Before We Got Drunk, We Had Every Intention Of Learning Something at Craft Cocktails Texas.
I'm really not much of a drinker. Well, much of a “refined drinker,” anyway.
My cocktail experiences are pretty limited to the “home margaritas” my friends make — a concoction that is one part lime and three parts “I give up on this world.”
On the occasions that I've been to a bar I seem so out of my element that bartenders usually regard me as a thing of pity. One time, a bartender asked me if I was lost. And I'll never forget how, on my 21st birthday, I was subject to my friend's ridicule for ordering a vodka cranberry — or, as she called it, a “sorority girl's drink.”
Despite this, I was excited to attend the Craft Cocktails Texas event, because, hey, you can always learn, right? And maybe I could pick up a thing or two about drinks.
The first thing I went to, after arriving at the Stoneleigh Hotel, where the weekend-long event was mainly held, was the seminar “How to Throw a Cocktail Party.”
I made my way up to the 11th floor of the building, which was where all the seminars were to take place. Four rows of tables lined the room, and the man teaching the class up at the front was frantically stirring a bowl and talking/yelling to some people sitting in the front row. On each table, we had measuring cups, mint leaves a pitcher and lime juice.
I sat in the third row, where I hoped I could remain relatively unnoticed. The music playing was an aggressive big band number, a sensory overload when paired with eagerness of instructor Eddie “Lucky” Campbell of the Chesterfield and the smells wafting from what he was stirring.
When he finished what he was making, he turned the music off and passed all of us a basil gimlet. I decided that I liked basil gimlets.
He instructed us in preparing drinks while I valiantly tried to keep up. Still, I was unprepared when he plopped a bottle of vodka and a shaker right in front of me. I attempted to put in the proper ingredients (the drink was a Moscow Mule) and then move the shaker sideways as instructed, a motion that reminded me of a drunk person playing maracas.
The instructor told me I was a natural.
We made one more drink, and then we were instructed to go to the next classroom over to serve it to the people there. I started to pour it into a man's glass.
“What is this?” he asked me.
Oh shit. I had no idea.
“Must have been some party in there!”
After the first class, I went to the lobby to check out the Tasting Room. Tables lined all four walls, each manned with a person and copious amounts of booze. I started at a table for rum, where the man offered me a sample. He took a bag of baby coconuts off of the table, cut one in half and poured some rum into the opening. I was supposed to eat it.
I looked at the coconut in my hand.
“Do you mean… ingest it?”
I had no idea you could eat baby coconuts. I had no idea there was such a thing as baby coconuts. Were they just coconuts that had their chance to grow cruelly stolen from them? Were they an entire different kind of coconut completely? I told myself to Google it later.
After that, I moved to a table that boasted “jalapeno vodka,” which either sounds delicious or disgusting depending on how I think about it. The woman there handed me a condom, which, she told me, had a recipe inside.
“Is the recipe for… during?”
“I mean, do you get into it, and then open the condom, and then you're like 'Fuck, this is a really good recipe, let's stop what we're doing and make a drink?'”
She laughed again. Either I am really funny or this lady really wants me to try her vodka.
Unfortunately, I didn't find out, because I was on my way to a class on absinthe. Once in the class, I was served absinthe and root beer, which mostly smelled and tasted like root beer. The biggest difference was that my head immediately began to fuzz up and I started to doodle little pictures of ladybugs in my notebook. Absinthe is strong.
Turns out, absinthe is sort of the dark presence of alcohol. According to the instructors, absinthe had a nasty reputation for being the drink of adventurous women. I tried to reconcile that with the fact that I was essentially drinking fucked up root beer.
Later, we were served more absinthe concoctions, including one that smelled more than a little like licorice. I sipped it gingerly.
It was amazing. I drew more ladybugs.
After the absinthe class, I poured myself a glass of water and meandered around the tasting room while trying to sober up. I considered trying the jalapeno vodka, but since I didn't have any food with me I decided it would be a bad idea.
Soon after, I left.
Next time I come to one of these, I thought, I'll bring snacks.