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International Food & Wine Festival
September 30 - November 13, 2011
by Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, AllEars®
Saturday, October 1, 2011
$12 (tax included)
Eric Hay, Beverage Development Manager at Wirtz Beverage
As someone who considers a gin and tonic the ultimate mixed drink, I have never really explored the mechanics behind what makes a good cocktail. Daiquiris? Manhattans? Fuzzy Navels? I'm rather fuzzy myself on what exactly goes into them, much less how you prepare them. So with the addition of daily Mixology Seminars at this year's Epcot Food and Wine Festival, I figured I had to attend at least one session -- just for "research," of course! I'm so glad that I did.
I went to this program, which is held in Epcot's Festival Center, on Saturday, October 1, only the second day it had been offered. Our host for the evening was Eric Hay, Beverage Development Manager at Wirtz Beverage, which was featuring one of its products, Xante, a cognac-based pear liqueur.
In my experience, the presenter is often the key to a program's success or failure, and happily, Hay was both entertaining and informative. Going beyond simply preparing three cocktails for the seminar attendees, he shared some basic cocktail-making tips and explained the uses of a number of tools of the mixologist's trade. In addition, he riffed a bit on his favorite types of liquor and demonstrated a genuine concern for and pride in his craft. His enthusiasm for the subject and what he called "the resurgence of craft cocktails," made me want to learn how to make a proper mixed drink. I followed his presentation intently, surprised at how much I came away with.
It didn't hurt that his main ingredient, Xante, a pear-cognac liqueur originating from Sweden, was mighty delicious. Similar to Gran Marnier, which is also a cognac-based liqueur (only with an orange flavor), Xante is well-known throughout Europe and is just making some in-roads here in the US. We were given a small sample of Xante straight, and Hay spoke a bit about its properties and uses -- on the rocks, with club soda, over ice cream, in champagne, just to get you started. I found it to be sweet, but not overly so, and easy to sip slowly. I think I'd like it even better over some ice or with a splash of soda.
As we enjoyed the Xante, Hay began to prepare the first cocktail of the evening, the Pear X Mango Mojito. As he worked, he made sure we understood several basic concepts: 1) Always start by adding your least expensive ingredient first, so if you make a mistake and have to throw out the drink, you won't be wasting expensive alcohol. 2) When you shake a drink, shake it vigorously (not slowly) for 8-10 seconds to achieve the right amount of dilution from the ice. 3) When a drink calls for "muddling", such as the crushing of mint required for a mojito, only do it gently for a short time, otherwise you will bring the bitterness out.
The second drink, called Walk the Plank, featured Xante mixed with rum, several juices, coconut cream and Angostura bitters. Again Hay shared some background on the ingredients, particularly bitters, which he called "a bartender's salt and pepper." It was this sort of insight that made this session so much more than just "some guy up there making three drinks."
The final cocktail Hay prepared featured a liqueur made by the same company as Xante called Cherry Heering, a key ingredient in the popular Singapore Sling. The beverage also included the bitter Italian aperitif Campari, as well as brandy and lemon and orange juices, which Hay insisted should always be fresh squeezed, not bottled, for a quality cocktail. Otherwise, as he noted, "why bother?"
Below is a few minutes of Hay mixing the final drink, his own creation, called a Skeleton Horse.
After he'd finished mixing the last drink, Hay took questions, and the engaged audience had many, which he was only too glad to answer. In fact, the session, which should have run about an hour, ran over -- to the point where cast members were urging him to wrap it up, and I had to leave for dinner reservations. I could have easily stayed longer, though, it was that interesting!
I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar,
and felt it was more than worth the money -- although
I'll admit that Hay played a large part in making
it as interesting as it was. Hopefully, future presenters
over the course of this year's festival will approach
the subject in the same way -- and hopefully those
seminars won't be sold out, so that I'll be able to
experience them for myself!
Mixology Seminars – $12 ($10 for Tables in Wonderland members, Mon-Thurs only). Theme Park admission required.
It's Happy Hour time. Watch a skilled mixologist demonstrate the art of preparing new and classic cocktails and sample the prepared concoctions. Cheers!
Pear X Mango Mojito
1-1/2 oz. Xante Pear Cognac
3/4 oz. Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz. agave syrup
1 oz. fresh mango puree (or 6 chunks muddled)
8 mint leaves
Tall Collins Glass
1. LIGHTLY muddle mint leaves in a tall Collins glass and set aside.
2. In a shaker tin add mango puree or muddle mango chunks. Add all other ingredients with ice and shake hard for 8 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in the minted Collins glass, top with soda and stir gently.
3. Garnish with slapped mint sprig and a skewered mango chunk.
Walk the Plank
1 oz. Xante Pear Cognac
1 oz. Dos Maderas 5 + 5 Rum
4 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz. coconut cream
1 dash Angostura bitters
Tall Collins glass
Pour all ingredients in a shaker tin, add ice and shake hard for 10 seconds, pour over fresh crushed ice. Top with ground cinnamon and nutmeg then decorate with an orange wheel, pineapple spear and a cinnamon stick.
1 1/2 oz. Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz. Cherry Heering Liqueur
1/2 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 dash Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters
Cocktail Stem glass
Pour all ingredients in a shaker tin, add ice and shake hard for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Luxardo Cherry.