Balance. It’s a funny theme to crop up in a conversation with a cocktail expert. Because after you take a sip of this – too tart – and a few sips of that – ooh, that one is just right – balance is something you begin to lose. Unless you’re Marshall Fawley. He’s a pro.
“A good bartender should taste each drink to make sure it’s balanced,” Fawley explained. Just as a chef tastes his dishes before sending them out of the kitchen, a bartender needs to siphon out a small sip before sending out each drink.
Fawley is half (the other half is business partner SeanMike Whipkey) of Scofflaw’s Den, a self-described “online speakeasy of potent potables and other pabulum.” An attorney by trade, Fawley’s true passion lies in crafting the perfect drink. A venerable trait indeed. And now you, too, Aspiring Mixologist, can learn the tricks of the trade in Scofflaw’s Den cocktail classes.
Got plans Saturday, September 15? Cancel them. Sign up for Home Bartending 101. Held at new Clarendon hot spot, the Green Pig Bistro, Home Bartending 101 is a 1 ½-hour hands-on lesson to teach you “how to stir, shake and muddle your way to a successful cocktail party.” The $85 class fee includes tools to build your bar – a shaker, strainer, jigger and more – and you get to take them home!
Last weekend, deep in the bowels of Scofflaw’s Den – OK, so it was actually Fawley’s kitchen – I got a preview of Home Bartending 101. Marshall showed me how to mix the perfectly balanced cocktail. I brought champagne grapes – $1.99/lb. at Trader Joe’s – and requested he use the grapes in a drink called “Mommy Juice.” (Every mommy needs a little juice at the end of the day, no?)
I requested the drink be gin-based as it’s one of my favorite spirits. Marshall pulled out the Plymouth gin and set to work. (He also made a non-alcoholic gin-flavored drink. Keep an eye out on his blog for that recipe.)
We got jiggy with it. With you know, a cocktail jigger. He squeezed the Meyer lemon juice, chilled a bottle of prosecco, muddled the grapes…and then pulled grape jam out of the fridge. Grape jam? Say what?
Reserving judgement, I watched the Titan of Tipples put ingredients in a shaker, pack it to the brim with ice and give it a shake. “A good shake is a slow 10-count of a vigorous shake,” Marshall explained. And he means vigorous. He shook the hell out of it, crushing the ice and aerating the drink. And watering it down.
Bars (usually those in college towns) are often praised for their good, strong drinks. “Wow! There’s so much booze in here! It’s not watered down!” But Fawley explained that water is an essential ingredient in cocktails. “You add water via ice. Without water, what’s in your glass isn’t going to taste as good. Ask yourself, are you going for ‘cheap n’ easy’ or quality?”
If you answered “quality,” Marshall is proud of you. And so am I.
If you’ve gotten this far in the post, you truly care about learning to craft the perfect Mommy Juice cocktail. Or you truly enjoy my writing. Or you’re just really thirsty. Whatever the case may be, here’s a libation for all of you hardworking and hard-drinking moms and dads (aunts, uncles, cousins, whatever) out there.
Mommy Juice by Marshall Fawley, Scofflaw’s Den
Makes one good-day serving. Double recipe for a bad-day-sized serving
¾ oz. Meyer lemon juice
40 champagne grapes, muddled
one bar spoon (~1 tsp.) concord grape jam
1 ½ oz. gin
Mint sprig for garnish
Muddle grapes. Add to shaker with ice, Meyer lemon juice, jam and gin. Double-strain into martini glass or champagne saucer. Top off with (less than ½ oz.) prosecco. Take a sprig of mint (do not rinse), “thwack” it against your palm to release oils, add to glass as garnish.
Enjoy a delightful minty scent as you take each sip of the slightly fizzy, sweet drink. And consider signing up you or a loved one for a future Scofflaw’s Den cocktail class.
September 15 – Home Bartending 101
September 22 – Demystifying Bitters
September 29 – Whiskey 101
October 13 – Digestifs/Aperitivos
October 20 – Terrifying Tipples
November 3 – All American Spirits (Thankful for Cocktails)
December 1 – Holiday Tipples
Disclosure: Fawley is a personal friend who plied me with booze while his darling fiance, Sylvie, plied my husband and toddler with crackers. Despite all of the plying involved, all views expressed herein are my own.
What’s your favorite cocktail to enjoy at the end of a long day?