Shawn Jones is ready to coach you to go bar pro
Watching those skilled drink technicians carve a hunk of ice into a sphere and place it into your glass before showering it with myriad hard-to-pronounce spirits to create a flavor combination specifically to your discerning tastes is always a thrill. Ever wonder if you have what it takes to attempt these concoctions at home? We're beginning a new series wherein we're working with one highly skilled barman who can teach us how to mix a better drink in the comfort of our homes. Shawn Jones has worked behind the bar at Bradstreet Crafthouse, transformed the cocktail culture at Amore Victoria, and even wrote a few articles for the Hot Dish
We joined him at Cafe Maude Loring Park, where he's currently managing the bar program, to learn how to go from aspirational to entry-level mixologist.
Part of what Jones loves most about bartending is the quiet time before the guests file in. "Being a bartender is like juggling. You've got to be ready just in case someone comes in and tosses you a chainsaw." (He's not kidding; the bar recently got a chainsaw for carving giant hunks of ice into more manageable pieces).
It's important to gather your ingredients before plunging into the drink mixing. Jones suggests beginning with the basics and then let your taste be the guide. A well-stocked bar doesn't have to break the bank. He recommends we begin with these affordable selections:
Cabin Still, Old Grand Dad, or Rebel Yell Bourbon
Cruzan white rum
Black Bottle Scotch
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
Bittercube Bitters six pack and a bottle of Angostura
Simple syrup (Jones suggests using a rich syrup made by dissolving a 2 to 1 sugar to water ratio. He explains that your sugar affects the flavor, so experiment with what you like. Try making the syrup with some sugar in the raw or demerara.)
The Northstar Bartender's Guild by Johnny Michaels. Jones explains, "It's a really well-written book. The recipes are expert-level cocktails, so there is an intimidation factor. Yes, they take a little bit of time, but it's a really useful book. It's just like I'm a terrible cook. Some people think they don't know how to make great drinks. This book can help you learn how to put those flavors together like a chef creates food flavors. Once you actually do it, it's not that hard."
Old Fashioned perfection
The next step is to learn the classic cocktails, so named for a reason. And, while it might not be politically correct to pick favorites of your creations, the Old Fashioned might just be ours. Bourbon is all the rage these days, and as Jones explains it, the beauty is in the flavor of a high-rye bourbon like Old Grand Dad. "The sweet beginning, complex middle of the rye. Most of them are weak, but this overproof high rye is half the price of others."
Basic: Old Fashioned
1/4 oz. rich simple syrup (recipe to follow)
2 oz. Old Grand Dad Bourbon
10 drops (or a couple of dashes) Angostura
5 drops Bittercube Bitters Cherry Bark
Garnish with orange zest
In a lowball glass combine syrup through Angostura and stir with a cocktail spoon. Finish with Cherry Bark bitters. Twist zest over drink before tucking it into the glass. Serve.
Rich simple syrup:
Heat 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Dissolve 1/2 cup of raw sugar into the water and cool. (This can be stored up to one month in the refrigerator.)
Advanced: Telephone Call from Istanbul
(reprinted courtesy of Cafe Maude Loring Park)
1/4 oz. Chai rich simple syrup
2 oz. whiskey (pref. Old Grand Dad 86 proof)
15 drops house-made Black Walnut bitters
Served on the rocks
Orange peel garnish (expressed and inserted)
Chai simple syrup:
Heat 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Dissolve 1/2 cup of demerrara sugar and 1 cup Gray Duck chai tea into the water and cool. (This can be stored up to one month in the refrigerator.)