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Boston Food & Drink Website|Wednesday, October 1, 2014
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A Work of ArtBar 

The Closer
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Can you remember the last time you had punch? No, not Hawaiian Punch. I’m talking about the good stuff. The stuff that you serve with a ladle at a party. The same stuff that can either be warm or cold. Most importantly, the stuff with alcohol in it. It’s been awhile, right? Well, ArtBar in Cambridge hopes to remedy that. Recently, I attended a cocktail class at ArtBar with my friend and fellow blogger, Adam, where Punch was the focus.

Pre-Class

Adam and I arrived early to check out the bar menu at ArtBar before class. The cocktail menu is designed around the theme of the restaurant: art.  Categories include Vintage (classic cocktails), Paint Box (fun and spontaneous cocktails we all know and love), Primary Colors (ArtBar originals), and Elements of Art (ArtBar’s twist on some classics).

From the Primary Colors section, Adam ordered the Winter Vacation ($12), which has Smutty Nose IPA, Del Maguey Mezcal, Solerno, Fresh Lime, and Agave.

Also wanting to sample the creativity of the cocktail menu, I ordered The Closer ($18). With a name like that, you can’t go wrong. This drink has Hibiki Japanese Whisky, King’s Ginger, Orange Bitters, St. Germain Foam, and Green Chartreuse. It was delicious.

For Appetizers, we ordered the Charcuterie plate (with chicken liver pate’, pickled vegetables and a baguette; $11), Braised Short Rib (with Vermont cheddar polenta, panko fried egg; $12) and the Sea Salt & Black Peppered French Fries and Sweet Potato Tots (both normally menu sides). Everything is a must try, especially the Braised Short Rib.

Class

 

Troy Clarke was our host and instructor for the evening, and a very accomplished individual. He currently is the Director of Food and Beverage at ArtBar and has been involved with the food and beverage industry for over 17 years.  He is B.A.R. certified, a USGB Spirits Professional, and a Sommelier. He also happens to love my favorite gin, Death’s Door. Give it a try at the ArtBar or look for it in your local liquor store.

As soon as you step into the private dining room, Troy hands you a glass of Punch and they have appetizers waiting for you. The setting of the class is nice. It is located in their private dining room, which is adjacent to their bar so the class has some peace and quiet. Every seat at the table has its own set of shakers, strainers, jigger and ingredients, allowing each student to take full advantage of this hands-on class. Once everyone was seated, Troy opened the class up with a little bit of Punch history and its origins dating back to the East India Trading Company. Troy also went into great detail about proper punch terminology and how to correctly prepare punch.  After everyone had become well-versed and acquainted with their bar tools, it was time to start mixing on our own.

Punch Recipes

Mississippi Punch (makes individual serving)

  • 2 oz Brandy
  • 1 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz Dark Rum
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tsp Sugar

Shake all ingredients well in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, then strain into a Collins glass 2/3 full of cracked ice. Garnish with fruit – a slice of orange and a few raspberries and attached with straws.

Of the two punches, my favorite was the Mississippi Punch. All the ingredients complimented each other perfectly and we used one of my favorite Whiskey distilleries, Tuthilltown’s Hudson Manhattan Rye. Delish.

Milk Punch (makes individual serving)

  • 1 oz Brandy
  • 1/2 oz Dark Rum
  • 2 tsp Simple Syrup
  • 2 Dashes Vanilla Extract (optional)
  • 4 oz Whole Milk

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Strain in a half full glass of shaved ice (like snow) then grate fresh nutmeg on top.

This punch surprised me. The name doesn’t evoke a delicious sounding punch, but it was remarkably tasty. It has a holiday eggnog feel to it and the fresh nutmeg on top was flavorsome.

Troy also made a Hot Arrack Punch and opened up class with a classic Brandy Punch. The Brandy punch consisted of Brandy, 3 lemons, lots of sugar and lots of ice. The Hot Arrack punch would definitely hit the spot if you were feeling a bit under the weather.

Troy made me a cocktail

After the class, Adam and I returned to the bar to have a drink and chat some more with Troy. Adam ordered the Sweet & Spicy (Michter’s rye, Benedictine, maple syrup foam, chocolate & walnut bitters; $12), while I had asked Troy to create me something original. And he did. The only ingredient I gave him was whiskey, my favorite. He did the rest. Here is what he came up with…

Smithtown

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Pear Cognac
  • 1/2 oz Kings Ginger
  • 1/4 Sweet Vermouth
  • Dash (or 2) of Cocktail Bitters
  • Dash (or 2) of Orange Bitters
  • Absinthe Wash
  • Orange Peel

Give an Old Fashioned Glass an Absinthe wash. Stir all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Strain ingredients into your Old Fashioned glass, serve straight up. Garnish with an orange peel.

Watching Troy’s creative wheels spin to create me a drink on the fly was definitely one of the highlights of the night. It was amazing to watch the process of a cocktail created by starting with one simple ingredient and transforming to a perfectly blended and incredible libation.  If his accomplishments and cocktail “canvas” at ArtBar didn’t speak for themselves, this drink certainly did.

(And in-case you are curious, I named this cocktail Smithtown in homage to Troy and the Long Island town where he grew up. Plus, it has a nice ring to it, right?)

Final Thoughts

I have gone through bartending school and attended many cocktail classes, but this had to be one of the more informative and fun classes I have ever taken. Imbibing of alcoholic beverages aside, we got to meet some other class mates and learn a great deal from someone who truly does love mixology. Considering that you only pay $20 for this class, it’s quite the bargain. Also, if you dine at ArtBar before or after your cocktail class, you receive 10% off (excluding alcohol) on your final bill. So grab some friends or a significant other and check out the cocktail classes at ArtBar. But be sure to reserve your spots in advance because space fills up fast.

A big thank you to ArtBar, Troy, Amanda (Web Media Manager for Royal Sonesta) and the rest of the staff behind the bar. I look forward to attending their next class in February, where the focus will be WHISKEY! American whiskey that is. Cheers!

Punch Trivia

Did you know the Punch is borrowed from the Hindi word Panch, meaning 5 (as in the number of ingredients used in Punch: spirits, water, lemon juice, sugar, spice).

Have you ever been to a cocktail class? What was your experience?

ArtBar is located in the Royal Sonesta Boston Hotel at 40 Edwin Land Boulevard in Cambridge on the Charles River.

*Pre and after class cocktails and appetizers were complimentary, but class was paid for by yours truly. As always, my opinions and words are my own.

 



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