I admit that when it comes to going to a bar and ordering anything other than beer or wine, I am clueless.  Sure, there was a time that I tolerated cosmopolitans because Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City liked them.  Then, of course, I have my staple frozen margarita and sangria as other options, but usually those are ordered off a menu.  Ask me what's in a White Russian, an Alabama Slammer, a Dark and Stormy, a Mud Slide, etc. and I would just stare at you with a blank look.  So when I saw the LivingSocial deal to attend a Mixology 101 class at the Hospitality Training Institute in Old Town Alexandria, I bought it.

Frankly, I was disappointed when I arrived and saw that we were learning how to mix four drinks my taste buds were already familiar with and, therefore, I was comfortable ordering.  But in the end, I picked up a few tips and tricks that I think will be useful.  And the teacher was very open to going off topic while shaking his shaker to answer general questions of the base liquors - rum, gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey, etc.

His first tip, if you were planning on making the drinks at home, was to supply yourself with basic bar tools.  Specifically, as a start, it would be good to have on hand a Boston style shaker with a wire strainer, a muddle stick to crush up fruit in the drinks, a bar spoon to layer the drink, a twister or a tool to peel the rind off of citrus fruits to twist as garnish or rub on the glass lip, jiggers for pour measures, and a church key bottle opener. 

The seven drinks he reviewed in the class were the classic margarita, the mojito, the cosmopolitan, the lemon drop, and three variations using a long island ice tea base.

For the margarita, the recipe was stripped down to the way it should be made -- no sugars and fresh fruit instead of orange liqueur or triple sec.  The mix, placed in his Boston shaker,  called for: (1) the juice of two limes; (2) one lime and one orange quartered, dropped into the shaker, then muddled to release some of the oils on the rind; (3) 1oz of agave nectar; and, (4) 1.5oz tequila.  Add in ice and shake, then pour.  For salting the rim, he suggested using the juice of a lime to create stickiness, then rolling the rim in the salt, not pressing into it, because it minimizes the lumpiness.

The mojito was created using 1.5oz of white rum, a muddled lime and simple syrup, soda water, and mint.  Simply squeeze the lime juice then dump the lime skins into the glass.  Add a splash of simple syrup for sweetness and muddle the two together before adding the rum and soda water.  Mix together and add mint.  I wasn't a fan of the volume of soda water in this recipe, so it wasn't the best mojito I've ever had.  It actually tasted like a diet mojito.  From this lesson I did learn one trick, through: always "spank" your mint (put it in your hand and slap it) instead of muddling it because it will break and taste bitter.  Then, after spanking the mint, roll it up and tear it into pieces big enough they won't be sucked up a straw.

The ingredients for the cosmo are 1.5oz of a good citrus vodka (he used Absolut Citron), 0.5oz triple sec, and 1 squeezed lime.  Shake together and garnish with a twist of lemon and lemon juice rubbed on the rim of the glass.

The surprise of the night, and my favorite of the class, was the Tuaca Lemon Drop.  I've had lemon drops before, and they were typically made using a citrus vodka.  Tuaca is an Italian vanilla citrus liqueur.  Shake together one packet of sugar in the raw, 2oz of Tuaca, and one squeezed lime, then pour the liquid into a martini glass with a sugared rim.  Because of the vanilla, this combination lacks the tartness of a classic lemon drop and becomes more of a lemon meringue pie martini!  Yum! The instructor also said the Tuaca goes well with Crown Royal.  I will need to try this!

Finally, the last drink(s) used the base combination of 0.5oz each of vodka, rum, gin, triple sec and tequila, with sour mix to fill the liquid to the ice line (amount of ice is the amount needed to fill a pint glass).  I call this the everything but the kitchen sink liquor base.  Layer coke on the top and you create a Long Island Iced Tea.  Layer melon liqueur and it's a something else (name is escaping me).  Layer black raspberry liqueur or Chambord and you get a Purple Haze.  All of them were not to my liking, so I won't be ordering them anytime soon, especially if I can get another Lemon Meringue Pie Martini!!!