Cocktails are definitely back in fashion and it seems that everywhere is now offering them. Classic cocktails are being reinterpreted to include many of the new drinks from the small bespoke distilleries and micro-breweries that have cropped up in the past few years and mixology is back in vogue. The Dublin Cocktail Festival also took place during October and was a great success with amazing offers across a range of city pubs and venues during festival week. Cocktails are everywhere!
I have always been fond of a well-mixed cocktail and was keen to find out more about making them. Luckily the Dublin Bar Academy runs a 2-day intensive course where participants can learn all about the history of cocktail making and can master the science of mixology.
Various drink mixing techniques are covered during the two days and students are also shown how to select the correct glassware and how to garnish cocktails. On completion of the course, participants receive a Dublin Bar Academy certificate and a useful manual containing information about all the topics covered during the two days. Recipes are also included. Previous students have used the course as a springboard to start their cocktail making careers here in Ireland and abroad.
Although the course is primarily aimed at those already working in the bar industry, enthusiastic amateurs or those just wanting to develop new skills are also welcomed. The course seemed right up my street so I enrolled and headed up to Dublin for the weekend eager to learn more about the alchemy behind cocktail making!
The Dublin Bar Academy was set up in 2012 by Richard Linden and Ronan Rogerson and is a branch of the European Bar School. Originally from Sweden, Richard has worked in a number of different countries including five years in the 5 star Chewton Glen Resort in the United Kingdom which regularly appears on lists of the world’s top hotels. Here he honed his bar tending and cocktail making skills. Back on these shores, Richard has worked under Francis Brennan in The Park Hotel in Kenmare and was also Restaurant& Bar Manager in the Michelin starred Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, County Waterford. In addition to his interest in the Dublin Bar Academy, Ronan owns and runs the popular Drury Buildings in Dublin and was at one time Bar Manager at the Morgan Hotel which is renowned for the cocktails it serves.
Although originally located on Francis Street, Dublin 8, the Dublin Bar Academy recently moved into lovely new premises in Smithfield. The building is large and spacious and is reminiscent of a New York loft. The main bar area is decorated with a large colourful mural by the Dublin street artist Fink and it is here that students eventually get to work at their own bar station. There is also an opportunity to practice cocktail flairing which, for the uninitiated, is the performance end of cocktail making involving juggling bottles etc. Richard and Ronan also hope to set up their own micro-brewery in the building in the coming months.
The first morning was spent in a classroom off the main bar area learning all about how alcoholic drinks are produced. Richard explained the differences between the various spirits and explored the distilling techniques involved in making them. I found this fascinating and very informative. We were all encouraged to ask questions and there was a lively atmosphere in the classroom.
Richard then gave us a practical demonstration showing us the different ways to mix cocktails and why certain glassware is chosen. We also learnt how to create simple garnishes to finish off our cocktails and we discovered why ice and the shape of it is so important. At this stage I was realising that cocktail making is not a mere frippery but rather, that it is something taken very seriously. I was hooked! Richard knows his stuff and explained everything simply, in easy-to- understand terminology and answered all the questions we threw at him. He then showed us how to make some classic cocktails and made it seem like something each of us could easily achieve.
It was then time for us to get behind the bar and try mixing up some cocktails. This was great fun and although we were all a little awkward at first we soon got the hang of it. I loved every moment. Each bar station was set up with dummy drinks and mixers so that we could get used to the principle involved without wasting expensive alcohol.
The first day then finished with a tasting session which, needless to say we all enjoyed. I loved the Dark & Stormy made using dark rum, lime juice and topped up with fiery ginger beer and was also rather taken with the Cosmopolitan which many people will be familiar with as it was the drink of choice for the girls in the popular Sex in the City television series. Made with lemon vodka, Cointreau fresh lime juice and cranberry juice this was a lovely and refreshing. My favourite drink of the day was definitely the Old Fashioned, a boozy concoction made with bourbon, sugar syrup and angostura bitters. It was seriously good.
On the second day of the course, Richard showed us how to prepare a number of different cocktails at the one time and again we all got the opportunity to practice for ourselves. The reality is that when you are working in a busy bar you would regularly have to prepare a number of drinks at the one time so this was very useful. We also got the chance to practice some cocktail flairing with Richard’s assistant Callum. This was tremendous fun, and much harder to do than it looks. Thankfully unbreakable bottles are used as we were all flinging them around the place.
The day finished off with a more detailed tasting session where we got the chance to sample a range of cocktails including a Mai Tai, Vodka Martinis, Manhattans and Espresso Martinis to name just a few. My favourite of the day was the Negroni made with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth.
The 2 day course cost €249 which for an incredibly enjoyable two days where we all learnt so much about making cocktails was very good value. I would highly recommend it for anyone working in the bar trade or anyone who wants to learn more about making cocktails.
Dublin Bar Academy
141 North King Street
T: 085 8673296
I’m simply someone who loves cooking and experimenting with food and different ingredients. From my early childhood spent in Zambia and Australia before returning home to Ireland I was fascinated with cookbooks and reading recipes. I would spend many hours reading my grandmother’s cookbooks and watching her preparing food in the kitchen.
Although I studied to become a graphic designer and spent a few years working in advertising before then becoming a civil servant, the one thing I always wanted to be was a food writer – sharing my enthusiasm for cooking with others, but I lacked the confidence to do the thing I wanted to do most in case I failed. I finally decided to take a risk and applied for MasterChef Ireland 2014 and was one of the three finalists.
For me, food and cooking is about family, friendship, sharing and conviviality. As a mother of three, I want my children to grow up with a love and appreciation of how lucky we are to live in a country like Ireland with such great produce and so many wonderful food producers. I continue to write and share my enthusiasm for food on my food and recipe blog The game bird Food Chronicles at http://thegamebird.blogspot.ie/