Art of the Cocktail: Day Two

This would be day two of Art of the Cocktail, and it was—not surprisingly—a busy and educational day. Three sessions were in the queue for me, one on Italian cocktails, another on working with oddball ingredients and finally a dash of tiki to finish the day. Of course, this was all followed by a night of drinking fine cocktails and talking.

The first session of the day was Italian Cocktails by Sabrina Greer. Having spent some time in Italy she acquired a taste for many of the cocktails that incorporate amaro and/or vermouth—which isn’t too common for girls, and yes I broke out the PTC taste test strips and she’s not a non-taster. As an introductory session, it gave attendees a glimpse into some of the most popular cocktails hailing from Italy.

The next session was The Oddballs by Ted ’Dr. Cocktail’ Haigh. This session was created to test a person’s ability to work with odd or rare ingredients, odd being things like Root Beer Schnapps, which usually isn’t on the priority list of most bartenders/mixologists.

Ted started off with a shout-out to Acid Phosphate as one of those cool oddball ingredients, which for me is always great to hear. Shameless Plug: Do you have your bottle of Acid Phosphate? From there Ted started to mix his first cocktail using the Root Beer Schnapps. The goal was to make the oddball ingredient part of the cocktails, without it being the dominant flavour profile. I believe his cocktail combined the schnapps with bourbon, Campari, lemon juice and bitters. Possibly Aperol or another Amari was also used.

The end result was a tolerable cocktail, but it achieved its goal of incorporating the root beer flavour without being the dominant flavour. A few adjustments and some good marketing could elevate this cocktail to a mediocre bar somewhere in Montana. Just joking.

Ted then invited random audience members up to test their skills at mixing other oddball ingredients. For the most part, the drinks came out fairly decent. As long as the oddball ingredient wasn’t the primary flavour, the drinks took on a unique flavour profile. It almost seemed that no matter what they started with, as long as the drink was balanced, they could create a tolerable cocktail. Or maybe the audience had low expectations and were thirsty.

The third and final session of the afternoon was Blair ’Trader Tiki’ Reynold’s session on tiki things. Even though I’ve been to a number of tiki seminars, Blair managed to throw in some new stuff that I didn’t know. But the really interesting part was how the audience was responding. Tiki seems to be a fairly new thing in Victoria, so recipes were prized by the audience. Also, Blair helped to correct a lot of the misconceptions on what a Zombie or Mai Tai was, versus what most bartenders think of these drinks.

With the sessions over for the day, I headed over to Clive’s. I only bothered Shawn for one “off-list” cocktail, a Filby. For the rest of the night, I stuck to the menu. The rest of the night was spent chatting with Shawn Soole, Sabrina Greer, Frank Dieter and lots of people who happened to show up at the bar.

The last part of the night was a late night breakfast/brunch for attendees. Jeffrey Morganthaler, Blair Reynolds, Jim Romdall, Brian McGregor and Rocky Yeh were around. Ramos Gin fizzes were the drink of choice. Finally, I went to the G’Vine/Excellia Tequila suite at the hotel. By this point ,I didn’t need another cocktail, so I opted for a Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock Soda.

At 3AM (6AM eastern time) I decided to find some sleep and get ready for day three.