It’s not exactly a secret that the bars at the Hotel Commonwealth are among the best in the city. Actually, they’re regularly recognized by media and industry peers as among the best in the whole country. Eastern Standard, in particular, has been leading the charge for almost a decade, setting the, well, standard for spirits and cocktail knowledge and innovation. While many of us have been fortunate enough to sit at their bar (or at Island Creek Oyster Bar or The Hawthorne) and absorb some of this knowledge by osmosis, a fast-paced night of service doesn’t exactly lend itself to much serious one-on-one time with the “professors.”
Beginning Saturday, Feb. 8, their new “Standard” Education program aims to change that, launching a series of classes, tastings and demos about food and spirits.
“We’ve got a chance to basically have the ‘experts’ of Eastern Standard take a day to focus on different things that we’re really excited about,” Bob McCoy, beverage programs liaison explains. He’ll be conducting a class on vermouth, while bar director Jackson Cannon will attempt to demystify sherry, assistant bar manager Naomi Levy will dig deep into scotch and wine director Colleen Hein will take students on a tour of the wine region of southwest France. The structure will be six 50-minute classes throughout the course of the day, at $40 per session.
“We’re always looking to push and challenge each other, and learn from each other, but also bring it back to the guests, to share what we’ve been able to pick up along the way,” McCoy says. “This is a different environment to be able to expand on a lot of that stuff. When we’re jamming at the bar, we get a chance to share a little bit of what we know, but we don’t always have the opportunity to get as deep into it as we’d like. This is a chance for us to take a breath and expand on those thoughts.”
The classes are meant for anyone, from regular patrons to serious enthusiasts and even industry professionals.
McCoy’s class picks up on what’s become a growing trend in the spirits world. (Though Eastern Standard has been making their own vermouths since they opened.) “Obviously vermouth is back in general, what’s old is new again. It’s seeing a bit of a resurgence,” he says. Vermouth appeals to both spirits and wine drinkers, since it’s a bit of both.
“Vermouth is wine, potentially the oldest wine in the world,” he says. “In ancient times they were aromatizing, sweetening and flavoring wines for flavor and medicinal purposes. Even in the dark ages of vermouth, if you will, it’s always been relevant, it’s been a cocktail ingredient,” he says, running through its long history, from its popularity in the late 1800s on through its persistence in the Manhattan and Martini, to today’s artisanal vermouth producers. Lastly, he says. “I think you can define vermouth as a cocktail itself. If you’re talking about the original cocktail, spirit, bitters and sugar, you can start looking at vermouth as a bottled cocktail.”
I never thought of it that way, but that’s why I’m letting these guys do the teaching.
For more information on the classes and schedule, visit easternstandardeducation.eventbrite.com