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Mixology 101 at Jade Bar: Bartending Basics With a Double Shot of History

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So you want to be a mixologist, huh? Well, Jade Bar's bartenders are all pitching in to teach weekend classes for the resort's Mixology 101 series. Each week is separated by spirit with a different instructor showing you what you need to know to get started as a home mixologist. We've already clarified our strong gin bias when we showed you the best gin cocktails in town, so it was a no-brainer to pop in for the first class of this series featuring gin. While we expected intro-level muddling and pouring, what we gained was insight into the history of the botanical spirit and a few great drinks to accompany it.

See Also: 10 Best Cocktail Bars in Metro Phoenix

Self-proclaimed old guard bartender Eddie Garcia was up to bat as the gin expert for the first class. He started the group, which was about five people in our session but is limited to ten for every class, with a Singapore Sling. The sweet, tropical cherry heering and pineapple based gin drink is a great "breakfast cocktail" (yeah, we said it) but was also used to showcase the versatility of gin. One would typically assume rum is the obvious liquor choice in a drink like this, but the floral, juniper-forward Beefeater added another dimension to an otherwise standard Tiki drink.

With three pre-poured tasting glasses, Garcia led the group to the spirit's heritage--the Dutch Bols Genever. To accompany the almost whiskey-like genever, Garcia then made a very old fashioned style drink-- the Improved Holland Gin cocktail featuring Bols, a few drops of absinthe (thus earning it the "improved" title), orange curacao, simple syrup and Angostura bitters. This bitter, herbal and lightly sweet cocktail may not be for everyone, but we can surely see anyone who appreciates Negronis and Sazeracs digging this drink.

Garcia then took a moment to speak on how gin was distilled--a process most in the group had misconceptions about. While gin is triple distilled, the fourth distillation is actually what makes gin the herbal, floral spirit we know and love because that is when distillers use their choice of herbs, fruit and spices to make their gin unique. Regardless of which botanicals you use, juniper, the piney, "Christmas tree" flavored seed, is a must-use to make it gin. From Dutch gins, the group then moved on to British style gins, like Beefeater and the sweetened Old Tom.

The class got more participatory with the sample of Old Tom gin, when we broke out and made our own Tom Collins. With a selection of berries, cucumbers and citrus juice, we muddled the base, added our simple syrup and choice of gin and then gave it all a good shake. After a double strain to make sure the berry seeds and pulp were out of our teeth and straws when drinking, everyone tried the range of Collins the group came up with. (We used blackberries, cucumber, lime juice, simple syrup and Hendrick's gin.)

The session ended with a sample of the future of gin with Western style Aviation, which is the bar's consulting mixologist Ryan Magarian's brand. Since Garcia had some time left and a captive, albeit a little tipsy, audience, he mixed up one of Magarian's signature drinks--the Honeydew Liver Thump. The sweet, almost creamy, melon-based cocktail was a crowd pleaser, with explosive and unexpected flavor. All in all, the class featured a lot of great drinks to taste, along with interesting, hands-on information for $30.

Learning the basics cocktail recipes starts with knowing the classics like the Old Fashioned, Tom Collins and, Garcia's favorite, the Sazerac. Although he admits he's more of a fan of working with old recipes ("If it wasn't made before 1920, I don't have time for it," he says.), his love of cocktail history shines through in the class. The Mixology 101 series continues December 14 with whiskey, the 21 with rum and the 28 with vodka. Sessions begin at 1 p.m. and typically last about two hours. Private sessions, along with reservations to the current session, can be reserved by calling 480-607-2300.

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