Lessons in Libations
Story and photography by Cheré Coen
Vacations can be opportunities to imbibe great cocktails — and learn how to make a few.
When I traveled last summer on Holland America’s Eurodam, enjoying a seven-day cruise through southwest Alaska, I learned about whales, Glacier Bay, and Alaskan history while onboard the ship. There’s plenty of hours at sea traveling from Seattle to the Inside Passage. The nation’s 49th state lies well above the continental United States and remains the country’s largest state by far.
After a day exploring the island city of Ketchikan, and with our final stop of Victoria, Canada, at least a day’s voyage away, I landed in the Tamarind Lounge to learn mixology.
Mixology classes can be found just about everywhere these days, on food tours, at resorts, and as schools in hot destinations. For example, bartender Daniel Victory leads a cast of mixologists spreading the love of cocktail creations at his New Orleans Drink Lab. A visit to The Big Easy, where many cocktails were born (and arguably where the cocktail itself originated), naturally includes many ways to sample indigenous and specialty drinks. But it’s also an opportunity to learn how to make libations found in upscale lounges. Victory teaches cocktails such as the Sazerac and the Ramos gin fizz, plus instructs participants in tricks of the trade.
Libations classes are also routinely on the activities list of cruise ships. In my case, we learned techniques such as muddling, creating simple syrups, and decorating glasses with a variety of garnishes. Our menu consisted of three cocktails, the first a “Shiso Sour” with an interesting mix of bourbon, rye, sauvignon blanc, sour mix, and a sugar syrup with a final dash of Angostura bitters and a garnish with shViso leaves, a pungent member of the mint family. Next came the “Far East Legacy” cocktail which combined Absolut Mandarin, Asian pear sake, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Cointreau, peach puree and simple syrup poured in a martini glass.
What was equally educational was sitting next to Martin Kimeldorf of Washington, a playwright, teacher, photographer, and author of the book My Mixology: Cocktails, Funny Tales and Literary Sleight of Hand, among other books. While our bartender mixed up the third and final cocktail, demonstrating how to slice lemon grass for a dramatic finish to our drink, Kimeldorf shared a few mixology secrets that I stored in my brain for future use.
So, when traveling and the destination offers to teach you a cocktail that you may also imbibe at the end of class, grab the opportunity. You’ll learn something new, whether mixology techniques or a new flavor combination. Plus, you never who you might meet.
Here is the recipe for “Sake Cruz,” a refreshing drink with a fascinating flavor that Kimeldorf and I sipped while watching whales and the coast of Canada pass by. Momokawa Pearl Sake is an Oregon craft sake with fruity tropical notes that marries well with the vanilla rum and fruit juices. Just don’t forget the lemon grass stick.
2 ounces Momokawa Pearl Sake
1 ounce vanilla rum
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 ounce cranberry juice
Directions: shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon grass stick.