Lifetime learning is the topic of the month, and I take seriously the task of doing my research. Naturally, when the opportunity to learn how to make cocktails with lesser known spirits came up, I was on it. Roseanne Carrara was my partner in this endeavour, and we took our hungry minds and thirsty spirits off to class.
Noorden hosts regular cocktail workshops, and this one appealed to me because I love to discover unusual ingredients. (I even make cocktails from Christmas trees!) Mac Lebioda was our guide, and he was generous with both his pours and his knowledge.
The four spirits were absinthe, brandy, chartreuse and cachaça, and as we sipped, we nibbled on snacks from the Dutch fusion menu. One by one, Mac took us through a quick history of the spirit, we tasted it straight, and then he made us all a cocktail based on that spirit. That is a lot of cocktails! At the end, after drinking a lot of cocktails, we each got to go behind the bar and make our favourite. Roseanne, who loves egg white cocktails, made an egg white version of the absinthe cocktail.
My favourite, the brandy cocktail, was poured into a smoked coupe. Divine! I love all things smoky, so this was a technique I was thrilled to learn. When it was my turn to go behind the bar, I made the brandy cocktail even more smoky by adding a heavily peated scotch, and I was in heaven.
What this workshop gave me was not just the predictable and easy pleasures of cocktails and time with a friend. It also gave me the pleasure of novelty and exploration, things I am trying to cultivate. I learned to combine licorice with my beloved elderflower, a pairing I would never have come up with on my own.
I was also able to taste a new-to-me gin that knocked my socks off. It is not even available for retail sale in Ontario, so it was my lucky fate to sit at this bar and taste it. (Mac says that if you do not like gin, he will change your mind.) You might think that making a discovery only to find that you cannot go out and buy your own whole bottle would be dispiriting (!). On the contrary, it felt like the perfect prompt to savour. I cannot easily get my own bottle of this gin, so I sat and savoured each sip, and I sniffed the empty glass over and over and over again. I was fully in the moment, and that was the best lesson of all.
Follow Noorden on Instagram to find out more about their next cocktail workshop.