We wanted to find out more about Countryside Conservancy’s craft cocktail classes, so we caught up with Countryside’s Julie Gabelman and the star mixologist who’s at the head of the class, Lorelei Bailey. Here’s what we found out…
Julie, Countryside Conservancy is known for the farms you run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the year-around farmers market, how did you get in the business of cocktail classes?
JG: It was a natural progression in our mission of connecting people, food, and land. For the Countryside Farmers’ Market’s annual Tomato Tasting event in 2014, we wanted to do something in addition to our “salsa smackdown”. Someone suggested Bloody Mary cocktails, and that evolved into our very first Craft Cocktail Class at the market. Lorilei Bailey created Bloody Marys made with ingredients from the farmers’ market. It was a big hit, so in 2015 we had a series of “Craft Cocktails at the Market” classes, each featuring a different spirit: vodka, gin, and whiskey. Lorilei featured fruit and vegetable ingredients available at the farmers’ market which, along with her original recipes, made for some great cocktails with a truly “local twist”!
Lorelei, what’s your favorite part of teaching these cocktail classes?
LB: I love how involved everyone gets in the class. After the first round of drinks people aren’t afraid to ask questions and share their thoughts about different flavor combinations. It’s also great to hear everyone’s personal experience with certain liquors or cocktails. It is important to me that everyone leaves the class having learned at least one new skill or trick of the trade that they will actually use at home and I feel confident that I have accomplished that thus far.
You’ve been named Cleveland’s “Most Imaginative Bartender” by Bombay Sapphire and chosen as “Cleveland’s Best Bartender 2014” by Scene Magazine, so tell us do you have a favorite local ingredient you love to use in your drinks?
LB: Tom’s Foolery Applejack and Watershed Nocino are two of my favorite local products to use in cocktails. They even pair well with one another! The applejack can often be swapped out in recipes calling for brandy or whiskey yielding wonderful results. Watershed Nocino is a walnut liqueur that is delicious poured over vanilla ice cream, added to coffee or used as an interesting twist in classics such as the Manhattan.
We’re so curious, with all your time behind at the bar at some of our faborite local food restaurants including Katz Club and Spice Kitchen, what one cocktail trend do you wish you could put an end to?
LB: I am not a huge fan of flavored vodka. Many are riddled with sugar and artificial flavoring. I would always rather derive a flavor naturally myself by making a syrup, tincture, puree, or infusion. If a certain ingredient is out of season I go without instead of resorting to a flavored vodka.
How is this month’s cocktail class different from what you’ve done before?
LB: This is the first class that pairs sweets with cocktails and wine. Participants will learn about and get to try a few different flavor pairings. Some are classic combinations such as red wine and dark chocolate in unexpected forms and some you may have never tried before like tequila and chocolate covered grapes.
Finally, before you go can you give us tips on best books to read if we want to learn more about cocktails and a couple of recipes to chase away February’s chills?
LB: I always recommend to start from the beginning. Read books about the history of cocktails in America so that you can build a foundation off classic cocktail recipes and understand the evolution of the craft. The Deans of Drink by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller is a good place to begin your journey.
JB: Here’s one of the recipes that Lorilei used at the Holiday Cocktail Class back in December, and was my favorite of the evening.
Fog in the Valley
Local flavors create this wintery dessert cocktail.
2 ounces Tom’s Foolery Applejack
¾ ounce raw sugar vanilla syrup**
¼ ounce Watershed Nocino
1 ounce heavy cream or whole milk
Add all ingredients to a mixing tin and shake well with ice. Serve neat or over ice in your favorite glass. Top with grated nutmeg and enjoy.
**Raw Sugar Vanilla Syrup 10 Servings
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean seeded
Add all ingredients together in a pot and simmer until fully dissolved. Let cool and add 1ounce of vodka to extend shelf life. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
LB: Here’s another one that’s good for a winter warm up. The inspiration for this cocktail came from a recent trip I took to Barcelona. My favorite restaurant ended the evening with traditional cocoa coated truffles with Spanish olive oil and sea salt over top.
Bona Nit (Good night in Catalan)
1 ounce Watershed Bourbon Barrel Aged Gin
1 ounce Tellu’s Ruby Porto
5 ounces Parxet Cava, Cuvée 21 (Spanish Sparkling Wine)
Orange Peel Garnish
Stir the gin, port and bitters with ice until well chilled. Strain into your favorite coupe or flute. Top off with Cava. Express an orange peel over top and then drop it into your glass. Pair this cocktail with a dark chocolate truffle, I chose one from Fantasy Candies. Drizzle the truffle with extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkle sea salt on top. Sip your cocktail and nibble your truffle and enjoy the flavor pairing.