighborhood. There's no reason why you have to actually leave the house to drink in style, however. A new online teaching program called Drink Skool, created by some of the most respected names in the beverage industry, cuts out the middle-man and gives you the basics on how to turn your own bar into a craft cocktail haven. And unlike most DIY home-improvement projects, the worst that can happen here if you screw up is you get to make another cocktail. Sounds like a win-win.
Drink Skool is “definitely for consumers who have some enthusiasm and have some base knowledge about spirits and cocktails, or bartenders that are getting started, but not anything above that,” one of the partners, Doug Frost (also of the industry standard advanced training program Beverage Alcohol Resource — and one of the more renowned wine experts in the world) explains. “What we've tried to do, is distill it — sorry for the pun — into bite-sized chunks so people can go, 'Ok I got that.'” As Frost points out, mixing a perfect cocktail isn't exactly rocket science; it's all about following a recipe and locking down a few standard techniques, all of which the — totally free — course walks users through online with a sense of fun and a sense of humor. “I would hope the outcome of what we're doing is someone will go, 'This isn't that hard,' buy a few a things and start making their own cocktails," says Frost. "There's no reason they can't.”
Among the program's lessons are the basics of mixing a cocktail, learning how to taste and appreciate the differences between types of spirits, and important bar techniques like muddling.
It's an attempt to demystify the concept of mixology, Frost says. “I'm hoping that people will take some time to try a couple of techniques, at least for their favorite cocktails, and end up recognizing that there's no great mystery in this,” he explains. "Instead it's about measuring, buying better quality products, and using fresh ingredients. You don't cook with canned stuff and expect it to taste wonderful."
Right off the bat, there are two crucial things home cocktail enthusiasts need to learn, Frost says. First is the difference between shaking and stirring. Get a stirrer, he says, anything will do, but a nice long-handled spoon is best. “Learn to stir so you don't break the ice up, and all you do is chill down the drink.” Shaking is for when you want a cocktail to be light and airy because it has bubbles in it; learning to know which recipe works best with either technique is a fundamental place to start. Also of primary importance, he says, is freshness — what he calls “the foundation of what has changed mixology in the U.S.” There's no substitute for fresh juice, he asserts. “If somebody's squeezing fresh juice, it's mind-blowing what happens to flavor of that cocktail as opposed to a mix.”