I used to be quite the cocktail virgin, mediocre at all things related to mixology. Sure I drink cocktails, but the thought of throwing bottles around scares me like no other. Aside from putting fruit in my G&Ts, I have no experience behind the bar. In attempts to spice up my after dinner drinks, I attended my first cocktail class at TT Liquor in Shoreditch.
TT Liquor is really quite charming. A renovated police station on Kingsland Rd, the brick and bare bones of the building remain in the downstairs bar area and the front of house liquor store. If you buy alcohol, TT Liquor has lockers for people to keep their drinks for later occasions, complete with their own key. We enjoyed our reception cocktails in a small room in the dimly lit basement, which appeared to be a renovated prison cell. The upstairs room where the class took place was very different, well lit with light walls, wooden cocktail tables propped with all the implements necessary, and only one wall of the aforementioned exposed brick.
Keeping an open mind isn’t hard when you’re escorted to a basement to enjoy reception cocktails like the 'Sexy Kung Fu Fighter'. After cocktails, we were escorted to a large room upstairs with four custom bar tables. Pairs were put together at one of four tables in the room, where we had to choose a team name and captain. Though I was not the captain, I did suggest that we needed a cocktail pun for a team name, so ‘Team Shook’ (not stirred) was born. Our teacher Michael explained everything at the bar station to us, from the tools we'd be using to when it's appropriate to use different kinds of ice. We learned how to properly shake and stir a cocktail, before we learned the components to making a perfectly balanced concoction, but that's a secret for you to discover yourself.
Cocktail number one was a Lychee Martini, which was the best way to practice our shaking technique. Michael walked around the room checking our technique and wasn’t afraid to call anyone out. I made the mistake of forgetting lime in my martini and let me tell you, I’ll never forget the sour component for a cocktail again. Our second drink was the Elderflower Julep, a distinctly English twist on an American classic. It was my favorite of the bunch, partially because I love some gin and I didn't mess this one up, but also because it was the perfect mix of sweet and tangy. The shaking came back for our third cocktail, a whiskey sour. Proper shaking technique is crucial to getting the foam just right, so we all became pros afterwards. Sour drinks aren’t necessarily my thing, but it was a really good recipe that I enjoyed in moderation. Ever heard of a Zombie? If not, it’s a drink that was named as such because of how badly it made someone feel the next day. Our fourth cocktail of the evening, a Zombie is made of apricot brandy, fruit juices and lots of rum. In Michael’s demonstration, he tested the proof of the rum by lighting the drink on fire, which he put out with cinnamon. The wow factor was not lost on any of us, especially when we were able to put out the fire of on our own drinks.
The pressure was on from there on out. We had a few minutes to create, make and name our own cocktail to impress Michael with our newfound abilities. My team opted to make a cocktail with rum, vodka, several fruit juices and lemon garnish, blandly named 'Hawaiian Tropical’. Points throughout the evening came from answering questions correctly, keeping your workspace clean and your team’s concoction. For as lame as our drink’s name was, Team Shook did shake up the competition enough to win, earning us bragging points amongst the group and the approval of our teacher.
No matter how grossly inexperienced you are behind the bar, you can learn to make a stellar cocktail with the guidance of a masterclass at TT Liquor. There's a cocktail for everyone, where even the pickiest drinkers will happily guzzle their handiwork. Whether you decide to go alone, in a pair or bring the whole crew out, it’s sure to be grand old time for the whole crew.