Earlier this month we were invited to take part in the first New York edition of the Craft In Focus Festival held at Industry City in Brooklyn. They offered a weekend full of over 100 combined demonstrations, lectures, films, exhibitions, hands on workshops and master classes. All thought by some of the best craftsmen in their field.
We love new experiences just as much as you do, so we were trilled at the opportunity of taking part in a class or two. Many sparked our interest like the making your own sterling ring, graffiti, and Star Wars origami workshops or the master guitar class on the design and construction of acoustic and electric guitars. The festival provides experiences in the art of craftsmanship by master craftsmen. We decide to take “A New Twist on Prohibition Era Classics” one of the Master Mixology classes thought by Ektoras Binikos. Master mixologist Ektoras Binikos has been head mixologist at several 3-star restaurants and was the mixologist and managing partner at an exclusive cocktail lounge in Lower East Side. With over 20 years of experience, we were in beyond capable hands.
Our class took place in one of Industry City’s beautiful open loft spaces. There were about 10 of us who sat along a high marble bar facing the waterfront. The class was intimate, fun and there was plenty of natural light shining on our cocktail creations the whole duration of the 3 hour class.
Ektoras started off by educating us on the history of the prohibition era and the importance tastebuds play in making the perfect tasting cocktail. He stressed that we must taste everything till it’s right and that our palate is a powerful tool. Now that we had an understanding, it was time to get to the mastering part. He set out the most prettiest, delicate crystal glasses I have ever seen. For each of the four cocktails Ektoras made the classic version and then created a jazzed up modern version, building upon the original recipe.
The first cocktail was the South Side. This was actually Al Capone’s preferred beverage. His gang dominated the South Side of Chicago, hence the name. After having one, I totally understood why this was the case. The Cocktail called for 2 oz of Gin, 3/4 oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 oz of simple syrup and a couple of mint leaves. Although is was super simple, the drink delivered. Classics are a called a classic for a reason. The modern twist used Japanese ingredients swapping out the citrus acid for yuzu, and the mint out for shiso leaves. What a stellar creation! Who would of thought… That’s why mixologist are craft masters!
The second cocktail was the Bee’s Knees. You might of heard/used the phrase “bee’s knees” to refer to something/someone as being superb, which came from prohibition slang meaning “the best”. I was already sold since this is one of my personal favorites. Simple: 2oz Gin, 3/4 oz of fresh squeezed lemon, 3/4 oz honey and garnished with a lemon twist. For the modern twist, we used lavender honey instead and added a dash of fee foam for creaminess and a dash of aqua di Melissa which elevated the cocktail to the next level.
The third cocktail was the Sidecar. The exact origin of this drink is unclear but Ektoras told us it was thought to have been invented around the end of WW1 in either London or Paris. The Ritz Hotel in Paris also claims to be the ones who created it. It’s made up of 3/4oz Cointreau, 3/4oz lemon juice, and 1.5oz cognac. The twist included VSOP, orange bitters and orange zest. and another including muddled raspberries. All three were fantastic.
The final cocktail was the Scofflaw. I had never heard of it, but it was appropriately named after the term given to those who clandestinely sipped spirits throughout Prohibition; that would of been me for sure. The recipe called for 1.5oz rye whiskey, 1oz dry vermouth, .5oz fresh lemon juice, 1/2oz grenadine and a dash orange bitters. The altered version included pomegranate grenadine and sweet vermouth. This cocktail tasted way stronger then the rest and second version was more to my liking.
This experience was super educational, interesting and inspiring. It gave you a sense of really getting it after seeing the cocktails made right in front of you. There was a sense of confidence, you didn’t have when you first walked in. You felt optimistic that you could totally make all these drinks at home and possibly create your own.
A couple of tips I learned were:
2-Slap your leaves, (ie mint, shiso) before adding them to your cocktail in order to release the oils.
3-The magic cocktail formula ratios is 2 parts alcohol, 1 part sugar, 1 part acid and then you can build from there.
4-Garnish is life, make your drinks look attractive.
I loved Ektoras class so much that I can’t wait till he opens his new cocktail lounge in West Harlem, called Sugar Monk later on this year. We will keep you posted!