12 Rue du Château d’Eau
One of the aspects of cocktails that I’ve always appreciated is the element they add to entertaining. There’s something special about inviting people over and providing a momentary escape from the daily grind with good food, good company and good cocktails. Cocktails are a way to make an evening a little more extraordinary with customizable creations for your guests. And if you’re looking to make the leap from bar hopper to home bartender, you might consider taking a class or two.
Last weekend I stopped into Bar le Coq to give their Saturday afternoon cocktail class a test run. The team behind le Coq – Thierry Daniel and Eric Frossard – also run the Cocktail Spirits salon and pulled off the first annual Paris Cocktail Week this year. So, clearly, there is some cocktail expertise at play here.
At 4pm, eight of us lined the bar in front of our own ‘stations’ for a bit of liquid learning from bar manager, Jeremy. We were served a welcome punch which we sipped while learning about equipment: shakers, spoons, strainers and jiggers with enough background to give guests a good concept of what they need and how to use it at home. We talked ingredients with a quick lesson in benefits of fresh juices, realistic recommendations on spirits to mix and a look at the important role of ice. The pace works well with plenty of opportunity to ask questions along the way.
We then moved on to the holy trinity of cocktail making: strong, sweet & sour. When professionals talk about balance in cocktails, they generally mean finding equilibrium between these three elements. And learning that concept is much more useful than learning to make just one particular drink. It’s the kind of knowledge that can be applied to a multitude of mixed drinks once you understand it. When it’s time to put your own skills to the test, each student chooses their own cocktail to make under the guidance of the barman.
Although it’s not always easy to find a good, basic bar course that understands cocktails, it is possible. But, le Coq offers up one other thing that you won’t find in any other class in town. We took our freshly made cocktails and headed to their backroom lab. Le Coq is the only Paris bar with a Rotovap (rotary evaporator) machine. They use this very high-tech piece of scientific equipment to manipulate and create cocktail ingredients. While you can’t learn everything there is to know about molecular mixology in a short visit to their lab, it’s definitely an opportunity to see a different side of drink-making.
We sat around the lab and taste tested different ingredients, which had been run through the Rotovap. To get a better sense of another of their modern mixology approaches, we did a side-by-side comparison of a freshly made cocktail versus one that had been “aged” with their sous-vide technique. I won’t share everything we tasted in the lab because surprise is part of the experience. But, I will tell you we finished up with one of the city’s best Bloody Mary’s back at the bar.
The course is generally given in French and there is just too much information for simultaneous translation. However, they can also switch
over to English if there is enough demand to book out all 8 spaces for an Anglo audience.
Also of note: if the DIY route is not your thing but you still want to serve fancy cocktails at home, they are now creating punches to go, which change on a weekly basis if I understand correctly.
In short, it’s an excellent overview worth the 60 Euros or so price tag that gives enough information to allow the new home barman to create something impressive enough for special guests. So, go get your fingers wet and give it a try!