Drink Mixology and Mom Time
With college graduation in my rearview mirror and a specialized full-time job ahead, my mother suggested she and I spend some quality time together on a road trip to Calistoga. We were primed to create some fun memories.
It didn’t take us long to find a seat at Solbar for a lesson in Cal-Tanicals, a cocktail class offered the second Wednesday of every month. Surprise, it just happened to be Wednesday and there were two spots left at the bar. Scorched from the heat and sun from the drive, we were grateful to quench our thirst with a glass of sparkling wine offered to us by the day’s instructor, Mr. Kelly Dallas.
Kelly proceeded to teach us to take the basic components of cocktails – alcohol, water, sugar and bitters – and to let our creativity run free for a whole new set of unique combinations and flavors. He also taught us how professionals know when to stop shaking your cocktail shaker. It’s easy. Just listen ‘til you hear the ice cubes inside breaking into shards.
This night’s Cal-Tanicals theme was beer-laced cocktails. I was intrigued; Mom not so much. But as ever, she’s game for a good time and to both her delight and mine, we loved the first concoction, The Baked Boston.
Adding beer to cocktails presents challenges, but after mixing a shot of bourbon with BBQ sauce (yep!), lemon, and maple syrup, and topping it off with a floater of Mad Fritz Pilsner, we agreed the savory note of the Boston was not only delicious, but had us craving a side of corn-on-the-cob !
Cocktail # 2 was “The Sandy Bird,” a riff on a Malaysian drink called the Jungle Bird. So easy and so unique: equal parts white rum, ginger liqueur, Aperol, lemon juice and Damnation Blonde Ale. The bird in the recipe is represented by a sprinkling of sunflower seeds arranged on the surface of the drink like two tiny bird’s feet. Mom pronounced the Sandy Bird too bitter for her taste, but amazingly, Kelley had a solution; replace the lemon juice with grenadine, and the ale with sparkling wine. Voila!
The final cocktail of the class was “The Cherry Shandy Slush.” It combined premium vodka, cinnamon syrup, grenadine, maraschino liqueur, 5-6 cherries and a splash of Track 7 IPA. Icy cold and colorful, this was the drink that Mom and I took with us as we headed over to the resort’s mineral springs pool to watch a cherry-colored sunset from the comfort of two lounge chairs.