Next week we’ll be hosting our first in a series of three Cocktail Classes with Brendan Brewster. His first class will be on The History of the Cocktail, and will include 3 hours of cocktail education along with some delicious canapés to match, prepared by Chef Eric Hanson.
Cutting his teeth in pubs of Ireland, honing his craft on Canada’s west coast and finally bringing his passion, grit and expertise to Edmonton’s unchartered territory, Brendan Brewster is the best-kept secret in Edmonton’s burgeoning cocktail scene. Sitting at his bar is always an enjoyable experience, as a mere pleasantry can become a lengthy discussion on the history of cocktails. He is an exceptional conversationalist, drawing customers into exchanges as they explore their palate and understand what they like.
Every drink has a history, sometimes a few days old, many a times a few centuries. Having spent several tottering hours at the bars Brendan has kept, each sip has taught me something new. Sometimes it is the transformative experience of drinking a Papa Doble as Brendan colors imagery of Hemingway larking away in 1930s Cuba. Other such times, I am at his bar going through the footnotes of a barflies and cocktails book, one of many cocktail books he owns, to find the 1927 recipe of the Boulevardier, as Brendan prepares said drink with accuracy and potency.
The art of creating a great cocktail is possibly the best example of modern-day alchemy. A cocktail should draw you in with sensory complexity and balance. With hundreds of base spirits and mixers, creating a climax of flavors in every sip is a difficult art to master. While one can learn several complicated recipes, developing intuition to create such cocktails requires a deeper understanding of mixology.
I think I have developed a bit of that intuition. On my travels around India, I created a series of terroir cocktails, using local ingredients. One of my favorite creations was The Pelling Flip. Millet beer, a warm libation from the Himalayan state of Sikkim, was mixed with Old Monk dark rum (an Indian favorite), an egg, and red cardamom. I had the intuition to make this drink based on conversations with Brendan of 17th century Beer Flip cocktails. The drink turned out to be great and something I revisited several times.
His series on cocktails will be a great way for you to understand the why’s and how’s of making drinks. The historical aspect of cocktails might kickstart a self exploration into food anthropology, as it did for me. It will certainly set you with the ability to create a splendid home bar, even with three or four bottles, capable of belting out several different recipes. Most importantly, though, you will understand and appreciate the construction of several modern cocktail menus around town.