Live Blog: Tipsy Tech History and Practice of Cocktail Mixology
This will be my second attempt at live blogging a class. The first was a Central Market cooking class geared to food bloggers in Feb. 2008.
It’s 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and I’m sitting in the very first of a 12-week class called Tipsy Tech: The History and Practice of Cocktail Mixology. The class is co-taught by Lara Nixon, writer of the blue ruin blog and owner of Boxcar Bar, a freelance cocktail and education service; it’s also taught by David Alan, aka the Tipsy Texan.
6:45 p.m. We meet our classmates. They ALL seem super interesting and include Addie from the Statesman, Jenna from Edible Austin, Graham from Tenneyson Absinthe, bartenders from Houston bars like Anvil (including Mindy) who drove in for the class, bartenders from Fino, Eastside Showroom, and the owner of a pub breaking g round on North Loop this week that will open this spring (to be called The Tigress). Also in the class — Kristi from Austin Farm to Table, Tolly of Austinist‘s Informed Drinker, and Mindy who founded the Austin chapter of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild, who proclaimed,
“I fucking love what I do.”
I’m thinking the guy in class from the Harry Ransom Center has probably already finished all of the assigned reading.
Lara and David put our first drink down at around 6:15 p.m. but didn’t invite us to drink. It’s now 6:50 p.m. and I’m realizing I’m the only one who hasn’t taken a sip. Bottoms up!
Today we are learning the history of drink before prohibition. starting in pre-history when liquor was made for medical, religious, and health purposes.
7 p.m. David is switching back and forth between pre-history and colonial history. He talks about the importance of the tavern as a community gathering place that often had beds nearby or even in the room itself.
Clearly excited about his topic, David tells us that the term mixologist goes back to 1856. He jokes as an aside:
“Yet spellcheck still flags the word every time I attempt to send an e-mail.”
The first cocktail book was published in France in 1896. It was called Bariana and while it was in French, it featured mostly American recipes.
7:15 p.m. We are looking at a photo of tavern life in the 1600s from the Netherlands. The taverns were simply furnished with jugs of wine, barrels, and total chaos and anarchy.
David: “Anything goes in these photos. Drunks, animals, bugs on the food.”
7:20 p.m. We’re looking at a tavern pic from the now United States showing a group of people sharing punch. Drinking was communal and people ordered in groups. The only women on the scene were serving drinks or serving up themselves.
Tavern owners tended to have leadership roles in the community and were upstanding citizens.
Before prohibition, bars didn’t have stools. But they did have towels to wipe the drink off the dudes mustaches.
In the early 1800s, men drank an average of 3.7 gallons a year of distilled spirits. By the end of the 1800s, it was an average of 5 gallons a person.
7:28 p.m. Lots of ancient pictures and paintings. No additional drinks at the moment. I’m still nursing my Sazerac. Most everyone in the class has downed theirs.
First known reference to a cocktail is in 1803 in a publication called Farmer’s Cabinet.
The first definition appeared in print in 1806: “Cocktail, then, is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water,a nd bitters – it is vulgarly called bittered sling.”
7:45 p.m. David goes through the “ages of the cocktail. This includes:
Archaic Age (1783 – 1830): bartenders would offer cut lemons, grated nutmeg, a toddy stick to muddle, ice was rare.
Baroque Age (1830-1885): “It’s like bartenders gone wild, pimp my bar,” said David. Ice became more widespread in all different climates, tools included a stirring spoon, cocktail shaker, the word mixologist appears in print. At this time, the “flamboyant P.T. Barnum of the bar came of age,” said David.
Classic Age (1885-1920): cockatils come of age and are popular with the “sporting set.” Rise of American and Scotch whiskey, dry gine, bacardi-style dry rums, liquors multiply. Vermouth hits the scene. The martini and manhattan are born.
7:58 p.m. The class is set to end so David skips forward to the movement for prohibition. And this slide:
Until next week, at Tipsy Tech. Stay tuned!!