Ten years ago, I never imagined I would be taking a college class that involved sniffing whiskeys and playing with jiggers (not nearly as dirty as it sounds); in which the final evaluation tested my ability to free pour 1.5 oz. and mix 12 drinks in 12 minutes. But here I am, in that class doing those very things and more. The beverage labs at JWU were recently featured in a NYT article that characterized this component of the curriculum as a rarity, even for a professional culinary arts program. Its classes like this one, even though I often bemoan them, that convinced me to choose JWU in the first place. Even though I’m not actually preparing food, I’m learning about flavor combinations, regional specialties, interesting tidbits on concepts like terroir and aging that are useful in and of themselves and, of course, apply not just to beverages but to food as well. A culinary education that encompasses, or at least introduces, the broader context: how flavors, concepts, preferences, and techniques are informed by historical, geographic, and cultural circumstances (the history of sugarcane is the history of rum).
Three cocktails, two ways: