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Shake Things Up With a Virtual Cocktail Making Class

Want to shake things up, mix even though we can’t currently mingle, and stir up some excitement? A virtual cocktail making class is a great option for a team-building, customer appreciation, or association event at the holidays (or anytime during the year).

The Bay Area Travel Writers association recently hosted a virtual cocktail making class, sponsored by JVS Imports and The Whisky Shop. Here’s a recap.

Event Preparation

BATW hosted two tastings on consecutive weekends. The weekend prior to the cocktails was a whisky tasting with the same sponsors. JVS Imports shipped the whisky tasting kit and the kit for this class, full of sample-sized spirits, to arrive several weeks in advance of the event. The cocktail kit included:

Knowing what I needed in advance made it easy for me to make the simple syrup and buy the limes, lemon, and pineapple juice referenced in the recipe list. On the day of the event, all I had to do was log into Zoom, and have the sample bottles, mixers, glasses, ice, and a cocktail shaker handy.

Your Yeoman Bartender

Martin Geijer of Geijer Spirits acted as bartender for our event, making the drinks on camera and giving directions so we could follow along.

The cocktail menu (full recipes are included at the end of this post):

· Gin Gimlet

· Street Spirit

· La Verité

· Two Ingredient Daiquiri

As we measured, shook, and mixed, we learned that Geijer emigrated to California from Sweden more than 20 years ago, bringing his family recipe for Glögg with him. He developed a passion for the magic of mixology, and began crafting more interesting, exciting spirits to take cocktails to the next level. Geijer’s fernet and falernum were featured ingredients in all four of the cocktails.

What are Fernet and Falernum?

Fernet is a type of amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit made with a number of herbs and spices. Geijer California Fernet is 80 proof, which is a higher alcohol content than many others. It won a gold medal at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

If you’ve ever had a fancy tropical or tiki drink, there’s a high likelihood you’ve had Falernum without even knowing it. The ingredient blends baking spices and citrusy flavors, often tasted as clove, lime, ginger, and almond. Geijer California Falernum won Best in Class at the 2020 American Distilling Institute Judging of Craft Spirits.

Gin and Rum and Whisky, Oh My

Sam Filmus, president of ImpEx and JVS Imports, imports fine spirits from all over the world, and distributes them throughout California. He shared information on the gin, rum, and whisky selections.

M&H (Milk and Honey) is an Israeli distiller, crafting some innovative spirits with new and exciting flavors. It is most likely the only gin on the market that includes za’atar among its ingredients.

Black Tot blends rum from Guyana, Barbados, and Jamaica to make its Finest Caribbean blend. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day — the day the British Royal Navy stopped the tradition of allocating a ration (or “tot”) of rum per day to each sailor.

Based in South Wales, Penderyn produces award-winning single malt whiskies and spirits. Penderyn Legend is a single malt matured in bourbon barrels and finished in ex-Madeira casks.

While JVS sells almost 1,000 products to California retailers (such as The Whisky Shop) from virtually every major alcoholic beverage category, we learned that Filmus is partial to high-end whisky. He holds the distinction of being a Keeper of the Quaich (pronounced like a cross between quick and quake), a by-invitation only honor reserved for individuals well-recognized for their knowledge of and efforts to promote Scotch.

How Did They Taste?

We tried all the spirits straight, as well as mixing them in cocktails, to get a full understanding of the flavors involved in each cocktail.

  • M&H Levantine Gin has a distinctly different — but pleasant taste. The za’atar makes it memorable.

  • Black Tot Finest Caribbean rum is sweet and spicy, a dark rum with flavors of molasses and spice that I immediately want to use in a Dark and Stormy.

  • Geijer California Fernet was less bitter than I expected. I’ve had bad experiences with very bitter amaro (I like every taste except for bitter), so was pleasantly surprised.

  • Geijer California Falernum immediately made my “must buy” list. To me, it tasted like a lighter, limier version of Allspice Dram and I can think of a number of cocktails I’d use it in.

  • Penderyn Legend Single Malt is very smooth with notes of vanilla, brown sugar, and a little baking spice. This is a whisky that could easily be a gateway single malt for people who aren’t sure if they are whisky drinkers or not.

Cocktail Recipes (courtesy of ImpEx/JVS Imports)

Gin Sour / Gin Gimlet

· 1.5 oz M&H Levantine Gin

· .75 oz Geijer California Fernet

· .5 oz lime juice

· .5 oz simple syrup

· (egg white optional)

Measure all ingredients into a shaker, with a couple of ice cubes. Shake, strain (do an extra dry shake and strain if using egg white), and serve over ice. I think Geijer suggested using two one-inch ice cubes and one larger ice cube, but I was too busy shaking — then too busy imbibing —to take detailed notes.

Tasting notes: while the fernet added an interesting note, I prefer the classic gimlet.

La Verité

· 1.5 oz Black Tot Rum

· .75 oz Geijer California Fernet

· .75 oz pineapple juice

· .5 oz lime juice

· .5 oz simple syrup

Measure all ingredients into a shaker, with a couple of ice cubes. Shake, strain, and serve in a Collins glass. Garnish with pineapple leaf (if you’ve got one.)

Tasting notes: I added some DiSaronno amaretto to this, which upped the tiki vibe. I probably would try this with Falernum instead of Fernet.

Street Spirit

· 1.5 oz Penderyn Legend Single Malt

· .75 oz Geijer California Falernum

· .75 oz lemon juice

· .5 oz simple syrup

· Lemon peel or candied ginger

Measure all ingredients into a shaker, with a couple of ice cubes. Shake, strain, and serve in a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with lemon peel or candied ginger.

Tasting notes: I didn’t try this one myself, but the friend I made it for said it was fantastic. I used candied ginger as the garnish, which was a hit.

Tasting notes:

Two Ingredient Daiquiri

· 2.5 oz Geijer California Falernum

· .75 oz lime juice

· Lime wedge

Measure all ingredients into a shaker, with a couple of ice cubes. Shake, strain, and serve in a coupe glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Tasting notes: I made a version of this with gin, and although I didn’t try it myself, I was told it was delicious.

Pro tip: Simple syrup is a pinch to make: one part brown sugar, one part distilled water, near-boiled until the sugar is dissolved. And it keeps in a jar for a month at a time!

Want to Host Your Own Tasting Event?

Events like this are great for team-building and customer appreciation. JVS Imports can organize a class like this for up to 25 people. You can find the details in the closing section of my whisky tasting recap.


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