Sunday, March 24, 2013
Shaken and Stirred at Drumbar
On March 24, 2013, twenty-one members and guests of the Chicago Société Mondiale Du Vin (the wine and crafted beverage specialty interest group of the Chicago Chaîne) learned about crafting cocktails at the Drumbar, a speakeasy-style lounge atop the Raffaello Hotel in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. Our host for the evening was master mixologist Craig Schoettler, who became the beverage director at the Drumbar last November. The Chicago Tribune wrote that the former Executive Chef at The Aviary “has single-handedly catapulted the caliber of the cocktail scene in Chicago (and possibly the country),” so we were eager to learn from one of the best in the business.
As guests entered the masculine space with its two long bars, dark paneling, fireplace, arched windows and vaulted ceiling, they were offered a glass of 1998 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Cuvée. This complex sparkler was still very youthful and exhibited layers of creamy flavors, including butterscotch, brioche and green apples. When the three magnums of Vilmart were finished, guests were treated to magnums of magnificent Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne, which had densely packed flavors refreshed with crisp acid and a lovely long finish with plenty of toast and nut layers.
As the Champagne glasses were refilled, members gathered in the light- filled seating area that overlooked the rooftop bar, a wildly popular place to imbibe on a warm summer evening. Comfortable Chesterfield couches and oversized chairs surrounded two gorgeous blue bowls overflowing with jumbo Black Tiger shrimp and iced half shell oysters. The Local Chicago, a new restaurant in the neighborhood run by the team that owns the highly acclaimed Chicago Cut Steakhouse, created this delectable seafood extravaganza.
Roger Tracy, Conseiller Gastronomique Hon. des Etats-Unis and event organizer, introduced Professor Schoettler and his sixty-minute lesson commenced. The students learned that virtually all cocktails may be placed into three basic categories: citrus, spirituous and fatty. In general, citrus cocktails use a ratio of 2 oz. of a spirit to ¾ oz. of sugar (e.g., simple syrup) to ¾ oz. of lemon or lime juice (neither grapefruit nor orange have enough acid to be appropriate substitutes for the citrus component and are considered “filler”). Once this ratio and these basic components are mastered, new cocktails can be created by simply substituting a different spirit or citrus or by adding a special flavoring agent. For example, the Daiquiri is basically a Whiskey Sour with rum substituted for whiskey and lime juice substituted for lemon juice. Citrus drinks, which are often shaken and never stirred, constitute about 85% of the cocktails sold at the Drumbar.
Next Craig discussed spirituous cocktails, which typically use a ratio of 2 oz. of a spirit to ¼ oz. of liquid sugar to a couple dashes of a flavoring agent like bitters. Examples of spirituous cocktails, which are generally stirred, include the Sazerac, Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Negroni.
Craig concluded his introduction with a discussion of the fatty cocktail category, whose basic ratio is 2 oz. of spirit to 1 oz. of cream and/or egg to 1 oz. of sugar. Examples of fatty cocktails include a White Russian, the Tom & Jerry and the infamous Ramos Gin Fizz, a bartender’s nightmare because it should be shaken for up to twelve minutes! At the Drumbar, less than one percent of cocktails requested are in this category.
Following our formal introduction to mixology, we enjoyed a food break designed to stave off the effects of making and sampling significant quantities of cocktails. Under the excellent supervision of GM Justin Muehling, The Local Chicago set up a buffet that included tasty USDA Prime sliders with aged cheddar and tomato horseradish sauce; jalapeno cornbread with maple pecan butter; butter-poached lobster quesadillas; beer battered fish and chips; mac and cheese carbonara with generous amounts of Neutske’s bacon; and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
Having ingested plenty of absorbent and delicious food, we were ready for our hands-on learning experience. Attendees were split between the two beautiful bars with Craig supervising one group of students and his convivial colleague, Paul Bastien, overseeing the other group. Half of the members started behind the bar while the other half perched on bar stools to observe and sample the creations; then these positions were traded for each of four different cocktails.
First up we faced the Daiquiri, the shaken, rum-based cocktail favored by President Kennedy and Ernest Hemingway. Second, we learned how to make the classic whiskey sour, another shaken citrus cocktail. No mixes for us! Our version incorporated an egg white and a dash of Angostura bitters. Students had varying degrees of success replicating the vigorous shaking technique, which appeared relatively simple but clearly required coordination and practice. Slow shakers inevitably produced drinks that didn’t incorporate enough air into the mixture, leaving a rather flat cocktail. As pouring techniques, mixing order and strainers were also discussed, all attendees acquired a deeper appreciation of the skills it takes to become a master mixologist.
Next, Craig and Paul taught members and guests how to make two spirituous cocktails. The Old Fashioned, which has been around since the early 1800s, was our first attempt at a stirred drink. Most students didn’t have any problem with this blend of Bourbon, demerara syrup and Angostura bitters. Our last cocktail of the evening was the Negroni, which incorporated equal portions of Gin, Carpano Antica and Campari with a dash of House Orange Bitters.
According to legend, this drink was invented in Florence in 1919 when the Count Negroni ordered gin instead of soda in his Americano. Both of these drinks had smooth and heavy mouth feel as stirring didn’t add air to the cocktail. Students noticed obvious differences in drinks that hadn’t been stirred long enough (the bitters dominated) versus drinks that had been stirred too long (resulting in a watery drink). Tasting the cocktail was definitely key to determining when the proper amount of stirring had been achieved.
At end of the evening, Roger Tracy acknowledged Craig and his team and presented him with a Société Mondiale Du Vin award. We left the Drumbar with our own newly developed skills and an enormous appreciation for the art of crafting extraordinary cocktails. While most attendees may now be able to impress their friends with their our own cocktail creations, we were all anxious to return to the Drumbar to experience the shaken and stirred cocktails created by these skilled professionals. Cheers!
The Chicago Société Mondiale du Vin - the crafted beverage specialty interest group of the Chicago Chaîne - is planning a “Cocktail Workshop” on March 24 at 4pm at DRUMBAR.
Our friend Craig Schoettler will share with us some of the basic knowledge and procedures needed to impress our friends in order to produce stunning cocktails at home.
Located in Chicago’s Gold Coast (215 E. Delaware Place), Drumbar takes the ‘speakeasy’ to the next level; 200 feet to be exact. Perched atop the Raffaello Hotel, Drumbar is a multi-seasonal destination with its speakeasy style inside lounge and outdoor garden terrace. Needless to say, we will be inside only.
The cocktail scene is advancing at a very fast pace in Chicago and elsewhere through utilization of kitchen techniques to elevate the craft of cocktails. At our next two Chaîne events, Yusho (Alex Bachman) and Embeya (Danielle Pizzutillo) you will see this emerging trend in action. We also may have the opportunity to walk down the street to the new “Billy Sunday” after Matthias Merges’ Yusho dinner.
In March you will have the opportunity to develop your own skills as this event will be hands on and on both sides of the bar. There is a wonderfully long bar at Drumbar where we can sit and be educated by the Master and then move to the other side of it and learn some practical skills. Drumbar is closed on Sundays so we will have it to ourselves.
The Chicago Cut Steakhouse team have recently opened a new restaurant (The Local) just opposite Drumbar; they will provide us with appropriately absorbent food to accompany our cocktails.
Invitations will go out in mid-February and space will be limited. Priority will be given to Mondiale members followed by guests and Chaîne members.
In the meantime there is a 15% discount offered to all Chicago Chaîne members at Drumbar. Discount cards will be available for pick up at both our Yusho and Embeya dinners.
Look forward to seeing you at Drumbar in about ten weeks.