The once and future cocktail class

The problem with mixology classes aimed at civilians is the proliferation of Cocktail 101-level information. Fortunately, the demand for ongoing education and the area’s niche expertise appear to be forcing the evolution of local classes. Options are definitely improving for scholarly cocktail enthusiasts.

Plan your cocktail education with these upcoming opportunities:

Make Your Own Bitters workshop at the Oaktown Spice Shop
Oakland, March 14, $30
Coupe Tales expects to be in attendance. Oaktown Spice Shop has long been cocktail friendly; they offer a kit to make your own tonic syrup.

Foraged Cocktails Workshop from ForageSF, May 2015

Artisan Foraged Cocktails Class from ForageSF
Oakland, March 19th, April 2nd and April 16th, $75
I have attended one of these before and very much enjoyed the lecture on my own local ecosystem and incorporating wild flavors into my cocktails. I went home with locally-driven, handcrafted bitters that I still use to this day.

Cocktail class series at Two Sisters Bar & Books
Hayes Valley, SF, March 13 (gin), April 3 (springtime mixology), May 1 (tequila and mezcal), $85
Two Sisters doesn’t wear its bookish charm skin-deep (unlike Novela): it walks the walk with a regular book club. While my experience with Two Sisters tells me its cocktail classes will be thoughtful deep-dives, which hopefully helps justify the steep price tag.

Of note is that Two Sisters has announced it is closing this summer. These classes are the last ones you’ll be able to attend there.


Lillet rose spritz at Alchemy Bottle Shop’s Aperitifs & Digestifs class, May 2015.

Intro to Vermouth Class and Cider Class at Alchemy Bottle Shop

Oakland, March 16 and 30, $35
Alchemy’s bright, airy, intelligently curated bottle shop also boasts changing art installations and an upstairs perfect for classes. I attended an Aperitifs and Digestifs class there which, while heavy on the 101-level info, helped me clarify  chinchona vs gentian flavors. Of the six spirits tasted, three were new to me (a decent ratio for a dedicated hobbyist).

Various classes from The Beverage Academy (Bourbon & Branch)
San Francisco, March 20 and 27, $100
If you drink in San Francisco, you know Bourbon & Branch. These 2.5-hour classes cover history, technique, and recipes.


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Cocktail class at B & B!

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Various classes at Beretta
San Francisco, varied dates and prices
Beretta’s varied cocktail series of classes and events are a marvel: 2016 offered classes and a guest bartender series to help you nerd out on scene superstars. There is disappointingly little on their page about 2017 but since last year’s classes ran through summer perhaps there’s some hope for the future.

Various classes through WorkshopSF
San Francisco, varied dates and prices
Last year I attended Hooch 101: Crafting Cocktails with Bay Area Booze. I tasted Mosswood Whiskey there for the first time and learned a great faux-tiki recipe that doesn’t require three kinds of juice, two kinds of rum, and a blender. The class brought a lot of its instructor Gillian’s down-to-earth craft-cocktail-via-dive-bar ethos so clearly each class’s personality will differ. Nothing cocktail related on their immediate schedule, but keep an eye out.

Various classes, CUESA
San Francisco, varied dates and prices
CUESA’s Cocktails of the Farmers’ Market events (they do about three a year) are one of my favorite cocktail events and earn you the most bang for your buck (admittedly at the expense of education — the drinks flow, the food dazzles, the bartenders shine as stars in the firmament of their craft, but it’s a crowded place). I have no stronger recommendation than to get tickets for A Toast to Science: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers market.

CUESA occasionally puts on cocktail demos and classes, too. The Ferry Building is a very pretty place to raise a toast.

Harvest Hootenanny: Cocktails for Entertaining class taught by Lou Bustamante through CUESA, October 2015

The Interval at Long Now
I’ve only seen one cocktail class here but when Jennifer Colliau drops wisdom, you show up for her. The $100 cost is worth every penny. Her recent two-hour Old Fashioned seminar taught, amused, clarified, intrigued, and ended with participants getting behind the bar (under the Brian Eno light sculpture) to mix up a drink. This blog clarifies my Wisconsin connections so sure, I walked in with a chip on my shoulder about the region’s unusual Old Fashioned variant. Needlessly so! Colliau’s respectful version highlights what’s best about the drink (fruit, brightness, brandy) and resolves what’s worst (crushed fruit sludge, undissolved sugar).

The Boothby Center
The Boothby Center, driven by the mysterious H of Elixir and elsewhere, used to run some nice Intro to Mixology classes. Alas, they appear to be defunct now.

This list is almost certainly as full of holes as a julep strainer; I’m continually amazed by the discovery of (typically pricey) classes. But it’s great place to start if you have time, money, and the desire to learn more.

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